Friday, 30 November 2012

Frank's first foray into winter mountaineering- Ledge Route today

Out today with Frank who is new to winter mountaineering. A stunning morning and we went to Ledge Route. It had been a cold night and there were plenty of fresh low ice smears on the rock and the path. We had a grand day picking a good line up the route. The snow is still fresh and mostly unconsolidated but there were some climbers out making good choices on the rocky routes on either side of No.3 Gully. Plenty of rime above 900m today but buried turf was spongey at 1000m under the deep snow. The weather deteriorated as we were on the hill and it felt quite mild on the plateau as we headed to the top of No.4 Gully to descend (plenty snow in the Gully but the Coire is still rubbly) and below the hut the sleet was falling as drizzly rain. We could do with a mini thaw to settle the snow and build us a base. More of the same tomorrow!
 Frank liking the scenery (spot the climbers?)
 In the bottom of No.5 Gully
 On with the rope
 Happy mountaineer
 Near the top
Heading down No.4 Gully
Plenty of chat on UKC about people making questionable decisions about whether routes are in condition or not. Much of the higher turf is still insulated and soft so leave it alone by climbing really easy/really steep and rocky until more consolidated winter conditions prevail. You can of course get lucky with a little understanding like James did today finding turf a little lower and less buried to be frozen. Guy did Sidewinder today and Lost the Place got another ascent after yesterday's. We could also see the climbers on Darth Vader and on the other side of No. 3 Gully.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Last Scottish rock climb of the year for me

 Bonny Ben Nevis morning
 Hoar frost on the Soldier's Bridge over the Lochy 
 This way up?
Snow on the Mamores
Out with UHI students again today in a frosty Glen Nevis. We looked at personal and group abseils building systems off of a variety of anchors and even had a wee go on Tear. Brrrr. Back on the hills tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Snow and Rock on an SPA?

Second day of our SPA Training and with a good forecast we were optimistic, a little overly so as it turned out. It snowed on us at Kingussie Crag and there was more ice around than I've seen on the hills in the last week or so! The team did well and so did my 2 colleagues Ken and Graeme without whom it would have been hard to cover the syllabus. As it was we still managed to achieve plenty leading, belay building, a lot of gear placement and feedback and looked at both personal and group abseils. As the sun fled the crag so did we back to Lagganlia.
 Al... it appears to be snowing
 Is this a summer award?
 Thank heavens for the sun
'Its only a dusting'
Plenty of action on the high rocky routes on the west but still much clearing to be done. Sounds like the turf is getting there. I'm mountaineering fri sat but have to endure a day single pitch cragging before that!!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Late season SPA

Mob handed today. My 4 SPA Training students were being trained by 3 MICs! I am doing an SPA for Lagganlia Outdoor Education Centre and their Chief Instructor Graeme and Ken were both keen to observe the course. This turned out to be very useful since the limited daylight at this time of year makes it hard to get the necessary time at the crag (even with a start yesterday and an early start/late finish today). The extra pairs of eyes, hands and perspectives have greatly added to the students' experience.
 Crag in the woods
 Down you go
 Rigging... rigging everywhere
Graeme's bouldering circuit
Sounds like things are still very snowy and far from well frozen on the crags. But, selfishly, I don't care when I can't get out!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Bog trotting and navigation.

Out with the higher outdoor learning team on a hill skills day today. We focused on navigation, Gaelic hill names, natural history and bog jumping! we went to Creag Dubh above Roybridge which at 648m had a healthy covering of wet snow. Still felt very mild on top. 
 Good technique
 When it all goes wrong...
Get a little help from your friends!

Beyard Russel's view of Scottish Winter Climbing- great vid

Scottish Winter from Bayard Russell on Vimeo.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Wet and sweaty in the snow.

