Thursday, 31 December 2009

Ski Touring in the Monadhlaith- Newtonmore.

Shooting Cracks: a sign that the snow pack is very unstable. We have had lots of snow here with strong winds which transports the snow to lee slopes and this transported accumulations of snow form wind slab. Careful route choice, ( avoiding unstable snow, terrain traps , convex and concave slopes is important when traveling through snow covered terrain. If you are lucky and stay alert you notice many clues on the hill and mountain side as you travel along. Also, squeaky sounds and cracking of the snow around your boots or skis are very good clues. The crack above is a dramatic one indicating very interesting conditions and unstable snow.
Stephen and I had a great ski tour in the hills behind my house yesterday. The snow cover was fantastic!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

GlenShee- a wonderful ski touring day

Ace snow, lots of surface hoar crystals , a few rocks and clumps of heather to catch one out... but fantastic fun , experience enhancing and a cool adventure!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Wild on the mountain tops

Amazing ski touring conditions today, its wild and windy at higher altitudes but some nice snow around!

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Lochnagar Day

Lochnagar (1155m), the climbs are well plastered with snow!
However the Christmas Day cakes are really tasty! Thanks, J,H and C xxx

While Alan field tests his new scarf brought by Santa via an interesting person in Vancouver!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Happy Christmas to one and all!

With my very good and trusted old pal Alan Dennis collecting snow pit data on Carn Chronaidh near the ski centre at Glen Shee. We wish you all a very merry Christtmas.
Great snow cover so get out on the hills and work off that extra portion of Turkey!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Fiacaill of Corie An T-Snechda

An interesting day today in the snow laden Cairngorms. So, Jeff and I had a good mountaineering day by climbing the Fiacaill ridge by its most technical route which is an interesting grade 2. We then abseiled down Jacobs as there had been some big groups climbing it earlier in the day and had knocked off any suspect soft snow. There is lots of wind slab about and the avalanche forecast was true to form. Temperatures seemed to raise a little this afternoon but it's not for long. Climbs are in great condition but the depth of snow and iced up cracks make progress slow and climbs difficult to protect.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Spiral Gully

A great day today for north facing gullies in the Cairngorms. The SAIS avalanche forecast was bang on and the north facing gullies all swept clear of deep snow! Climbing conditions are on good neve and while this offers great placements for ice-picks it's not so easy to find protection and cams do not grip so well in the ice filled cracks! This is Jeff who is with me for a few days of Introductory Mountaineering, Spiral gully is a classic four pitch grade II

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Wild on Cairngorm today!

The day started out fine but by 10.00 am it was getting quite stormy on the hill and by 11.oo am it was to wild for Kathy and I . We were hoping to get to the south side of Cairngorm to observe snow conditions for the SAIS avalanche report, but after getting part way to Ciste Mhearad the risk assessment we carry inside our head was automatically reviewing itself by the second! We decided to retreat and navigate our way back towards"Cairngorm Mountain's" ski areas and find a semi- sheltered spot to dig a snow pit at slightly lower altitude toward the Fiacaill a' Chorie Chais. Results are on the SAIS report and web site. The snow is superb for skiing and the forecast is much better for tomorrow, so lets hope that they get the ski road open and we can all enjoy the snow! Climbs may well be plastered with fresh deep snow and the avalanche risk is considerable, from East through south to North-West
I know that the above is a rather sweeping statement.... but the wind has turned today and there is lots of snow to blow into lee slopes and care will be needed exiting many gullies. Stay sharp and it should be an ace day out there tomorrow!

IRATA Rope Access

Today I sent most of my day at Talon NDT in Aberdeen. Assessing rope access technicians who were attending a IRATA course provided by Talon. Talon NDT provide a range of Non Destructive Testing courses as well as Rope access training for Industrial Rope Access and are full members of IRATA.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Anach Mor - Fort William- Tenacity

Jon on the upper pitch

Andy in the "chimney" and contemplating the next moves

Andy starting out on the first pitch
Today we made the drive over to Anach More, Nevis Range ski area and walked from the valley car park up the world class down hill mountain bike track and then up to the summit. It takes a while but the cable car is closed for maintenance and will be running this weekend for the ski and winter climbing season. Andy, Jon and I climbed a previously unclimbed line under pretty good winter condition with good ice and frozen turf placements for most of the way up the climb. We named it Tenacity and its graded VI,6.
The chaps at Nevis Range asked me to inform everyone that the Climbers Cable Car will commence at 0900hrs for this Saturday and Sunday and then it will be running at 0800hrs daily. Details will also be available on their web site!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Rampant - Coire an T-Snechda

It was raining when I set out from Newtonmore this morning, by the time I met Andy and Jon at the car park it was still raining. Walking into the coire the rain had turned to sleet for a while, but by the time we were at the bottom of our climb it was raining again. The climb was in great condition for the time of year and we did not hang around as the wet cold chilled us to the bone. Some good climbing tough and if it freezes tonight climbing conditions should get even better! Rampant is graded IV,5 and was first climbed in winter by A. Fyffe and T. Walker on the 1st March 1979.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Coire an Lochan -Deep Throat

