Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Course Availability

Know that the winter is in full swing and conditions are starting to come good, you will need to get in there before there is no more availability.  I have a couple of slots that are still free if you are thinking of booking something to make the most of the conditions.

6-10th Feb and 26-29th Feb 2012 are the last slots available this season.  These can be used to get the most out of you trip to the West Coast.

There is also a slot available on a CIC Hut Climbing week with West Coast Mountain Guides from 4-9th March 2012.  For more info on this contact Alan Kimber and mention that you saw it here.

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Monday, 30 January 2012


After working the weekend Matt and I were keen to get a route in today.  We opted for Lochain as a lay in and short walk in were key to the day.  The wind was stronger than forecast and wind blown snow was evident on the path, so we were aware that getting to the route could be interesting.  After some weaving around we started climbing at a leisurely time (after 10am), and Matt was straight in.  Ventricle VII,8*** has no easy pitches.  Originally graded VII,9, it has short but fierce pitches that are steep and committing.

Matt powering up pitch 1
Getting stuck into pitch 2

Thin moves on pitch 2

Matt starting up pitch 3

Wild conditions on pitch 3
Involved in pitch 4
Matt coming up the offwidth of Pitch 4
The weather meant that we had the full winter experience today.  My eyes even started to rime up and freeze shut at one point.  The amount of snow being moved today was massive, so a lot of care should be used if you are out and about.

Cairngorm Weekend

Myself and Matt have been East this weekend working with Richard, Chris and Richard.  I was with Rich G and our focus was on gaining confidence on routes and a variety of terrain.  Saturday saw us climbing in the Forty Thieves area at around grade 2.  This gave a mix of terrain and also left us with enough time to look at some snow craft on the way down.  Matt climbed Fluted Buttress Direct IV,5*** with Richard and Chris, who all came back with a big smile on their faces.

Rich and Chris chillin in the chimney

Sunday we started early and walked over to Hell's Lum.  Matt and the boys climbed a busy Deep Cut Chimney IV,5***, whilst Richard and I opted for the Sneer III.  We made quick progress up our route, so walked back into Sneachda and climbed Goat Track Gully Right Hand II.

It was nice to get away from the crowds and climb some Cairngorm ice that is not really that far to walk to.

Friday, 27 January 2012


Both Guy and I were pretty tired today after yesterdays efforts, but wanted to take advantage of the good weather.  We decided to head up the Ben and do something short on the Douglas boulder.  Neither of us were too keen to wade up high through the dodgy snow after the avalanches yesterday on Aonach Mor and the Ben.  This did not stop some, as large teams kept on trucking into some very loaded areas.

Guy Starting up the crux pitch of Jacknife
Into a nice bridged rest
We had the Boulder to ourselves and it was Guy's turn to lead as I had been hogging things a little recently.  We chose a newish route of Andy Turner's called Jacknife V,6*, which climbs the corner right of Cutlass.  The did the job perfectly giving 2 good length pitches and one short one to join the SW ridge.  We down climbed SW Ridge back into the gully and made a pleasant walk down for tea and cake.

There are lots of things to do up there at the moment, but care is needed to avoid some deep pockets of localised windslab.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Prow FA

I was out with Guy and Luke today and had my eye on what I think is a new line on Aonach Mor.  The Prow to the left of Sterling Bridge has a cool looking groove and hanging crack high in the face.  There was a lot of care needed to get to the route today avoiding some funky snow and dodgy pockets of wind slab.  There where 2 parties caught in small avalanches that I know of today on the slopes East of Easy Gully, and we witnessed a natural release as well.

The route we climbed had some excellent climbing on it and felt a bit harder and bolder than anything else I had led recently.   After discussing it and comparing it to things of similar grades, we can to an easy consensus.  The route is described below.

Resting before launching into the crux

Working hard through the thin hooks and feet

The Prow VIII,8** (Adam Hughes, Guy Stevens & Luke Brooks)

Pitch 1. (30m) Start underneath the prow and climb the slab to reach a ramp below the obvious groove.  Climb the turfy groove with good gear to make a tricky step right on to a good foothold.  Here the Groove narrows and becomes blank.  make some thin moves to gain the steep wall out right, and make even thinner moves on poor flat hooks to reach the thin hanging crack/corner.  More thin moves up the crack gains some good, but hollow hooks half way up the corner (poor bulldog protects).  From here a committing move left leads to a rest on a good turf ledge.  Move up and then move right across the face to regain the crack then the arete.  Easy climbing leads to a good belay.

