Sunday, 31 March 2013

Orion Direct

Day two of Rich's grade V campaign and we wanted to finish with a bang.  With yesterdays brilliant day with two classic grade V's we thought we would opt for on of the longest grade V's on the Ben.  By no means the hardest but felt very long after yesterdays mega day.  We opted for Orion Direct (V,5) which we had all to ourselves.  A rarity in such good conditions.  Conditions were great on the route, I felt the crux was getting thin which made the route more sporting and enjoyable!  A brilliant day.  The summit was busy with walkers but the north face cliffs were quiet...where is everyone...conditions are great!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Boomer's Requiem and Vanishing Gully

Place to ourselves 
Rich on the first pitch of Boomer's
This Easter weekend I am working for Abacus Mountain Guides.  Today Rich and I headed into Ben Nevis to seek out some grade V action.  I was quite surprised to see how few folk were ahead of us.  We observed that there was nobody in the Boomer's/Compression area so we bolted of the path and headed up for Boomer's Requiem (V,5).  On arrival to the route there wasn't a soul in sight, we had the place to ourselves...perfect! Everything was perfect, the ice, the climbing, the belays, the gear, the company, the weather, the situation, the temperature!  The crux pitch was brilliant and very steep!  We loved it!  So good to do another Nevis classic that I have never done.  Ice climbing on the Ben is the best!  On the top we saw chains of walkers on the tourist route enjoying the great weather and condition's so we decided not to go and summit but instead we went for another route.  We descended Number 4 gully after watching a parapentist/parachute person fly over our heads and we traversed into Vanishing Gully (V,5).  This was still in great condition and ace fun to climb.  Well hooked and stepped but still felt steep!  A couple of abseils saw us back to the bags and walking out with massive smiles on our faces!  A great day!  Cant wait for more action tomorrow!!
Spot the air born person

Rich on Vanishing Gully
Best place in the UK

Friday, 29 March 2013

Carn Dearg Cascade and Waterfall Gully and Ledge Route and Number 4

Day two out with John and today we were consolidating more on grade IV.  We started off on the Carn Dearg cascade (III) which gave a fantastic pitch of ice climbing and gave us a great approach to the main climb.  John participated in a course with Jagged Globe a wee while ago and spent the day doing the first pitch of Waterfall Gully (IV,4).  So today we finished it off.  It was brilliant to climb into this section of the mountain.  I never been up this route,it was a very atmospheric experience, a very worth wile journey.  There was fantastic climbing higher up on the route, after a nice easy section, which traversed out right from a cosy cave belay.  The direct finish to Waterfall Gully (VI,6) looks well cool, not in condition but a brilliant feature, keen to try that next year if it comes in conditions.  We joined Ledge Route above the crux section so ditched the rope and rack and soloed up to the top.  Which amazing views and such a clear day we pressed onto the summit, passing many other out enjoying a spot of Good Friday climbing.  Weather is looking good for the weekend, snow is stabilising and conditions are good.  Make sure you get up early, its going to be busy!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Crowberry Gully

Easy terrain into the route
A fantastic route
36 hours ago he was in Nigeria, today John was standing with me on the summit of Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe.  We climbed the classic route Crowberry Gully (IV,4).  It was a brilliant route, I have been wanting to climb this for quite a long time and was perfect for John as he want to consolidate on grade IV's and work towards grade V.  We have 7 days (with a weekend break) to do this!  The route was thin in places, clearly had quite alot of traffic but with a delicate touch then it is still great fun.  We pretty much had the route to ourselves  one team were with us on the route but we never got in each others way.  The weather has been perfect for us, conditions are great with so many options to go for this coming Easter.  Other teams were enjoying alpine conditions on Curved Ridge and I saw the remains of Blair who was digging pits for the avalanche forecast.  Looked like lots of teams on Number 6 Gully and Blue Ribband is looking good!

John finishing off the crux

I told him to stop picking his nose!

