Posts tagged Dry Tooling
Norway Ice climbing 2019

Back in Scotland, if you blinked you missed it! The ice came and went over about a week. I managed to grab a couple of days ice climbing but then it seems like this year is the never ending November!

Fortunately Norway delivered it’s ever reliable ice. It was however, leaner than usual which left myself and fellow guides scratching our heads for some alternative ideas. For the first time in 8 years of visiting here, we went on the hunt for dry tooling options, mountaineering objectives and even some rock climbing crags. Fortunately out of the 10 guided days, only 3 days we didn’t ice climb. Over two weeks our 3 teams climbed 7 new lines and many really cool ice routes. We retreated of some due to the heat wave and rotten ice but still managed to cover lots of pitches.

Fortunately, just before we left, it went cold again and we had a brilliant 3 days of ice climbing to wind down with.

Check out Moran Mountain if you’re interested for next year’s courses or alternatively HERE if you would like some private guiding.

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 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!

North West Magic
Sam and Nick learning what Scottish climbing is all about
Nick and Sam on the LLG route
I have been really looking forward to getting back up to Torridon this winter season to work for Moran Mountain.  With a slightly promising forecast of snow I knew we would get some winter days in.  There was a little more pressure this week as my group had flown in from Singapore to experience Scottish winter climbing.  Gulp. Those that have been up here in Scotland this season will know what means.
A view to Am Bastier

Ross and his two clients
The day before our first day the was nothing more than the odd snow patch.  No gullies to climb...just rock.  Loose, slimey rock.  So we were pleased that we had some fresh.  Day one we headed for the Ling, Lawson and Glover Route on Sail Mor.  Crampons were needed and as I have done it in summer I avoided all the really loose rock.

Robin searching for the way down

Ross and his team questing up
Day 2 was a stunning day on doesnt get much better.  The West ridge of Gillean provided great sport in the windy and snowy conditions.
Dry tooling

Sam and Nick enjoying the views after some dry tooling
Our 3rd day was full of lectures, technical ropework and then some dry tooling so we were rested for our 4th day hit to Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis!  Well worth the drive.
Our final, the team led themselfs up the Forcan Ridge, looking at efficiency and teamwork to make a safe and slick day.
A great week and I think they are sold on Scotland!  Hopefully we will see them back again.
Nick crushing Tower Ridge

Nick doing some kind of pose!?
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
The double act stike back
Cuillin Ridge

Second summit for the day
This week I was back out with Ade and Katya who I have spent quite a bit of time in the hills with. Usually Sam joins us but this year he has become a grown up, got himself a mortgage and couldn't commit to a climbing trip in Scotland. were missed!  So with just a trio, we spent our first day having a shake down on Skye.  I suppose this wasn't a particular easy day but as Ade asked for a 'boot camp' experience.  We have a very varied week of weather, plenty of snow, fluctuation temperatures which gave us a very difficult day of ice climbing on Liatach, a dry of shelter at the local dry tooling crag, a day of epic proportion on Fuar Tholl and finally a nice day on Blaven on the Isle of Skye.
Carnage on Fuar Tholl

Ade loving the soft snow

Beautiful skyline

Katya giving me a rest by belaying Ade

Katya getting too close

Bum slide
More North West exploring
A new week dawned, a new set of clients and a new course started.  This week I was working on the Technical Winter Climber course for Moran Mountain and I was blessed with two brilliant and psyched clients Jon and Davy.  They both brought their own levels of experience and back grounds and worked very well together.  A pleasure to work with them both.  And what a week we had.  Day one we went up to the local hill behind our lodge and climbed Right End Buttress (III,4), Fuar Tholl to get the week started.  The guys led a couple of snow pitches to get back in the zone before I took over and led the difficulties.  Again it ticked all the boxes for our first day and great for me as it was more on-sight guiding. Pretty windy and wild but still good fun.
Davy found ice on George
Jon leading the home pitch
Day two I went back to the local favourite of George (III,4) where Jon and Davy did the leading whilst I climbed next to them.  I led the crux pitches as they were a little thin giving us all two pitches of leading each before they led themselves down the knee busting descent.

