Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Drop your plans this weekend, there is something worth attending!

The Festival of Ice is this weekend.  It will be worth a visit.  Ice to suit all tastes.  All forms of ice available.  Ice to climb on and ice for the drinks at the after party.
The event held at The Ice Factor this Saturday will be the home of some of the strongest winter climbers in the country, both above and below the border.  However, don't be put off by the size of their muscles.  There are many mere mortals like myself entering who are there to enjoy the social, the climbing and the impressive falls!  The best thing about this event is that its not just a self profit ordeal.  A large percentage of the takings will be donated to the Climbers Against Cancer charity.  I couldn't not get involved!  Also, don't worry if you haven't pulled on axes before or done any training, there is plenty of climbing for all abilities.  On the Sunday will be some master classes and coaching with Dave MacLeod, one of the best all round climbers in the world.  That's if you can survive the after party.  If there is a good attendance, Kev said he'll do some break dancing at the after party!  Not really worth missing!
Some of the climbers will be as strong as this fella!

Some others, like me, will be as strong as this fella!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Snow on Ben Nevis

Looking over to Tower Ridge

Alan showing his strength...or lack of! ;)
 From the Italian Rivera to Ben Nevis.  Back to work today and our original plan was Tower Ridge.  On arrival to the CIC hut the weather was grim, wet, cold and windy.  The forecast was due to improve as the day went on but the evidence around us was not giving us much hope.  Linda wanted a pleasant experience on Tower Ridge, as we all did so we thought we would save it for another day.  Instead we cruised up Ledge route, a ridge that neither Alan and Linda have never done in summer.  Not another soul in sight or on earshot until we got to the mountain path where there were a few out enjoying the mountain.
Off the gangway

Plenty of snow nearing the top

Bit of rime ice on the cairn

Friday, 18 October 2013


Don't remember this!
Training never stops!
After Ceuse, we arrived in Finale on the Italian Riviera.  I've been here before and I love it.  Great climbing, warm sea, sunshine, nice beaches, good food, nice wine, powerful coffee and very nice locals!  What more could you want!  We did a variety of climbing from single pitch steepness to multi-pitch madness.  Deep water soloing through to deep water-falling-in!  It was a great laugh with Guy and Donald and look forward to more climbing trips with these chaps.

I was creating a waterfall up there!  Pretty warm!

And fell off...

And fell off again...

Multi-pitch action

Guy hanging out

Seconding on of the crux pitches

Two Guy's climbing

Dry at the moment

Guy leading the way


Tuesday, 15 October 2013


View from the campsite
Finally I get to enjoy the sunshine!
After leaving Chamonix and we descended on Ceuse.  One of the best sport climbing crags in the country!?  Best I've been too anyway!  We spent 4 days climbing here in the sun until (story of my life) the snow came.  This didnt affect the climbing too much but climbing in a 3 just means its sooo hard to stay warm as there is a bit of waiting around to get climbing.  After 3 cold morning struggling to get out the tent we decided to head even further south for more sun and a warm sea.  Nest stop Italy, Finale!

Donald testing out the small pockets

The local climbers were very good

Guy (the other one) showing how flexible he is!

Donald getting some airtime!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Quick hit in the Alps

We couldn't decide who's idea it was to come to the Alps at this time of the year, I had once had a trip in October and it was fantastic conditions and we did some pretty cool routes.  Now this trip was a little different.  On the drive out we were psyched, we had Philippe Batoux's finest routes guidebook and were inspired and ready to get some 'Batoux' points.  On arrival to Chamonix there was talk of snow, not only in the coming weeks but it had already fallen.  With hundreds of objectives running through our heads we settled on the brilliant Vent du Dragon on Aiguille du Midi.  Easy approach (4/5 abseils) and only 4 pitches....
I get to go first as I'm the 'youngest'!, where is the next abseil station..?

Donald leading up to the crux pitch

Me leading up the crux pitch.  Bit of everything further up!

Pffftt!!  It was a complete body workout, a fight for survival, a swim, a wade, a thrutch, a scratch, a hook, a pull up, several more pull ups, a squeeze, a scream, a cry, a wimper, a snotty sniff and a bloody cold ordeal!  Everything was hard as we had alot of snow clearing to do.  Progress was slow for Donald, Guy and I (yes another Guy!), body temperatures plummeted as we waited on belays, limbs didn't function well after been threaded with strands of sub zero temperatures.  On member of the team said we should ware soft shells but I'm not going to name names...!

