Sunday, 26 June 2016

Excellent summer or luck of the draw?

The start of another successful Cuillin Ridge Traverse
Two is the magic number. In this occasion, two is the amount of times I have put on my waterproofs whilst at work since April.  And I have been working in Scotland and Wales.  First time was half a day in Snowdonia and the second was for half an hour on the ascent to the start of the Aonach Eagach.  Now this is not to say it hasn't been raining, it has, I have managed to avoid it.  Being at the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, this next week should see my waterproof usage double if not treble!

Father and son James and John put in a great performance...
...and provided some great whiskey
 To kick off I had a successful traverse with John and James, the hardest part was finding water for our bivi.  I ended having to drop off 300m and carry 10 litres back up hill.  The weather turned the following day from clear and humid to cloudy and humid but we still made it.  James was keen for a third day so we went and made a quick ascent of the Cioch.
Highlander moment coming soon
Is a cow a suitable navigation feature?
 Between other spells of work and days off, I have been working with SSE.  Their request was some navigation training which included evening theory sessions and practical hill days.  Over the course I worked with 20 folk with different roles within the company, all with the common likely hood that they may have to walk over the lowland hills in Scotland.
A nice change from the big hills
Usual Scottish conditions on the Great Ridge
 As the weather has been quite good it was nice to go out with regular Grahame.  He is keen for adventurous hills and happy to move away from his usual munro bagging routes.  So with his two gift vouchers he needed to redeem, we took the short ride over the Corran ferry over to Ardgour to climb the Great Ridge on Gars Bheinn.  It was a fantastic climb on beautiful Gneiss, a must for any who haven't ventured here.  The rock climbing here is amazing.  We then ventured down into Glenfinnan, more rain dodging and more fantastic scrambling in a very peaceful location, only the noise of the steam train broke the tranquility

Big smiles down Glenfinnan
I have also managed to squeeze in some personal rock climbing into this time with a couple of hits down in Glen Nevis, a day climbing with the legend John Lyall at Creag Dubh and a Tunnel Wall session with Blair.  With many damp evenings I have also made use of the brilliant new climbing wall in Fort William, The 3 Wise Monkeys.
Andy enjoying some great after work conditions
Brain and Martin trying to decide if this was a good idea!
 Ossian's Cave.  If you have ever driven through Glencoe you will have seen it, high on the hillside, a tall, dark, damp slot carved out of the North Face of Aonach Dubh.  Martin had this idea bubbling over the fire for years and we organised a day out to put it to bed.  Martin brought Brian along and between them, did a great job where they both dug deep.  Given that neither of them have a great deal of experiance in the hills it was always gonig to be a tough objective and initially we saw it as a training day rather than to get into the cave.  But with plenty of coaching we all made it to the base of the cave and I made it right inside but climbing into the cave was a few moves too far for them.  We already have plans in place for a rematch next year so I hope we have some more nice weather.  It felt great to climb the first ever recorded route in Glencoe

In the cave!!

Realisation that the hills in Glencoe are not a walk in the park!
The following day I was straight out for another Glencoe classic.  The Aonach Eagach.  This was with some members from the Connersville Walking Club.  With 8 signed up for the ridge I enrolled Andy Hogarth, to help guide them along.  We were also assisted by Andy Hauge, a MIA-trainee looking for some experience, who helped out making our life a lot easier.
Cloudy but dry
Andy organising a wee descent
 After the Aonach Eagach, only 3 were keen for the final day on Curved Ridge.  Again we were lucky and made a really nice ascent to meet the rest of the club on the summit.  It was nice to see a few other teams out and about.  Shame about the ropes hanging off Rannoch Wall.  Looks a bit of a mess!

Andrew, Alan and Sean
Getting to grips with it all now
So after a great few weeks in the hills I can look forward to more adventures.  A week on Skye, a two week boat trip out to the Western Isles and St. Kilda, 23 days in India then off to Snowdonia to prepare for one of the many assessments I have to pass to become a British Mountain Guide.  Eeek it will be winter soon!?

Sunday, 5 June 2016

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!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Back to Skye

First peak - going to be a good week
Approaching the top of Sgurr Alasdair
Having had a few brilliant days on Skye this winter I have been really keen to get back on the hills once all the snow had gone.  This week I have had a nice gentle introduction to the season with a Munro course for West Coast Mountain Guides.  4 days, 11 Munro's, not a raindrop.  It was too easy this week.  We completed our task with a fantastic group of very able members.  The transition from hill walkers to mountaineers through the week was evident as all member picked up heaps of confidence as the week went on and were moving over technical ground very efficiently.


Ascending out of Coire Lagan - the easy way!

Pinn day!

Top team!

Foot soak at the end of 3 Munro's

Day 3 and look at the weather!

Day 4 we had some snow on the North end

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Back in Scotland

Perfect conditions in Glen Nevis
After a little time away from Scotland I was glad to get back and find some relatively settled weather.  Enough to get out climbing before the work season starts.  On my way back to Fort William I headed over East to climb at Weem Rock which is a fantastic sport climbing crag with a nice variety of styles.  Weather stopped play the following day so a day at Ratho was in order which is always brilliant fun.  Once arriving back in Fort William I managed to climb in Glen Nevis twice, Creag Dubh twice, had a day in the brilliant new Three Wise Monkeys climbing wall and also a day climbing on the Buachaille.  I'm ready for a busy summer of new clients, Cuillin Ridge and further afield.

Climbing on the Buachaille

Andy 

Kenny

The wind changed direction and soaked our route after we climbed it

Kenny running up Engineers Crack

Monday, 2 May 2016

Setting up for the summer

They might be small but The Lake District has excellent crags and mountains
With my planned winter work well out of the way I'm now looking forward to the transition into the summer season.  With winter still stubborn in the mountains I will still be carrying axes and crampons on some of my objectives.  No light weight summer bag just yet.  I have been looking forward to 2016 I turn 30.  As do several of my friends and between two birthday weekends last month, one at a beer festival in Stuttgart and a surprise party down south, I have been trying to regain some rock climbing fitness, see friends and family and do a little exploring.  Whilst being in the Lakes we managed to get some days climbing at St. Bee's, Langdale, Borrowdale and near Thirlmere.  The nice weather has been surrounded with wet days so I have made use of The Ice Factor, Kendal Wall, Keswick Wall and Ratho.  Unfortunately, I'm weak as a kitten after winter.  The new wall opening in Fort William might help build up a little strength for the coming climbing projects this summer.
Can't go to a German beer festival without wearing a Leiderhosen and drinking a few Steins
Another course done, another signature in the book
Whilst in the Lakes, I embarked onto my first training course (after the inductions) to become a IFMGA Mountain Guide.  The course, Rock One Training, focussed on all aspects of British summer mountain guiding.  It was a great week with a wide range of fellow candidates, some with instructing and guiding backgrounds and some new to the concept of managing and guiding novices.  I have been asked to write a course report on the week which will be put on the new British Mountain Guide website soon so feel free to have a read.
Mountain cragging on Pavey Ark
We had fantastic weather

The milestone of turning the big 30 this year will be marked with some interesting climbing trips with friends, family and clients, both old and new.  I hope we all have dry rock and full chalk bags.  I left my camera up north so only have a couple of picture of my phone.

Bouldering ayt St Bee's whilst the crag dried
We were pretty lucky with the weather
Got very close to this little fella