Jon showing Davy that it only take 2 attempts to climb! ;)
After looking at the forecast, we knew that our last two days would be big so we opted for a crag training day where we did some improvised rescues and a good couple of hours of dry tooling.  Great for resting the legs and frazzling the brain with knots, ropes and carabiners.  It was a worth while rest.
Myself and Davy pretending we know what the mountains are called
Team red gears up
Big Wednesday dawned at 04.45.  Porridge, toast, tea and bacon butties in the van.  Drive for 1.10 hours.  Walk. Keep walking.  A beautiful day dawned and we were all excited to climb The Resurrection (III,4)****.  A Cold Climbs classic, a 3 hour walk in, a 350m face, a mini Alpine North Face, a route that finishes on the highest mountain in the NW Highlands, a summit cairn belay and perfect weather.  And a route none of us have done before, perfect!  A wise climber would bring a guidebook for an area they have never been before.  In the insomniac state I was in at 5am I picked up the wrong guidebook and brought it with me leaving us with no description.  Fortunately we worked out the line and had a great days climbing finishing on the summit of Sgurr Mor (1110m).  The route had everything we could hoped for.  The best part is that it never looked that hard but it certainly did pack a punch.  From the summit it was a long walk out and we opted to leave the neighbouring Munro for another time and returned to the van just as it got dark.  A fantastic 11 hour day, the perfect winter day out.

The 1st pitch of The Resurrection (photo:Jon)
High up on the route (Photo:Jon)
Team Red
Davy being a tool
Me looking for gear before i pull over the sugary cornice

Highest summit in the NW Highlands
Big Thurday dawned at 5am.  Porridge, eggs, tea.  Unfortunately Jon was feeling pretty tired after The Resurrection so opted for a day with his wife Anne, who was here for the week biking around the coast and mountains.  So myself and the legend that is Davy took our armoury of gear and a lightweight rope and went to Skye.  We had seen pictures of the Cuillin and they looked stunning.  We had to visit.  The icing on the cake was that Davy had never been to Skye before.  I wanted to give him a taste of this amazing playground, plant the seed, open his door to a lifetime of fantastic climbing and mountaineering.  I opted for the Clach-Glas Blabhein Traverse (IV,4) for 3 reason.  Firstly it is probably one of the best single days of mountaineering in the UK, secondly it provides the best view of the whole Cuillin Ridge, (ready for a winter traverse, I did it 3 years ago, go and do it) every peak, every 'nook and cranny' especially with its winter coat on.  And finally, it has been high up on my guiding 'to-do list' for a long time.  I have done it many times in summer, it was a pleasure to guide in winter.  A complex and serious ridge.  The best part, we put down fresh tracks all the way.  From the summit, the cloud rolled in so we made our way down which wrapped up a great and varied week of technical winter climbing.  A real pleasure to be out with Jon and Davy and I wish them all the best in their future adventures.  See you in the mountains.
The objective

The dream
Davy loving the route

Top of Clach Glas

Techy descent, stunning views

One of 'those' weeks
1st gearing up of the season for the team
Looking at this weeks forecast I knew it was going to be 'one of those weeks'.  Blowing a hoolie, temperatures up and down like yoyo, I was going to have to dig deep to make the week work for my group.  I have wrapped up the Introductory Winter Climber course for Moran Mountain where I was working with two John's and Matt.  Our first day, Sunday, the outlook was positive.  We knew we had to make the most of this day.  Instead of having a shorter skills based introduction, we had a good sized day on the brilliant A'Chioch Ridge on Beinn Bhan (II***).  With a mix of easy mountaineering followed by a brilliant grade two headwall it got the guys into the zone and we were able to make great progress and onto the summit.
High up on the final headwall on A'chioch
Summit team on Beinn Bhan
Unfortunately the weather had almost turned tropical by the time we returned to the car.  Winds on the summits were to be in excess of 90mph and raining at all levels.  The very little snow we did have would very quickly reduce to just enough for a snowball fight.  Day two we had to make use of the training crag on the Applecross peninsular.

