Posts tagged Cairngorms
Skiing or climbing? Which one do you prefer?
Last year snow problems

Last year snow problems

Due to a client unable to drive in the deep drifting snow, we have postponed our days climbing today. It’s too late to find a partner so instead the kettle is on and I’ll be having a day at home! Maybe a good idea as it has been non-stop in the last wee while!

Fresh tracks on the Vallee Blanche last week

Fresh tracks on the Vallee Blanche last week

This time of year does beg the question, climbing or skiing. I have been fortunate to do both in the last month. Climbing in Scotland and skiing in the Alps.

It has been a slow start to the winter, it came, it went, it went cold, went warm. it thawed and froze…and so on. However, today, Tuesday 22nd January it feels like winter is here to stay for a while. Currently having substantial snowfall on the West Coast where the East is slightly nicer with less snow. The mixed climbing conditions are very good at the moment, the ice routes need a little more work.

Louisa keeping warm on Swan Song V,6, Cairngorms.

Louisa keeping warm on Swan Song V,6, Cairngorms.

Last week I was in Chamonix for 10 days skiing with friend and with clients. We had great conditions, I was fortunate as it snowed as I landed in Geneva and gave plenty of good powder skiing. As time went on, the snow was topped up almost every other day meaning we found great powder in the resorts and well away from the piste. We were fortunate to ski some amazing snow, some routes we had to skin up, such as the Glacier Mort and the uber classic Crochues-Berard Traverse but others we made use of the lifts. Saint Gervais, Combloux touring and tree skiing, 3 days on the Vallee Blanche, Off-piste at Le Tour, steep skiing off Brevent Hotel Face.

If you know where to go, you will be rewarded!

If you know where to go, you will be rewarded!

So back in Scotland for a while now so getting fully embraced into Scottish Winter which will mostly be climbing as well as a two week Ice climbing trip to Norway ice climbing. Yesterday I was out on Swan Song V,6 in the Cairngorms with Louisa and despite being a very windy day, we tucked in avoiding the worst of the gusts. I’m pretty excited as to what the rest of the season brings. Happy climbing everyone and stay safe!

Looking ahead, my Scottish winter is fully booked.

I have availability for Ski Touring and Off Piste skiing between 8th -17th April 2019

I also have availability for Rock Climbing and RIdges between 1st - 24th May 2019

Rock climbing and Ridges availability 4th - 6th June 2019 (Snowdonia based)

Alpine Climbing availability 14th - 17th June 2019 (Chamonix based)

Rock climbing and Ridges 8th - 13th September 2019

For more information and inspiration click on the boxes below or get in touch.

Are you ready for winter?

I hope so because I think it is here. Dark at 4.30pm, scraping ice off your car, endless Christmas songs on the radio.

Kyle and Grandad Alan on Ledge Route during the first snows. This was Kyle’s (12 years old) first time in the snowy mountains.

Kyle and Grandad Alan on Ledge Route during the first snows. This was Kyle’s (12 years old) first time in the snowy mountains.

2 months has passed since I last wrote, I guess the ‘quite time’ sometimes becomes quite busy. On of the best things about living where I do, chosen for its proximity to the mountains, is that there are many others who share the same idea. This is great for climbing partners but also for work when the weather is good. I am fortunate to have clients who live locally and are able to get out as soon as a sun shows up on the Met Office forecast.

This time there was no snow but plenty of sun. Kyle first time climbing the Buachaille via Curved Ridge with Grandad Alan.

This time there was no snow but plenty of sun. Kyle first time climbing the Buachaille via Curved Ridge with Grandad Alan.

Who missed out on this day?

Who missed out on this day?

So over the last two months, I have had days in Glencoe and on Ben Nevis, some in the Cairngorms…plus a sneaky trip to Spain. We lucked out with the weather, we had 10 days of sunshine, unseasonable hot but it ticked every single box; warm, relaxing, tiring etc etc

Rock climbing at Logie Head with Lou in November (it was after this day that we decided Spain would be a good idea….brrrrrr!)

Rock climbing at Logie Head with Lou in November (it was after this day that we decided Spain would be a good idea….brrrrrr!)

