Monday, 21 December 2015

Early season sliding on snow

View of Mont Blanc to the Grande Jorrasses from La Thuile
Lunch break with Rudders and Neil
I did think I should stay out for longer but on reflection it is good to come home and get into the Christmas spirit.  You know...wind and rain...very Chrismassy!  Fortunately whilst I was away this last week we had fantastic weather in and around Chamonix where we based ourselves for the 9 days.  This trip had been in the pipeline for quite a while as I had booked onto a Off-Piste Performance with the highly decorated Alison Culshaw.  As I am now working my way through the BMG process, I want to make sure that my skiing is up to scratch and I don't catch an edge through the process.   

Practising drills off piste
John ripping it up
We had a great week of skiing with friends at several different resorts; Le Brevent and Flegere, Grande Montets, La Thuile and Verbier.  During the course we covered both piste and off piste terrain looking at drills to work on weaknesses and iron our any bumps in our ability.  A great way for anyone to start their season with a few top tips from the experts.  The Alps have lacked their early season coverage but it resulted in very spring like snow, a little bit of rock avoidance but generally very good snow.  Some routes were getting climbed in the mountains in the Alps which led me to get psyched for climbing and getting back to Scottish winter.  Unfortunately, I have no winter ascents under my belt just yet but hopefully will get a leg stretch soon.
John keeping it cool, me being an idiot as usual
Blue skies...White snow
Alison working her magic
Alison and Sophie talking to the invisible skiers
Love this place!

Monday, 30 November 2015


What a great couple of weeks.  I have dreamed about going to Kalymnos for quite a while and finally the star aligned.  I went out to the Greek Island with old friends Kirby, Ali and Donald.  Fortunately Kirby and Ali had been before so they knew all the good places to eat and knew where all the laybys were for the crags leaving me to ride my scooter without crashing and climb as much as my arms would allow.  I teamed up with good friend and regular climbing partner, Donald.  We're both quiet at this time of year with work so use it as an opportunity to get some last minute sun before the winter and build up a little bit of strength for some winter climbing.

Mike on one of the many no hands rests.

We missed some horrible Scottish weather at home!
With 9 days of climbing on the island, we barely touched the surface.  There is so much to do there to keep any climber (and non climber) entertained.  The perfect destination to take family even if they don't climb, something for everyone.  We climber every day except one.  We should have had two rest days but our first one ended up in some sea level traversing followed by some deep water soloing....and plenty of swimming!  As there was so many cool lines to climb we ended up just climbing as many routes as possible rather than spending a few hours, mornings or days on one particular route...if we fell off them we moved on.  Fortunately most of the time we stayed on but as usual we also took some hugggeeee whippers!  Might need a new rope now!  I'll let the pictures do the rest of the off to sharpen my ice axes!
Most routes ended like this....tired!

Our tour guides...Ali and Kirby

Dream team heading to a smaller island 
Looking back to the Grande Grotte

Kirby smashing his first ever 7b+

From inside the Grande Grotte, all about the tufas

Donald and I trying not to look tired...truth is that our arms barely function

See you next year!
More photos on facebook HERE

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!