Day 3, urghh!  Rain beating off the wind rocking mini bus as we drove down Glen Torridon, I mustered up some enthusiasm and coaxed everyone out the bus and we started the 2 hour walk along the Allt a' Choire Dhuibh Mhoir up into Coireag Dubh Mor.  Might I add, in 60 mph head winds driving rain through every opening and stitching leaving us all utterly soaked by the time we reached the corrie.  Again I dug deep and found some more enthusiasm as the rain slowly turned to stinging graupel.  We opted for the Way up (I) gully.  And for Matt and John to do the leading.  A great performance from them in these horrendous conditions but after half way it was getting a bit much, especially as Matt was getting very cold and his lips were changing colour.  From here I took over and we whizzed up to the top, still been blasted by constant graupel, so powerful that it would sting the back of my legs.  We all belly flopped over the gully rim like soldiers who have just completed the toughest assault course.  We rejoiced as we were out of the worst of the winds.  Today was no summit day.  No chance.  We got 'outta there'!  So grim but what everyone agreed as type two fun (fun afterwards, not so much during).
Walking round Beinn Eighe
Low on West Buttress
With a desire to climb a little harder, I took the team into the mind blowing Coire Mhic Fhearchair, on Beinn Eighe, a pleasant 3 hour walking before you start climbing.  After yesterdays suffering, today seemed very benign, it was cold, crisp and the mountains had a winter coat on.  To surge up some drained enthusiasm from the last couple of days we opted for West Buttress (IV,4****), a hard mountaineering route with plenty of interest throughout.  For me, this was perfect as I hadn't climbed the route and its days like this, on-sight guiding, which makes up for the tough days this week.  And what a route, very sustained, I think we did 12 pitches up the route which I think I had underestimated but we all worked hard and got up and down the south side before it got dark.  A top effort from the guys!  I was super pleased to complete the trilogy of the triple buttresses (East, Central and now West).
Dont worry lads, there is only a couple of tricky pitches...oops!

Our final day dawned and again we just about had good conditions.  We never touched freezing level, it was always one pitch above our head.  With this forecast we took the walk back into Coireag Dubh Mor and climbed George (III,4) which goes in pretty much any condition fortunately.  We made pretty swift progress up the route and this time went over the summit of Spidean a' Choire Leith before making our final descent off Liathach, our final knee destroying descent of the week.  All in all, it was one of those weeks, a week that looks suboptimal but actually it proved to be very productive and very enjoyable, albeit a little tiring.  Thanks to my clients for putting in all the hard work and the very generous tips at the end.  Hopefully see you all again soon.
Leaving the cave pitch on West Buttress
Happy New Year
Is the crag that way?
2016 rolled in with a day climbing on Beinn Eighe this year with Henry and Craig on the New Year Technical Climbing course for Moran Mountain. Not exactly superb conditions but we had a good 4 days climbing Pinnacle Ridge on Sgurr nan Gillean on Skye, dry tooling at Loch Carron, the Runnel in the Cairngorms and had our final day on Beinn Eighe trying a spot of mixed climbing on East Buttress. Craig and Henry put a great effort in pretty poor conditions but our final two days were far more 'wintery'. It has been a slow start to the winter season, I haven't done any personal winter climbing so far but hope to when I return from the Alps in two weeks.
North West Highlands
Team summit shot
For the last week I have been based in Stratchcarron working for Martin Moran.  I was working on and Introduction to Winter Climbing course with Dawn, Cassie and Charlie.  All with varied experiences we covered lots of routes, venues and skills.  We visited Skye, Glen Shiel, Fuar Tholl, training crags and the dry tooling crag for a broad experience of what winter climbing is all about.  The snow conditions were pretty limited but we got plenty done with the Forcan Ridge being a particular highlight..quite a ridge!

Its great to be back in the North West.  Looking forward to my next two week stint up here..

Chaz enjoying a bit of mixed

Dawn and Chaz in the white room

Cassi and Chaz on the Forcan Ridge

Photo time on the summit
Dry Tooling Competition
As expected it was a brilliant weekend of climbing and good laughs.  It turns out I wasn't as weak as a kitten and just missed out on a place in the finals.  Out of 150 possible points, I scored 137, a little behind some of the strong men of winter climbing such as Greg Boswell, Andy Turner and others.  The finals created a very exciting and tense atmosphere with the winners being decided on the times they reached the top.  The whole event raised around £2000 for CAC which is fantastic and it was great to see many enthusiasts and amateurs alike enjoying themselves.  A huge praise and thanks goes to the Ice Factor team and route setters; Kev, Connor, Joe and James who did a brilliant job of making the event run so smoothly.
Simon's talk on winter climbing was very inspiring and left most of us planning our next winter day out!  Following this was the party, we obviously all sat down very quietly sipping a nice glass of wine......yeah right! ;)  Looking forward to next year!