Posts tagged Glencoe
A week of winter climbing on the West Coast of Scotland
Shake down day. Mountaineering

Shake down day. Mountaineering

After what has felt like a very ‘on-off’ Scottish winter, this week provided Sean and I with some good climbing. On Sean’s previous trip we did a day of winter skills on Buachaille Etive Beag, then climbed Ledge route and followed that with Curved Ridge. This week Sean was keen to introduce to mixed climbing and ice climbing so day one required a bit of a shake down. WIth plenty of snow around I opted for the East Ridge of Stob Ban. This is usually a grade II or III but I like the ‘sit-down’ start which warrants grade IV and requires some stiff pulls.

High up on North Buttress

High up on North Buttress

Day two we went and climbed North Buttress IV,4. Many teams only do a few pitches and abseil off but the upper section has some fantastic mountaineering terrain so we pushed onto the summit. Again we had great conditions and this 3 star route was in its prime.

Day three we went onto Ben Nevis and climbed the uber classic ‘The Curtain’ IV,5. As it was mid week we decided to call it a day after topping out on the route and as the weather was coming in, we didn’t see the point on pushing onto the summit on this occasion.

Sean on his first ever ice route!

Sean on his first ever ice route!

Day four we went to Beinn Udlaidh and climbed some chewy ice. A two route day with South Gully of the Black Wall IV,4 (brilliant by the way!) and Quartvein Scoop IV,4, also brilliant! This was Sean’s second day ice climbing and he was really getting the hang of it…and loving it!

Ice, ice baby!

Ice, ice baby!

Our final day was a no brainer. Into the Ice Factor for ice climbing in the freezer and dry tooling on the rock walls. A brilliant way to hone in some technique and get the forearms and core working really well…next time we will be stronger and we’re already planning some classic grade V routes.

Until next time Sean!

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.

Autumn in Scotland, remembering why I live here.
Rays of light on Rannoch Mor

Rays of light on Rannoch Mor

I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for an Indian Summer but despite the rainy days, we have still managed to get into the hills and stay dry. Since returning from the Alps there has been plenty of down time to readjust to being at home, catch up with various tasks and start planning for the upcoming winter.

Amongst all the ‘admin’ of life, I’ve managed a few days on the hills with clients as well on personal trips. Although I haven’t been out rock climbing personally, we have been walking some of the Munro’s (perfect for Lou’s ACL surgery rehab).

Very windy on Ben Vorlich above Loch Earn.  Happy to be in the hills despite a slight limp.

Very windy on Ben Vorlich above Loch Earn. Happy to be in the hills despite a slight limp.

I have been out with Alan and his son Austin on a few occasions since I have been home. Living locally, we are able to pic out the good days and make the most of them.

Given that Alan has done most 3*** mountaineering routes, we sought out the lesser travelled ones. We started off on the ‘Chasm to Crowberry Tower Traverse’ which traversed up through some amazing terrain and took us into some complex ground but most importantly, on that day, was tucked out of the high winds.

Back to the car…the Buachaille behind us and the weather was kind

Back to the car…the Buachaille behind us and the weather was kind

Up next was North East Buttress on Ben Nevis. Alan and I have climbed this before and Alan had also do it many years previous also, however Austin had never been up. This marked the completion of all the ‘Classic Ben Nevis Ridges’ for Austin. As we made good time in slightly sub-optimal conditions (ice in the 40ft corner), we descended ledge route which was below the cloud.

Low down on North East Buttress, Ben Nevis

Low down on North East Buttress, Ben Nevis

Happily at the top of the 40ft Corner, North East Buttress, Ben Nevis

Happily at the top of the 40ft Corner, North East Buttress, Ben Nevis

Most recently we were back onto Buachaille Etive Mor. This time our objective was climbed by myself and Alan only back in May but we enjoyed it so much that we thought it would be a good option for Austin and also we were relatively sheltered from the strong westerlies. So we made a start up Curved Ridge before breaking off to the base of Crowberry ridge. The strong gusts were only slightly off putting, they were strong but fortunately infrequent so we pressed on to find that the ridge remained relatively sheltered and made for an incredibly dry ascent.

