Saturday, 24 June 2017

A week of Alpine rock

With a week off between Part 1 and 2 of our Alpine Training, I teamed up with fellow trainee guide Jack Geldard for some rock climbing and acclimatization.

Our first day we decided on a sport climb in the mountains and headed up onto Brevant and climbed the brilliant 8 pitch La Fin de Babylone (TD+ 6c) of the South face.  I remembered how to climb granite with sun on my back so I was keen for more routes in the mountains but with less bolts and more trad gear.

Day two we climbed on the Red Pillar on Aiguille de Blaitiere.  We opted for Majouette Thatcher (TD+ 6b+) British money we thought it was E3 6a.  Superb route with 5 brilliant pitches after an 1.5 hour walk in. (no pics from the first couple of days)
Day 3 we climbed on the South Face of Aiguille du Midi.  We climbed the Contamine Route given ED1 6c+.  In british money, we thought E4 6b, it was a fight.
Jack on the crux pitch of Contamine

After 3 days of sore feet in climbing shoes, we ditched the torture devices and went mountaineering with Emily on the Clocher Ridge (PD+ 4a).  A great mountaineering ridge which is a brilliant introduction to the Alps.  I suspect I will work on that route quite a lot.
Mont Bianco, Emily and Jack...cruising.

Day four Jack and I went back to the Blaitiere and climbed the classic L'eau rance d'arabie (TD+ 6b), probs around E2 5c.  8 superb pitches of pristine granite cracks and a few testing slab for good measure.  A great day out.
...after pitch...

...after pitch of excellent climbing.  Superb Route MT
To conclude the week, Jack, Emily and I teamed up with Kenny for a day on the mountian bikes which was brilliant fun up at Le Tour.  Lift assisted Mountain Biking...what's not to like!?

Now for Alpine training Part 2...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Alpine Training part 1

Tamsin on or warm up route

Arriving in Switzerland I was greeted by a substantial thunderstorm.  Great!  Our training course was established in Evolene, a stunning alpine village high up in the Val du Herens.  I arrive a day early and met up with Tamsin for a via ferrata which was local to where we were staying.  Having never don e Via Ferrata, I made a lanyard and off we went.  Great way to get into very exposed terrain with constantly good handholds!

Ally and Callum looking worried about the upcoming section

The course kicked off with a whole day of Via Ferrata.  A very fun activity but not to be underestimated.  It still has plenty of risks involved and as a guide, needs to be managed appropriately.
We did two routes covering some steep and exposed ground, 'pumpy' in places but fortunately you can clip in at any point and rest.
Fellow trainee guide enjoying the shade

Day two we headed onto the 'Glacier De Moiry' in the Swiss canton of Valais.  A very accessible glacier which ideal for 'Ecole du Glace'.  We spent the day looking at techniques to teach and prep clients for a week in the mountains.  Crampon and axe use, glacier travel and crevasse rescue.  A really useful day and looking forward to putting it into practice.
Steep and exposed...accessible to all

Now a week off before Alpine Training 2...and there is a heat wave here!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

One last bit of work, now for the Alps

Photo from a previous trip to St Kilda
We had her on the slip for a paintjob

Underneath is the Black Pearl
It has been a busy couple of weeks working in preparation for heading out the the Alps.  I have spent the last couple of weeks working on a friends boat which he is renovating.
There was no lounging around renovating this fishing trawler to passenger boat

Throwback to our approach to St Kilda...Back again next this space.

My final mountain work was two days with Robert Gordons 5th year students.  They were on a 5 day course but I was only drafted in on the last two days so the smaller ratios enabled us to cover some more interesting ground and develop their skills.
Angus mountaineering on boulders...
We had a day of mountaineering in the Cairngorms.  An ascent of Twin Ribs, which the students led, and then a guided ascent of the Fiacaill Ridge.
Lou happy to find a solid boulder in a pile of rubble
Human sized Jenga
Our second day we went climbing out at Cumminston.  I haven't climbed here for about 10+ years and forgot how friendly it is.  We climbed various routes upto HVS including the wee stack and an abseil though the hole in the cave.

