Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Sport, Sunshine, Skye, Showers, Success, Scrambling, Sea Cliffs and more Sport

The title pretty much sums up my time since I returned from the Alps with Ben.  Obviously I have missed a few normal life things that you wont want to hear about but I have been super busy with work and climbing.  With a little time off before I started work again, I was really keen to see how much my rock climbing strength had altered over the last few months where I have been mainly mountaineering or dodging rain.  I started off with some success by climbing the brilliant Uncertain Emotions (7b) on Craig A'Bhancair on Buachialle Etive Mor.  This came after 3 visits but still really chuffed to pull this out the bag, especially as it has been such a hard summer.
Essential sport climbing gear
 After gaining a bit of fitness, I went to Creag Dubh with my flat mate Blair (good snow patch photos) and headed up to Barrier Wall and between us accumulated 12 E points between us spread over 4 routes.  I felt pretty broken by the end of this, think it was the combination of too much wine the night before, the baking hot sunshine and the steep nature of the crag.  A top day though!  This day marked the end of my time off and work began!

First up was a day up on Ardverikie Wall (HS) with Paul.  Not a great deal to say about this other than it was perfect.  Sunshine, nice breeze, great company, brilliant climbing and lots of other climbers out.  A really social-able day on an uber classic line.

Paul loving his day off whilst over on a business trip

From here I had a stint on the Isle of Skye, brace was amazing weather!  I was so lucky and so excited to be up in those mountains with endless views and a warm glow from the sun.  First Skye job was to take the lovely Alison up the Inaccessible Pinnacle and over to Sgur Mhicoinich.  This had been her nemesis for years but with some care, coaching and coaxing we both made it to the top for a well earned rest.  We had the summit to ourselves where we basked in the sun for a while.
Alison and the inversion
After saying farewell to Alison, I met my next group.  For the next 4 days we had planned to summit every Munro on the Cuillin Ridge.  11 summits, 4 clients, limited scrambling experience, 1 guide, stunning problem!  Again, not much to say about this but it was a great 4 days with a super fun group and we succeeded in our objective.  We took countless pictures, everyone magazine worthy.  Skye truly was magnificant...
The team, but on which peak?

Until the weekend hit...

My traverse clients, Simon and Harry, were given the bad news on Friday that the traverse would not go ahead.  High winds, lots of rain and very wet rock would not lends itself to an enjoyable, comfortable and successful traverse.  Instead we opted for two single days, aiming to be off the hill to enjoy showers, pillows and duvets.  Our first day we climbed Pinnacle Ridge and continued to tick off the Northern 3 Munros on Skye.  Also including Am Bhastier and its tooth as well as a descent down Kings cave chimney.
Harry and Simon ready for action
 Our second day was the brilliant Clach Glas BlaBheinn traverse.  We had to have a delayed start to allow for the winds to ease and the rain to subside but it was clear that our late start was not late enough.  We battled through wind and rain, over greasy and slippy terrain but ultimately completing Skye's fantastic satellite ridge.  On arrival to the summit of BlaBheinn we were greeted with no views but as we turned away from the summit it started to clear.  Was it worth the battle?  Of course it was.

Harry and Simon hoping it would be a 'summer' holiday!

After farewells with Harry and Simon, I met with my next group.  This time 8 members, 2 guides, 11 munro's, suboptimal problem (ish).  I teamed up with Andy Ravenhill and we dissected the forecast to see when was best to hit the tricky summits and when to have a shorter day.  The team fought well and worked well together and we succeeded in summiting all the peaks over 4 days.  A great result all round.  It has appeared Skye has gone back to normal but such is life.
Ok, we had a good couple of weather windows.
This concluded my work on Skye for this year and I had to head straight to North Wales for an induction to become a British Mountain Guide.  After a welcoming power point presentation and an over view of the scheme (3+ year), I was taken to Gogarth sea cliffs and tested on my ability to rock climb at the standard of E1 5b.  As events proceeded I ended up climbing Resolution Direct, a brilliant E2 5c on the edge of main cliff and this was enough proof to the assessing guides that I could operate at the standard they require.  The following two days were spent being trained by experienced British Mountain Guide's in the advanced skills that will take me beyond the remit of my current qualifications and allow me to work in the Alps and worldwide.  A long standing ambition.
My last ever mountain logbook!