Easy peasy descent
Loots more photos HERE!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Sgurr Finnisg-aig Falls

Smoking the White Owl - Yuk!
Alan swinging to glory
Back out with Alan today who has had a good old rest after our day out on Monday.  Blue skies, cold temperatures and light winds was what everyone in Lochaber woke up to. It was great to be out climbing a frozen waterfall.  I have never climbed this well talked about route.  Named 'Smoking the White Owl' (IV,4), it was a great route on water ice which had some really good climbing and some tricky pitches. Last week I heard that there were 10 teams on the route which would have been carnage, on arrival to the climb we had the whole place to ourselves and after a pitch, Al and his client turned up to make the most of the accessible ice route.  It didn't take long to climb the route so Alan and I enjoyed lunch at the gondola station watching all the skiers work their magic   The pistes look brilliant and they were pretty much deserted.  Many 'Saga' members around who have got the Gondola up for the 'mountain experience'.  I over heard one phone call where they were saying that they were half way up Ben Nevis....I didn't break the bad news to them but it was tempting!  More blue skies, minimal winds and amazing ice routes to climb tomorrow.  I think its going to be busy in the mountains over Easter!

Me at the top of the steep pitch

A deserted ski area

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Long Climb Finish

No gear in there...

Looks like today is going to be my last day winter climbing on my days off as for the next wee while I'm working and then off to the Alps.  Today was a perfect finish to a great season of winter climbing.  My first route of the season was back in October with Kenny so it was great to be doing the last route of the season with him too.  We had lots of options in mind but we thought a quick route up the Orion Face would do us just fine.  We soloed up Orion Direct (V,5) to the snow basin, chucked the ropes on and climbed The Long Climb Finish (VI,5).  Kenny made a great lead up the crux pitch, not really bothering with protection to the belay which took a while to dig out.  Its a really cool slab of thin ice which was in great condition, good axes and good feet for a thinly iced slab.  The mountain is still in great condition with loads of routes to go for.  All the Minus Gullies were getting climbed today and they looked great.  The main gully lines are really fat and the thin face ice routes are well worth getting stuck into.  With several patches of wind slab around, care is required with route choice.  We were able to safely get onto Orion and come down Coire Leis.  A great day which has got me super psyched for the next 10 days of climbing classic grade IV and V ice routes!

Absolutely ace picking up there!

'Putting a screw in'...'ok'....'it's shit'....'ok'

Airy climbing

Monday, 25 March 2013

Number 6 Gully

Great view with a great wind

Killing time on the belays

Now you see them....

... Now you don't!

Nothing to see or climb here!

Two cars in the car park means that there are two teams ahead of us.  Who knows where they are going but I would have put money that they were going for the same route as us.  After 40 minutes I glanced back to the car park and counted 8 cars.  I would have put money on it that they were all heading for Number 6 Gully (IV,4).  I was right.  It was a good choice by all, relatively sheltered, fantastic ice, belays all over the place and a Cold Climb!  Alan has been over coming a chest infection so a big walk in was out of the question.  This was ideal!  On approach to the route, Elliot's Downfall (VI,6) was looking great!  Still thin at the bottom but shouldn't be long until it sees an ascent and I hope its me!  Most of the time I like climbing when there is nobody else around but today was good fun.  Everyone was really friendly and considerate, everyone was climbing well and efficiently and no ice was bombarding us like some angry birds.  We opted for the right hand finish but some of the teams below, including Lakes wad Paddy Cave, took the direct finish which also looked good.  For me and Alan, our lunches looked we found a boulder and had a good scoff with a fantastic view looking down to Glencoe village.  Alan is keen to go back out on Wednesday when the winds will have died down so we took a nice gentle stroll down ensuring we didn't tire our legs out.  With a combined age of 90 odd years we are no spring chickens...!  Oh and saw a little lamb too!  Which reminds me, I saw one on Skye the other day too.  Spring is here!
This lamb looked cold!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

South Buttress Gully

This is the second time I have climbed this route and I am convinced it is grade III and not grade II.  This route fitted the bill for Tim and Tristian for their second day as it gave them plenty of steep climbing which will have felt a little harder in their summer walking boots!  We were sheltered from the winds for most of the route and the views on the summit were just amazing.  Unfortunately I didn't charge my camera so couldn't get any photos today.  Today I was working for Skye Guide's.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Very windy on Skye

