Sunday, 8 November 2015

Autumn catch up

It has been a wee while since I have had a sit down to write a wee update, which is great as it has been such an action packed few weeks.  I guess the brilliant weather has helped.  Fortunately I haven't had to travel around too much as the rock has been dry and work has been local.  A couple of visits to Brin Rock and Tunnel Wall helped kick of Sport Climbing season, given that I haven't had a great summer of rock climbing, I felt I was doing ok.  Really enjoyed the routes I tried.  Really pleased to climb Uncertain Emotions in Glencoe after a couple of visits.  I also made the most of some nice days with cragging at Creag Dubh, bouldering at the Skeleton Boulder in Glen Nevis and mountain biking at Wolftrax  before work kicked in.  I have just finished my 3rd week working at the Joint Services Mountain Training Centre in Ballachulish (the military version of Plas y Brenin and Glenmore Lodge).  I have been working on a host of instructor training courses, two weeks of rock climbing instructor training and assessments and a week of Mountain Leader Training.  We visited a whole host of single pitch climbing venues, some with a lengthy drives but worth it for the dry rock and the climbing.  Its been great working Monday to Friday 8am-5pm, feels like a 'real job' with time to spare and weekends to catch up with folk.  With an upcoming trip away sport climbing on the Greek Island of Kalymnos I have been trying hard to build some fitness to get the most of the trip.  So a few trips to Ratho (best indoor wall in Scotland...if not the UK!) and mid week bouldering have been doing the trick.  This week I am working on Mountain Leader Assessment so will be out on the hills for the week which will be great, before flying out at the weekend.   I'm hoping that when I return at the start of December I will be straight into winter climbing so watch this space.
Brin (Zed Buttress) with Mhairi and Murdoch

Good views in Glen Nevis (above Skeleton Boulder)

Creag Dubh...beaut day!

Kingussie Rock training

Group abseil

Setting up climbing at Glen Nevis

Team at Kingussie

Where is the Loch?

Inversion on the Buachaille

Mountain Leader ropework

Walking out of the Buachaille

Good navigation training in Glencoe

Dream team loving learning new skills

Training at Dave Mac's wall

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Ice on Ben Nevis

Castle ridge was tempting
But the cold heart of the mountain drew our attention
OK calm down...nothing worth writing home about however there was ice present on the mountain.  The only point worth making at this stage is that I didn't take enough clothing!  So winter layers will be dug out in preparation for the next few weeks of climbing and work.  Jees, I even got hot aches today!  We climbed Observatory Buttress, a 340m VD.  It was first climbed in 1902 as a solo which brought it to our attention and seemed like a great route to climb.  Having had many days out with Alan we are now searching for routes we haven't climbed and neither of us had climbed Observatory Buttress in summer or winter.  It has had many ascents in winter (Grade V,4), can't wait to do it, but not so many in summer.  As a result it was a little esoteric but gave some fantastic sustained climbing all the way to the top.  The summit sunshine was welcomed as it was very chilly on the route and took a good while to get warmed up after our lunch.  A great day, another brilliant line climbed, the mountain has so many more objectives away from the obvious ridges!  Looking forward to our next outing!

Alan ice climbing

Alan thrutching

Nathan playing name the summits from the Great Tower

Alan flirting with me for a tight rope

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Sea cliffs, sea stacks, mountains, dolphins and the Royal Navy

An you name the peaks (Clue...Suilven is there)
The last few days I have been fortunate enough to be involved in a great trip around the North and West Coast of Scotland.  Unfortunately we were unable to climb any of the cliffs, stacks or mountains due to a tight schedule.  We started in Orkney and followed the North Coast passing the Old Man of Hoy, around Cape Wrath, past Am Buachaille and the Old Man of Stoer.  Here the summits of the NW Highlands came into view before we made our way around Skye, around Ardnamurchan Point, into Oban before finishing our trip in Kinlochleven.

The aim of the trip was mostly a maintenance trip but also as a recce trip.  The vessle is an ex-fishing boat which is being converted into a passenger boat.  The beauty with this boat is that it can withstand very rough seas and pretty much go anywhere so when it is fully converted we will be running trips to St Kilda, the outer and inner fact anywhere on Scotland's coastline.  Watch this space if you like climbing, hill walking, bird watching, sea kayaking, island hopping and being on the water!

Tanker meets destroyer

Dolphins leading the way

Got my sea legs

Loch Leven...a stunning glen.

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