Posts tagged BMG
From Scotland to Alpine Guide

This is what it was all about

First day out as a guide, however, I wasn't guiding, just a nice day climbing with Lou who is recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery!   

The summer has flown by.  Last thing I remember from Scotland seemed only a couple of weeks ago but the last 3 months has been crammed full with so much.  The main highlight was that last week I passed my final guides exam.  Yeeehaaaaw!!... as they would say across the pond! Three and a half years of training and assessments has brought me here and 10 years of holidays in the Alps has allowed me to get too where I am.  God know's how much has been spent on the process but every penny, bead of sweat, drip of blood, alpine knee and Poco Loco's has been worth it!  What a relief to get awarded the badge. 

Guiding the Rochefort Arete with fellow guide Andy Nelson

Huge thanks go out to so many people.  My parents for agreeing that this is better for me than university, all off my climbing partners along the way, far too many to name but Kenny Grant was there from the start, we had epics but so many more successes and most of the routes in my application form were with him.  Thanks to everyone who put me up, let me sleep on their sofas or use their showers, sleep and smelling good are two things I like.  Also I would like to thank everyone who has helped me financially throughout this process, without this help, I probably would have had to delay a year and draw the process out for longer.

Guiding the Dent du Geant.  Well cool!!

Most of all though, thank you to the gorgeous Louisa Reynolds who has stood by me throughout this process.  I have been away from home so much in the last couple of years and I'm so glad you stuck with me and came to celebrate with me when I passed and share this experience.  You are the best!

Bernese Oberland

Also to the lads and lass.  My school buddies.  Jack, Ally, Tamsin, Ross, Calum, James and Max.  It's been great fun and emotional but looking forward to working in the Alps with you all!

Happy Guiding!

Practice day with Ross Hewitt on Petit Charmoz

By the way, it wasn't all mountains.  We enjoyed some of the other beauties of the Alps.  Biking and swimming at Lake Annecy is recommended!

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 Arรชte 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



























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.
3 weeks in the North West Highlands
70's club
Poacher's Fall, Salmon Leap, The Godfather, Blood, Sweat and Frozen Tears, West Buttress, Silver Tear, Mad Hatters, Penguin, Emerald, Resurrection.  Not this year, not even close.  Having just spent 3 week based in Lochcarron working for Moran Mountain I have come away to finally put my feet up.  An interesting 3 weeks for sure!
Week one I was out with Richard (71) and visiting American climber Terry (70).  With a knee strength threshold we managed to pack the week with trips to Skye, Torridon, Applecross and Glen Shiel.

Week two I was out with Julian and Nathan on the Technical Winter climber course.  With one climbing grade 4 and the other climbing E3 it was going to be a tough week of work.  Because the conditions were non existent.  Day one we climbed the Cioch Nose in the wet in big boots which was brilliant by the way.  Day two we had a technical skills day and dry tooling...it was hosing it down.  Day 3 we drove to the Cairngorms and Nathan Led Jacob Ladder (the only climbable route), day 4 we drove to Ben Nevis for Tower Ridge and Day 5 we climbed East Buttress on Beinn Eighe.  It was a great week and here is a fresh testimonial from Julian.
Julian and Nathan on Cioch Nose
Julian on Tower Ridge
East Buttress

This final week has been very different.  I was out with Abrar from Kuwait.  It was a 'spur of the moment' booking she said and I'm not sure it was what she had expected.  Having never walked up a hill or even do any sport I managed to give her a taste of as much as possible of her visit to Scotland.  I was working as a mountain guide and a tour guide.  We rock climbed, abseiled, bouldered, walked, scrambled, gully climbed and saw the sights.  Her main desire was to see Nessie but I knew we wouldn't get a sighting this year so instead we went to the Applecross in and ate locally caught langoustines.

Day trip to Skye
Climbing on Meall Gorm


Rock climbing and abseiling

Visit to Strome Castle ruin
Between these weeks I have been back in the Cairngorms practicing for my upcoming British Mountain Guides winter test which is approaching very rapidly.

 To be honest, my camera hasn't been out much due to the weather.  Winter is back so things are looking up!