The angle gear showing how steep it is!
Pitch 2. (25m) Climb the easy snow to the top.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Alien Abduction

Trying to find a hook over the crux roof

Today John and I were keen to get a route in before the temperature shot up.  Despite the avalanche risk being High, we opted to go to Aonach Mor, hoping to climb Alien Abduction VII,8**.  Armed with a bit of local knowledge we abseiled in, kicking through the cornice as we went.  The route looked awesome, so we got stuck straight in.  After John led the first pitch, I got into the main event which was extremely bold to start..  A runner at the base of the corner was the only comfort for the thin icy mixed climbing until the crux 15m up.  Thankfully, I managed to clear a crack out and get a cluster of gear before taking on the crux roof.  Thin icy hooks with very poor feet took me through the roof, followed by more thin climbing to some good gear (eventually).  I was soon at the belay with a great pitch behind me and only easy ground ahead.  John romped up this as things started to drip.

A great route on a marginal day, awesome!

Almost there!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Fiacail Ridge

Today was a guided day for Ben and Chris, with the aim to do something challenging and see how the skills they have been learning can be put to use on quite tricky terrain.  The Fiacail Ridge was the perfect place for this.  After a windy walk up to the difficulties, things soon eased as we kitted up.  The ridge proper was in great winter condition, with everything covered in rime.  We made good progress and covered a lot as we climbed the ridge.  We descended 0.5 and made are way out.  the buttresses looked in excellent condition, and there were many teams on a range of routes.  Aladdin's was the least white, but still had a number of routes in condition.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

More Bucket Seats

We went back into Corie an t Sneachda today to try and re enforce the skills covered yesterday by picking our way up 0.5 Gully.  The snow was bullet hard in most places, some the aim was to try and find natural anchors to keep things moving.  Inevitably, a few Bucket seats had to be dug.  I had said yesterday that by the end of the 3 days they would be good at it, and would also try and avoid getting into the situation where they would have to do it again.  They agreed today.  Once we had topped out we navigated our way around the top of the corie and to 1141m, then down the ridge.

Wild weather in 0.5

They wind was wild again today, but it has improved climbing conditions on the buttresses.  There was a lot of ice and rime forming fast, leaving many option for routes today.  The Gully lines are very thin, with the top of Jacob's looking like a mixed route.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Cairngorm Facials

Today was the first day of a winter mountaineering course I am running on the East for WCMG.  The weather has been a bit full on today, and Ben and Chris have coped well with the wild conditions that are not really conducive to easy learning.  That said, we managed to cover a massive amount. After a refresher of some footwork skills in the morning, we got stuck into some snow anchors in the afternoon.

The boys working hard in the ming
Not a pleasent place to sit today

Anyone paying for a facial in some fancy salon should just come and spend a day out up here when the wind is blowing.  I think I have lost at least 2 layers of old skin today.  The conditions for climbing looked bleak, with black crags and lean gullies.

Friday, 20 January 2012

East Face Direct Direct

It was back up into Lochain today with Guy and John to continue the mixed climbing bonanza.  We had hoped to climb Central Grooves VII,7***, but there was already a team starting up it.  We went for our second option of East Face Direct Direct VII,7***, which was outstanding.

John on Pitch 1

Guy making good use of a welcome bridge

Me getting stuck into the final corner

John linked the first 2 pitches to make a good sustained pitch.  Guy then did a awesome job leading up through the bold roof , and then the steep turf to the steep corner of the final pitch.  That meant I had the easy pitch of the day, which was still a steep, sustained corner that was still VI,6/7.  An awesome route.

Other teams were on the usual classic IV's and a Euro team climbed Unicorn.  There has been a lot of snow blown into the corie, so take care if you are heading out.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Finally today there was some mixed climbing to be had as the snow came and was blow nicely on to the crags in Corie nan Lochain.  I had Unicorn in mind, but would go with the consensus of John and Guy as well.  They were happy to give it a go, as I was keen for the crux pitch.

Me about to get into the crux of pitch 1

John getting buried on pitch 2

Guy sending the 3rd Pitch
I led quite quickly, for me to the crux.  This involved some awkward and physical chimneying up the steep and very thin flared groove.  I was gutted to have an axe blow whilst placing a runner after the crux, which ended the onsight.  The fall took me back to the base of the route.  After battling back up, I was soon at the belay.  John cruised up the short second pitch which had lots of positive climbing and good gear.  Guy then led us to the top up the outstanding third pitch.  Thin feet and positive hook made this a dream to climb.