After the course I spent two days climbing by the sea, firstly at Gogarth with Ally Swinton.  We climbed 3 E2's and an E5 which left us both feeling quite tired and today we went sport climbing at LPT on the Great Orm where we both maxed out at 7a+...we put it down to been very tired from the last few days.

The following few months are looking super busy, I will mostly be in Scotland getting ready for winter and this year instead of going to Spain for some sport climbing I will be heading to a little island on the Aegean sea.  Can wait!

If your already dreaming about winter then get in touch and we can make your Scottish mountain ambitions come true.  Click HERE for some ideas.

Thank you to West Coast Mountain Guides, Skye Guides and Steve Fallon for work recently, it has been a blast!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Swiss 4000m peaks

First light on the Zinalrothorn
The Matterhorn

With only 7 days spare on this trip I knew I wouldn't be coming home with record amounts of routes and summits under my belt.  However it was a fantastic few days and most importantly a brilliant laugh with 'The Big Ben'.  Two days were lost to driving out from Perth to Zermatt via the ferry to Zeebrugge.  Our 3rd day was spent walking up to the Rothorn Hutte which is beautifuuly situated high above Zermatt underneath 2 majestic 4000m peaks.  Our objectives.  The Ober GAbelhorn (4063m) and the Zinalrothorn (4221m).  With early starts and speedy ascents we were able to climb to the top to have the summits to ourselves.  The Ober Gabelhorn took us 7 hours hut to hut and the Zinalrothorn took a swift 5 hours hut to hut, leaving us with plenty of time in the hut to rack up a substantial bill (bit of a mistake!)...the cake was sooo good though!

Summit of Ober Gabelhorn
Another Matterhorn shot
Teams climbing the Ober Gabelhorn as we descend
Another Matterhorn
Descending from Zinalrothorn (ben has the summit shots!)
Matterhorn left, Ober Gabelhorn on the right
The Zinalrothorn
Time to leave the hut
 With only one day left before I fly back we decided to have a day cragging in the sunshine, light bags and a route that we could move quickly on.  We found a great route called 'Remiz' in Ben's select guidebook and fitted the bill perfectly.  This 500m 6a+ on the Miroir d'Argentine kept us entertained for a good 5 hours which weaves its routes through a huge piece of rock which starts steep-ish and and turns back to a slab.  A brilliant day out.  Cracks, slabs, overlaps, padding, crimps, jams, name it, the route has it.  Well worth seeking out before you fly home or for a rest day from the mountains.

On the slabby section
The summit ridge
Our route climbs between the two obvious crack and then finished on the left hand peak

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Number 3 Buttress Stob Coire Nam Beith

Some blue on the approach
 The conical mass of Stob Coire nam Beith has always been an attractive objective but I have never climbed on this face in either winter or summer.  I had visited the summit of Stob Coire Nam Beith many years ago whilst walking with some friends.  Today we were eager to climb up the face.  Number 3 Buttress was our passage.  Given that Alan has climbed almost every classic mountaineering route in the area, we are now seeking out the more esoteric options, the lesser travelled, the ones with no queues.  Unfortunately it rained all day yesterday so the route was pretty damp, especially the crux wall/slab at the bottom.  Given that this is protection-less and slimey, we opted for an slightly easier passage to the left to bring us back in on the route, given the conditions this was a much nicer option.  Number 3 Buttress is a steep scramble and nicely sustained from bottom to top with plenty of grade 3 scrambling to keep the interest.  We did find protection a little sparse but our half set of wires, 2 cams and slings seemed to do the job.  Care is required on some areas with loose rock but this will be fantastic area to climb in winter.  I can't wait to come back with axes and crampons and explore all the existing routes here like Deep Cut Chimney, Central Gully, Arch Gully and Summit Gully.
After we topped out of Number 3 Buttress onto Stob Coire nam Beith we were met by a cold wind so we made most of our descent before we stopped, de-kitted and finished our sandwiches.  Another brilliant day and a nice bit of Alpine training for me....back in a week! ;)
Alan climbing in blue..

