Posts tagged North West Highlands
Duff(y) the Munro Slayer

Now Grahame is no Sarah Michelle Gellar but he certainly can get his way through several mythical beasts in one week.

Slioch NW buttress with Loch Maree in the background

Our plan way hatched a while ago to spend some time in the North West to climb some of the munro's he is yet to climb.  We didn't want the easy options so when the weather forecast was perfect it was game on.

Grahame trying to see the island on the loch which is on the island which is on Loch Maree ... We could just make it of a kind in Scotland.

A loch with an island, which has a wee lochain which has an island on!

First up was Slioch via the NW Buttress  - A great route with a long and scenic approach.  The ground was dry but I suspect it is really boggy after the usual rainfall.  This week it was so easy to walk in.  The route itself is worth seeking out.  The crux is the first wall and then its nice scrambling over a combination of solid and loose rock at around grade 3.  From the summit we descended the regular route to make a really nice 7 hour round trip.

Super pace to climb - East Buttress with  Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair behind

Day two we walked into Coire Mhic Fhearchair and climbed the brilliant East Buttress (VDiff).  Totally amazing route and one on my favourite on the mountain.  With stunning weather and Grahame keen to tick Ruadh-stac Mor and Spidean Cnc, we pressed on and traversed the mountain.

Super climbing

Day 3 we opted for a slightly shorted day and climber the A'Chioch Ridge on Beinn Bhan.  It weighs in as a Corbett but the scrambling is great and as its only a 5.5 hour day we were ready for another giant tomorrow!

Grahame's unique smile...or is it fear?  A'Chioch Ridge providing some cooler conditions

The top of the A'Chioch Ridge

Day 4 was one of the best.  A traverse of Liathach via the Northern Pinnacle's.  Just superb.  Two hour walk into the base and we had brilliant scrambling, again with the difficult section near the start.  With everything being bone dry we didn't experience any 'greasyness' as mentioned in the guidebook and just had pristine rock.  Some looseness in the upper parts of the Northern Pinnacles though.

Start of the Northern Pinnacles

Just fun!

Nobody else

On the main traverse

Final munro of the day

Day 5 we were due some different weather (no photo's today).  The cloud came in, the rain fell but that didn't stop us.  We drove down to Glen Shiel and finished our week on the two munro's by the Forcan Ridge which brings Graham's munro count down to the final 50!  I'm sure these will fly by and best of luck with finishing them off.

A week I won't forget in a while, truly brilliant routes and weather.  Thanks Grahame.

The traverse ledge to get into the start of East Buttress


Glad I had my ice screw on my harness

The whopper I caught on Loch Maree on evening

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'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.

2nd night, what a place to bivi up

A special place I have always wanted to visit but it always seemed so far away from home.  This time the journey started from when I picked up Lou from Skye meaning only a 3 hour drive to the campsite on Sheigra beach.  A 2 minute walk in to the closest crag mean it was Ideal for a 2 day stint.
Tatties in the fire, venison on the BBQ

 On the morning of our first day it was a wee bit drizzly, as forecast so we had a lazy morning before heading off to the 2nd Geo for an afternoon of climbing.  A superb steep wall of Lewisian Gneiss meant a wide array for brilliant routes were climbed.  As the sun faded we headed back to the beach for campfire and bbq scenes.

Lou cruising Under the Pink (E1 5b)***

Making sure I don't get pumped on Monkey Man (E3 5c)****
 On our second day we were up in good time to climb before a walk out to Sandwood Bay.  We started off at 'In Between the Geos' before heading to the 1st Geo for a route.  There were some other teams out today which was nice to see and can't wait to get back.  Unfortunately no pictures from the first day.  Can't wait to go back.

Lou trying not to get pumped on Monkey Man

The finishing jugs always bring a smile
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.

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!?
Winter Mountaineeing - my final course this winter

With the warm temperatures of late, the outlook to this week was looking doubtful in terms of winter conditions in the NW highlands.  This was my final week working for Moran Mountain this winter and the Easter winter mountaineering course was full. and to top it off...we had plenty of snow.  We visited Glen Shiel, Liatach, Beinn Eighe and Skye for some fantastic days on the snow and with a great team.  Looks like I have one more day of winter before I can make a start on the rock climbing season.

Torridon sandstone, quartzite and milage
The last two day I have been working with John and we took the Torridon office as a change of scenery.  We left our ice axes and ice screws behind and took our summer boots and scrambling gloves.  John had never been to the Torridon hills so I suggested we have some big days on the Torridon Giants.  Our first day finished after a 22 km round on Beinn Eighe massiv.  We started out climb on to Sail Mor (980m) via the Ling, Lawson and Glovers route, which is just as good in summer conditions as it is in winter.  From here we left the sandstone and climbed up quartz to the summit of Coinneach Mhor which gave some brilliant scrambling.  As we were moving well we went on to Ruadh-stac Mor (1010m), a first for me and then we continued onto Spidean Coire nana Clach (993m) before coming down into Coire an Laoigh.

As the weather wasnt looking great for a Liatach traverse on day two we opted for the Beinn Alligan traverse.  Over the horns, Sgurr Mor (986m) and Ton na Gruagaich (922m) which turned out to be a great option and an easy day for me as John did all the navigating which, despite following a ridge still took some thought in the clouds.

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
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