Now I am back from this trip, attention is now firmly set on this winter. I’m looking forward to all the upcoming trips with new and old clients and friends. Keep an eye out for what happens with some celebrities that I am out with in January, check out how cold I’m going to be in Noway in February and hopefully I will be climbing some nice ice routes in Scotland in March.

First day out winter climbing for Lou and I. We set off on the Message IV,6 in the Cairngorms. We had to clear a lot of snow that day!

First day out winter climbing for Lou and I. We set off on the Message IV,6 in the Cairngorms. We had to clear a lot of snow that day!

First day of work in the Cairngorms. Here is Oli on the crux of Deep Throat V,6.

First day of work in the Cairngorms. Here is Oli on the crux of Deep Throat V,6.

So in two months, I have mixed up summer climbing and winter climbing…but surely now it is only going to be winter posts. Time will tell. Currently hiding inside on a sunny day but the winds on the mountains are well over 70mph!

Back to Ben Nevis. This time with Austin to climb Number 3 Gully Buttress. A good start to the season.

Back to Ben Nevis. This time with Austin to climb Number 3 Gully Buttress. A good start to the season.

Ben Nevis was feeling very wintery in Number 2 Gully with Alan

Ben Nevis was feeling very wintery in Number 2 Gully with Alan

Ahhh warm rock and sunshine…this felt like a shock to the system! But coming back was even harder! Lou cruising above El Chorro.

Ahhh warm rock and sunshine…this felt like a shock to the system! But coming back was even harder! Lou cruising above El Chorro.

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....
(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!
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 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.
A quick transition
Right after coming back from the North West Highlands I was out working with Steve.  We had planned to climb early season but due to poor conditions we postponed until now.  And we lucked out. 2 days of brilliant weather.
Savage Slit
Good conditions

Day one we did some classics.  Firstly we climbed Savage Slit (V,6), a route that has always called out but I never got round to climbing it.  Usually because it has a queue on it.  So it was great to finally climb it and guide it in one go.  After a quick rap off we went and climbed Overseer Direct (V,6) to finish off a great day.
This is what we avoided coming in from the top

Pole position on The Seam
Our second day was after a wild day which brought plenty of snow so I decided we would abseil into Fiacaill Buttress.  We abseiled into The Seam (IV,5), climbed this, then abseiled into Burning and Looting (V,6) which turned out to be a great climb.  Topping out into the sunshine ws great and we bailed down off Fiacaill Ridge into the coire for a nice gentle walk out.  A great couple of days.
Me leading up the second route of the day

Where next?
Every cloud has a silver lining
A friend Andy climbing Prore Direct (VII,8)
Unfortunately, due to a hand injury, my client for this week re-scheduled for some summer climbing leaving me with some days free.  With several keen friends to get out, I felt it would be best to make the most of it.
Murdoch battles the crux on Open Heart

So firstly I teamed up with Murdoch and we had a great forecast.  We headed to Number 1 Buttress in Coire an Lochain.  Most teams were on number 4 Buttress and we had Number 1 to ourselves.
We climbed the brilliant Open Heart (VIII,9) which is essentially 2 direct pitches into Ventrilloquist (VII,7) crux pitch giving 4 pitches of interesting and steep climbing. Superb route in great weather.

A brief shake out

4 pitches later, a snow descent
The following day I teamed up with Jack.  The weather had deteriorated somewhat.  Our aim was to scope out some routes and do some practice for our upcoming British Mountain Guides winter test and we ended up on a very snowy Hidden Chimney (III) for a quick ascent.
Jack styling out of Deep Cut CHimney

Day 3 I was back out with Jack and after a short previous day we headed into Hell's Lum to climb Deep Cut Chimney (IV,5), the Cold Climbs classic route and a route both of us had wanted to do for a while.
Jack in the 'white room' heading back from Hells Lum

Day 4 I teamed up with Duncan and Jack for some more guide practice and we headed back into Coire an Lochain and we climbed Iron Butterfly (III) as it was the safest and most suitable route to get to.
Tom styling up some route...