Guy showing us the way on the Cosmiques Arete
We battled on, having to do the route in 5 pitches which felt like Scottish 6.  A bit of a shock to the system after a brilliant summer of rock climbing!  As we missed the last lift down, a cold and uncomfortable night was spent in the Aigille du Midi (3842m) lift station until we could get a lift down to Chamonix the next morning.  We had an 'all you can eat' breakfast when we got down, there wasn't much left.
Nice to be back in the sun

With the forecast for more snow and only short weather windows we decided to head out and go sport climbing.  Next stop Ceuse!

Happy to be at the top

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

New Rab Clothing

Me abseiling into Kilt Rock (Photo: Nadir Khan)

Usual protocol has been called upon which has found me guiding and exploring through mountainous terrain in Scotland, rain or shine.  This summer; mainly shine.  Over the last wee while I have been testing out some of the RAB range of clothing.  3 items in specific.  The Torque Pant, The Aeon Tee and The Vapour-rise Jacket.  Although the summer has been generally good, we had some classic Scottish weather on the Cuillin Ridge on the Isle of Skye.  In my eye's, if gear can stand up to Scottish weather on a daily basis then it gets my vote.  With long walk-in's on Skye followed by technical terrain I always need something that is comfortable, hard-wearing and for me personally, it needs to be light.  The Torque Pant has delivered on all my prerequisites for a good mountain pant.  On top of this it is an interesting colour, something out of the ordinary in the British mountains and I think we need more colour on the cloudy days.  With stretchy fabrics in abundance on these pants, it allows complete freedom of movement from short strides along the path to huge rock overs on steep rock climbs.  Reinforced fabric on the crucial areas protect the knees and in-step from quick wear and tear from the daily use I put clothing through.  I am also convinced that these trousers, combined with a pair of thermal trousers would be ideal for mountaineering in Scotland and I wish I had them at the time I did a 12 hour winter traverse of the Cuillin Ridge.  Very excited about trying them out this winter.  A great product!

Perfect for rock climbing (Photo: Nadir Khan)

Works in the worst weather (Photo: Malcolm Simpkin)

The Aeon Tee was a great addition to the kit for Skye this season.  As many of the walk-in's are quite long, I do find myself working up a wee bit of a sweat and usually having to change my base layer.  Now I'm not saying this t-shirt stopped me sweating but it did draw the moisture away from my body very quickly and dried out in the light breeze we had.  When I threw my rucksack back on I didn't shudder from the usual freezing feeling I get from other wet t-shirts.  Whether I was in the thick fog in the mountains or on the sea cliffs, I found this t-shirt to be very comfortable, light weight and versatile.  After doing a single day 10 hour traverse, we decided to run down from the mountains and I concluded that this item would be ideal for running whether it be through the hills or on a trail as its so comfortable and not abrasive.  Finally it has no stitching directly on the top of your shoulder where my rucksack really pushes in so no discomfort there. Also for me, it doesn't create a unsociable odour that some of the 'old school' products do.

Comfortable after long days out (photo: Nadir Khan)
Rain or shine, the kit works (Photo: Nadir Khan)
When in Scotland we have to wear jackets quite frequently.  To keep the rain off, the wind or just the cold temperatures from biting but finding a jacket that covers several bases can be tricky.  Having not used Vaporie-rise before I was keen to see how it works.  Fortunately we had some classic Scottish weather: wind, rain, cloud and low temperatures.  Now when it rained hard I put my water proof shell on but in the passing light showers I just kept the Vapour-rise exposed.  I found when moving over the technical terrain of the Cuillin, the jacket was comfortable in all aspects from sticking my hands on my pockets to hand jamming up steep cracks.  As the wind picked up, my face got cold but my torso stayed nice and toasty in this jacket, visibility wasn't impaired as I moulded the stiff wire peak over my helmet to block out the wind and rain.  No wind found its way up my sleeves as I sealed the cuffs over my gloves using the Velcro straps.  I found on some of the long ascent, where body temperature was increasing, I was able to regulate this with the easy to reach pit-zips.  When I stopped, I'd simply do them up and keep the heat in.  Again, another functional product that works well in the ever changing mountain environment in Scotland.  Really keen to test all this kit out in the Alps next week on some North Face's and long ridges.

Its good to be spotted in bad weather!  Climbing the In Pinn with Lee Fleming and a Bumble bee