Monday, 31 January 2011

Introductory skills day

It was very windy here at Cairngorm today, but fortunately we were doing a basic skills day so managed to shelter in one of the many gullies. At the top of Alladins the snow was still frozen and the freezing level is set to lower, so apart from the continued strong winds climbing should be pretty good!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Windy day but good climbing conditions!

Looking back towards Coire an t Snechda around 4.00 pm this evening.

Becky in Goat Track Gully.

Tom and Becky on a belay stance.

Saturday, 29 January 2011


Have Becky { from our Baruntse expedition last fall} and Tom up climbing with me this weekend, it been a day of laughs and good climbing! Tom on an interesting section.

Tom and Becky share a stance.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Hell's Lum Crag, the Cairngorms

With Matt we climbed Brimstone Groove today it's a IV,4 with a couple of stars. First climbed in the summer of October 1958 as a summer rock climb with one point for aid by G Annad, R H Sellers and R Reid, then on the 27th December 1970 S Docherty and K Spence did the first winter ascent which was considered quite a step at the time as it was the first route on the big ice sheet. Today, conditions were typical of Hell's Lum, you think it looks ace and one is easily enticed on and up among the grooves and then the ice axe picks hit rock much of the time or simply pull through the cruddy snow. Higher up the conditions were much better with the turf well frozen and protection easy to find after the recent thaw. Matt climbing up on one of the lower pitches.

Carn Etchacan and Shelter Stone Crag

Matt on the last short but technical pitch which leads to the upper snow slopes.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Ice Climbing, Cairngorms.

Matt topping out on Aladdin's Mirror Direct which is a two star grade IV, it was in excellent condition today!
Also we climbed Hidden chimney.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Nevis range, Aonach Mor

We climbed Tunnel Vision today, a three star grade 3. The Scottish Avalanche Information Service {SAIS Lochaber} had forecasted "a considerable" for that aspect and their forecast was bang on target. One may well ask,what was a guide doing guiding an ice climb on such an aspect with such a forecast? On reading the forecast carefully it did mention isolated pockets of unstable wind slab, and there was not as much new precipitation overnight as forecast. Occasionally there was a small 4 centimeter crown wall along the scarp slope, but early this morning the debris were all along the bottom of the climbs so with all this obvious information on the ground it was safe enough to select the climb.. local knowledge helps and as long as one read the terrain, avoided rather obvious pillows, belayed in safe places and moved efficiently it was reasonable enough. In Bruce Trempers book, "Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain" which is a pretty good, interesting read and someone I hold lots of respect for, he emphasises the importance of good route choice, path finding and reading the terrain. One chapter of the book starts with a quote from C. Stethem, " Don't trivialise the importance or subtlety of terrain. It take a a life time to get a handle on reading terrain - maybe two lifetimes." Man, this annoys me a bit as I have friends who like me are guides and we carry out that skill every day! So, while I may be rather aged, as far as I know I have not been around for two life times yet and most of my pals guiding here in Scotland, or in the Alps and ski guiding in Canada are also far from ancient. I am certainly no expert but I do wonder why folks throw out such comments. I certain that my time for another life cycle will happen at some point.... or are all the instances of Deja Vous telling me something I am too dumb to understand yet? Ha ha, no, you do not really need to comment really, but I am interested to know what folks think of the two lifetimes thing....

Monday, 24 January 2011

Winter climbing

Matt climbing in the Northern Corries again today . The snow was a bit moist with the recent warming and the approach path is relatively easy going now although some ice patches remain underfoot. On the climbs: ice remains good, turf frozen and cracks in the rock are quite clear so cams work and protection is easy to find! Winds were quite gusty today stinging ones bare skin. Ace climbing , with tons of snow left. Spoke to some skiers and boarders on the way down and they said that on-piste skiing at Cairngorm Mountain was still very good although they would do with some more snow nearer the lower car park.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Cairngorm climbing

Matt climbing in Coire an t Sneachda today.

Coiling the rope at the top of our climb , some fresh snow on the summits.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Skye Rope Access - Portree

Rope access technicians demonstration their skills at a training area in Portree, Isle of Skye. Typically much of their work is rock stabilisation and netting road side embankments, such as the one photographed below.

Friday, 21 January 2011

A good two days

Climbing The Runnel today, Coire an Snechda, Northern Cairngorms

Ian and Colin skinning around the corrie rim. Beinn a Bhuird
My pal Alan carrying out a burp test!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Exploring avalanches!

Here is another avalanche which occurred near Glenshee area over last weekend during the thaw. Its a full depth slab avalanche on the South-West aspect of Creag Leacach. The bed surface and stauch wall and debris.
View over towards The Cairnwell

Looking up towards the crown wall.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Avalanche at Glenshee, Carn an Tuirc

Moira and Donald walking up on the bed surface. This is full depth wet slab avalanche which released a few days ago in the recent thaw.
Amongst the debris.

The full extent of the avalanche.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Sgor Mor - Glenshee

Interesting day, investigating this avalanche fracture line which was probably triggered by the cornice collapse which is shown in the photo below and can be seen above and behind me.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Windy and blowy on the summits today

Excellent off-piste ski-mountaineering conditions around Glenshee and the Glas Maol area today. Summit winds were Northerly and very cold, but skiing down on the newly drifted snow on sheltered lee slopes was fantastic.
Looking down and along Caen Lochan Glen, Monega Hill

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Creag Meagaidh

A wondeful day on Creag Meagaidh today!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Cairngorm climbing

Joanna and Alister with Corie an t-snechda behind.
Joanna and Alister on one of the stances

Climbing Spiral Gully

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Ski Touring day - near Lochnagar

Alan and Chester leading the way as we traversed above Monelpe Moss towards Little Pap and Creag a Ghlas-uillt, near Lochnagar.

Ski pole probing, a simple test which takes a few seconds and you can perform many tests as you travel. You simply push your ski pole into the snow, feeling for unseen layers below. If you feel a lot of resistance in the surface layers and then suddenly your pole drops through a layer that feels like mostly air, this usually means that a slab overlies a layer of faceted snow, which is an especially dangerous combination. This test only gives you a general feel for the snow pack layering.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Ski mountaineering

Alan on the summit.
Good ski touring on Glaas Maol , Glenshee today, conditions have improved a lot with the new snow! Good navigation skills are required!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

A navigation day

As we came off the hill today the mist began to rise and we had good views of the skiing on Cairngorm Mountain, as you can see the snow cover is good but its all a bit icy although the piste machine drivers are out in force tilling the runs and on piste conditions seemed pretty good. Off piste, its very icy under ski and foot and most of the time the crust holds your weight, but crampons have to be worn most of the time and it must be quite horrendous on ski!
Lots of navigation practice today, here are Joanna and Alister at the weather station on Cairngorm summit.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Nevis Range, Happy new year

Approaching our climb.

Leading the first pitch
Seconding the crux pitch which was led by Andy
Left my camera at home this morning so all the above are Andy's photographs.
We drove to Nevis Range and climbed a new line on the central section of the west face of Aonach Beag, it goes at IV,4 and the ice was not so great really until we got a bit higher. Its a good interesting climb, steeper than it looked from below and about 150 metres in length and we have not come up with a name for it yet!