Posts tagged Rope work and rescues
Alpine part 2 (and 3 - 6)...when will the season end?

This winter, what a season!  April has started and here in the Alps, it doesn't look like it's slowing down...or warming up as we would expect or hope for.  Even back at home it is looking to be a superb season and with no signs of slowing down either.

Since my last post there has been quite a lot going on.  In February I jetted off to Aurland in Norway working for Moran Mountain.  I had some of my regular clients along and working alongside some great friends made for a brilliant trip.  Ice climbing is always good fun.

Skiing in the Alps has been close to non stop.  Im just back from two hut to hut tours where we found some great snow but some rotten weather sometimes.  Before that, I was observing guides with their clients, helping out and trying to learn as much as possible from them.

Rock climbing season doesn't seem that far away so I have managed to squeeze in a couple of cragging sessions in after hopefully remind myself of how to do it!

The winter season is very close to the end for me.  My final winter challenge is to pass my ski test.  This is a 6 day assessment based in the Alps.  Hopefully, the next time I post, I will be back in the UK with a big smile on my face.  Results on the 20th April.

After that I will be back in the UK working my socks off before I go into the final stage of becoming a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide.

Here are a few pictures...but in no particular order!

Tom topping out on a brilliant WI4

Day off with Donald.  Always an adventure.  Unfortunately we DNF this route.

Katya making her way up to join me on the first ascent of this route

Natcho bring some colour to yet another first ascent

A super WI5 with the strong Irish youth Neil

The WI5, mega route

A spot of leading for Neil (the youth)

Natcho and Neil organising themselves whilst leading Dambusters WI3

Natcho on the sharp end

Dream team from Alpine Guides.  Just before we set of on the Silvretta tour

The hut is this way....honest

More like it...

Good snow, good skiers, good times

Lori contemplating where to go next

Deserted ski resort in Val Stura in Italy

Neil pausing to take it all in

The team join me ready for the freshies on descent

Another day, another blank canvass

Great snow

Freshies, an overused but relevant word this season.

We found a hidden bunker...took some digging to get in

Filling the gaps

They were arguing about who gets to go next...there was plenty for everyone

a snowpack evaluation session

When the bed bugs hit!

Powder in Italy

More powder in the 'magic woods'

Vallee Blanche team

Skiing down to Italy with my mentor Andy Nelson

The client get to lead

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 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


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

Summer in Wales and BMG Summer Test
It has been a great summer for me and all the hard work has paid off.  I spent the 4 weeks after India, in the mountains of Snowdonia.  I was climbing, mountaineering and getting to know the place as best I could.  My final week there I was assessed as part of the IFMGA Guide Scheme and happy to report that I passed this first step.  A massive thanks goes out to my clients I had this season, all the other candidates on the scheme and all my climbing partners and those willing to come out on the wettest of days.  Couldn't have done it without you!  Now I can look forward to the winter aspect of the British Guides Scheme, another training course followed by a 6 day assessment!  Is it winter yet?

Great weather in Ogwen

Dave on Gambit Climb

Dave on Tryfan

Dave doing his thing

Client Sean scrambling in Ogwen

Evening cragging on the Slate quarries

Evening cragging on the Great Orme

More routes at Gogarth

Essential post climbing analysis

BMG assessor Graham Ettle at Gogarth

Sunshine and sea at Gogarth

Jack leading on the Guides assesment

Evening cragging

My teaching day on my guides test (Photo credit:Steve Long)

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!
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
Sport, Sunshine, Skye, Showers, Success, Scrambling, Sea Cliffs and more Sport
The title pretty much sums up my time since I returned from the Alps with Ben.  Obviously I have missed a few normal life things that you wont want to hear about but I have been super busy with work and climbing.  With a little time off before I started work again, I was really keen to see how much my rock climbing strength had altered over the last few months where I have been mainly mountaineering or dodging rain.  I started off with some success by climbing the brilliant Uncertain Emotions (7b) on Craig A'Bhancair on Buachialle Etive Mor.  This came after 3 visits but still really chuffed to pull this out the bag, especially as it has been such a hard summer.
Essential sport climbing gear
 After gaining a bit of fitness, I went to Creag Dubh with my flat mate Blair (good snow patch photos) and headed up to Barrier Wall and between us accumulated 12 E points between us spread over 4 routes.  I felt pretty broken by the end of this, think it was the combination of too much wine the night before, the baking hot sunshine and the steep nature of the crag.  A top day though!  This day marked the end of my time off and work began!

First up was a day up on Ardverikie Wall (HS) with Paul.  Not a great deal to say about this other than it was perfect.  Sunshine, nice breeze, great company, brilliant climbing and lots of other climbers out.  A really social-able day on an uber classic line.

Paul loving his day off whilst over on a business trip

From here I had a stint on the Isle of Skye, brace was amazing weather!  I was so lucky and so excited to be up in those mountains with endless views and a warm glow from the sun.  First Skye job was to take the lovely Alison up the Inaccessible Pinnacle and over to Sgur Mhicoinich.  This had been her nemesis for years but with some care, coaching and coaxing we both made it to the top for a well earned rest.  We had the summit to ourselves where we basked in the sun for a while.
Alison and the inversion
After saying farewell to Alison, I met my next group.  For the next 4 days we had planned to summit every Munro on the Cuillin Ridge.  11 summits, 4 clients, limited scrambling experience, 1 guide, stunning problem!  Again, not much to say about this but it was a great 4 days with a super fun group and we succeeded in our objective.  We took countless pictures, everyone magazine worthy.  Skye truly was magnificant...
The team, but on which peak?

Until the weekend hit...