Jon and I climbed this good climb today. "Deep Throat" was first climbed by Rab Anderson, Tom Prentice and Rob Milne back in December1989. It's a two star Grade V,6. The line starts up a wide crack and through some overhangs. It has since been climbed in summer by Andy Nisbet, Neil Ritchie and Miss H Mendrum( Hamish)!I think they did it in July 1990.
It's been a superb day here in the Cairngorms, with hardly a breath of wind. Warmer temperatures are forecast to arrive, but not for long and snow should fall by Tuesday if not earlier.
There must have been around 45 people climbing in the Lochan today, all climbing , some on very technical routes.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

West Face of Drum Shionnach- South Glen Sheil

Sonia on one of the harder moves

Andy almost topping out on the main pitch.
Toady we drove North West to south Glen Sheil and climbed this interesting and previously unclimbed line which takes a line of semi frozen steep turf which is on the left side of Boxer's Buttress. Then traversing leftwards, we crossed Capped Gully and finished up a groove with balanced moves up a rocky rib with a small step and short gully to finish. Still unnamed at III,5.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Cairngorms : Stachan Dubha

Thanks Heather at the Met. office/BBC. Your weather forecast was pretty accurate today although high on the summits the wind was higher than expected. Climbing conditions are not great really in this area of the Grampians with ice axe picks pulling through the soft turf and the snow is friable with a slight ice crust and sugar below!
Here we are, Andy, Jon and I on an as yet unnamed V.6 climb.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Another Cairngorm day!

A large cornice on Jacobs Ladder today!

Navigation , rope work and climbing. We had a nice day today compared to the previous few days , although the snow was a bit soft and moist this morning with occasional lumps of ice and rime falling from the steeper buttresses. By mid afternoon it was snowing again on the plateau and it felt a bit colder. Some forecasts are saying its warning up but the BBC TV one said it going to get colder, who's right? When we left the hill tonight it was pretty cold! If this continues even although the low pressure has moved quite far north, I have the feeling that we could have a good freeze tonight,!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Introductory Climbing course

Wild day in the Cairngorms today with really strong winds and one could hardly stand on the plateau, however Simon manged to get his first ever winter climb completed, so a good day was had.
The Northern corries are in really good condition for the time of year. There were quite a few climbing teams braving the elements and Doctors Choice, Fingers Ridge and route on the Mess of Pottage all getting climbed. In the Lochan there was party on Savage Slit and conditions are equally as good there. Lots of old avalanche debris around!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Big Hobnailers, the SMC and todays conditions in the Cairngorms!

Curly Ross leads the club song at the 121 annual dinner of the Scottish Mountainerring club ( SMC) held at the Ben Wyvis Hotel on Saturday 5th December 2009.
Rab Carrington, guest speaker and President of the British Mountaineering Council looks on with Des Rubens and Alan Hunt while Curly sings !
Oh, my big hobnailers! Oh, my big hobnailers!
How they speak of mountain peak,
And lengthy stride o'er moorland wide!
Oh, my big hobnailers! Oh, my big hobnailers!
Memories raised on joyous days
Upon the mountain side!
Today in the Cairngorms it started out windy and cold this morning with paths dangerously slippy and well frozen. The afternoon turned slightly warmer , but its freezing again as we left the hill. Many signs of recent avalanche activity were seen and a hasty pit suggested Cat 2 + on hot spots. The Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) starts up around the 14/15 December ( mid next week) so that will be extremely helpful to us mountain guides. I forgot my camera today, but clouds were down most of the time but climbing conditions are generally pretty OK and the melt freeze cycle is really helping the routes come into better conditions for climbing!

Friday, 4 December 2009

IRATA assessments at Talon, Aberdeen

Sometimes in life one has to go out and do a real job!

South Glen Sheil - East Ridge of Sgurr nan Forcan

Climbing a nice easy gully on the North West side of the Forcan Ridge.

(Yesterday. 3rd Dec)
The Saddle is west of the main Glen Shiel Ridge and lies directly across the A87 road from The Five Sisters of Kintail.
Morris and I went climbing on the North West side of the Saddle and we soloed up an easy winter climb which took us up on to the Forcan Ridge so we continued along the ridge which gave us an interesting and enjoyable day.
The Forcan ridge is a classic Alpine Style Ridge which is given two stars, graded moderate in the summer and I/II in winter conditions.
Conditions for Climbing: there was quite a bit of snow, which means that the turf is not frozen although where it's exposed and wind blown one could get some reasonable placements.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Winter climbing is here!

Here we are climbing in the Cairngorms today..., Corie an t- Sneachda, conditions are really quite good, with good snow and frozen turf !

John climbing.

Looking back at the "Mess of Pottage". Today there were teams on Honeypot, The Message and Hidden Chimney. John and I linked several interesting pitches together starting as for the Haston line then, Tasker and Technicolour Dream.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hot aches and the Forth Road Bridge

As well as climbing and mountaineering I have been spending some time working with Steel Erectors on the Forth Road Bridge. We, that's Rab and I were working for wwww.sgaccess and were on night shift . (It's not a good idea to be swinging large steel beams about when there is lots of traffic!) As a result of the winds and rain followed by freezing conditions, wearing industrial clothing rather than the cozier stuff we can wear on Mount Everest etc.. hot aches in our fingers and darkness meant that none of our photos turned out as good as this one that Will and Calum took!
Back at home Cairngorm Mountain had the skiing open and apparently it was pretty good. Climbing wise - Andy, John and Jon were out and reported good snow and mostly frozen turf on the higher crags!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Look what Ed has been up too!


A couple of years ago Ed ( Left) on the summit of Ama Dablam with Climbing Sherpas Lhakpa and Kusam and Sandy (Right)