Some Like it Hot, Stob Coire an Laoigh
The crag!
After a good study of the forecast it looked like we were going to have to climb high.  As two became three, then three became four, we had a very sociable team with plenty of motivation to share around...which is exactly what you need for the walk into the North facing cliffs of Stob Coire an Laoigh.  I was super keen for the three star route 'Some like it hot'.  I have climbed the other classics of the crag such as 'Taliballen' (V,6) and Centrepoint (VI,7) and knew that, if I was too come back in here, I would climb 'Some like....'.  My friend Kenny and I have talked about this route pretty much every year for the last 8 years but never got round to doing it.

Lou heading up to the base of 'Some like it hot'
A quartzite wall!  Some of the best climbing in Scotland is on quartzite!
So Lou, Steve, Andy and myself left Spean Bridge at 0645 and drove up the track past Corriechoille Farm (beware of pot holes) to set off walking just after 7.  The walk felt like it went on for hours but on arrival to the corrie, a mere 2 hours had passed.  Just after nine, we were presented with a perfect looking crag! 
Looking up the corner from the top of P1. (tilt head to left ;)

We split in our teams.  Lou and I headed for 'Some like it hot' and Steve and Andy headed for 'Centrepoint'.  We wondered what we would find.  The ground was sodden on the walk in which allowed some doubt about conditions to creep in.  The first swing of my ice axe confirmed that we were on!  It was only going to get better and the turf was good! 
Lou heading up P1
Lou remembering how to winter climb, didn't take her long!
As this was Lou's first trip out this winter, I led both pitches which were quite contrasting but equally brilliant.  P1 (VI,6).  Pitch 2 (VII,7). 
Lou approaching P1 belay
With only two pitches to climb we topped out in pretty good time.  We wandered over to see Steve and Andy in action, just as Steve was leading off on the 3rd and final pitch.
Top of the 2nd pitch...2 massive ledges after 40m of amazing climbing

I was over the moon with how good the conditions were and do I need to go back in?  Course I do!  Still several really good looking lines there (Blue Rinse, Cobra Corner) and it would be great to guide in there too...if only I could persuade a client to walk in that far...
A two hour walk out which required head torches for the last 20 minutes concluded a great day and a good early season route.  Right back to work tomorrow in Glencoe!

Steve and Andy are there somewhere on the steep 'Centrepoint'.
Winter begins
The early starts are worth it

For me, the Scottish winter season will come to an end very quickly.  I am due to be in the Alps from mid December until April.  So my intention is to cram a seasons worth of climbing into one month!  Is it possible?  Doubtful!  However, if last year is anything to go by, I only have to do 6 more routes then I will beat that tally!
Nice morning for a long walk

So, two routes have got me underway.  Last year on the 25th November, Chadders and I climbed on Carn Etchican.  This year, on the same date we did exactly the same.  We only realised when we were home as it popped up on Mark's Facebook feed.  The photo's are not identical but very similar.  Check them out in the link above.  We had a few route's in mind, one objective was black so we needed to stick to something that was holding the snow, a groove or gully line.  So we ended up on Pagans Slit (V,6) which gave some brilliant, balancy, turfy climbing.  Everything was frozen and we weren't wading through too much snow.  It's was bitterly cold though...I just wonder if I haven't adjusted to it yet after my sport climbing trip or if I am just being a bit soft!?
Chadders enjoying the snowy chimney on the 1st of 2 main pitches

It was a tough day in terms of braking trail, wandering through boulder fields with some snow, falling down holes and getting battered by the wind.  Im glad the following day was due to be a short one.
Best part of the day, Murdoch with his foot stuck.  Had to remove his boot to get free.  I did help after I took some photos

So day two with Murdoch was just spot on.  Originally we had talked about some desperate test pieces in the 'Lochain' but fortunately the weather was minging so it had to be a quickie.  No long belay shifts and back for 12.30.  It's great going winter climbing and having an afternoon to do 'normal' things.  We went in and climbed 'Pot of Gold' (V,6) as we thought it would go quickly.  After the initial faff we grovelled our way up as the wind picked up and we both started moaning about how cold it was.  It was fun climbing, I had done it before but it was much better conditions this time.  We topped out and swiftly got back to the van for a whole afternoon....of....
....
....
Chores!
(Should have stayed out longer)

Murdoch on the short traverse on pitch 2
A return to winter
The Grey Corries

Before I could go climbing for myself, I was out working with Grahame who has some gift vouchers to redeem.  Great present idea from his brother!  We had planned for 3 days but unfortunately the weather didn't play ball so we just had two.  Great fun as always.