Day 5 I teamed up with Murdoch and Tom, both very experienced and sponsored climbers.  We had a plan to climb a tricky route but as the weather wasn't amazing, we opted for an easy route and a quick day.  We climbed something on Fiacaille Buttress.  We forgot the guidebook so we climbed a route on or around Burning and Looting which was about IV,5.
Murdoch happy in 12 jackets

So a nice week of up and down weather, some very windy and snowy days which has made it feel alot more like winter.  The conditions aren't perfect, lots of snow burying routes and insulating turf and loose rocks so care is needed in choosing the right routes.
3 day Mountaineering course

Avalanche education and hopefully a shelter
Over the last 3 days I was out working with the KMC on a mountaineering course for their newer members.  Unfortunately one was ill so a team of 3 joined me for the first day.
Hold on to your hats!
Wild, windy, whiteout.  Teaching was a struggle but we found some sheltered terrain with some snow in.  Enough for us to carry out snow skills and craft.  The three days consisted of one cold day and two mild days where everything started to melt.  We ended up having two days that were relatively static, using the limited snow patches to develop skills.  Our final day we had a journey up the Fiacaill the rain and didn't even need crampons.  We resorted to summer tactics and the team led themselves up the ridge as I gave input and instruction along the way.  The topsy turvy winter continues keeping me on my toes!
A break in the cloud, spot all the climbers

Home time!
 3 day Scottish Winter Mountaineering course - See Here
The Rampant

Max and Kev on The Seam
Another cold day had arrived in this topsy turvy winter.  We certainly are being kept on our toes.  One day I'm digging the car out of the drive, the next I'm on the top of the mountains in the rain.  So despite having several days off, I haven't been able to climb every day.  But today I managed to get out with my fellow British Mountain Guide Trainees for some climbing.  I teamed up with Tamsin.  Max and Kev teamed up and we were all really psyched as it was cold and going to be a good days climbing.
Kev and Max on a gear exchange
Kev cruising The Seam
We knew that we had to be selective as not all routes were in good condition but we ended up on Fiacaill Buttress in the Northern corries.  It was whiter than the rest and had plenty of routes we had never done.
Tamsin questing off on the top pitch

Tamsin cruising
Today was Tamsin's first route of the season as well as the first winter route after breaking her pelvis last year in Glencoe so we opted for the Rampant (IV,5) as a nice warm up.  I have never done it either and it was great.  A good turfy route with a couple of good pitches.  Generally if the foothold were poor then the axe placements were bomber so pretty important for this route to have good frozen conditions.  Kev and Max topped out on The Seam in good time and we all decided to head back for coffee and finish the day without getting tired.  Stress free days like this are brilliant!

Team top out

Team descent on Fiacaill Ridge

Limerick University
It's the 8th of January and it would be fair to say that the winter season so far has been a little frustrating.  Just a little too warm.  I have just finished 3 days with 2 Limerick University students who, with me shared enthusiasm for the remaining snow.
Eoghan and Ashlynn were 2 of a group of about 20 students from Limerick University Mountaineering Club.  Most of the group were out for 2 days doing some introductory winter skills with two instructors, 2 were out with Dave Barker and three were self-sufficient.
Eoghan and Ashlynn were keen to winterise their rock climbing experience.  With Alpine trips under their belt as well as plenty of rock climbing in Ireland they were keen to get their crampons stuck in here in Scotland.

With very little snow, we headed into Coire an t-Sneachda and looked for the 'whitest' line for the team to lead up.  With a check of skills they armed themselves with the rack and pitched up 0.5 gully.  A nice easy route but ample terrain to pack in 5 pitches and winterise their skills.
An avalanche training course!

Day 2 we suffered a thaw and headed into Coire an Lochain and climbed The Couloir with plenty of drips and rime ice falling off.  We hoped to climb a different route but a team was already there and there was no way we were going to climb below someone.  With poor visibility on the tops, we practiced some navigation over the plateau before making our way down.
Our final day, warm temperatures and limited snow pack.  We opted for a summer day.  An alpine training day looking at efficiency and a few little tricks to develop their current climbing techniques.  They led up the Twin RIbs and continued onto Fiacaill Ridge before coming down the Goat Track for a de-brief back at base.

A fun 3 days with 2 very motivated future alpinists and winter climbers.  Good luck with the journey.
Scottish winter Jan 7th 2017