Cairngorm version of the Tryfan Cannon Stone
 All I need to do now is pack my bags and head south to the Alps.  I will be out there until September on my first year as an Aspirant IFMGA Guide.  It has been a great journey to get to where I am, this part is what I have been most looking forward to.  Working and climbing in an area that I have enjoyed many holidays but I have never spent 3 months in the Alps in one go.  Im sure it will be a rapid learning curve but really looking forward to it.  Thank you for all the support I have received to get this far, I can't thank you enough.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Ossian's Cave

Brian and Martin all primed for take two

Last year I was approached by Martin Ross and his friend Brian as they had a burning desire to climb into the heavily vegetated but iconic feature in Glencoe, Ossians Cave.  As I had never climbed it, i was keen.  Last year I went and had a look on my day off and sussed it out.  On our attempt last year, both Martin and Brian were unable to join me in the cave as the climbing was too difficult but swore to come back again better prepared.

A wee approach abseil

Brian reaching the first belay, past the crux
So this year they came back and they were much more prepared.  I suggested we went a little earlier (May rather than June) and if you're thinking of climbing into Ossian's Cave then I would do it before the vegetation becomes waist high!
Brain at the top of the second pitch

Also Brian and Martin were noticeably fitter but neither had a great deal of climbing experience under their belts.  We lucked out with bone dry the ascent was on. We came in via Dinnertime Buttress and Rhyolite Romp to get warmed up and made our way down to the cave.  I arrived at the base and clipped everyone to the in-situ peg at the base of Ossian's Cave and then climbed up the first pitch.  Mostly unprotected steep grass with dome dubious and slimy rock saw me at the belay.  The in-situ rope is core shot in many places but was used (yes - a point or two of aid) to both hold onto and to clip a runner into.  I also used an ice axe which was very useful.  The 1st belay is good.  An in-situ wire and peg and can be backed up with a purple Camelot and a bite of the in-situ rope.

Unfortunately Martin reached his limit climbing up and opted to be lowered down but Brian made a good ascent and joined me in the Cave.  The top pitch is easier and slightly better protected (Large wire and a better quality in-situ rope) and the belay is two expansion bolts...equalised and extended with all sorts.  We found the wee box, signed it and headed back down in two abseils (2x60m ropes).  It could be done in one but would have savage rope drag.
The tin

Brian ready for abseil


It was a nice day so we came the long way back

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Skye peaks and rock

Andy standing back as Ryan gets to grips with the damp rock

It feel like my spring time on Skye has come to an end very quickly.  I think it has just passed in a blink of an eye in the amazing weather we had in the last couple of weeks.  This weekend has marked the last Skye work for me this season and it was great to finish it working with Andy and his colleague Ryan.

Andy trying to push over boulders
Andy sharing his extensive knowledge of the local area....mist, mist and more mist
Ryan has recently jumped on the Munro bandwagon and as he has no climbing experience, he was keen for some able hands to take him up.  Andy, who has completed the munro's twice, was keen to come along for a day out and follow it up with a day climbing at Elgol.

Chilling on a ledge on the Inn Pinn waiting for the team ahead
Summit, ready for abseiling
The weather was poor on Saturday but we made our way into the Cuillin and ascended Sgurr Mhiccoinnich, which was Ryan's first Cuillin peak.  We followed this up with an ascent of the In Pinn, nipping in between two groups.  With very limited vis and starting to get a little wet, we decided enough was enough and saved the other peaks for another day.

Andy cruising Jamie Jampot
Ryan couldn't join Andy and I on our second day.  Andy and I chose to have a day at Elgol and get some routes in before the rain came.  Andy was super keen for leading so it was a day where he did more leading than me...which never happens....maybe I should be paying him!?  He did a great job guiding me up Jamie Jampot (VS 4c), I then led us up PickPocket (E15b) and then Andy did a brilliant lead on Hairy Mary (HVS 4b), a route which has been on his radar for quite a while.  A top effort by Andy and great for him to get it ticked off.  Unfortunately the rain set in and we called it a day but all in all, a good couple of days.  Cheers fellas!
Andy cruising Hairy Mary

A brilliant route, a must do at Elgol

Happy with his lead...first climbing day of the summer for Andy.