There was a lot of graupel blown in today on the strong wind and it was pooling up in any hollows.  It will be interesting to see what happens if more snow falls on top.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Ben Nevis Ice

Yesterday I went up to the Ben with Matt and Ben to do a bit of mileage on some easy ice routes.  They are both preparing for the guides winter test, so we had hopes to get a couple of things done.

Ben started us off up Comb Gully Buttress IV,5** which was in good condition, and had some nice climbing.  We then nipped down No. 3 Gully and Matt shot up Winter Cascade IV,5**.  This is not often in condition, so was a nice tick to do.  It was then down No. 2 Gully and back up Comb Left Flank IV,5**, which again had some great climbing on it.  This was day 14 out of the last 15, and I could definitely feel it, so a well earned rest day today as the temperature goes up.

Other teams climbed the same range of routes that have been in over the last week.  Ice is forming fast and the Curtain was coming back quickly, so fingers crossed the warm weather passes quickly.

I have deleted my pics by accident sorry.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Aonach Mor Revisited

John and I went back up to Aonach Mor hoping to get stuck into a trickier mixed climb today.  Unfortunately, the light rime from yesterday had gone and all the buttresses are now black.  Plan B meant we looked at options for accessing climbs when the avalanche risk is high.  We also looked at the routes that are good to work on as John has an assessment the season.

We climbed a thin and interesting Roaring Forties IV'5**, which felt quite nippy and bold.  A few other folks were on the usual gullies and ice lines.  Plenty of folks on the Ben today, but one pair showed interesting judgement and dry tooled Gargoyle Wall Ihave been told.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Aonach Mor Mixed

John and I took the easy walk up to Aonach Mor today with an open mind on what to do.  Thanks to the cloud, the crags were white enough for some mixed climbing.

We started off with Pro Libertate V,6**.  The main feature of this route is a cool corner half way up the crag.  this was climbed on hero hooks with good gear to an easy finish.  Next up John led Sterling Bridge VI,7***.  This seemed to have a lot more good hooks than I remember from 7 years ago.  John managed to snap the first 2 teeth off his darts front point half way up the pitch.  Thankfully he had enough left to keep climbing..  There is now a flake at the top of the corner that is not attached and needs care.  It has an in situ wire in it, and can be avoided easy enough.

Other teams climbed many of the ice routes that were in good condition, Hammerhead Pillar was climbed and Ribbon Groove.

I will add pics to the Facebook page when I can get a proper internet connection.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Dorsal Arete

Dorsal was a great way to finish the week and show Craig the next step up.  Perfect weather, firm snow and no wind made it a pleasure to climb today.  A few other teams followed us up, and others did Forked Gully and NC Gully.  We refreshed some of the skills covered through the week, starting with a bollard to get over a lip and down a gully on the East of the corie.  Once down Craig worked haed digging bucket seats and buried axes as well.

Matt and Emma climbed Cascade on the Ben, whilst other teams climbed the routes mentioned yesterday.  Jonnie and Timmy climbed Tunnel Vision and Right Twin on Aonach Mor.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Ledge Route and a Returned Axe

Craig and I went back up to the Ben today and climbed Ledge Route.  This was in lean, but good condition.  There were many teams out today on Indicator Wall, Smith's, Good Friday Climb, Tower Ridge.

Matt, Emma and John climbed Smith's, but it was very wet.  The ice was great to climb though.  Paddy and clients said that Tower Ridge was in good condition, with lots off helpful snow and ice about.

Looking around there are things to climb.  Tower Scoop, Comb and Green Gully with the variations as well.  Cascade and upper cascade looked climbable, Glover's and White Line looked good.  The Central gullies had ice in them as well.  Point 5 has big holes in it and will take some time to recover.

My axe was amazing[y where I left it on Tuesday, so happy days.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Soggy Ben Nevis

Craig and I walking into the Ben today to cover some snowcraft.  There has been a lot of snow lost to the weather over the last few days, but there is still a reasonable amount in the main gully lines and in the hugh cories.  We started off underneath Carn dearg buttress digging some bucket seats and testing them out.  After a butty, we moved up into No.5 Gully which still has a massive amount of avalanche debris through the bottom.  Here up near the steepening, we then pitched up using bucket seats and buried axes.  We then looked at retreat, using snow bollards, before making are way back down.

A group of folks climbed ledge route and Paddy and his guys climbed Green Gully which he said was pretty good climbing, but the ice was not good enough for screws.

