Posts tagged Winter Mountaineering
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.

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 skiing...to 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

Back on Ben Nevis

Does it get much better for mixed?

A quick hit on Ben Nevis this morning with Andy.  The main aim was to get down for 1300 for a coffee.  So with these time restrictions we opted for a quick route on or near the Douglas Boulder.

On arrival, we decided to pick a line which wasn't in the guide book.  Turns out it was called 'Watery Foul's' (V,7) which had an intense first pitch then cruisy for the following two pitches.

Andy of the first pitch

Mint

The mountain was looking stunning but reports of very slow/exhausting walking rendered the rest of the mountain unclimbed.  Teams climbed Gutless/Rutless and Cutlas on the Boulder.

Winter is getting off to a good start...Now a wee thaw to keep us on our toes.

Spot all the lines

Andy on the third pitch

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

Some Like it Hot, Stob Coire an Laoigh
The crag!
After a good study of the forecast it looked like we were going to have to climb high.  As two became three, then three became four, we had a very sociable team with plenty of motivation to share around...which is exactly what you need for the walk into the North facing cliffs of Stob Coire an Laoigh.  I was super keen for the three star route 'Some like it hot'.  I have climbed the other classics of the crag such as 'Taliballen' (V,6) and Centrepoint (VI,7) and knew that, if I was too come back in here, I would climb 'Some like....'.  My friend Kenny and I have talked about this route pretty much every year for the last 8 years but never got round to doing it.

Lou heading up to the base of 'Some like it hot'
A quartzite wall!  Some of the best climbing in Scotland is on quartzite!
So Lou, Steve, Andy and myself left Spean Bridge at 0645 and drove up the track past Corriechoille Farm (beware of pot holes) to set off walking just after 7.  The walk felt like it went on for hours but on arrival to the corrie, a mere 2 hours had passed.  Just after nine, we were presented with a perfect looking crag! 
Looking up the corner from the top of P1. (tilt head to left ;)

We split in our teams.  Lou and I headed for 'Some like it hot' and Steve and Andy headed for 'Centrepoint'.  We wondered what we would find.  The ground was sodden on the walk in which allowed some doubt about conditions to creep in.  The first swing of my ice axe confirmed that we were on!  It was only going to get better and the turf was good! 
Lou heading up P1
Lou remembering how to winter climb, didn't take her long!
As this was Lou's first trip out this winter, I led both pitches which were quite contrasting but equally brilliant.  P1 (VI,6).  Pitch 2 (VII,7). 
Lou approaching P1 belay
With only two pitches to climb we topped out in pretty good time.  We wandered over to see Steve and Andy in action, just as Steve was leading off on the 3rd and final pitch.
Top of the 2nd pitch...2 massive ledges after 40m of amazing climbing

I was over the moon with how good the conditions were and do I need to go back in?  Course I do!  Still several really good looking lines there (Blue Rinse, Cobra Corner) and it would be great to guide in there too...if only I could persuade a client to walk in that far...
A two hour walk out which required head torches for the last 20 minutes concluded a great day and a good early season route.  Right back to work tomorrow in Glencoe!

Steve and Andy are there somewhere on the steep 'Centrepoint'.
Winter begins
The early starts are worth it

For me, the Scottish winter season will come to an end very quickly.  I am due to be in the Alps from mid December until April.  So my intention is to cram a seasons worth of climbing into one month!  Is it possible?  Doubtful!  However, if last year is anything to go by, I only have to do 6 more routes then I will beat that tally!
Nice morning for a long walk

So, two routes have got me underway.  Last year on the 25th November, Chadders and I climbed on Carn Etchican.  This year, on the same date we did exactly the same.  We only realised when we were home as it popped up on Mark's Facebook feed.  The photo's are not identical but very similar.  Check them out in the link above.  We had a few route's in mind, one objective was black so we needed to stick to something that was holding the snow, a groove or gully line.  So we ended up on Pagans Slit (V,6) which gave some brilliant, balancy, turfy climbing.  Everything was frozen and we weren't wading through too much snow.  It's was bitterly cold though...I just wonder if I haven't adjusted to it yet after my sport climbing trip or if I am just being a bit soft!?
Chadders enjoying the snowy chimney on the 1st of 2 main pitches

It was a tough day in terms of braking trail, wandering through boulder fields with some snow, falling down holes and getting battered by the wind.  Im glad the following day was due to be a short one.
Best part of the day, Murdoch with his foot stuck.  Had to remove his boot to get free.  I did help after I took some photos

So day two with Murdoch was just spot on.  Originally we had talked about some desperate test pieces in the 'Lochain' but fortunately the weather was minging so it had to be a quickie.  No long belay shifts and back for 12.30.  It's great going winter climbing and having an afternoon to do 'normal' things.  We went in and climbed 'Pot of Gold' (V,6) as we thought it would go quickly.  After the initial faff we grovelled our way up as the wind picked up and we both started moaning about how cold it was.  It was fun climbing, I had done it before but it was much better conditions this time.  We topped out and swiftly got back to the van for a whole afternoon....of....
....
....
Chores!
(Should have stayed out longer)

Murdoch on the short traverse on pitch 2
A return to winter
The Grey Corries

Before I could go climbing for myself, I was out working with Grahame who has some gift vouchers to redeem.  Great present idea from his brother!  We had planned for 3 days but unfortunately the weather didn't play ball so we just had two.  Great fun as always.

Cruach Inness
Day one we did a couple of corbett's Grahame hadn't done, Cruach Innse and Sgurr Innse, after an aborted effort to get to the Forcan Ridge, due to road closure.  The Grey Corries are great hills on the doorstep and it was great to get a view of them from a new angle. 

It was even freezing at 857m

Happy as Larry in crampons
Our final day it looked like winter was arriving by midday.  So armed with full mountaineering equipment, we headed into the Cairngorms for a link up of scrambling and winter mountaineering.  Grahame hasn't done much in the way of winter mountaineering so it was a nice gentle introduction up the Fiacaill Ridge

Not long until this buttress is covered in climbers
I think he might have a taste for winter!

Unsure of ideas for Christmas presents for friends and family?  Get in touch so they can open a day of adventure in the mountains!
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