Saturday, March 29, 2014

If Carlsberg made Ski Tours...

I have been in the South Tyrol of the Italian Alps this week with friends Simon, Gareth and Simon for a week of ski mountaineering. I had an epic drive down from North Wales last weekend in a big snow storm. The 80cm of fresh powder meant we delayed our tour by a day and hooned off piste from the lifts of Sulden on Monday. 

Tuesday saw us begin our tour proper and were lucky enough to have great visibility in the morning and fresh tracks on the 1000m ski down to the Zuffalhutte from the lifts of Sulden. The clouds came in after coffee at the hut which gave for a nice skin up to the Martellerhutte (2610m) which was our first nights stop. 

From the Martellerhutte we skinned up the Zuffallferner glacier with the intention of climbing the Zuffalspitz (3757m). I had a transceiver issue en-route which saw us dive down to a nearby hut to try and seek a replacement. I think it was caused by wearing my iPhone in my pocket next to the transceiver as once it had been left off for a bit and switched back on it seemed to be OK again, the iPhone lived in my rucksack from then on anyway. By the time we were back on track the weather had closed in so we missed the summit and descended to the Branca Hut via the Pizzini Hut. This gave an amazing descent on bottomless fresh powder surrounded by stunning peaks. 

The following day we enjoyed a day tour to climb another amazing summit but were beaten back my strong winds, no visibility and windslab about 200m from the summit. Nevertheless we had a great 1000m+ descent on fresh powder once more and a second night in the Branca Hut. 

On Friday we skinned up to the summit of Mt Pasquale (3553m) and enjoyed another amazing descent of the Vedretta di Cedec to the Pizzini Hut. 

Our final day saw us climb the Zuffalspitz (3757m) that had eluded us earlier in the week and we had a stunning bluebird day. The summit ridge is really quite narrow and felt an exciting place to be on skis, in ascent and descent and we enjoyed fresh powder again for nearly 2000m of descent back down to Sulden.

The week was incredible, staying at some fantastic huts, enjoying some great food and climbing some beautiful summits along the way too. Every descent gave us fresh tracks on incredible powder and despite some poor vis early in the week the weather just got better and better. As we sat and drank beer this afternoon in the sun the general agreement was it was the best week of skiing any of us had ever had. I am off to Chamonix for a couple of weeks now so fingers crossed for some more great weather! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Off to the Alps

I am heading out to the Alps until the 14th April now for some ski touring and climbing. Email responses from me will be slow so apologies in advance but my wife Kate will be available for general enquiries on 01248 209576 (between 9:00am and 5:00pm) or email her on

The pile keeps on growing!

NEW MTUK Mountain Skills Courses

Next month sees the National launch of the new MTUK Hill & Mountain Skills courses and, never ones to miss out, we will be course providers here in Snowdonia. My interests lie in all things mountains so we will be leaving the hill skills courses for those people situated in the flatter parts of the UK and will be concentrating on the mountain skills.

The course is a 2 day syllabus that aims to give those people who have done some countryside walking the skills they need to aim higher into the mountains for the first time. The course looks at:

-Planning a route using maps and guidebooks
- Clothing and equipment overview and selection
- Introduction to different map scales
- How to set the map
- How to interpret contours
- How to interpret key symbols ie how to find a footpath, fence, stream etc
- How to plan and follow a route using paths and other key features
- How to plan and follow a route off the path
- How to estimate distance using pacing and timing
- How to navigate in poor or limited visibility
- How to use the compass
- How to re-orientate yourself if you do get lost
- Movement over steep gound (this is not a scrambling course but will give a gentle introduction)
- Mountain weather - how the weather affects our route planning and choice during the day
- Emergency procedures in case of an incident
- Choice and use of equipment including an element of use of GPS (I will demonstrate the role that GPS plays for me in my own navigation and we will look at the advantages and limitations of GPS units. You don't need a GPS unit but I will happily answer questions about yours if you bring it along.)
- Environmental knowledge and considerations

I have modified our existing and ever popular two day navigation course to ensure clients can benefit from this new format. If you wish to receive a certificate of attendance on this course you need to register in advance with MTUK.

Registration Cost:
Cost: £20 per person

Registration cost includes:
Access to the Mountain Training Digital Logbook
A copy of the 'Safety on Mountains' handbook
Certificate of attendance this course
Access to technical advice from Mountain Training

I have also incorporated the same two day program into our 5 day navigation and scrambling course and our 6 day mountain craft course so that people have a variety of different options to choose from.

If you are already booked onto one of our courses from the 26th April onwards you can register with MTUK now to benefit from a certificate of attendance, get your copy of the BMC book "Safety on Mountains"and gain access to the DLOG and technical advice from MTUK, just click this link:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Driver Training

I have been out with the North Wales Police driving school today doing a response driver refresher course. This involved driving over 200 miles around North Wales, occasionally using blue lights and sirens in the comfort of one of our rescue team Land Rovers. Needless to say I ache a bit now :-)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Winter Mountaineering Thank You

Hi Rob
Thanks for the pictures and thanks for a great week. Myself & Mick had a really enjoyable and fun time. The three days we had in the mountains were more than we could of expected with great guides and great people. I would also like to thank yourself & Huw for being great company and for having patience with me & Mick. We will hopefully see you next winter in Scotland again if you & Huw would put up with us again.
Many Thanks & regards
Steve - Winter Mountaineering - March 2014

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Thank You

Dear guys,

Thank you so much for such an amazing time in Scotland.  How lucky were we to sneak in those fantastic winter days climbing?  Just such outrageous fun, mixed with the right amount of challenge. 