Alan searching for a hold in blue...

Not much blue here...

Always Blue

Boys in Blue...Alan touching the guns!

Happy days....brilliant route
More pictures HERE

Monday, 17 August 2015

Mountain Biking

A room with a view
A bicycle
I know, double take needed.  We'll you only live once and given that a collection of my best buddies have moved all around Europe, we thought we should all meet up and hit the trails in Morzine and Les Gets in the French Alps.  It was my birthday after all!  John, got the train in from his home in Germany, I flew over from Scotland and Kirby picked us up as he lives in Chamonix.  Now we have all done a bit of MTN biking but we certainly are not experts so we didn't hit any black but had super fun on the blues and reds and had a great laugh, a quick 4 day hit and a great way to spend my birthday!  Cant wait to go back.

Not me

Still not me

My bike getting big air!

Monday, 10 August 2015

Bit of rock and running

Donald cruising up 'The One and Only'
Since I have been back from Lewis and Harris, I have barely been able to get out climbing with work commitments and the weather, the Scottish summer goes on!  I managed to sneak a day (or half day) at Brin Rock with Dan and Donald for some pumpy sport climbing.  We started off with the 7a called The One and Only, a great on-sight by Donald and I followed him up it as I had done it before.  Dan had a go working the moves then smashed it on his second go.  Team send!  We then went onto the brilliant Pink Wall (7b).  After I put the clips in, Donald and Dan had a go working the moves before I had a shot at doing it clean but lobbed off whilst rubbing my nose on the chains, pumped and unable to let go and clip!  Unfortunately my second go was stopped as the rain came in and soaked the crag...we ran as fast as our little legs would carry us as we knew this was settling in.

Still plenty of snow on Ben Nevis
As the poor weather continued, I have been doing a spot of running, something I don't do much of.  Recently I have really enjoyed it so if this weather continues then you might see me running up to the CIC hut or around Cowhill (nothing too ambitious just yet).

Friday, 7 August 2015

Summer Mountain Leader Training

This week I have been working for JSMTC (Joint Services Mountain Training Centre) in Ballachulisch with 6 military personnel going through their Summer Mountain Leader award.  It has been brilliant to be working back on these courses as it gives me an opportunity to spend a prolonged amount of time in the hills whilst sharing local knowledge, teaching leadership skills, delivering current practice and inspiring more folk to do the job that I love.  The military version of the award is slightly different to the civilian award, for starters we only have 5 days instead of 6.  Despite this we covered all aspects of the syllabus in a pretty unsavoury week of weather.  As I said to the group, it was a great opportunity, as the weather couldn't get much worse!  Due to this weather I left my camera at home so found some old pictures.  Day one we made use of the hill side north of Kinlochleven, great for some micro navigation and a lovely place to identify all sorts of wildlife and landscapes.  Day two we went onto Buachaille Etive Mor for 'security on steep ground' day, introduction to mountain leaders rope work and finished the day with a river crossing exercise.  Day 3 we went up Buachaille Etive Beag for the mountain leadership day and our two day expedition went over the Black Mount, from Bridge of Orchy (Victoria Bridge) to Glen Etive.  A stunning set of hills.