British Mountain Guides Winter Training
Mountain Guide Paul Warnock and fellow trainee Jack Geldard on Tower Ridge


Just finished a great week of being a client.  It was brilliant to be on the receiving end of some experienced guides and to be taught more.  Part of the process of becoming a British Mountain Guide is a winter training course where we are taught how to look after folk in winter.  Even though I work alot in the winter it was great to learn some new tricks, receive some confirmation that I was doing the right thing and also give me some prep for the assessment which I will be doing in the Alps.  We had pretty good weather for the week with two days ice climbing on Ben Nevis, a day of mountaineering on the Buachaille and 2 more days of snow craft and mountaineering back on Ben Nevis...where most of the snow was.  I enjoyed taking a break from my camera this week so only have a couple of shots.

Todays trainer Paul Warnock.  Smith's Route behind

Descending Number 3 Gully
A sunny summer update
Heading up onto Sgurr Alasdair
The past month seems to have flown by, I suspect it has something to do with the fact the weather has been so good and I have been so busy.  I we flick back to my last post where I was on Skye in the sunshine, this post picks up from there.  I stayed on Skye and worked with Nick Carter and we took 8 keen walkers onto the South End of the Cuillin.  We could tell the weather was on the turn from last week but we had a dry day with some great views and good craic.  I was working for Moran Mountain.
Heading down
Girl Power on the Cuillin
Good view on the Pinn
The next week started with a 4 day Munro course for West Coast Mountain Guides and this time I was working with Ken Applegate.  The weekend saw the change of the weather and this week we didn't get a view from any summit.  Despite poor conditions, we all dug deep and completed all the Munro's on the Cuillin, spurred on by some enthusiastic members of the group.  Our final decent marked the end of my two weeks on the misty Isle.  I packed up, fixed up and made my way south to Wales.
Digging deep!
More learning for me!
So as I arrived in Wales on Sunday, I went straight to the sea cliffs of Gogarth and climbed 4 routes to shake off my mountaineering legs and get the forearms working.  The following 4 days were spent on my second training course in my advance to become a BMG based at Plas Y Brenin.  We worked with Martin Chester and a host of local Guides to develop our personal skills, our coaching processes and looked into the psychology of guiding which was very interesting.  We had guest speakers and a great deal of input from everyone involved.

Getting 'Chestered'

Assessment prep
High on Idwal Slabs
After the 'Rock 2' course I was straight into work with regular client and all round good guy Sean.  Luck was on our side.  The weather was to hold.  The mountains were dry, a nice cool breeze and we both had heaps of enthusiasm.  Day one we had a great day linking up five classic scrambles in Ogwen.  Day two we we did a couple of laps on the East face of Tryfan, one up and down in the dry and another up and down in the rain.  But 4 great routes.  Our final day was bone dry again so we romped into Ampitheatre Buttress on Creig yr Ysfa and took pole positions.  This was a fantastic finale to a brilliant 3 days.  I'm not sure how much mileage we made but everyday was oozing with fantastic climbing and locations.

Cneifion Arete
A busy Tryfan
Getting rays on Ampetheretre Buttress
Great Alpine prep
After 3 days of work I have just come back from 5 days of personal climbing around North Wales with a whole host of friends.  I was super keen for some mileage, so I climbed at 7 different crags in Llanberis Pass, had a day at Clogwyn Bu'r Arddu (Cloggy) and a day at Rhoscolyn.  Its been such a good week and currently on my way back to Scotland via the Lakes for a couple of days.
Amazing weather at Cloggy

Kev engrosed

The final top out

I think this summer is going to be great!
Mid winter catch up. Weddings, tests, training, sunshine, Gemini and Skye
Dramatic day in Glencoe
With a busy few weeks out of the way and another couple starting, I have just about managed to sit down and write about my last few days out.  Since I was last up in Torridon I attended the lovely wedding of Jamie and Claire in Glencoe.  Before the drinks started I dashed off and arrived in Aviemore for the briefing of my final induction course for the British Mountain Guides.  This was the third and final induction for me.  Now that I have completed they are happy for me to precede into the training.  So I am now a Trainee British Mountain Guide.  Happy Days!  Only 3 more years until I become an Alpine Guide.  Day one I had to prove I could climb Scottish Grade 5 so I sealed the deal by climbing a Grade 6, Shark Fin Soup on Mess of Pottage.  I was totally sandbagged by my assessor, it was harder than that!  So pleased that went well, the following two days we did some training as a group, looking at how the guides operate which was very interesting and informative.  
Ledge Route