My traverse clients, Simon and Harry, were given the bad news on Friday that the traverse would not go ahead.  High winds, lots of rain and very wet rock would not lends itself to an enjoyable, comfortable and successful traverse.  Instead we opted for two single days, aiming to be off the hill to enjoy showers, pillows and duvets.  Our first day we climbed Pinnacle Ridge and continued to tick off the Northern 3 Munros on Skye.  Also including Am Bhastier and its tooth as well as a descent down Kings cave chimney.
Harry and Simon ready for action
 Our second day was the brilliant Clach Glas BlaBheinn traverse.  We had to have a delayed start to allow for the winds to ease and the rain to subside but it was clear that our late start was not late enough.  We battled through wind and rain, over greasy and slippy terrain but ultimately completing Skye's fantastic satellite ridge.  On arrival to the summit of BlaBheinn we were greeted with no views but as we turned away from the summit it started to clear.  Was it worth the battle?  Of course it was.

Harry and Simon hoping it would be a 'summer' holiday!

After farewells with Harry and Simon, I met with my next group.  This time 8 members, 2 guides, 11 munro's, suboptimal problem (ish).  I teamed up with Andy Ravenhill and we dissected the forecast to see when was best to hit the tricky summits and when to have a shorter day.  The team fought well and worked well together and we succeeded in summiting all the peaks over 4 days.  A great result all round.  It has appeared Skye has gone back to normal but such is life.
Ok, we had a good couple of weather windows.
This concluded my work on Skye for this year and I had to head straight to North Wales for an induction to become a British Mountain Guide.  After a welcoming power point presentation and an over view of the scheme (3+ year), I was taken to Gogarth sea cliffs and tested on my ability to rock climb at the standard of E1 5b.  As events proceeded I ended up climbing Resolution Direct, a brilliant E2 5c on the edge of main cliff and this was enough proof to the assessing guides that I could operate at the standard they require.  The following two days were spent being trained by experienced British Mountain Guide's in the advanced skills that will take me beyond the remit of my current qualifications and allow me to work in the Alps and worldwide.  A long standing ambition.
My last ever mountain logbook!

After the course I spent two days climbing by the sea, firstly at Gogarth with Ally Swinton.  We climbed 3 E2's and an E5 which left us both feeling quite tired and today we went sport climbing at LPT on the Great Orm where we both maxed out at 7a+...we put it down to been very tired from the last few days.

The following few months are looking super busy, I will mostly be in Scotland getting ready for winter and this year instead of going to Spain for some sport climbing I will be heading to a little island on the Aegean sea.  Can wait!

If your already dreaming about winter then get in touch and we can make your Scottish mountain ambitions come true.  Click HERE for some ideas.

Thank you to West Coast Mountain Guides, Skye Guides and Steve Fallon for work recently, it has been a blast!

Summer Mountain Leader Training
This week I have been working for JSMTC (Joint Services Mountain Training Centre) in Ballachulisch with 6 military personnel going through their Summer Mountain Leader award.  It has been brilliant to be working back on these courses as it gives me an opportunity to spend a prolonged amount of time in the hills whilst sharing local knowledge, teaching leadership skills, delivering current practice and inspiring more folk to do the job that I love.  The military version of the award is slightly different to the civilian award, for starters we only have 5 days instead of 6.  Despite this we covered all aspects of the syllabus in a pretty unsavoury week of weather.  As I said to the group, it was a great opportunity, as the weather couldn't get much worse!  Due to this weather I left my camera at home so found some old pictures.  Day one we made use of the hill side north of Kinlochleven, great for some micro navigation and a lovely place to identify all sorts of wildlife and landscapes.  Day two we went onto Buachaille Etive Mor for 'security on steep ground' day, introduction to mountain leaders rope work and finished the day with a river crossing exercise.  Day 3 we went up Buachaille Etive Beag for the mountain leadership day and our two day expedition went over the Black Mount, from Bridge of Orchy (Victoria Bridge) to Glen Etive.  A stunning set of hills.

Common Butterwort

Devils Matchsticks


A month in pictures, Spring in Scotland
After some really wet days I felt like this little fella
Spring so far has been great in terms of work and great on my time off.  Maybe not as much personal climbing as I have hoped but I have spent some great time with friends and family as well as watching the rain beat off the windows.

Emma brushing up on her navigation skills
Father and Son Mick and Joe on a Cuillin Ridge traverse attempt

Weather not ideal for the traverse...Joe and Mick descending
Nicer weather on Clach Glas with Joe

Joe and I had a day cragging at Neist

Then Joe and I went winter climbing on Tower Ridge

Team winter...30th May

Week away on Mull with Family and friends...that's my mum paddling in...she is the best!

Brothers Mick and Chris settling forgotten childhood battles

Making progress on their traverse...

Good morning, ready to go at 5am

Back to winter climbing on Ben Nevis.  Observatory Ridge with Alan.

Cheers.  Alan on the summit of Ben Nevis. 10th June

Uisdean climbing some dirty route in Glen Nevis 10 E points that afternoon.

Gareth and Jen enjoying perfect traverse conditions....

Day 2 was not so perfect!!
Now with a little time off, I'm heading south to find some nice weather and some dry rock.  Feeling blessed to be supported by Millet who have kept me warm and dry with their excellent clothing, kept my clients safe with their excellent ropes, kept my feet in great condition thanks to the super comfy and durable footwear and gave me the perfect rucksacks to transport it all around.  Thank you also to all the great clients I have worked with, you have all done great, especially in the horrible weather we have had on some days.

Route setting

Whayy back to work for me!  After a few days at home I whisked up to Faslane, hopped onto the Naval base, stripped their climbing wall and did a complete re-set of the whole wall.  It has been a wee while since I did some route setting but after a couple of route's I remembered how fun it can be.  I created some great problems and had the Navy climbing champion come done and try them all out.  A great couple of days!