Airy moves on Crowberry Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe

Airy moves on Crowberry Ridge, Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe

Strength and conditioning in the mountains

Alan wrapped up warm on a very cold day

Unfortunately no scientific research has gone on here, just the classic 'the best way to train for the mountains is to go to the mountains'.  That's the approach I take and also the approach Alan takes and at 72...it seems to be working ok. 

So we have had a good couple of days.  The aim is to get a bit of practice and fitness in for an upcoming Cuillin Ridge traverse attempt.  Possibly a 'one dayer' but with recent illness Alan has lost a wee bit of stamina.  Still a few weeks to go so we shall see.

Best way to tackle this in the winds we were experiencing

Balancy climbing on Crowberry Ridge

A welcome ledge in prep for some airy climbing

So we headed up North Buttress on Stob Ban (Grade III) for a bit of shelter from the very cold wind.  With fresh snow on the tops it was a bit of a 'hoods up and go'.  Wind was howling over the tops and as it was Alan first day out for a while, and not wanting to over do it, we headed down the North ridge.

Focused

After the weekend we teamed up again and the sun was shining and the breeze was light.  We basked in the sun on Crowberry Ridge, surmounted the Tower and during our lunch break we opted for a descent of Curved Ridge to get used to scrambling down again.  Alan certainly is capable of a moving well over the Cuillin Ridge so looking forward to making an attempt with him.

Great exposure on a brilliant route

Early season kick start
Dorsal Grat
Typically, early season climbing can be higt and miss but if you don't try then you wont know.  Alan (71) was keen to get it off to an early start so we opted to dust off the crampons and hit the snow in Glencoe.  To my delight, Alan hadn't done Dorsal Arete (II) so I felt this would be a good start to the season.
Nothing forgotten...we're good to climb


 The snow was really soft but as always the climbing was good.  The turf underneath the snow was generally ok but if you pulled too hard on the axes then you may pull some soft turf out.  Good thing we have  70 years of climbing experience between us!  A team followed us up and they opted to not wear crampons.  They made it to my delight! 
Gently on the turf

Another bomber belay with good views 

Good amount of snow to clear

Soaking in the views
The 'no crampon' team.  

 At the fin, we opted to go around the right.  On the day, Alan wasnt up for the 'teetering across the top' moves which is a very good decision.  Know your limits and don't rush in.  Going around the right gave a nice tricky corner to climb and far more enjoyable.
Exposed belay at the fin

Alan happy in the right hand variation

What an amazing place to live and work

Ossian's Cave
Brian and Martin all primed for take two

Last year I was approached by Martin Ross and his friend Brian as they had a burning desire to climb into the heavily vegetated but iconic feature in Glencoe, Ossians Cave.  As I had never climbed it, i was keen.  Last year I went and had a look on my day off and sussed it out.  On our attempt last year, both Martin and Brian were unable to join me in the cave as the climbing was too difficult but swore to come back again better prepared.

A wee approach abseil

Brian reaching the first belay, past the crux
So this year they came back and they were much more prepared.  I suggested we went a little earlier (May rather than June) and if you're thinking of climbing into Ossian's Cave then I would do it before the vegetation becomes waist high!
Brain at the top of the second pitch

Also Brian and Martin were noticeably fitter but neither had a great deal of climbing experience under their belts.  We lucked out with bone dry conditions...again...so the ascent was on. We came in via Dinnertime Buttress and Rhyolite Romp to get warmed up and made our way down to the cave.  I arrived at the base and clipped everyone to the in-situ peg at the base of Ossian's Cave and then climbed up the first pitch.  Mostly unprotected steep grass with dome dubious and slimy rock saw me at the belay.  The in-situ rope is core shot in many places but was used (yes - a point or two of aid) to both hold onto and to clip a runner into.  I also used an ice axe which was very useful.  The 1st belay is good.  An in-situ wire and peg and can be backed up with a purple Camelot and a bite of the in-situ rope.

