Monday, February 28, 2011

Ice Climbing in Rjukan

I am running a weeks ice climbing course in Rjukan, Norway this week with regular clients Simon, Paul, Jason and Mick and I have been joined by friend and fellow instructor Sandy Patterson. It has been fantastic weather with daytime temperatures just below freezing, sticky ice and blue skies. Today we went to Osmosis and climbed five single pitch routes from grade WI2 to WI4. We also did a spot of top roping to do some movement coaching from the ground. The boys all climbed well, the ice is a little thinner than last year making the grades a touch harder but there is plenty of ice to play on! 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Snow Shoe on the Hardangervidda, Norway

For the last four days we have been out on our snow shoe expedition. On Tuesday morning we had a short taxi drive to our drop off point where we met our dog team of 10 Huskies and our Musher. We loaded camping kit onto the cargo sledge and set off on our first day. This involved an 8km hike along a frozen lake to a remote island where we found our first cabin. Along the way the boys took turns driving the Husky team in the sparkling sunshine. After a cup of tea we climbed the highest summit on the island through fresh powder that without snow shoes would have been waist deep. We stood on the top and took in the wilderness that was spread out before us, islands and mountains jutting out from frozen ice as though they were jutting out above a sea of clouds. We picked out a beautiful mountain that was reminiscent of Ben Nevis and traced a line that we thought might be possible for the following day. The run down through the trees with the powder sparkling like fairy dust was spectacular. That night we enjoyed a cooked meal and the warmth of the log burning stove. 
Wednesday saw us head off from the cabin across a frozen lake to the base of the mountain we had chosen the day before. We used the dog team to shuttle some of the team across for a bit of fun, Martin had been out with the dogs the night before for a night time trail bash through deep powder to put a route in for us. As we steadily climbed we followed safe travel techniques to avoid any avalanche danger and soon reached our summit of 1353m (Laksanutane). The views were stunning, the morning light was spectacular again but the clear skies gave us a summit temperature of -25c so we did not hang around for long. The run down through the fresh powder was incredible. We spent the late afternoon building a snow shelter which became that nights accommodation for those that wanted too. No names mentioned of those that stayed in the cabin! Some members of the team had a ride with the dogs that afternoon too. 
On Thursday we had a big day snow shoeing about 15km through deep powder. We had another 6km or so of crossing frozen lakes, island hopping along the way. We then headed over a high ridge and dropped down into the next valley. By now the visibility was negligible with low cloud and snow swirling aorund us. This made for challenging navigation following a bearing through featureless ground for 4km to find our Lavu camp for the night. Our Musher had got there first by a longer route that was dog friendly and had the stove lit and the Lavu warm for us. We pitched tents and cooked our own meals on our stoves. Stu and the Musher enjoyed a 20km night time ride to collect firewood for us. 
Friday morning saw us emerge from our tents to more fresh snow and a breakfast in the Lavu. We then had a 10km snowshoe over rolling hills, through snow carpeted forests, across a frozen lake and back to the road for a pick up. Ed spent the morning with the dog team, reveling in his new role as assistant musher! We then all enjoyed a hot shower and good meal at the hotel before a late night of drinking expensive whisky! 

It has been a truly awesome trip, a real adventure through a frozen and incredibly beautiful wilderness. The boys have been brilliant company, the dogs amazing and we have all loved the variety of the week. The thrill of exploring, looking after ourselves in the extreme weather and conditions and the sheer jaw dropping beauty of the environment we have been in has been something we will all remember for a very long time. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snow Shoe Expedition Day One

Today is the first day of my Norwegian snow shoe expedition. I have been joined by Paul, Mick, Martin, Stu, David, Ian, Julian and Ed who have all done Scottish winter skills courses with me and we are planning a route on the Hardangervidda Plateau. Today was spent under blue skies and sunshine enjoying the fresh powder and getting used to the snow shoes. We did a tour to the local summit of Bergstaulnuten (1132m) and then prepared for our expedition by practising erecting the tents in deep snow utilising birch branches as tent pegs and checking the stoves we had borrowed. A stunning day under blue skies, temperatures of -15c and fresh mountain air. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Norway Ice Climbing

