Thursday, 31 January 2013


After a frustrating start to the week, winter has returned.  As I am working in the East at the weekend, it made sense to head over and get in a couple of days for myself.
Over the roof, and the crux ahead

Tamsin on a slightly un-orientated photo of the Message

Lander Sending Large and through the crux
 Matt is keen to improve his experience of harder mixed routes, so we opted for the final route on the Mess of Pottage I had not climbed, Mariella VI(VII?),7*.  With the guide suggesting this could be slightly under graded, I was keen to see what it had to offer.  It was clear from the start that gear was not going to be great today, with a good layer of black ice lining the cracks.  Undeterred, I pushed on to the roof which gave good sustained with very little reliable protection.  Thankfully my commitment was rewarded with a bomber hex at the roof.  Move quality climbing around the roof, led to a thin and very committing crux on the wall above.  This then led to easier runout ground to the belay.  The rest of the route was pretty steady and we made it back to Aviemore for a late lunch and coffee.

Other teams climbed the Slant, The Message, Hidden Chimney, and the the Direct Start, Original Summer route and the Seam.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Clachaig Winter Safety Lectures 2013

These are a free series of lectures that are worth a look.

Baltic Bolt Clipping

Desperate times call for desperate measure!  After driving up to Glen Coe this morning to see black buttresses, we opted to go sports climbing, just so I didn't have spend another day sitting on my backside.  The short crag near Loch Eilt has an ok range of routes on it, and we managed 4 before we had had enough of the temperature. The best of which for me was Sneaker Freaks 7b/+ which a dropped slipping off a wet crimp, but got next go.
Sneaker Freaks 7b/+

Monday, 28 January 2013

A Bit Grim Up There!!

After a frustrating weekend of work being cancelled and climbing partners bailing, the weather has now turned completely.  It was a much warmer day up high than forecast at first, which saw a lot of snow stripped, especially at lower levels.  The temp came back down a bit in the afternoon and a bit more snow fell across the summits.

Although routes were climbed in the gorms yesterday, reports from friends said that things were not looking that great when they left.  They had planned to stay East today, but bailed back home instead.

The stormy weather is here for a few days at least, with some colder weather forecast from mid week into the weekend.  So if I can survive a couple more days of boredom, I may get some routes in before my manic period starts.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Winter Bimble

West Face of Aonach Beag

I was meant to be working today, but a mix up and a phone call left it to late to find someone to climb with.  After a very leisurely start to the day, I decided to stretch my legs and up into Steall Meadow to see if any ice was hanging in.  It would be fair to say that a low level turbo thaw is in full effect.

Instead of doing nothing, I picked a way up and over Meall Cumhann knowing that there are lots of interesting mixed steps around grade 3 to potter up.  Some of these are as high as 20m, so you get a good bit of climbing done en route to the summit.  The weather was pretty good and I could see ice on the West face of Aonach Beag.  A good sign that things should be improving in this coming freeze thaw period.  i dropped down the steep West side via a speed bum slide in a grade I gully, which meant I was car to car in about 3 hours.  All turf around 500m was still frozen, but the snow was damp and sticky.  I would imagine that some care is needed higher up.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Da Ladies Send Large on Crest Route!

A nice and white Crest Route
With the family now back down the road till mid feb, it was time to get back out in the cold.  I walked up into SCNL with Freda and Lena this morning with the aim of pushing them on a tricky mixed route. Crest Route V,6*** is pretty high in the grade, and was looking in very good shape.  The crag is well rimed, which makes climbing a little slower, but the cracks were pretty friendly on our route.

Picking a way up Pitch 2
Lena lovin' the mixed
 After romping up the 1st easy pitch, it was into 2 very good pitches of sustained climbing.  Positive all the way, but awkward at times.  Both Freda and Lena brushed pitch 2 aside with little trouble, and seemed to be doing the same with the third until the crux.   This crux at the top of the 3rd pitch is the only spot that needed some cunning.  Clever torquing allowing access to the groove and bomber hooks above.  This did slow the ladies downs, but not for too long.  Freda edging her way up, while Lena wanted lowering back down to do the whole section cleanly, which see did very well.  A quick romp to the top and down the ridge to see are hoovered line up the crag.
Hoovering up the route
Freda focused as she approaches the crux

Happy at the top!
Other teams climbed Scabbard Chimney, Chimney Route, Tilt and Central Grooves.  There was also plenty of ice around on the walk in, which is good for a play on.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Daddy Daycare Route Checking

I am taking a week with the family this week, before things get super busy.  With the cold weather set to be around for a little while, I was curious to see if Steall Falls had started to freeze.  This would give a good indication as to how ather lower level ice routes would be shaping up.
Steall Falls
Steall has started to freeze, but the main flow through the middle is still dominant.  If the cold continues for another week, we should really see a transformation.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


Donald enjoying great conditions and climbing

Yesterday Matt and Donald took a deep walk up to Lost Valley Buttress and climbed Neanderthal VII,7***.  Matt said that is was an outstanding route and in great condition.  The lack of moisture has meant the first pitch is more challenging than normal, as it had a few loose blocks that needed care. Another fine effort by them both.  Donald had also climbed Agag's Groove VII,6*** the day before.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Scrabble Second Ascent?

