Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mont Blanc - The Three Monts Route

Alec and I have spent the last few days in Chamonix for our annual quick autumnal hit of snow and ice. We timed it well arriving with the onset of a stable high pressure system which brought blue skies and sunshine to some of the worlds most beautiful mountains. On Sunday we took a walk upto the Aiguille de Plan (our bivvy point 2 years ago when we climbed the Frendo Spur and so now an established favourite) for an acclimatisation bivvy under the stars. A drop of rain was a surprise and limited the sunset shots but we were up bright and early and carried on the cable car unto the Aiguille de Midi at 3842m on Monday morning.

Our objective for this trip was the Kuffner ArĂȘte, a 1600m mixed route that finishes on the summit of Mont Maudit and we spent the morning walking across the glaciers to the Fourche Bivouac hut. It was great to be out on the snow, the crevasses were easily negotiated and the beautiful weather continued We were however disappointed to find that the route had very little snow on it and decided that it just didn't look in condition. Our return crossing meant that we missed the last cable car down and had to spend a night in the Cosmiques Refuge. The Guardian of the hut took delight in telling us that everyone knew the Kuffner was out of condition at the moment, clearly not us! We bumped into Rob Jarvis in the hut who told us a French team climbed the route the day before and reported very lean conditions with lots of loose rock, this was not what we wanted so a good decision had been made. The hut was half empty which is very unusual for the Cosmiques, we were surprised to find it still open and had expected to be bivvying in the winter room so a cooked meal and warm bed was a real bonus!

We now had to choose a fresh objective but only had some minimal kit, we had packed light for our ascent. Everyone else in the hut was planning an ascent of Mont Blanc the following morning and so with no other plans and being in the hut we decided to do the same. We set off at 3:30 and enjoyed some beautiful sunrise shots over the whole of the Alps. We summited at about 8:00 and had the entire summit of Western Europe's highest mountain to ourselves for a while as we were the first team to the top. We headed back down and on the way had a look down onto the Kuffner, it was definitely not looking the same as the photos that had inspired me and so remains a future tick. We made it back to Chamonix for lunchtime and recovered with red wine and fine food.

Whilst not the sort of route we had been planning it was lovely to be on the mountain in such stunning weather when the hut and the route were quiet and to enjoy the summit to ourselves.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Away in the Alps

I am away in the Alps now until the 1st October. I will be out of contact on the phone and the email until then. Fingers crossed for the weather! 

Lighthouse Arete, Gogarth

Mick and I had an early start this morning as Mick has got a long drive this afternoon and we wanted to get a multi pitch route ticked first. We headed to Gogarth and climbed Lighthouse Arete (Vs 4b, 4c, 4b, 4a) which fitted our theme of the week of routes that were a little moist! The crux was still damp from overnight rain although the strong winds were drying the rest of the route off nicely and giving some atmospheric sea swell into the bargain. A great morning finishing off a great week, thanks Mick! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Billberry Terrace, Y Lliwedd

Mick and I got washed out of Scotland and fought through lashing rain and high winds to  run for the sun here in North Wales! We drove back yesterday and spent today climbing the longest of the grade 3 scrambles in Snowdonia, Bilberry Terrace on Y Lliwedd. Steve Ashton memorably describes the route as being unsuitable for beginners, offering no means of escape and only to be climbed in the dry in his scrambling in Snowdonia guidebook! As routes go it doesn't offer the nicest of rock and in places it was still a bit damp and slimy today which added interest. It does offer a spectacular position on the North face of Y Lliwedd which is a magnificent cliff and some stunning views across to Crib Goch and the Glyderau. We climbed the route in good time and then descended Y Gribin to give a nice grade 1 scramble down to the Miners track. It stayed dry all day too! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tower Ridge, Ben Nevis

Mick has never been up Ben Nevis so we decided to head up Tower Ridge today and climb the mountain in style. This awesome ridge gives nearly 2000ft of scrambling/climbing to the summit of The Ben and we had it entirely to ourselves today. It was drizzly all day and we had to fight the winds at times but that only added to the fun! A brilliant day out on a cracking route.

A few people have emailed me about timings of the day. We left Fort William at 8:00am and parked at Torlundy. We were at the base of the route for 10:30am and topped out at 1:30pm. We short pitched most of the route with some short roping (moving together). We were back in the bar for 4:00pm after a visit to the summit.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Aonach Eagach

I am in Scotland this week with regular client and friend Mick. For the first day of our week of Scottish Rock we have traversed the Aonach Eagach in Glencoe. We had some beautiful weather on the drive here yesterday but today has been a little bit moist and a little bit breezy. Nevertheless we enjoyed the fantastic traverse of this classic Ridge and were treated to some lovely views on the way down.

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

New Brochure

I am in the process of putting together the fifth edition of my brochure. It will be 48 pages, full colour and available within the next few weeks. It is being supported by V12 Outdoors and Crux and I have one advertising space left for a local accommodation provider or a gear manufacturer that does not clash with Crux. Email for more details. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Welsh 3000 Challenge

I am doing the Welsh 3000 challenge today with 7 clients and my friends Alec & Jim working with me. Here are the best shots from the morning.

Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse over the Glyderau with some lashing rain and strong gusting winds taking there toll on the team and slowing progress down. Of the 7 people that started the challenge 3 people pulled out at Nant Peris with sore knees or just plain knackered, one person pulled out on the Glyderau and the remaining three were delayed sufficiently on the middle section to mean that they ran out of time to complete the last section.

This underlines just how difficult the Welsh 3000 challenge is, you need good weather a good training program and a good level of mountain fitness to complete it.

Uploaded from my iPad. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Clogwyn Y Person Arete & Crib Goch

Sean, Dan and I made the most of todays lovely weather here in the mountains today by climbing the Clogwyn Y Person Arete (3). The rock was nice and dry and the sun was shining with some lovely cloud formations bubbling around us. We then traversed Crib Goch and descended its East Ridge to Pen Y Pass to complete a great day out. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Advanced Scrambling Course

I have been joined for two days by Sean and Dan for an advanced scrambling course here in Snowdonia. Today we headed into Cwm Idwal and started on North West Face Route (2), merged across onto The Idwal Staircase (2), abseiled down into Seniors Gully (1) which we followed into Cwm Cneifion and then climbed the Cneifion Arete (3). It stayed mostly dry all day with some low cloud sat over the tops and the mountains were nice and quiet! 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Search Dog Weekend

It's been a pretty grim weather weekend here in North Wales and it's not looking good for the next couple of days either. I have been out with the Search Dogs all weekend whilst my friend Alec has been running my intro to scrambling course for me - sorry about the weather folks! We have had a good productive weekend with the search dogs and used the winds to our advantage. I'm going to batten down the hatches now and won't be venturing out into the mountains tomorrow with the 80mph winds forecast.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Advanced Scrambling - learning to lead

I have been out with repeat clients Matt and Karolina today for a spot of scrambling. They have both seconded me on grade 2 and 3 ground in summer and winter and Matt wanted to spend a day looking at the skills needed to get on the sharp end. It has been pretty wet and windy so we escaped the weather by spending the morning at Lion Rock looking at gear placements and getting Matt to lead a multi pitch route with me alongside. We then used the ridge above Bens Bunkhouse in the Pass to get him leading some grade 2 ground. We managed to stay dry all day and its been surprisingly warm too.