Monday, 28 April 2008

The bucket list

Jack Nicholson features in several extraordinary movies. One of his newer ones is named "THE BUCKET LIST". Several months ago I was asked by Kay to guide her Mum ( Hildergard) down the Vallee Blanche as part of her Bucket list. We skied the vallee blanche yesterday and here are photos of Hildergard ( White jacket) and her daughter Kay ( Pink) , John and Kathy all cramponed up and making their way down the arete du Midi at the start of the Vallee Blanche. The next photo shows us on the Mer de Glace and the top photo is the group admiring the wonderful rock and ice climbs on Mont Blanc du Tacul. The large continious buttress is the Gervasitti Pillar and the shaded ice guly between "Super Couloir". We had a fantastic day in brillaint Alpine weather with outstanding snow conditions. Hildergrad skied really well and made it look very easy! Apologies to Jack Nicolson, but this truly is, "as good as it gets"!

And.....nearing Zermatt

The top photo shows is the approach to col du Mont Brule and the other on the col du Valpalline removing our ski skins in preperation for our final ski descent into Zermatt. We had some excellent enjoyable powder snow, then breakable crust and finally spring snow lead us into the cable car station at Furri.
Most of us spent an enjoyable night in Zermatt and transferred back to Chamonix the following day with plans in mind for further adventures next season.

Haute Route

We have had some interesting weather over the past week on our traverse on skis from Chamonix to Zermatt. These photos show: Dave and Mike on the summit of the Pigne D'Arolla, Martin on a motor bike used many years ago to transport goods and skiers on the Argentier glacier and all our group heading out at the start of the trip from Grand Montets ski area!
WE skinned up to the Col du Chardonnet and then over the Fenetre Selina to the Trient Hut. Terry the guardian made us an excellent mid afternoon lunch of Rosti with ham and eggs! However the sky was looking a bit grim, and Terry up-dated the weather forecast and with snow falling I decided that it was good to get down from the hut so we paid our dues and an additional goodwill deposit to Terry for our early departure and skied down the Trient Galcier, climbed up and over the col des Escandies and enjoyed wonderfull powder and then spring snow as we skied down the Val D'Arpette into Champex where we arrived quite late ( 6.00 pm ish) and enjoyed wonderful hospitality in one of the local gites.
The weather deterioated and we spent two days sking and refereshing other ski mountaineering and tranceiver searching skills on and around the pistes of Verbier. Eventually the weather cleared and as we were out of sink with our hut reservations at the Valsorey hut and could no longer get our beds there and we were forced round to Arolla where went via the pas de Chevere to the Dix hut.
This was a pity, but still ace. Later I have learned that there were some spare beds at the Valsorey Hut but the guardian could not guaramtee beds as other groups who had decided not to go to the hut, planned or due to their own weather delays had failed to pick up the phone and cancel their reservations...... so while I hate to say so, it seems that even in our wonderful world of ski-mountaineering and wonderful technology of the mobile phone there are people who cannot be bothered to cancel their Mountain hut reservations when they change their plans! Pity that eh? It's such a wonderful world, I have no idea why humans seem so intent to continue to make such a mess of it!
But anyway, the snow was awesome most of the way between Chamonix and Zermatt and as we neared Zermatt, down the Stoki galcier we hit some breakable crust ......and wow, even Kathy on her wider than average K2 skis took a tumble or three... ( Perhaps I should explain.. It seems in Europe we use narrower skis for ski touring than in the subprime USofA .. where fatter boys and dare I say even girls ( fatter or not, but its irrelevant to the discussion, probably, but then again, how can anything female be irrelevant?). Anyway, apparently it's been noiced that they use a wider skis on the other side of the pond! Does that include C a n a d a? ha ha!!! I think its resonable to say that on good or even crusty old snow packs one would use less calories on Fat skis and the sking experience may be less of a challange, which may mean its more enjoyable....?) - but then again, perhaps I should stick to my core busness .. as my theories could be flawed! Comments please to : it's intersting to explore.....

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Haut Route

Hello from Bourg St Pierre, We have been here for two days ( enjoying the sking at Verbier)hoping to go up to the Valsorey Mountain Hut. But today we have to go to Arolla and then into the Dix Hut where we have been able to get room to stay. From there we will go over the Pigne D Arolla down to thehVignette hut and then our plan for the next day to Zermatt. All is good although the weather has been awful, but excellent snow giving wonderful sking when one can see through the mist.
The forecast is to improve and we are quite confident that we should reach Zermatt on Friday.
Our trip from Chamonix has been pretty ace and exciting, we stayed at the Argentier refuge and then went on to the Trient hut the follwing day to overnight, but the forecast was bad so we enjoyed Rosti and coffee from Terry the hut guardian and then descended in the late afternoon to Champex, the snow was superb.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Great ski-touring and piste skiing here on Cairngorm