After 3 days of fantastic skiing at Aonach Mor I was really keen to get back into the mountains for some climbing.  Today I was out with Tim and Tristian, who originally, were keen to do a ridge traverse should the Cuillin be in suitable condition.  With 90mph gusts forecast there was no way we were to spend any length of time exposed on the Black Cuillin. Instead we opted for some low level snow skills and a spot of low level ice climbing.  On the walk in to Coir' a' Bhasteir we were pelted by the strong gusts at uncomfortable regularity with a skin peeling blast of snow and ice.  On arrival into the coire we had now entered the washing machine.  The cycle was irregular with slight breaks in the wind which meant we could stay sane and have a full day.  After some skills and some ice climbing we decided to make our way up onto the ridge for one of the best views of the country.  This was by no means an easy feat, the winds were still powerful, bringing us to our knees on several occasions.  Arrival to our summit was rewarded with a stunning view of the ridge and some wind blasted faces!  A great day in some truly wild weather.  Today I was working for Skye Guides.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Vanishing Gully

Good mixed conditions

Simon ready for the squeeze into the cave

Lots of snow had fallen overnight here on the West coast.  With this much snow it would make moving around the mountains hard work.  By no means impossible but time consuming and sweaty!  Simon had a flight to catch this evening so we opted for a route that isnt too committing and didn't require a time consuming wade.  The mighty vanishing Gully (V,5) fitted the bill.  We were not the only ones with the same idea, two teams were ahead of us and two teams behind but as I arrived at the top of the first pitch I found the cave empty so Simon and I sheltered in there.  Unfortunately whilst at the bottom I was struck by a large piece of ice which damaged my helmet.  It didn't take a spinal surgeon (Simon) to tell me that it would have fractured my scull had I not been wearing a helmet!  I'm just glad it hit my helmet and not my shoulder.  Anyway, despite needing a new helmet, it was a great day to Simon's weekend of Grade V ice.

My helmet with the fracture.  Fracture is also visible inside the helmet.  (Never a good idea to climb below other people)

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Orion Direct

After yesterdays day off I was back in on Ben Nevis, this time with Simon.  He had driven up from Glasgow and after meeting him at 8am in Fort William we were at the bottom of our route just after 10am.  So many options to go for today, I had fancied Observatory Buttress as I was climbing near it yesterday and looked cool but with only one team on Orion Direct (V,5) we went for that instead.  The route was still in great condition.  I thought the crux felt a bit thin and with the screws were a joke but the rest of the route was amazing.  Big thanks to the team of 3 that let us scoot past them, it was nice to be making fresh tracks on such a classic route.  On the top it was full on navigation to the summit, into the shelter and we polished off a hip flask of whiskey before making our way down the tourist route, picking up a couple of chaps who had bitten of more than they can chew by walking up the tourist route in these conditions.  Lots of other teams out, all the Minus Gullys had ascents, Zero, Point 5, Orion Directissima, Tower Ridge, Green, Comb, Tim and Donald did Point Blank and i'm sure many other routes were climbed too.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Rubicon Wall


Murdoch on the first pitch

Me on 4th pitch

Thin climbing with no gear

Hard work on the snow
We had loads of snow over night which meant getting to the routes was a bit harder than its been for quite a few weeks.  Murdoch and I headed up Observatory Gully and made our detour off to the base of Rubicon Wall (V,5).  Waves of spindrift were coming down the face, filling our ledges and swamping our feet.  After one substantial wave we did look at each other and thought the same.... this is grim!  But we pressed on and were rewarded with a great thin face route.  The ice was brilliant all the way up, thin in places and with limited gear but it always felt of as axes and crampons went in well.  Plumes of spin drift kept attacking us but we were able to wade through it and make our way to the summit of Ben Nevis.  Despite there being lots of snow around we found the slope we waded up to be pretty stable, just hard work.  A great day and a great route.  Back up tomorrow for a bit more ice climbing.  Other teams were on Vade Mecum, Hadrians, Observatory Buttress, Ledge Route, Green Gully and teams went into Zero Gully area but not sure what route they got on.