Today Matt, Blair and I went back up to SCNL to try and get what we think could be the second ascent of a route called Scrabble VIII,7**.  This was first climbed in 2000 by Twid Turner and has soon very committing and technical climbing.

Picking my way up pitch 1

I was on for the first and crux pitch which was a pretty serious outing.  The climbing was excellent, but took a lot of time to pic my way up.  Very insecure moves a long way above protection made for a quite an intense lead.  Blair put in a steady performance to lead pitch 2 which was another tricky pitch around VII,7.  The third pitch was an excellent VI,6, which Matt made very short work of.  A final rope length saw us at the top and down at the bags without the need of head torches, Just!

Blair engrossed in the crux

Blair super steady on pitch 2
Matt enjoying the final tricky pitch

Monday, 14 January 2013


SCNL this morning
Matt and I headed into SCNL this morning to do our first route of the season.  I have climbed a couple of snowy/icy things with work, but have not managed a day out personal climbing yet.  We were not sure how the turf would be, so opted for a good, but not too difficult route.  Tilt VI,7*** was the perfect option to get the mixed brain working.  The first pitch was not too plastered, but after that we were digging our way up the  route.  Thankfully the snow is very powdery, so was reasonably easy to clear.  The climbing was excellent throughout, sustained for the first two pitches, after which it eased a little.  Well worth doing.

Matt leading pitch 1

Chimney action at the top of pitch 1
Tricky roof on pitch 2

Pretty wild

More digging on Pitch 3
There is a lot of fresh snow come down, and we saw a good size powder avalanche come out of Twisting Gully.  A lot of soft cornice was forming quickly, so a bit of care is needed.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Conditions Update

West Coast

Matt was in the Lost Valley today and commented that the snow was very firm, but the old snow had reduced.  The new snow is not significant in quantity at the moment, which is good as the turf is not frozen.

John took a trip on to the Ben hoping that things had come in much better the Thursday, but was disappointed to see the buttresses had still not managed to improve.  They made the most of their day taking in Green Gully and another easy gully.  The ridges are looking far more wintery, and there are routes being climbed.  Good Friday Climb III,Glover's Chimney III,4, Thompson's Route IV,4, Gargoyle Wall/Babylon VI/VII and the easy gullies, along with the ridges have all been climbed.

There is a fresh dump of snow expected Sunday, which might improve things as long as the turf firms up.  I noticed on Thursday that the cracks were icy low on the route, but drier high up where it had not been as wet.


The Gorms has seen a flurry of ascents of the easy gullies again, and the old snow is bullet hard.  The is a good layer of verglass about, so care will be needed with gear.  In Lochain the usual cove up by Y Gully is offering the best conditions. Savage Slit, Overseer Direct, Hoarmaster and Head Hunter all being climbed.  Some of the easier Lochain offering have been climbed as well.  Milky Way, Ventilator and Ewan Buttress.

In Sneachda the gullies have been busy and Fiaciall has given a little to to do as well. Invernookie being the obvious option tooked deep in the corner.

Hopefully the snow will help things along, and I might actual get my first route of the year in.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Aonach Mor Sillks

Today was the final day of Karen and Rhys's climbing course, but instead of climbing, we opted for skills.  We went around to the bottom of the Nid Ridge and had a focused session on footwork, stopping and sliding.  The aim was to refresh old things and add in some new so they can make the most out of their days out themselves.  A short session on bucket seats and bollards brought things to a good close, before we cruised down to wrap up the week.
Digging holes!
This has been a great week, with some good climbing despite the weather and conditions, a I'm looking forward to another next year.  Thanks folks.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Green Gully

Today things were much better up on the Ben.  The rime had started to build as the temperature has come down.  The snow underfoot hard to walk on and no longer breaking through each step. The best news was the there some routes to climb.

Derby Uni crunching up No.4
Karen reaching easy ground on pitch 1

Rhys, Karen and I climbed Green Gully IV,4***.  We did the first pitch as an icy mixed pitch, which is bold and not really in keeping with the grade, so beware if you jump on it.  There is a good ice pitch at the start of No.3 Gully Buttress and enother snow to traverse in from the right to join Green Gully at the first belay.  The rest of the route was a romp on good snow and snow ice, but the protection as always was best in the side walls.  The final tricky pitch had ice that was good enough for a screw, but none of the other ice was.