Thursday, 18 May 2017


2nd night, what a place to bivi up

A special place I have always wanted to visit but it always seemed so far away from home.  This time the journey started from when I picked up Lou from Skye meaning only a 3 hour drive to the campsite on Sheigra beach.  A 2 minute walk in to the closest crag mean it was Ideal for a 2 day stint.
Tatties in the fire, venison on the BBQ

 On the morning of our first day it was a wee bit drizzly, as forecast so we had a lazy morning before heading off to the 2nd Geo for an afternoon of climbing.  A superb steep wall of Lewisian Gneiss meant a wide array for brilliant routes were climbed.  As the sun faded we headed back to the beach for campfire and bbq scenes.

Lou cruising Under the Pink (E1 5b)***

Making sure I don't get pumped on Monkey Man (E3 5c)****
 On our second day we were up in good time to climb before a walk out to Sandwood Bay.  We started off at 'In Between the Geos' before heading to the 1st Geo for a route.  There were some other teams out today which was nice to see and can't wait to get back.  Unfortunately no pictures from the first day.  Can't wait to go back.

Lou trying not to get pumped on Monkey Man

The finishing jugs always bring a smile

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Cioch Nose, Cuillin Ridge Traverse, Tower Ridge, Castle Ridge and more

Sean on the Cioch Nose on Day 1
 I'm sure you're all up to speed with how brilliant the weather has been in the highlands.  Sean, who is up for 8 days of climbing in Scotland, timed it perfectly.  Kicked off with a sunny ascent of the Cioch Nose (VD)**** in Applecross.  A superb way to start the week and get his head back into big boot climbing.
With the forecast we decided to get stuck into our Cuillin Ridge Traverse (VD)**** right away.  We teamed up with my good friend Andy and his client for a sociable traverse and a great bivi.  We opted for the boat in from Elgol and Sean and I climbed all the Munro's on the main ridgeline as well as all the technical climbs except Naismith's on Am Basteir.  Success all round and a great stint in the North-West.

Andy, Ali and Sean at the 1st Munro of the ridge
Andy on the Inaccessible Pinnacle
Late evening before the bivi, a great time to be scrambling
After a day off to rest and recover from the Cuillin Ridge, we continued our 8 day stint on the West Coast based in Lochaber.
Our first day we started off on Tower Ridge (D)**** which we shared with Max and his clients.  From the summit we descended Ledge Route (Grade 2)**** ticking off two of the classic Ben Nevis Ridges.  I wonder when we will complete them all?
For a change of scenery, Sean and I headed to Glencoe for some more scrambling.  As the weather was a little mixed we opted for scrambling rather than climbing, Agag's can wait.  Instead we climbed up Broad Buttress (Grade 3)*** and descended Great Gully Buttress (grade 1/2)* for a nice round of continuous scrambling and an opportunity for Sean to do a spot of leading.

Sean seeking for the best holds
Happy as Larry (whoever Larry is?)
 With all the good weather we have had, it had to come to an end.  Sean was sold on the idea of trying ice climbing so we headed to the Ice Factor for the day for refrigerated climbing and also some rock climbing coaching to help improve Seans technique for when we climb outside.  As always in there, a day fueled by coffee and cake and enough climbing to make your arms feel like soggy, rolled up newspapers.
Always smiles when it's dry
For our final day we opted for a slightly shorter day and another classic Ben Nevis ridge.  Castle Ridge (Grade 3)*** was a good choice as it's a shorter route and Sean wasn't keen to prolong the soaking we were due as the weather came in.  Fortunately, we were through all the technical climbing before the heavens opened and as they did we opted for a quick and easy descent down the tourist route.

Sean getting techy

Brace yourself....this hill is about to get very wet!
A very successful week for Sean with the highlight being the Cuillin Ridge in great style.  With a busy summer ahead, it is great to kick off with some great weather, good company and some great climbing.  Two more Ben Nevis Ridges to do.  Right, time to have a couple of days off.