Sunday, 6 April 2014

Costa Blanca Part 2

Next stop ... the pavement!
Down we go!
Ok I will hold my hands up.  My enthusiasm got the better of us.  Day 4 and I had another plan up my sleeve. A 9 pitch HVS up the most striking feature on the Costa Blanca.  Diedro UBSA on the South Face of Penon de Ifach.  Unfortunately I didn't take into consideration that John has been maxing out for the last 3 days so we should have opted for a rest day straight away.  Anyway the 2 pitches and 2 abseils we did were great, we got dive bombed by sea guls, looked around another marina and topped up on more vitamin D, not a total wasted day.

The Bernia Ridge
We did get worried as the white stuff came in from the left..
Our 5th day we went for the mighty Bernia Ridge, another opportunity to keep the weight on our legs and rest the arms.  So, fantastic scrambling on bone dry limestone, in blue sky weather with a sea breeze...what's not to like?  John enjoyed the crux so much he threw a quick draw back down so he could be lowered and climb it again..!  We had the ridge to ourselves until the final summit of 1126m.  It was shorter than the Cuillin but nicely sustained.
It was very windy here...when I said 'smile' I didn't mean let go!

All good fun!
Today, we went for it, I wanted to tick the whole of the Costa Blanca guidebook, however we settled for the brilliant Puig Campana (1406m).  We had a view of this giant from our apartment and knew we had to climb it.  The classic Espolon Central, 13 pitches, early problem!  "Ahh John.....slight problem" "What" "didn't pack my climbing shoes".  John response..."Oh"  Maybe I'm too stubborn or just too lazy but I didn't want to walk back down without climbing this route so we pressed on and I led the 13 pitches in my trainers which turned out to be far more comfortable than I could have imagined!

Pitch....12 I think
After a interesting beach/dinner experience in Benidorm we headed back to the ranch and John was happy to finish on a high so we are having a relaxed day tomorrow then catching a flight in the afternoon.  The drams are flowing and it's been a fantastic 6 days climbing...despite being constantly dehydrated!  This is a must for winter sun and spring time rock climbing strength!

The view didn' change much, it was nice!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Costa Blanca climbing

John rehydrating whilst observing the weather take a turn for the worse
Well after 3 days of fantastic climbing I thought I would settle down with some duty free whiskey and make a wee note of what we have been up to.  John is really wanting to push his grade this year so when I suggested we go to Spain for 7 days climbing he jumped at the chance.  I have made an itinerary for the whole week, it took me a while to do as there is so much amazing rock to climb.  The first two days were single pitch climbing, to see what John can and cant climb.  As were staying at Sella, the local crag was ideal.  5 minute drive, 28 second walk in, 9 routes later we were done for the day.  Day two we went into Vall de Guadar and found a fantastic newly developed crag which wasn't polished which gave us another 9 routes in the perfect temps.  In the distance we could see a storm brewing..
Entering the final pitch on the Toix Ridge
Top of the time for scrambling

Today our forecast was confirmed and it rained all night and up until about 9am.  This was fine as we knew it was to clear and this allowed time to explore to local marina and drink some lovely coffee.  After a relaxing morning we climbed the Toix Ridge.  It was bloody brilliant.  5 pitches of nice climbing to a fantastic airy ridge that required a wee bit of rope work, especially with the high winds we had.
I know Spain is meant to be warm but it was very windy!
Top of the climbing, scrambing to come
Doesnt look bad but it was super windy!
Thumbs up, start climbing!

After this our day wasn't over.  We hurried down to the sea cliffs to climb the fantastic Magical Mystery Tour.  5 fantastic pitches above the sea given sport grade 5 and felt like a nice HVS 5a.  We made two abseils in, full committed ourselves as we only had 1 60m rope, either a climb out or a swim out would be suffice but fortunately all went to plan.  So all in all a great contrasting day, 5 pitches to a summit ridge followed by two abseils and a fantastic multi-pitch sea cliff climb!

Summit shot
On the sea cliffs...baking temperatures now!
This traverse was by far the psychological crux...don't fall here!
Mmmm bliss

Mmmmm bliss

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Ski Touring Albula Alps

Plenty of snow for us..
Did make skiing difficult sometimes...
I have just returned from a great wee trip out in Switzerland with John Orr and Blair Fyffe (aka Dr Snow).  The aim of the trip was to do 5 days in the mountains going from mountain hut to mountain hut, staying high and enjoy some great summits and skiing.
Some skinning was easy...

Getting ready for some descents
Unfortunately it didn't quite go to plan.  Our arrival journey was diverted due to an avalanche that had buried the train track and this was from vest amounts of snow the fell the day we travelled out.  Lots of snow + skiing = perfect?!  Not exactly...the avalanche hazard was high on all aspects so our only options was to stick to slopes less then 30+ degrees.

Myself and John ascending Pic Kesch
John and I on the summit with cool hats on!
We did two day single day tours, one near St Moritz and one from the Julier Pass which involved some pretty nice skinning (mainly because there were tracks in) and some very difficult skiing.  And I don't mean steep gullies...I mean easy angled slopes with snow up to out waists...not easy to ski at all.  The skinning uphill was by far much easier.

Extream side slipping, felt gnarly!  John and Blair watching as I 'check it out'
So after day two the snow settled and were hit the mountains for 3.5 days staying in some really nice huts such as the Kesch Hut and the d'Es-cha Hut.  We did some fantastic summits with Pic Kesch (3147m PD) being the highlight.  The weather gods were on our side for our 3 day tour so currently dealing with a bit of sun burn.
Quiet time on top of the world!  (Well not exactly Everest but felt very tranquil)

The end brought some fantastic gress skiing!
Blair enjoying the powder

John and Blair both taking a rest ;)
Blair needing a rest after some down hill skinning! 
Hi ho hi ho its offf to the mountains we go!
Skinning through an amazing settlement which is abandoned through the winter
Extreme side slipping, John and Blair agree if I can do it then so can they!
John loving the turns!

Friday, 14 March 2014

North West HIghlights

An Teallach
A quick solo saw me on the tops whilst my clients chilled at camp
My North West highlands winter working season has came to an end yesterday as I finished off a Winter Mountaineering course for Moran Mountain, based from Lochcarron.  I'm pretty confident to say that we endured the finest weather seen this winter with 3.5 days of glorious sunshine.  Skills at Fuar Tholl were followed by a traverse of Beinn Eighe's Black Carls in strong sunlight which lead on to the highlight of the week, a two day expedition camping below An Teallach followed by an alpine style traverse of the pinnacles and the Munro's.  We donned our crampons at 4.40am and climbed Cockstone Gully with head torches which allowed us to witness sunrise across Scotland's clear skies.  A breath taking experience and one that will stay with me forever.  What followed can only be described as 'the best day at work I have ever done' and in the top two of my favourite mountaineering days in Scotland!

Sam and Katya ready for their torch lit climb

Near the top of Chockstone Gully

Sam leading Katya and I along the ridge

Looking back across the skyline we just climbed

On holiday and at work

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Forcan Ridge

Our objective
Over the last two day's I have been up in the North West finishing off the last two days of a 5 day mountaineering day for Moran Mountain.  The original was to spend a night in a snow hole however the conditions didnt allow.  Yesterday we did some low level navigation and then back to the clients lodge for some rope work.  Today we went and made an ascent of the Forcan RIdge in Glen Shiel.  We had suitable weather for most of the day and were high enough that when it snowed we didnt get wet.  Naturally we got very damp on the walk down but that is pretty standard this season.  Next week is looking nicer, high pressure moving in which will be welcomed with open arms.