Today Ken and I wanted to stretch our legs. All reports indicated that the turf was not frozen and the snow is still unconsolidated so we opted to go mountaineering. There are probably some rocky routes that are doable but I'm not psyched given the pretty poor nick at present.
We walked up to the west face of Aonach Mor in warm misty clag. There is plenty of snow above 600m but it is nicely insulating the soggy turf. There is a little ice which is forming at nights but it is detached, thin and unstable as it thaws off during the day. We wandered up to near Golden Oldy and picked a line that traversed around to take in the most interesting ground we could see through the murk- finishing up Gendarme Ridge. It was probably just below freezing on the plateau and above 1100m things were rimed up but even the wind blasted turf on the plateau wasn't really convincingly frozen yet. It was good to get out and we found some fun wee steps but it remains to be seen what the short to medium term conditions will be like. The soft snow means that it would need a really prolonged freeze to reach the turf beneath it.
 Wet ice at about 750m
 Hunting for fun
Ken in the murk
 Me on a rock crest
 Nearing the top
Rime on the plateau
  View to Castle Ridge

Friday, 23 November 2012

This morning's snowline...

Well last nights deluge at sea level has added a little more snow to the hills. It will still be fresh and wet but its -1 atop Aonach Mor this morning at 1130m. Bring on that cold snap everyone is talking about!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Work in the dry for UHI

I was at the Ice Factor today helping some students from UHI working through aspects of the NICAS syllabus.
The overnight rain had taken yesterday's dusting of snow away but the showers today must have cooled back as it was back by the end of the day today.
 Wobblin' on the board
 Thinking about balance
 On the lead
Happiness is an attentive lead belayer

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Sunny UHI Rock Assessment Jahu E6 6a!

So today I was working with Ben and Dan from the second year of the Degree course at UHI's School of Adventure Studies on a rock climbing assessment. Both are keen climbers but Dan has a little more experience.
We started with Styx Right Wall a 2 pitch VDiff which gave me a chance to look at their gear placement and belay building. Ben then took us through and abseil off of the crag and after that he went and set up a top rope for us on SW Buttress.
Dan had something else in mind. We headed over to Scimitar Buttress and he set a bottom rope up on Jahu. This gearless E6 6a has been on his radar since he climbed its E5 neighbour. He kept his hed in a good space setting a clear goal for faultless attempts on a top rope before he was going to go for it. His feet did pop twice but he was able to identify exactly why and correct the error immediately so finally he went for the head point. The rope was pulled and off he went for the solo and it obviously focussed his mind as it was his smoothest ascent yet. He did put the wind up Ben and I with a wee power scream after the crux though!
First time I've had a client climb E6 when out with me!  No credit to me though- nice climbing Dan. Next I want to introduce you to the whole winter climbing thing......
Oh, and he did get a good grade on his assessment but Jahu was only a part of that. 
Part of the reason he was able to go for it today was the fine cool weather. The white stuff is back down to about 1000m (not cold enough yet though) and it was a fine and sunny day.
 VDiff warmup
 Top of Styx Right Wall
 Setting top rope on Jahu
 The rest on Jahu
 Into the crux...
 Getting it right...
Happy Dan!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Wet, warm and windy in the west

Today I was working for the School of Adventure Studies and it was belting it down. I cycled from Corpach to the Leisure Centre before work and I'm sure I got wetter on the bike than in the pool! I had a nice small team of three for an intro. to mountain skills. We went to Glen Nevis where the rivers were absolutely thumping.
Starting with a little map-setting and a walk along the road to get to grips with features we then headed up Scimitar Ridge a nice wee Grade 2 scramble much loved by OB Loch Eil which I've never done. The team coped very well with the wet mica schist and showed me how its done by tackling the 'travelator' slab with no hands despite the wet. From here we were able to map read ourself to the Steall car park and from there we looked at timing up to the meadows. An Steall Ban (The White Spout) was certainly living up to its name today and after a quick play on the wire bridge we headed for home with another team.
We could see the snow almost visibly stripping from the hills today and the Coire Jamie B and I slithered up yesterday is almost completely bare of the white stuff.
 Scimitar Ridge
 Note disappearing snow on tops
 Wet mica schist?
 Bring it on!
 Look! No hands!
 An Steall Ban
 And the wire bridge