Thank you for stunning days out.  I am on a high from what we did.  Roll on next winter.

Scottish Winter Climbing, March 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Curved Ridge, Glen Coe

Today saw a team ascent of Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor in more stunning conditions. It was much like a summer alpine route with dry rock, blue skies, sunshine and snow. We even had a glacier to contend with in our descent. We avoided Coire na Tulaich but dropped into it lower down just to marvel at the size of the avalanche debris, definitely the biggest I have ever seen in Scotland. A stunning day to finish my winter season here in Scotland.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Aonach Eagach

I took Rick and Ben along the Aonach Eagach in Glencoe today. This grade II ridge is the epitome of winter mountaineering and it was a glorious place to enjoy the sunshine and views today. The recent thaw has stripped a lot of the snow but we only had the odd mixed section which is all good experience for the boys. A stunning day! Huw took Steve and Mick along the CMD Arete to the summit of the Ben and I have also had Dave working for me who climbed Thompsons Route on the Ben with regular client Jude. They reported great styro foam snow ice but little in the way of protection and they also witnessed number 4 and number 2 gully avalanche in the heat, both pretty sizeable by the sound of things. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Winter Mountaineering

It has been another stunning day here in the Scottish Highlands. I have been joined for 3 days by Mick, Steve, Rick and Ben for a winter mountaineering course. For our first day we headed to the West Face of Aonach Mor and climbed Ruths Gully (1) with the boys leading the route for themselves in two teams. This allowed us to progress their summer scrambling and winter walking skills onto winter mountaineering ground with a bit of refreshment and the addition of some new skills too. A great day out and tomorrow is forecast to be just as good!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Winter Skills Thank You

Hi Rob,
Thanks for the photos and even more so for such a cracking week!  We haven't stopped grinning since we got home – we were hoping to learn new skills and to stretch ourselves in a winter environment, but I don't think either of us had anticipated having so much fun in the process!  Your technical skills speak for themselves, but you also have a special talent for creating a warm, inclusive culture in the team – it really did feel like a bunch of mates going for a great walk, despite the fact that we were all strangers to begin with!  That's something that can't be taught – I suspect it has a lot to do with your evident passion for what you do and a complete lack of ego.  You're one of the few people out there making a living doing something you truly love – how many of us get to do that?!
We're looking forward to doing a scrambling course with you.
All the best,
Natalie & Mike. Winter skills 5 day - March 2014

Winter Skills Weekend - Thank You

Hi Rob, I just wanted to say thanks as well for the whole weekend, it was absolutely brilliant, loved every minute of it. you are an awesome guide - we were all saying afterward that you're great - really knowledgeable and experienced, but totally down to earth and easy to get on with. (and a lot less intimidating than that scary snow hole dude) (wouldn't want to meet him down a dark mountain ally.. gully).. so, thank you again for an awesome weekend.. i'll be definitely intending to book another course in the near future.

also.. fyi.. I did try and make a solo ascent of The big Ben nevis on Monday.. on my todd. I went through all the weather reports and avalance reports in the morning, and it all looked good.. . however when I got about halfway up at around 700m, and at a point where the path crossed the red burn, I had to turn back.. you may be able to tell from the attached photo (img6846)- it was a major avalanche risk. the snow was knee deep, and I was at risk from it either giving way below me and sliding me into the gully/burn or from the overhanging cornices above.. you can actually see in the photo wp201403 that a couple of people had decided to go straight up the gully vertically, instead of following the path to the right and into the deep snow.. I chatted to one guy who'd made it up that way who said it was not too bad getting up, but he encountered a couple of white outs while on the summit plateau.. im, glad I didn't head up there, I think I need to do one of rob's navigational courses before im confident to navigate in a white out on top of the ben!

anyway, thanks again Rob for a brilliant weekend. and thanks to everyone else, I got on really well with all of you.. and now im sat at home wishing I was still in bloody fort William! I even wore my goggles in the lounge last night so I could pretend I was still on the mountain!

oh. that reminds me. after I turned back from the red burn section on ben nevis, I then dug my own snow hole in some deep snow near the tarn up there. pretty good job I did I reckon. just with my axe 'n that. just about big enough for two. had my lunch in it and everything..

cheers everyone!
Ben - Winter Skills Weekend, March 2014

Friday, March 07, 2014

Winter Skills Day 5

For the final day of our winter skills course in Scotland the wind has picked up with the forecast showing 80mph gusts on the summits. We made a concerted effort to climb the Wee Buchaille in Glencoe but were beaten back! Nonetheless we enjoyed some great views, proper Scottish weather, exfoliation due to graupel and lunch in someone else's snow shelter as well as a refresher on the ice axe arrest skills we covered earlier in the week. We finished a great week in the Clachaig, thanks very much all!