I have arrived in Norway for a couple of weeks work. Today I have been out with regular client Martin for a day of private guiding ice climbing in Rjukan. We spent the day climbing in the Lower Gorge and Martin enjoyed his first time climbing water ice. We ticked off five routes from WI3 to WI4. The ice was pretty hard and brittle with temperatures around -20 degrees c. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

One winter mountaineering course space left for 2011

Location: Scotland - Fort William
Price: £375 per person
Ratio: 1:2
Length: 3 days
Dates: 14-16 March 2011

Who is the course suitable for?
This course is for people who have some previous winter hill walking experience and want to progress to climbing graded winter routes. Over the three days we will aim to progress you from being a winter walker to a winter mountaineer capable of climbing graded winter routes. You will climb routes from grade 1 to grade 2 over the three days.

What does the course cover?
-Ice axe and crampon refresher
-Ice axe arrest refresher
-Avalanche Risk assessment
-Ropework for ground upto Grade 2
-Route Finding and personal travel on rocky ridges, gullies, steps, cornices and steep snow.
-Cold weather injuries and avoidance

I run all of the winter mountaineering and climbing courses myself.

Typical routes climbed include Dorsal Arete (II), Curved Ridge (II/III) Ledge Route (II), East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach (II), Aonach Eagach (II). If you have particular routes in mind then we can put them on the hit list!

Further details and booking can be found here:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Scrambling on Moel Siabod

I have been out with Imogen and Gareth today who booked me for a day of private guiding to improve confidence and technique on grade 1 scrambling ground. We went up the East Ridge of Moel Siabod and coached movement technique and control of the gremlins when stood above a steep drop. We enjoyed summit glory in the cloud before descending to some lovely wintery views. The day was dry and there was no wind and it was great to be out on the mountains with no one else around. There was no snow about where we were but there is still snow on the higher tops such as Snowdon and the Glyders.

I am off to Norway tomorrow for two weeks and so email and blog posting may be sporadic so please bear with me! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

2012 Diary Now Online

I have had requests for dates for next year already and so have put my diary for the whole of 2012 online now here:

Some new courses and expeditions highlights include: 

NEW Alpine summer skills course - a 5 day summer course based in Switzerland for summer walkers
NEW Alpine winter skills course - a 5 day course based in the Swiss Alps teaching you how to use snow shoes and enjoy the Alps on foot in winter

NEW Expedition to climb Island Peak in the Himalaya - open to anyone that came to Mera Peak with me or has previous high altitude experience - 4 spaces only! 

A repeat of the Norwegian Snow Shoe Trip with the dog team due to popular demand! 

A repeat of the popular Walkers Haute Route trek from Arolla to Zermatt in August 2012. 

Enjoy having a read and if you have any questions then get in touch! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Green Gully, Ben Nevis

We have had a stunning day here in Scotland today, what a difference a day makes! We put the skills that we covered yesterday into good use today on Green Gully (IV,4) which gave 5 great full length pitches of snow ice to the summit plateau of the Ben. The early morning mist soon burned off and we had crystal clear blue skies and sunshine all day with stunning views from the top. Yesterdays thaw and last nights freeze put a crust on the snowpack that was not quite neve but was still lovely to play on. The route itself had a similar crust on it and I had to work a bit to get gear placements but there was also some lovely squeaky neve higher up. The only bad news was that the Red Burn was not complete for a bum slide down! A brilliant day where Scotland proved itself to be world class once again. 

Dave and Andy climbed North east Buttress (IV,4) and reported similar cruddy conditions low down but getting better higher on the route. There were teams on Point Five, Zero Gully, Observatory Buttress, Vanishing Gully, Fawlty Towers and Ledge Route. Thanks to Dave for the following photos from North East Buttress.