Thursday, March 31, 2011

Scrambling & Climbing

I have been into Cwm Idwal today with Kate and her husband Ross. We headed up North West Face Route (2) with them leading and me alongside giving advice. We then tracked across the top of the Idwal Slabs and looked at how to use the rope to protect grade 2 ground in descent, including some abseiling. Once down Kate lead the first pitch of Ordinary Route (Diff) on the Slabs and organised the abseil off. A great day with no rain and some good winds to dry off the crags. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Climbing at Tremadog

I have been out with Kate today who is on my mentor scheme and wanted to spend a couple of days climbing in the sunshine to kick start the season. Unfortunately the weather didn't play ball and we had a day of climbing in a constant drizzle at Tremadog! Nonetheless it was warm and we got a few routes done and refreshed some key skills so made the most of the day. We even managed to rescue a lamb that had got separated from its mother! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Abseiling with prussik warning

This came to me via the British Mountain Guides newsletter and makes interesting reading:

Summary - Using a prussik loop back up on your leg loop can open the buckles which are 'cinched' tight (by pulling), now increasingly found on modern harnesses, with dangerous results.
With this in mind it makes sense to follow Petzls own guidelines on attaching the prussik to your central belay loop and extend the belay plate away from the belay loop using a cowstail in the normal way. Here is a diagram from Petzl that uses a shunt or prussik knot attached to the belay loop: 
From a British Mountain Guide: 

" Last summer on a Technical Alpinism course I taught clients how to protect an abseil with a French prusik clipped into the harness leg loop, a standard technique used almost universally. While using this later abseiling from a gendarme, one client allowed the prussik to bite    whereupon the harness leg loop opened and he was left dangling from his waist belt with the prussik jammed against his belay plate. Luckily he was nearly at the end of the abseil and other clients helped him to unweight and free himself.
Wanting to see how this had happened I tried it using his harness and the leg loop undid every time. We then tried other harnesses in the team (which were not identical but similar construction) and again this happened.
All were new harnesses which had leg loops with buckles which 'cinched' tight (by pulling) rather than being back-threaded in the old style (as the leg loop buckles on the harness I was wearing). What happens is that the karabiner of the prussik lodges at the buckle, which then opens because it is being pulled at an angle which 'cinching' buckles won't take, i.e. a force from behind the buckle. This is much easier to demonstrate than to explain!
So many modern harnesses now use 'cinching' buckles on the leg loops, or are in the “Bod” style, that we may have to revert to the method of protecting an abseil with a prussik by clipping the prussik into the belay loop of the harness (usually with a quickdraw or cow’s tail to extend either the prussik or the belay plate), I have always thought this was a safer method anyway, but a bit less convenient and involving more gear.
What worries me is the number of people out there who have been taught to abseil with a French prussik clipped into leg loops with 'cinching' buckles - a lot of people I suspect."

The technique described has always worked well in the past as harness leg loops have been the double back type. In light of this experience it makes sense to review what we are doing! 

The Longer Evenings

Its great when the clocks go forward and we all gain an extra hour of daylight in the evenings, summer must be on the way. I went cragging in the slate quarries last night with friend Paul from the Rescue Team and have the spent today preparing for an exciting project that hope will open up the mountains to a much wider range of people than currently enjoy them here in Snowdonia. I shall report more at the end of the week! 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dream of White Horses, Gogarth

I was out with Jim from my mentor scheme today and we kicked off the rock climbing season in style by heading to Gogarth and climbing Dream of White Horses (HVS 5a, 5a, 4c). It has been another stunningly beautiful day, feeling more like June than March in the sunshine. Jim climbed well, the route is fairly intimidating as a second because of some big traverses so had a big smile at the top, well done mate! We had the whole of Wen Zawn to ourselves, apart from a couple of friendly seals that popped by to say hello and give us a wave. It was nice to be out on warm rock in the sunshine, a cracking day as you can see from the photos. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Search Dog Training

I have been out with SARDA Wales for the last two days training Skye. It has been beautiful weather here in Wales, get out and enjoy the sunshine! 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SPA Training

Today was the second day of the SPA training course that I am working on this week for Blue Peris Mountain Centre. It has been another stunning day here in Snowdonia and a joy to be out on the crags in the sunshine. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SPA Training Course

I have been working on an SPA Training course today with a group of students from Liverpool John Moores University who are based at Blue Peris Mountain Centre for the week. We headed into the Llanberis Pass and enjoyed the warm sunshine and blue skies. It has been a stunning day and there were plenty of climbers about enjoying the weather. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Curved Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor

Today was a lovely day here in Scotland with blue skies and sunshine and no rain or snow so a real treat! Mick, Steve and I climbed Curved Ridge (II/III) taking the steepest line wherever possible and enjoying moving quickly over mixed ground. There were only a couple of other teams on the route although there were a lot of teams on D Gully Buttress and from overheard shouts I wonder how many of them thought they were on Curved Ridge? The snow was great giving nice first time placements and the views from the top stunning. A fabulous day with Scotland at its finest! 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Winter Mountaineering in Glen Coe