Cruach Inness
Day one we did a couple of corbett's Grahame hadn't done, Cruach Innse and Sgurr Innse, after an aborted effort to get to the Forcan Ridge, due to road closure.  The Grey Corries are great hills on the doorstep and it was great to get a view of them from a new angle. 

It was even freezing at 857m

Happy as Larry in crampons
Our final day it looked like winter was arriving by midday.  So armed with full mountaineering equipment, we headed into the Cairngorms for a link up of scrambling and winter mountaineering.  Grahame hasn't done much in the way of winter mountaineering so it was a nice gentle introduction up the Fiacaill Ridge

Not long until this buttress is covered in climbers
I think he might have a taste for winter!

Unsure of ideas for Christmas presents for friends and family?  Get in touch so they can open a day of adventure in the mountains!
Winter is near...go sport climbing
A crag with a view to Telendos

Over the last 11 seasons of winter climbing I realise that it is far more enjoyable after a good trip sport climbing or even rock climbing to round off the summer season.  As I spend most of the season trad climbing, I find it quite enjoyable to go sport climbing, fall off lots of routes and hopefully get up something harder than previous years (it happened this year!).

Most days ended like this
Lou and I blasted off for a wee while to soak up the sun then hide in the shade when it was too hot.  We decided early on to go for 2 days on and one day off giving us time to try hard and time to relax and enjoy the islands we were visiting.
Busy traffic on the water

Im sure most of you will recognise where we were climbing, if not, i'll give you a clue.  Somewhere in Europe and it wasnt the UK.  So I'll not bore you with lots of words but here are some pictures.
The storm ame on our rest day.  So we went plastic bottle collecting
Bagged the local hill
Busy day at Telendos
Lou diving in to protect our lunch
Lou's first go...scariest part of the trip for me!  She bossed it!
Lou cruising another 3 star route.  Just her style...techy wall climbing
1st crag, first day, a 40m route and we then had to deal with a head injury from a fallen climbing.  Glad I did my first aid a week ago!
Climbing is full of bum shots

Snatching another route before the sun causes problems
Back to Scotland
Alan preparing for the unexpected
After a short stop off in the Lake District to see the family, I was itching to get back onto the hill.  I had secretly missed Ben Nevis and the great climbs there.  My regular client Alan has been recovering from a broken ankle and hand so has had very little time on the hill but we teamed up for both of us to blow away the cobwebs.  Only a top shelf route would do.  Something we hadn't done but something which wouldn't be horrendous...Ben Nevis is a great winter venue.  To be off the well trodden routes can be quite 'memorable'!

Going well for 70 years old! 
So I decided we should climb the 'Crossing of Tower Ridge' which is in the scrambles guide.  Given grade 3...aye right.  So anyway...we started up The Garradh which was 7 pitches of hard, unprotected VD climbing.  A bit of a shock to both of us as we were expecting a grade 3 scramble but it was still fun.  We topped out on the Garradh and decided to call it lunch and gave us some time to do a spot of litter picking below some of the routes...we had quite a haul.
Every footstep had to be placed with great accuracy

Our haul!
I also had a day working on Liathach with a group of 5 clients.  I was working for Torridon Adventure's and had one of their instructors along to shadow and help out which was great fun.  He did a great job.

The team on the 'easy' traverse
Since then I have been away working on a friends boat which we are converting into a passenger boat...it's a fishing trawler so it's pretty big and had some days climbing at the local crags and walls.

Great light and views
The 'youth' leading the way
Im away for the next month for some Sport climbing in Greece and Italy and will be back in mid November for, hopefully some early season mixed climbing and good winter conditions.