I was too busy chatting and left my axe on the wall of the hut.  If anyone picks this up please let me know and will arrange to pick it up in exchange for a bottle of wine.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Winter Mountaineering

Today was the first day of Craig's winter mountaineering course and the forecast was pretty good.  We walked up into Lochain to cover a range of footwork and axe skills.  The snow was very mixed, so some aspects of kicking steps were not easy to cover.  After a touring around the apron, we settled on the East side to start sliding around.  To finsih our day we took a walk up Forked Gully I and around the top of the corie before dropping back down to the path.

There were teams on Dorsal Arete, NC Gully and Twisting Gully, but thongs were pretty thin.

Matt and Emma climbed Thompson's Route and Comb Gully on the Ben, but there was water running down the ice in places.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Twisting Gully

Yesterday was the final day of Karen and Rhys's intro climbing course and the forecast was pretty reasonable to get another route in.  We made good time on the walk into Stob Corie nan Lochain, but slowed a little as we put the track in to the route.  With the wind coming from the West, I was expecting a good winter experience to end the week.  We were not let down as spindrift piled down the route.  Karen and Rhys were not as entusiastic about as me about getting dumped on, but still enjoyed the day.

The wind had started to dump a lot of snow on those Eastely aspects, and some cornices were building fast and soft.  There were other teams out on Reaburn's Route, Dorsal, and Boomerang.  Another team came up behind us after bailing off SC Gully I think.  The ice that was on the route was not very good, and made the climbing on steeper sections trickier than it should be.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Chilling out

After 2 wet days and a big day yesterday, we opted for an easy day at the Ice Factor.  This was probably the only chance this week we would get to cover ice climbing in detail.  It worked very well and Karen and Rhys seemed to take a lot from the day.  Things should be in nice condition tomorrow for our final day.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

North Buttress

Today was the best of the week no doubt.  Dry, cold with amazing views across Lochaber.  We decided to take advantage of the good weather and climb North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor.  This was in excellent condition today, with some good ice around as well.  The snowpack had firmed up nicely with the drop in temperature overnight, but we still avoided the corie and decended the ridge which was the faster option for our team. 

Matt and Emma climbed Hidden Chimney Direct in Sneachda today and said it was in excellent condition.

My camera had a blip today, so no pics sorry.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Very Very Soggy Eastern Slant

The forecast for today, was another shocker.  Avalanche conditions are still high, as are the winds, so options are limited.  We decided to take a walk up to Far Eastern Buttress which sits nicely below Stob Corie nan Lochain, hopefully keeping us way from trouble.  The driving rain and strong winds was stripping the snow at lower levels as we walked in, with sleet at the foot of the buttress (approx 700m).  Some fresh wind slab had been blow on to a pretty saturated snow pack, with some pockets that needed care to avoid.  Being slightly lower this was not too much of a problem.

We climbed Eastern Slant III,4.  Unfortunately the turf was a mixed bag and buried under a foot of snow.  This said, Karen and Rhys enjoyed the climbing despite the wet and cold.  I watch folks turn back who were attempting to walk into the corie, not long after the stream.  There were also signs that the rain was taking its toll around the whole bowl before you make it into the corie.  With this in mind we abseiled back down our route and avoided any decisions about ways to descend.  It did appear that 2 folks had been up and climbed in the corie and returned, lucky?

No pics sorry, far too wet for my camera.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Intro to Winter Climbing

I made my drive North yesterday, starting my season of work with a week long Intro climbing course for Adventure Peaks.  The signs on the way up said that the road was closed from Tyndrum, which I had half expected with the forecast.  Thankfully, it was open again when I got there at 16:00.  That said, it was sticking fast on the higher sections over Rannoch Moor.

The weather forecast for today was awful.  Hurricane force winds, snow, rain and a freezing level all over the place.  Despite this, we found shelter on Gearr Aonach.  Although Karen and Rhys both go to the climbing wall, neither had climbed outside before.  They have a broad experience trekking abroad in the Alps and Himalaya, so their use of crampons was pretty good.  So we started simple today and we will build up as the week progresses.

Karen enjoying the climbing

We walked up to the Zigzags and covered the basics as we climbed the short grade I start in a couple of pitches.  There was a good covering of snow which made it all good fun.  After abseiling back down, we traversed around to Zigzags Direct III.  This gave us another couple of pitches, as well as Karen and Rhys the chance to really put into practice the skills we had been covering.  It was a big step up, but seem to really enjoy the climbing.

As we abseiled back down the Zigzags, it was a mushy mess by know (another team had also been up after us).  That said, the temp had dropped again and it was snowing at around 400m.  We made our way back to the car, satisfied that we had avoided the worst of the weather.