Common Butterwort

Devils Matchsticks


Friday, 31 July 2015

Isle of Lewis

Our camp site view 
Impressive coastline
Originally we planned a 6/7 day trip to the island but given the way our summer has gone we knew the this would be an optimistic itinerary.  With Uisdean's van and my tent, we agreed that if it was very wet then we would head back to the mainland (so I didn't get wet and uncomfortable) to find some alternative plans.  Our plan to visit Lewis developed quite a while ago however as the trip approached the weather was looking doubtful.  Fortunately we were given a break and it looked as if we could climb for the first 4 days at least.  By no means 'stella', but we went for it anyway.
Cold but we could still climb
We left Glen Elg at 3am, took the 5am ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye and arrived at Tarbet at 7am.  Admittedly quite tired but we drove on to our chosen destination.  Given the 'long isle' of Harris and Lewis comprises the largest of all the Scottish islands it was over an hour before we arrived at Uig Sands campsite, idyllic and perfectly located for some of the best sea cliffs on the island.  Tent was erected then, Uisdean slept in his van and I got 3 hours in the tent before we geared up, had some breakfast and headed to the crags.
Me on Painted Wall
We headed to The Painted Wall, a easy 3 minute walk in to an array of quality routes on the eponymous Lewisian gneiss.  We started off on a nice 2 pitch E1 5b called Triton***, accessed by abseil which gave nice climbing above the water at low tide.  From here we abseiled into the main area of The Painted Wall.  It was my lead so I couldn't turn down the 4* E4 5c called...The Painted Wall, a superb route on great rock.  Best E4 I have done this year for sure.  After this Uisdean cruised up another brilliant route called Dauntless E5 6a *** which certainly built the pump up into our forearms, sensational climbing again.  After a quick bagel, we abseiled back in and I led up The Dreaded Dram, a 3* E4 5c which again, was brilliant climbing and pretty spaced protection.  Another great route!  A good start.

Me seconding Dauntless.  Uisdean's foot in for a photo bomb!
The Dreaded Dram
Day two was dawned with drizzle and cloud.  Our plan was to climb the spectacular exposed diagonal line of the Prozac Link but after we abseiled in we found damp and 'smeggy' rock.  Lets save it for another day.  So to get back out we climbed a VDiff called 'If All Else Fails' followed by 'It's Raining Rocks' E3 6a just before the weather closed in.  We bailed and opted for a spot of sight seeing instead.
One of the many abseils.  Prozac Link is the wall behind me.
The morning of day 3 was the same, damp and overcast.  As the day went on it was dry enough to climb (between showers).  We went to the stunning Dalbeg beach and onto Dalbeg Buttress.  Given that it was my lead, I stupidly jumped on the stunning 4* crack line of Limpet Crack E3 5c.  Given it was a little greasy and damp I got utterly 'flash pumped' and had to sit on the rope to allow my arms to recover before continuing onto the top.  My advice, warm up on the E2!  Uisdean then forged a path up the amazing 3* Tweetie Pie Slalom E5 6a which was stunning and a great lead by the youth.  We were both feeling a wee bit tired so I finished off on the excellent 4* E2 5c called Neptune up the right side of the crag.  Probably in the top five E2's I have ever done.
Limpet Crack
Tweetie Pie Slalom
A beautiful little bothie
We had got intelligence from our source that Thursday was to be the best weather.  This meant The Prozac Link.  We didn't want to make the same mistake so we went and climbed a route called Moscow Mule, a 2* HVS 5b which we both agreed was more like E3/4 5c.  Desperate.  Anyway, as this took ages to climb it gave ample time for the PL to dry.  The sea was calm, the wind was gentle and the sky was blue.  Everything was perfect.  Off we went, every pitch was brilliant, this turned out to be the best E4 I have climbed....ever!  Exposed, impressive, perfect rock, adequate protection and on a deserted cliff.  These 2,900 million year old weathered cliffs certainly provide some of the best rock climbing in the country.  Cant wait to get back.

Sun at last

Topping out on Moscow Mule.
Uisdean on the 1st pitch of The Prozac Link
1st pitch of PL
2nd pitch - brilliant
End of the second pitch
We timed it perfectly, as we reached the top, the heavens opened which marked the end of the climbing for us on the island, the weather deteriorated and we headed back to the mainland the following day...after a good few beers, games of pool and a couple of rounds of darts in Tarbet.  A great wee trip, back to work this week working on a Summer Mountain Leader Training.

Bath time!