Well, the photo's speak for themselves and as you can see the sking is pretty amazing for April in the Grampian mountain range, Cairngorm Mountain, Aviemore, Scotland!
Climbing wise you can see that the crags are plastered and there was an avalanche on Hells Lum today...there is a lot of graupel in the snow pack. It's clear skyes at night and temperatures get very warm through the day. Steep and convex sun exposed slopes are risky.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Fantastic spring conditions here in the Grampians

We are having a fantastic time here, ski-touring , and snow shoeing and even the piste skiing on Cairngorm Mountain allows one to ski anywhere. The visability comes and goes but when it's good its outstanding and when its bad, one has to ski with care, but there are lots of fresh tracks to be made. It's sometimes difficult to remember that you are in Scotland, however there are still boulders and the top few centimeters of the snow fences sticking above the fresh snow which need alert avoidance skills!
The Scottish Avalanche Information Service ( SAIS) closed its doors for this season as it always does around the 15th of April, so sadly we will no longer have the daily avalanche reports for our various climbing areas. Kathy did the last official report today and while there will still be some tidying up in the office for a while yet, it will be sad for us all not to meet Blyth's SAIS experts on the hill. As you can see, certainly on Cairngorm they model the Mountian Equipment outdoor clothing range rather well. Although one is best not to forget that the SAIS teams at Lochaber, Glencoe, Lochnagar and Creag Meaghaidh also cut fine figures in the mist!
Fortunately of course the hills are still there and there are plenty adventures still to be had... dig lots of hasty pits, keep your eye on the snow pack,weather forecast and especially the wind direction and have a wonderful time! Today its being snowing lots at higher altitudes and raining in the vallley so accumulations are building and as you can see from the photograph of Coire an Lochan the crags are truly plastered. Here at Team Ascent we will still be private guiding and climbing and sking. Also we will be heading off to the Alps in the next few days for the Haute Route and other ski journeys, but we will do our best to keep the blog alive and report conditions when we can!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Credibility Crunch

We have been enjoining some fantastic late season winter conditions here on Cairngorm. As you can see the skiing is fantastic with snow cover down to the 400 meter level around the altitude of Glenmore Lodge. One can ski just about anywhere. Here are some recent photos and in one you can see the wonderful snow cover. The other photos are of "Credibility Crunch" a route we climbed on the 10 April on Lurcher's Crag... its goes at V.7 . I had tried the unclimbed line several weeks ago with Kathy Grindrod and Alan Dennis but on that occasion the winds were wild and the weather most unpleasant and I had resorted to an aid move, so in my ethical trauma decided that retreat was best!.However, the other day conditions were so much nicer and after Andy Nisbet and I snow shoed to the crag. Once we got to the crux pitch we realised that my Charlet/Petzl ice tools were either to small or too large to jam in to the friend size 2 parallel crack so I retreated again! Andy lead and his ice axe adze kind of fitted into the lower chimney crack and with some outstanding lay backing on precariously torqued ice tools and minimal crampon point placements progress was made. Higher in the chimney plastered snow and rime ice reminded me of climbing in Patagonia but we did get some reasonable placements in a hidden crack on the inner wall of the chimney, which made upward progress possible. There was about another half pitch of technical climbing above the photographed crux pitch which brought us out onto the snow encrusted ridge. As you can see from the photographs, the winter climbing in Scotland is about as good as it gets anywhere!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Mountain Culture

The opening of the mountain art exhibition (Peat Light) at the Ceilidh place Ullapool was well attended on Saturday evening. There was plenty of talk from climbing tales of terror to bothy ghost story's. (A lot of Joy's work features remote mountain locations and bothy's. This painting on the left was one of a few that was sold that evening.
The exhibition is on for five weeks in total which leaves plenty of time to go and have a look.
Onto a sad note: Yesterday a light aircraft crashed in the Cairngorms, it was blizzard conditions and one person was killed. The pilot was very lost and flying too low in poor visibility unfortunately he didn't make the summit of Cairngorm and ended up just outside the ski area at a place called Marcus Well. The body and craft was located today.

Kathy (Nature Rules photographer) examining some of her wild weather work.

Dave Cuthbertson (Cubby Images) and Artist Joy have a few drams and talk about art and mountain images.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Latest events

It is forecast to turn much colder tonight and tomorrow with lots of snow coming in from the North and its looking cold for the rest of the week.
On to another subject for those interested in the finer things in life an art exhibition called "Peat Light" will be running at the "The Ceilidh Place" in Ullapool for five weeks from this Saturday. The main exhibitor is my sister "Joy Grindrod" who is a very talented mixed media landscape artist. The other is myself and I will be displaying a collection of Cairngorm wild weather photo's "Nature Rules Photography" some of which we have used on the Team Ascent blog. If you want to see some of Joys work have a look at her link on the Team Ascent website

Dave walks into the hail and strong winds.


Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Mild and sunny

It's been mild in the hills today but the buttresses are still covered in snow and climbing conditions look good. For ski touring there is plenty of spring snow above 800 metres with excellent long descents on South and East aspects. Mild again tomorrow but by Friday we are expecting cold conditions again with more snow. Winter continues.