Monday, 30 December 2013

Daddy Longlegs

Me setting off on the superbly sustained first pitch

 It took a bit of effort to leave the car today in the Cairngorms as it was raining at the Ski centre.  We knew it was too get cold so we knew it was going to snow at some point.  We marched in, heads down, almost in silence.  We had an objective and I was over thinking the process as I walked in.  Whilst gearing up Greg Boswell and Will Sim turned up with the intention of trying a route near to us...nothing like a bit of pressure for two exceptional climbers!  I set off on the first pitch and found it to be relatively friendly...nice gear and good hooks.  The hard moves started coming and kept coming all the way to the end of the 35m pitch, A summer HVS 5a pitch.  Murdoch then dispatched the final crux pitch, with a little bit of up and downing to find the best way up.  Super strenuous pitch.  Other teams were on Auricle and two teams bailed off Milky Way after 1 rope length...looked like alot of snow there.

Longlegs helpful
Murdoch Starting the final pitch...harder than it looks

Sunday, 29 December 2013


Fiacaill looking loaded
Great to be back in Scotland after a short break at home for the festive period.  The forecast was great for the East coast so I met up with Murdoch and Blair, who decided to join for a Jolly.  On arrival to Mess of Pottage we noticed that pretty much all the climbers from the car park came here too.  We went for plan F, Wachacha (VI,7).  It was an ok consolation but rightly not worth more than its one star.  I led the first pitch which had one hard move as did the second pitch which Blair led.  The crux of the route was digging out gear as everything had a nice layer of ice over it and the neve was just about weight bearing.  Ice was forming nicely in places on the Mess of Pottage.  Plenty of snow around Fiacaill Buttress, which had no climbers on, understandably, some climbed on fluted buttress and someone skied down the goat track.  On another note, the skiing looked great on the pistes.  More tomorrow! ;)

The rest of my pics here

A pic or two from Murdoch here

Blair heading to the top

Murdoch enjoying his day of seconding

Bit early to finish but we didn't mind

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Final day before Christmas

Today was my last days work before Christmas.  Unfortunately we were pounded with more winds and blizzards.  No summit today.  More skills for the group and some interesting steep ground.  Its been an interesting lead up to Christmas.  This time last year I had done 17 routes, one of which was a speedy Cuillin Ridge Winter Traverse, 2 new routes (here & here), 3 days climbing work (1, 2 & 3), 3 2nd ascents (here & here) and 8 other winter routes on Ben Nevis, Skye and Glencoe as well as a few days of non climbing work.  This year I have done two winter climbs.  One in the Cairngorms and one second ascent on Ben Nevis.  Its the way it goes in Scotland.  Sometimes its amazing and sometimes its just good...last year was amazing.  The main problem with this is that I haven't worked up an appetite for the upcoming Christmas feast that my family and I partake in.  I think this year I will have to take it easy on the pigs in blankets, force down more Brussel Sprouts and stay well clear of the chocolate coins.  Wish me luck!  I hope you all have a brilliant Christmas and get lots of climbing kit and clothing from Santa so you are well prepared for the winter season of 2014.  Merry Christmas!

Friday, 20 December 2013

We have the power!

Another windy day was on the cards with increasing velocity as the day went on.  We decided that going onto the very tops would be counter productive so a blast into the Coire Cas headwall aloud us to do some skills and rope work in ""relative"" shelter.  Fully how a day with such a challenging forecast can still be really good fun.  One more day with these chaps and it doesn't look like the goggles will be left at home!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Winter skills or winter survival?

Both today! More emphasis on the survival side of things! One of our main jobs was to try and return with the skin on our faces still intact! Definitely have lost some and it looks like more will be lost over the next few days. Plenty of snow fell here around Aviemore early this morning which was great but mixed with some very strong winds we had a good challenge ahead. It was obvious that we needed a low level day and even this exposed us to some very gnarly conditions. We walked from the Sugar Bowl, through the Chalamain Gap, tackled the ferocious winds coming through the Lairig Ghru and then got picked up by Loch Morlich. A brilliant experience for the boys from London. Tomorrow looks like another day of face blasting! Kite is packed! Loads of snow was getting blow around and plenty of large accumulations on the lee slopes. Should be more substantial in the corries.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Vagrant

Kenny leading the first pitch
Kenny on the second
It was one of those day's.  The one where you look for excuses to not go but there just isn't any justifiable ones.  Kenny and I embarked on a journey in to the Northern Corries to brave strong winds, a blasting from wind blown snow but ultimately to feed my rat.  this time last year I had done 17 winter routes, including a single day winter Cuillin Ridge traverse.  Today was my second.  To say I have been a little bored would be an understatement.  Work has been cancelled and the mountains have looked bleak.  But today was brilliant.  Kenny and I climbed The Vagrant (VII 7) in Coire an Lochain.  Conditions were brilliant, the crags from Number 2 buttress to Number 4 buttress were all in good nick as they received a good blasting.  Snow cover on the ground was thin as its all been blown away so the walk in and out was very easy.  Sometimes despite the horrible forecast it is always worth persisting...this time we were rewarded!  The next few days look to be a thaw and freeze cycle...which means the could be some more rat feeding to come!

2nd pitch was well cool!

Kenny on the 3rd pitch...brilliant pitch

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Sorcerer

Number 3 Gully Buttress looking very inviting
So today it begins for me. As I walked in to Ben Nevis this morning, with my head torch illuminating the ground around my feet, I was thinking whether I will be able to climb more routes this winter season than I did the last?  With my first route done today, I only have 84 to go to match last years figures.  As Keith, Kenny and I walked up towards Creag Coire na Ciste our original plan on South Trident Buttress wasn't looking as aesthetically pleasing as routes on Number 3 Gully Buttress and the Ciste.
Kenny cranking up the 1st pitch
 After a scan of the crags pointing out possible options we settled for The Sorcerer (VII,8).  One of the route's we didn't have in our particular guidebook?! Don't ask!  Fortunately, Keith has a photographic memory and remembered the description.  Keith remembered 3 pitches in the description so it would work out perfectly.  Kenny was on for the first, Keith took the crux and I was left with the last (I was happy with that as it was my first route of the season and Keith said it was grade V...easy?!).  Kenny dispatched the first pitch well, despite it being covered in verglass.  Gear was tricky to get but the climbing wasn't too hard.  Tricky to lead, easier to second.  Keith then led the 'Magic Crack' pitch.
Keith loving the climbing
Keith nearing the top of the Magic Crack
 Described as 'Magic Crack (in the Cairngorms) on steroids', this was a route to do.  I've not done Magic Crack (or steroids) so I can't confirm, however it was very good!  Same story for Keith's pitch, hard to lead and place gear, easier to second.  A brilliant pitch.  We thought overall it was VII,7 in these conditions as the cracks were choked in ice and held axes well.  If they had been clear then some funky torquing would have been required and we thought it would be more strenuous.  I took over for the last pitch...grade  A wee bit harder and the same story, hard to lead and place gear.  After some nice climbing, my pitch was barred by compact verglassed rock.  After a good search around for an amenable line, I took a belay on a small sloping ledge.  From here Kenny and Keith agreed that we would join the last pitch of Lost The Place and finish up this.  On the top we met Tony and Ian who had just climbed Avenging Angel and we could see Martin and Pete finishing the difficulties on The Knuckleduster.  A great start to the season and looking forward to the next cold spell.

Kenny getting ready for some serious hot aches!
Martin and Pete on The Knuckleduster.  Pete (top) is starting the second pitch, not having a wee.