Unfortunately Martin reached his limit climbing up and opted to be lowered down but Brian made a good ascent and joined me in the Cave.  The top pitch is easier and slightly better protected (Large wire and a better quality in-situ rope) and the belay is two expansion bolts...equalised and extended with all sorts.  We found the wee box, signed it and headed back down in two abseils (2x60m ropes).  It could be done in one but would have savage rope drag.
The tin







Brian ready for abseil

Mint

It was a nice day so we came the long way back

Cioch Nose, Cuillin Ridge Traverse, Tower Ridge, Castle Ridge and more
Sean on the Cioch Nose on Day 1
 I'm sure you're all up to speed with how brilliant the weather has been in the highlands.  Sean, who is up for 8 days of climbing in Scotland, timed it perfectly.  Kicked off with a sunny ascent of the Cioch Nose (VD)**** in Applecross.  A superb way to start the week and get his head back into big boot climbing.
With the forecast we decided to get stuck into our Cuillin Ridge Traverse (VD)**** right away.  We teamed up with my good friend Andy and his client for a sociable traverse and a great bivi.  We opted for the boat in from Elgol and Sean and I climbed all the Munro's on the main ridgeline as well as all the technical climbs except Naismith's on Am Basteir.  Success all round and a great stint in the North-West.

Andy, Ali and Sean at the 1st Munro of the ridge
Andy on the Inaccessible Pinnacle
Late evening before the bivi, a great time to be scrambling
After a day off to rest and recover from the Cuillin Ridge, we continued our 8 day stint on the West Coast based in Lochaber.
Our first day we started off on Tower Ridge (D)**** which we shared with Max and his clients.  From the summit we descended Ledge Route (Grade 2)**** ticking off two of the classic Ben Nevis Ridges.  I wonder when we will complete them all?
For a change of scenery, Sean and I headed to Glencoe for some more scrambling.  As the weather was a little mixed we opted for scrambling rather than climbing, Agag's can wait.  Instead we climbed up Broad Buttress (Grade 3)*** and descended Great Gully Buttress (grade 1/2)* for a nice round of continuous scrambling and an opportunity for Sean to do a spot of leading.

Sean seeking for the best holds
Happy as Larry (whoever Larry is?)
 With all the good weather we have had, it had to come to an end.  Sean was sold on the idea of trying ice climbing so we headed to the Ice Factor for the day for refrigerated climbing and also some rock climbing coaching to help improve Seans technique for when we climb outside.  As always in there, a day fueled by coffee and cake and enough climbing to make your arms feel like soggy, rolled up newspapers.
Always smiles when it's dry
For our final day we opted for a slightly shorter day and another classic Ben Nevis ridge.  Castle Ridge (Grade 3)*** was a good choice as it's a shorter route and Sean wasn't keen to prolong the soaking we were due as the weather came in.  Fortunately, we were through all the technical climbing before the heavens opened and as they did we opted for a quick and easy descent down the tourist route.

Sean getting techy

Brace yourself....this hill is about to get very wet!
A very successful week for Sean with the highlight being the Cuillin Ridge in great style.  With a busy summer ahead, it is great to kick off with some great weather, good company and some great climbing.  Two more Ben Nevis Ridges to do.  Right, time to have a couple of days off.

Final Scottish winter call
An interesting season has come to an end.  Many great days on the hill with brilliant people and made some great memories and friends.  I'm super pleased that my last day of work this winter was in fact very wintery.  It felt we finished on a high.  We had great weather on the Aonach Eagach and made a modest car to car trip in 7 hours of trench warfare.
Our last day out was on Curved Ridge and we didn't even touch snow and that was in late January!  So we got our quota today.  A fitting end to the season and now time for the next stage on my journey to becoming a IFMGA guide...Ski Touring Training.




Claire and Ian have found some ice
Dream team

Claire and Ian are back for another instalment of winter.  In previous trips with me they have done the CMD arete, Ledge Route and Curved Ridge.  This time we kicked of with the Aonach Eagach which was in superb condition.  The cloud was in low but as we neared the end, it cleared for spectacular views along the ridge.  Day two we climbed Number 3 Gully Buttress on Ben Nevis which was great with a nice ice pitch at the start.  Our final day, warm and wet, didn't produce any pictures.  Despite the poor weather, we climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor which was essentially a very wet experience but equally very satisfying.  Hopefully I will see them both again soon, especially and Claire has unfinished business on the Cuillin Ridge! ;)

Ian leading the way down on the Aonach Eagach


The sun is coming through!

Glencoe at its best
Claire in N3GB
Deffo wintery
 More pictures Here
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