Posts tagged Scrambling
Cuillin Traverse in a day

Alan was hungry for another attempt. Last year we did a one day traverse, at 71 years old, is mind boggling for many to even comprehend! This year at 72 Alan wanted to go again. Last year we missed out a couple of sections to save a little bit of time or fatigue got in the way. Last year we missed out the brilliant scramble on An Stac, we missed out Collies Ledge, Bidean Druim nan Ramh and Am Basteir. We also bivied at Sgurr nan Eag and summited Gars Bheinn the evening before. So this time we bivied on Gars Bheinn and started our day from there.

At 3.50am we left the bivi and set on our way, the TD gap was bone dry and went with ease, we went along Collies (hart’s) ledge as we missed this last time and made a quick ascent of An Stac and the In Pinn by 8am. We picked up our water stash and the rest was a blur. After climbing Am Bastier, Alan was happy (and shattered) so we didn’t go up Sgurr nan Gillean (we did last year) and made our way down arriving at the Slig at 5.30. It’s amazing what one can do in their 70’s, I hope I will be able to do the same!

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

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 out...one 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

Dude!

Glad I had my ice screw on my harness

The whopper I caught on Loch Maree on evening

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

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 boat...it'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.








A week in Wales
After wrapping up in the Alps for the summer I decided to head straight to North Wales for an annual 'working holiday' there.  I had a few reasons to go.  See important people, do some work, climb some routes and hopefully climb a particular line I have been hoping to do for a long time.  The way it worked out, I did about 80% of that...the particular line will have to wait!

Crags don't get much better than this

After arriving back I teamed up with my regular client Sean.  We have had a trip to Wales in the past and managed to escape the weather but this time luck wasn't on our side.  A forecast nobody really wanted to be out in, so as we had the option we chose to go to the Beacon Climbing wall which served its purpose.

Thumbs up for greasy, tech big boot climbing!
Sean happy to be high
 Our second day wasnt much better.  Anyway, we got stuck in.  On a previous trip we climbed Original Route on Idwal Slabs but this time we opted for the harder Hope.  I had only done this in dry conditions so it was great to seek it out while it was soaking.  It went fine, our big boots did the job, however I do remember having to do quite a few strenuous moves to advance up.  A strong effort by Sean to dispatch this.

Katya, an IML, gets stuck into rock climbing
Rope shortened, Katya leads to glory...in the rain
After this followed a spot of personal climbing, surfing and catching up with friends.  Before I knew it, I was back out working with Katya and Aide.  We have done heaps in the past, mostly in winter so this time they were keen to advance their skills rock climbing.  So day one they swung leads on Original Route on the slabs (in the rain) in their big boots, put alpine skills into practice to scramble off which was packed with some good laughs and piss taking as we always do...and obviously some technical input! ;)
First time on the sea cliffs...Check out the power pants!

Aid negotiating the crux of Lighthouse Arete
Day two they were sold on some sea cliff climbing.  So an early start saw us abseiling into Castle Helen before anyone else had turned up.  I led them up Light House Arete, Rap and Pel before we shifted over to Holyhead Mountain so they could do some more leading before we called it a day.  As this seemed like the last day of nice weather, my mate John drove out at warp speed to meet me after work so we could stretch the arms and do a couple of pitches in the fading light.  A mint day.
Hanging out at the seaside
A rare shot of Aid smiling and not swearing.  A classic Aid quote 'Put my foot up there?? Im not a f#@king gymnast!'

My last day, I was climbing on the Orme with the Evans.  It was a multi activity day.  Sport climbing, Trad climbing, bouldering, falling off and good craic.  I do quite like Wales...I always feel like moving there when I'm on my working holidays there.  Maybe one day.  Anyway...back to Scotland...hopefully in time for an Indian Summer!
A week of Alpine rock
With a week off between Part 1 and 2 of our Alpine Training, I teamed up with fellow trainee guide Jack Geldard for some rock climbing and acclimatization.

Our first day we decided on a sport climb in the mountains and headed up onto Brevant and climbed the brilliant 8 pitch La Fin de Babylone (TD+ 6c) of the South face.  I remembered how to climb granite with sun on my back so I was keen for more routes in the mountains but with less bolts and more trad gear.

Day two we climbed on the Red Pillar on Aiguille de Blaitiere.  We opted for Majouette Thatcher (TD+ 6b+)...in British money we thought it was E3 6a.  Superb route with 5 brilliant pitches after an 1.5 hour walk in. (no pics from the first couple of days)
Day 3 we climbed on the South Face of Aiguille du Midi.  We climbed the Contamine Route given ED1 6c+.  In british money, we thought E4 6b, it was a fight.
Jack on the crux pitch of Contamine

After 3 days of sore feet in climbing shoes, we ditched the torture devices and went mountaineering with Emily on the Clocher Ridge (PD+ 4a).  A great mountaineering ridge which is a brilliant introduction to the Alps.  I suspect I will work on that route quite a lot.
Mont Bianco, Emily and Jack...cruising.

Day four Jack and I went back to the Blaitiere and climbed the classic L'eau rance d'arabie (TD+ 6b), probs around E2 5c.  8 superb pitches of pristine granite cracks and a few testing slab for good measure.  A great day out.
Pitch...
...after pitch...

...after pitch of excellent climbing.  Superb Route MT
To conclude the week, Jack, Emily and I teamed up with Kenny for a day on the mountian bikes which was brilliant fun up at Le Tour.  Lift assisted Mountain Biking...what's not to like!?

Now for Alpine training Part 2...
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 year....watch 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.
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.