A week in Wales
After wrapping up in the Alps for the summer I decided to head straight to North Wales for an annual 'working holiday' there.  I had a few reasons to go.  See important people, do some work, climb some routes and hopefully climb a particular line I have been hoping to do for a long time.  The way it worked out, I did about 80% of that...the particular line will have to wait!

Crags don't get much better than this

After arriving back I teamed up with my regular client Sean.  We have had a trip to Wales in the past and managed to escape the weather but this time luck wasn't on our side.  A forecast nobody really wanted to be out in, so as we had the option we chose to go to the Beacon Climbing wall which served its purpose.

Thumbs up for greasy, tech big boot climbing!
Sean happy to be high
 Our second day wasnt much better.  Anyway, we got stuck in.  On a previous trip we climbed Original Route on Idwal Slabs but this time we opted for the harder Hope.  I had only done this in dry conditions so it was great to seek it out while it was soaking.  It went fine, our big boots did the job, however I do remember having to do quite a few strenuous moves to advance up.  A strong effort by Sean to dispatch this.

Katya, an IML, gets stuck into rock climbing
Rope shortened, Katya leads to glory...in the rain
After this followed a spot of personal climbing, surfing and catching up with friends.  Before I knew it, I was back out working with Katya and Aide.  We have done heaps in the past, mostly in winter so this time they were keen to advance their skills rock climbing.  So day one they swung leads on Original Route on the slabs (in the rain) in their big boots, put alpine skills into practice to scramble off which was packed with some good laughs and piss taking as we always do...and obviously some technical input! ;)
First time on the sea cliffs...Check out the power pants!

Aid negotiating the crux of Lighthouse Arete
Day two they were sold on some sea cliff climbing.  So an early start saw us abseiling into Castle Helen before anyone else had turned up.  I led them up Light House Arete, Rap and Pel before we shifted over to Holyhead Mountain so they could do some more leading before we called it a day.  As this seemed like the last day of nice weather, my mate John drove out at warp speed to meet me after work so we could stretch the arms and do a couple of pitches in the fading light.  A mint day.
Hanging out at the seaside
A rare shot of Aid smiling and not swearing.  A classic Aid quote 'Put my foot up there?? Im not a f#@king gymnast!'

My last day, I was climbing on the Orme with the Evans.  It was a multi activity day.  Sport climbing, Trad climbing, bouldering, falling off and good craic.  I do quite like Wales...I always feel like moving there when I'm on my working holidays there.  Maybe one day.  Anyway...back to Scotland...hopefully in time for an Indian Summer!
My first Alpine season
The summer has flown by and as a result I have hardly had a moment to sit down to write about what I have been upto.  I can't decide if I have just been too busy or I have just avoided spending time on my computer.  Mostly because the weather has been great and I have been outside most of the time.  Probably a combination of the two.  But, now as I am back in Scotland, I finally have a chance to sit down and catch up from where I left off.  I hope I can remember what happened 3 months ago let alone remember all the clients names!

It all started with a week climbing with Jack who got me psyched for the summer

After my last post climbing with Jack, I was engrossed in my Summer Alpine Training run by two BMG IFMGA guides (Andy Teasdale and Neil Johnson) teaching everything they knew about becoming an alpine guide.  The week's course was essentially the gateway to working in the alps because as soon as we finished, I was straight into work.
Alpine training

My first week of work was for ISM.  A long standing alpine guiding company who run's courses throughout the summer and winter.  The course was an introductory course to 4000m peaks.  Myself and Andy Teasdale guided and taught the group for 6 days with the finale being that they led themselves up a 4000m peak.  We packed in training and skills throughout the week and it all came together as all teams executed the Weissmies is fine weather.  A top week to start my alpine guiding career!

The full team on the Weissmies

With a few days off, I firstly teamed up with another guide and we guided our clients over the brilliant Cosmiques ArΓͺte from the Aiguille du Midi.  For some reason the Scottish weather turned up for a day so we had a bit of a battle but made a smooth ascent and down in time for a nice lunch in Chamonix.