Perfect day in Green Gully
The last steep step

A stunning day
Comb Gully IV,4*** has also been climbed, with the same ice conditions as we had today.  The fella I spoke to said it was thin around the crux, but ok.  You will have to go and see for yourself how accurate this is.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

No.2 Gully And We Even Climbed Some Ice, Honest!

Morning dusting

Rhys, Karen and I made the long walk up the Ben to climb No.2 Gully and see what else is about.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a fresh dusting on NE Buttress down to the start of Slingsby's Chimney.  Tower Ridge had a similar dusting, but it was still quite warm.  The snow quality had massively improved from recent days, and was generally firm, getting even better with height.  I was very surprised with the amount of ice that was still hanging around.  The start of Comb Gully Buttress had enough Ice to climb the first pitch (but how attached I would not like to say), cloud made it impossible to see what was higher up.  The looked to be ice on Raeburn's Easy Route, but not as thick as most would like.  All signs point to a promising return with the colder weather.

Busy in No.2
We romped up No.2, but made a detour out of the Narrows when I saw how much ice was on the left wall. Having not taken any ice screws (ERROR!) it might have limited what we could do.  However, some of the ice was not good enough for screws higher up, so it didn't really matter.  We climbed a great 20m pitch of grade IVish to a good belay, then another short ice step before running on to the top.  It was a great way to end the gully and put some of the skills covered yesterday into practice.

Exiting our ice variation
The temperature at the top was just about freezing with our jackets trying to whiten and the top 50-100m trying to rime.  None of the turf I encountered was frozen though.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Ice Climbing Coaching

When discussing aims for the week on Sunday, Rhys and Karen had said that they wanted to visit the Ice Factor.  As Today had the worst forecast, and the rest of the week has the potential to improve and offer more climbing options, today it was.
Rhys working hard

We had a productive session with both Karen and Rhys working hard and improving there footwork, use of their axe and shifting their centre of balance to make the most out of their legs.  Fingers crossed we can put some of these skills into practice on some good routes over the rest of the week.

Monday, 7 January 2013

The Mighty Runnel

Looking up from half way

Today was the start of Karen and Rhys's 5 day climbing course.  With temperature still tropical, things are limited until the things cool down mid week.  I had it on good authority that there were a few gully options over East, so we ventured that way today.  An extremely quiet corie, meant we had the Runnel to ourselves. the snow was much better than I have been experiencing on the West, and there was even some pleasant ice about.  The chimney section at the top has patchy ice and nice mixed, but the exit is now a little loose and requires a lot of care.  It will firm up again when the temperature comes down, but is probably now, best avoided till it fills in again.

Wet but still having fun!!

We made the most of being alone to do loads of pitches and refresh things from last year.  There is no excuses now for when the conditions improve.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Mountaineering in the Lochain

A team in Boomerang
I was pulled out of bed last minute like a super sub to fill in after a family emergency this morning.  It was the first day of James, Sioban, Charlotte and Gavin's winter mountaineering course with Alpine Guides, so with the late start we headed for SCNL.  After chatting on the enjoyable walk in, we opted for a skills refresher, before taking in some grade I ground.

Exiting Pinnicle Gully

We worked in the West side of the corie and looked at snow belays, as well as refreshing our footwork.  There is still some reasonable snow in the gullies in this area, so we headed up Pinnacle Gully I which gave a pleasant way out of the corie.  Once on the ridge, the guys did a bit of nav to get us back down and out as the rain came in strong.
Happy at the top

It was a good constructive day, with things to build on tomorrow with Matt.

Friday, 4 January 2013

West Coast Hanging In There

After my drive North yesterday, I thought I should go out and see the damage done by the recent thaw.  As we walked up into Stob Corie Nan Lochain, it was cooler than I expected, but still warm.  Although a lot of snow has gone, what's left in the corie should should see out the thaw and firm up well when the temp comes down again next week.  There are some firm patches around, suggesting the temp has been low in the night as well.
A misty trudge up Forked Gully

Sean enjoying the last few metres, with Dorsal in the background

After mooching over to Aonach Dubh, we came back into the corie and traversed the unpleasant crusty snow to climb Forked Gully I.  This was broken at the fork, but passable with little trouble.  There was a team braving Dorsal Arete, but progress looked very slow which could have been down to poor/loose conditions.  We walked back around the corie rim and dropped back in to descend down the main path.  It was dry other than the moisture in the cloud, but we were sheltered in the corie.

With the warm weather set to last into the start of next week, climbing options are limited.  I know that folks have been heading east to take advantage of the drier weather and easy gullies which have held out quite well.