I have been joined for three days by Mick and Steve for a winter mountaineering course. Both guys have done quite a bit with me before although no winter mountaineering. We headed to the Zig Zags in Glen Coe which the boys lead for themselves with me alongside. We had lunch on the summit and then descended the route with the boys leading it again. This allowed us to look at a variety of belay types in ascent and descent as well as some abseiling and efficient use of the rope. We had some snow for a couple of hours around mid day and some sunshine later on. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hadrians Wall Direct

I have had a day off today and so teamed up with friend Carl for a day climbing on the Ben. It was a pretty overcast morning as we walked in but the day brightened up as we topped out. We climbed Hadrians Wall Direct (V,5) which gave a brilliant days climbing. The ice was good and the snow sections were beautiful neve giving first time placements. A fantastic day! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Climb & Ski

It has been a beautiful day here in Fort William with blue skies and sunshine. The boys wanted to be down for 2:00pm today as they had flights to catch in Glasgow so we went to Aonach Mor and used the gondola to gain height quickly. We went onto the East face of Aonach Nid and the boys lead a grade 1 ridge for themselves with me alongside. We looked at a range of belays and generally enjoyed the sunshine. I then managed to squeeze in a couple of hours skiing in the wonderful snow before heading home. Friends Dave & Carl went to the Ben and got involved in a rescue of some avalanched climbers, you can read more on James Thackers blog here. They also managed the first pitch of Waterfall Gully (IV,4). Teams were climbing Orion Direct, Hadrians, SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder and Ledge Route but there is still lots of snow about. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dinnertime Buttress, Glen Coe

Gregorz, Simon and I headed for Dinnertime Buttress in Glen Coe today. This buttress route gives  a grade II mountaineering route that is nice and low in the valley and so avoids a long wade through deep snow. Nonetheless the route itself was absolutely buried and I would find it hard to recommend at the moment! We watched some impressive natural avalanches coming down the gullies of Aonach Dubh, some of the largest I have ever seen in Scotland and there were small sluffs happening all day on most aspects as the temperature rose. It had also been snowing all morning. We decided to descend our route which gave us the chance to look at mountaineering in descent and have a look at some abseils too. Many thanks to the MIC training group that put a track in yesterday! 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Zig Zags, Glencoe

I have been joined for 3 days by Gregorz and repeat client Simon for a winter mountaineering course here in Scotland. It has snowed massively over the weekend with loads of fresh snow that was waist deep in many places on the mountains today and obviously creating a High avalanche risk. We climbed the Zig Zags in Glen Coe which gives a nice grade 1 mountaineering route on a NE aspect which was pretty wind scoured. We then headed over the top of Gear Aonach, into Stob Coire nan Lochain and descended from there. We owe a big thanks to whoever put the track in yesterday and this morning as it was very deep to the side of it! More snow forecast for tomorrow! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Struth Ruth what a lot of snow!

Mat, Karolina and I went up onto the West Face of Aonach Mor today. The snow that has fallen over the last few days has been deposited by Westerly winds onto Easterly aspects and so we thought this would be an objectively safe place to go and get Mat doing some leading. We climbed a combination of gully and then rock rib around Ruths Gully which gives about 300m of grade I/II ground and was ideal for today. Mat lead the first half and then I took over on the upper section as the weather closed in. It was the usual wind and whiteout on the top but we were amazed to find over an inch of snow had fallen in the car park! The wind changed direction today to a North Easterly and the top of our route was collecting large amounts of fresh windslab, hence the switch to the ridge. Its snowing hard outside the window of the house now with the roads all white so the skiers will be happy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Dorsalgrat

For day two of our winter mountaineering course we headed up into Stob Coire nan Lochain and climbed Dorsal Arete. It was pleasantly quiet with just one other team on it and the snow was actually quite good on the whole despite massive amounts of windslab elsewhere in the Coire. There were teams on Scabbard chimney, Ordinary Route and Unicorn which resulted in some power screaming and a big lob! The stunning views forecast this afternoon did not materialise and the wind was still pretty strong on the top. It has also been snowing on and off all day so care is needed in route choice this weekend with a high avalanche risk. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

East Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn

I have been joined by repeat clients Mat and Karolina for a 3 day winter mountaineering course in Scotland. It was pretty wild forecast today with 80mph winds and a High avalanche risk so we had to be choosy about our route. We headed up the East Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn which allowed us to avoid the worst of the massive accumulations of new snow and enjoy some lovely mountaineering. We had some snippets of blue sky this morning giving some lovely views and as the day went on the freezing level dropped down to the road. It was pretty wild on the top, Karolina is only little and could not stand up as we walked across the summit plateau so was glad of the rope. We followed a couple of bearings in zero visibility, battled the wind and the snow and dropped down the South side, glad to escape the beating! A great day nicely summed up by Mat as we walked down as the best day in the mountains he had ever had.