Cosmiques in the calm before the storm

After this I had a few days of with Lou who flew out to visit.  A spot of mountain biking, climbing and flying filled our days which left me well rested for the next block of work.

A spot of flying with Lou above Chamonix

Early morning views on the South ridge of the Lagginhorn 
The Matterhorn week.  I had been looking forward to this for quite a while!  We had 1 client each for 6 days and the weather looked good at the start.  Fortunately the guys were acclimatised so on our 1st day, we walked to the Hornli hut.  The following day we climbed and descended 'the horn' in 10 hours, which to date, was my most enjoyable days guiding.  It is so sustained, never desperate and really good fun.  The ridge was pretty quiet, the views were stunning and the company was super.  I remember thinking...'does it get much better?'
On the summit of the Matterhorn
After this I had a spot of time to play with which involved escaping the mountains (weather was poor) and I headed to Italy with Swaily and Rudders for some crack climbing, another summer highlight.  What a place.  Like a mini Yosemite.  Endless amounts of granite cracks and we were only there for 3 days.  I was broken by the end of it.  Fortunately a quick flight back to a wedding in Scotland enabled a good rest before I flew back out with Lou for another week of crack climbing, yet another summer highlight.  I could certainly get use to this way of life!

Lou spotted a bat in a crack

But, all good things have to come to an end.  I was back to work.  Fortunately, I love work and I was keen to get stuck in.  This week I was working for Frost Guiding with 5 other guides of whom I know very well.  So a super social week with a group of 20 school kids.  A great week introducing them to the Alps.  Although we did not achieve everything we wanted too, they had a good experience.  It was a super useful week for me as the weather was horrendous...so we were all putting our heads together trying to come up with suitable plans and I think we just about made it work.  Did you hear about the landslides this summer in the Alps?  It was that week.  So much rain.  Poor kids!

Team young on their first alpine summit
The following two weeks were taken up with Martin Morans Alpine High peaks tour.  This was a 'mega' trip.  5 countries and their highest peak.  So Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland.  Martin has done a great write up, far better than I could do so here is the link to his words.
It was a total success, we summited all peaks by our planned routes, all peaks I have never been on before.

Heading up the Studlgrat
So all was left was a trip up Mont Blanc.  What a great way to finish the season...the highest peak of them all (well in the Alps anyway).
So this time working for Stu MacDonald, we had a team of 3 and set off on our 3 day conquest onto 'The Blanc'.  Day one faultless...we arrived at the Tete Rouse hut.  Day two...started well but once we got too 4200m the weather turned biblical.  High winds, zero vis and bitterly cold.  We concurred that this was not the place to be teetering up and down ridges so we decided to call it a day and save it for another time.  A great effort by the whole team and it's great to have a good team who understands the importance of turning back while its still safe too.  We salvaged our final day with some brilliant Via Ferrata in the valley.

After turning back on Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc wasnt quite the end.  I had one final week working for ISM in Switzerland.  The Saas 4000's.  Working with Paolo, an Italian guide we explored the high peaks around Saas Fee with our team of 6.  Due to a wide spread of fitness abilities, not everyone summited every peak we planned to do but we had a good trip nonetheless.  Finishing on the Nadelhorn was a good finale for most of the team.
Heading up to the Nadelhorn
So after my first summer in the Alps, I am happy to report that I wont be giving up guiding.  It has been a great journey so far and I have barely touched the surface in the Alps.  Next summer I will be out guiding again and hopefully on lots of different objectives.

Some faces from the Alps



























A week of Alpine rock
With a week off between Part 1 and 2 of our Alpine Training, I teamed up with fellow trainee guide Jack Geldard for some rock climbing and acclimatization.

Our first day we decided on a sport climb in the mountains and headed up onto Brevant and climbed the brilliant 8 pitch La Fin de Babylone (TD+ 6c) of the South face.  I remembered how to climb granite with sun on my back so I was keen for more routes in the mountains but with less bolts and more trad gear.