Great conditions shaping up on Ben Nevis
After the induction I was straight back to Fort William to meet Sean, who I was climbing with for 3 days and introducing him to Scottish winter.  We have 8 days planned in the summer so it was a great opportunity to test out the hill legs.  We started off in Glencoe on Buachaille Etive Beag for some skills and two Munro's in Stunning weather.  Then came Ledge Route followed by Curved Ridge, again in stunning weather.  Sean totally lucked out...3 days...wall to wall sunshine!  You can come again!  A great 3 days with great company.  If you are reading this Sean, unfortunately I have caught your cold, nothing substantial yet but will hit me if I have a rest day!
Ledge Route

Chopper searching the NW Face
Curved Ridge
So I had a day off on Saturday so I organised with Andy and Will to head to the Ben for some ice.  I was so psyched for Gemini (VI,6) that I persuaded them to meet at 4.30am so we could be first on the route!  Grrrr we were beaten by 3 minutes!!  Must get up earlier next time!  Anyway, we climbed it anyway and had a nice sociable day with plenty of teams on the route and the rest of the mountain.  That was my 4th route this season in my own time...unreal!  Usually Im up to 30+ by March!
Me heading up the crux pitch

Andy leading after the hard pitch 
Will 'off the couch' loving the steep ice
We had to get down in good time as I had to head up to Torridon for staff briefing and then meet the clients for their briefing and kit check.  With a stunning forecast, we opted for a day on the Cuillin Ridge.  Not the whole thing but a great section.  A brilliant day out.  I'll do a round up of this week at the end.  

The mountains and winter conditions are shaping up great and I'm looking forward to some great ice climbing conditions on Ben Nevis when I'm home in March.
Skye generally being amazing!

Regulars Katya and Aide on their final summit of the day
Is it winter yet?
Damn right it is!  Just looking out the window is enough evidence to suggest we are fully embraced in my favourite season of them all.  It seems like a silly question for mid January but as I have no winter routes under my belt so far it feels like winter hasn't even started yet.  A result of poor weather and condition's have meant I haven't been out climbing but also because I have been focussing on the next phase of inductions for the British Mountain Guides scheme.  Over the last two week I have been in the Alps working on improving my skiing technique, proving that I can ski at the required standard and then followed up with a 5 day avalanche course.
Guess the mountain game
We started of at a brilliant resort in Leysin in Switzerland for a 3 day ski technique course ran by Alex and Ivan.  These two guys are something else on ski's.  Its hard to describe how good they are but imagine skiing down as fast as you can, then look ahead and you will see Alex skiing backwards giving you tips on your technique as he weaves through the crowds on the piste...one one ski as well!  That is what 30+ years on skis will do for you.  He is also a coach for the Swiss ski teams.  We were in good hands.
Ivan strapping his boot up for an intense warm up!
Our group has 12 members, all of different abilities and backgrounds, some climbers, some instructors and some pro skiers.  Everyone was picking up good tips and knowledge off Alex and Ivan no matter what their ability.

After the 3 days in Leysin, I went to Samoens in France with Calum for two days skiing.  Unfortunately it was raining at all levels so we just did one day skiing and then had a late start and headed over to La Grave for the rest of the trip.
Who knows how to ski?
Our first day in La Grave was the Ski Induction.  A one day assessment of our skiing ability to make sure we haven't falsified our logbooks and that we are a suitable standard for the scheme.  Phew, we all passed and can continue onto the next stage of the scheme.

Misty conditions at La Grave
After we all passed our assessment we then went on and started a 5 day EAS avalanche course run by Mark Diggins (Top Man at SAIS), Bruce Goodlad (BMG Training officer), Nick Parks (BMG) and Peirre (Local Guide).  A collected wealth of experience and expertise meant we had a very informative course and we all took a great deal away from it.  I always believe it is worth doing as many avalanche courses as possible.
Digging snow profiles
Its getting cold, lets go!
Not only were we digging snow profiles and writing avalanche reports, we were also looking at safe travel through the mountains with groups and on skis.  So during the week we went on two mini ski tours looking at route choice, hazard identification and group management amongst many other topics.
Hands up for breaking trail? 
A safe place to be
A bit Scottish today
Le Meije.  A beautiful summit.  Cant wait to come back and climb it,
 So all in all, a great couple of weeks in the Alps but to be honest I am really glad to be back in Scotland.  The snow is here, routes are in conditions and I have a few days off before work really kicks in.  More pics HERE. 

One another note, I am very sad to hear two local climbers who I knew lost their lives in the mountains of Glencoe yesterday.  Thoughts and prayers go out to their families at this very tough time.  Rest in peace Simon and Joe, two very enthusiastic young lads.