Day two we climbed on the Red Pillar on Aiguille de Blaitiere.  We opted for Majouette Thatcher (TD+ 6b+)...in British money we thought it was E3 6a.  Superb route with 5 brilliant pitches after an 1.5 hour walk in. (no pics from the first couple of days)
Day 3 we climbed on the South Face of Aiguille du Midi.  We climbed the Contamine Route given ED1 6c+.  In british money, we thought E4 6b, it was a fight.
Jack on the crux pitch of Contamine

After 3 days of sore feet in climbing shoes, we ditched the torture devices and went mountaineering with Emily on the Clocher Ridge (PD+ 4a).  A great mountaineering ridge which is a brilliant introduction to the Alps.  I suspect I will work on that route quite a lot.
Mont Bianco, Emily and Jack...cruising.

Day four Jack and I went back to the Blaitiere and climbed the classic L'eau rance d'arabie (TD+ 6b), probs around E2 5c.  8 superb pitches of pristine granite cracks and a few testing slab for good measure.  A great day out.
Pitch...
...after pitch...

...after pitch of excellent climbing.  Superb Route MT
To conclude the week, Jack, Emily and I teamed up with Kenny for a day on the mountian bikes which was brilliant fun up at Le Tour.  Lift assisted Mountain Biking...what's not to like!?

Now for Alpine training Part 2...
Alpine Training part 1
Tamsin on or warm up route

Arriving in Switzerland I was greeted by a substantial thunderstorm.  Great!  Our training course was established in Evolene, a stunning alpine village high up in the Val du Herens.  I arrive a day early and met up with Tamsin for a via ferrata which was local to where we were staying.  Having never don e Via Ferrata, I made a lanyard and off we went.  Great way to get into very exposed terrain with constantly good handholds!

Ally and Callum looking worried about the upcoming section

The course kicked off with a whole day of Via Ferrata.  A very fun activity but not to be underestimated.  It still has plenty of risks involved and as a guide, needs to be managed appropriately.
We did two routes covering some steep and exposed ground, 'pumpy' in places but fortunately you can clip in at any point and rest.
Fellow trainee guide enjoying the shade

Day two we headed onto the 'Glacier De Moiry' in the Swiss canton of Valais.  A very accessible glacier which ideal for 'Ecole du Glace'.  We spent the day looking at techniques to teach and prep clients for a week in the mountains.  Crampon and axe use, glacier travel and crevasse rescue.  A really useful day and looking forward to putting it into practice.
Steep and exposed...accessible to all

Now a week off before Alpine Training 2...and there is a heat wave here!
One last bit of work, now for the Alps
Photo from a previous trip to St Kilda
We had her on the slip for a paintjob

Underneath is the Black Pearl
It has been a busy couple of weeks working in preparation for heading out the the Alps.  I have spent the last couple of weeks working on a friends boat which he is renovating.
There was no lounging around renovating this fishing trawler to passenger boat

Throwback to our approach to St Kilda...Back again next year....watch this space.

My final mountain work was two days with Robert Gordons 5th year students.  They were on a 5 day course but I was only drafted in on the last two days so the smaller ratios enabled us to cover some more interesting ground and develop their skills.
Angus mountaineering on boulders...
We had a day of mountaineering in the Cairngorms.  An ascent of Twin Ribs, which the students led, and then a guided ascent of the Fiacaill Ridge.
Lou happy to find a solid boulder in a pile of rubble
Human sized Jenga
Our second day we went climbing out at Cumminston.  I haven't climbed here for about 10+ years and forgot how friendly it is.  We climbed various routes upto HVS including the wee stack and an abseil though the hole in the cave.

Cairngorm version of the Tryfan Cannon Stone
 All I need to do now is pack my bags and head south to the Alps.  I will be out there until September on my first year as an Aspirant IFMGA Guide.  It has been a great journey to get to where I am, this part is what I have been most looking forward to.  Working and climbing in an area that I have enjoyed many holidays but I have never spent 3 months in the Alps in one go.  Im sure it will be a rapid learning curve but really looking forward to it.  Thank you for all the support I have received to get this far, I can't thank you enough.