Friday, 25 May 2012

25th May 2012 - Ledge Route and the CMD

Castle Ridge and the Castle

Looking up Number 5 Gully

Tower Ridge and North East Buttress in the distance

The CMD Arete with Carn Mor Dearg in the distance

Coire Leis and North East Buttress opening to the North Face

Panoramic view of the North Face in all its glory

A close up of Number 5 Gully, with Ledge Route clearly visible on the right

Leaving the north Face, a cloudless sky
Given the weather we have had recently, I was itching to get out and soak up some of the rays. Unfortunately last night on our way to Poll Dubh for a quick hit on the rock, we managed to get a puncture and so today I couldn't really travel far. Solution? A jaunt up Ledge Route and round and down the CMD. Parking at the North Face car park at Torlundy, I travelled light and fast, feeling the early morning sun begin to bite. Once I got up to the upper car park, and was out of the woodland shade, The heat really began to crank up, but I was revelling in it having been stuck in an office all week! I quickly made my way up to the CIC hut, and didn't even bother to stop for a breather before trooping up towards the bottle neck of Number 5 Gully. There was still a fair amount of snow spouting out of the gully, and I was a little apprehensive about travelling up it without an axe. I also had not been up Ledge Route since coming down it with Al Halewood back in August, so hoped the route finding would not be difficult.

Making my way up into Number 5, I was aware of some partially melted avalanche debris, and took a few minutes to look at the snow and make sure I was happy travelling up it. Given that a few days ago there was a lot of fresh avalanche debris witnessed during a rescue in Point 5 Gully, I didn't want to take any chances. Happy that I was not travelling very far into the gully, and that the pack was solid enough, I moved quickly up and across right to the foot of the starting slab of Ledge Route. I made my way up easily, enjoying the warm rock and the beating sun. The views began to open out as I got higher, giving superb views up to Tower Ridge and into the Douglas Gap, and out and over to the CMD. I eventually came to the highlight of the route, the Ledge, and took a moment to get some photos and grab a drink. Moving on, I soon found myself plodding onto the summit plateaux, perhaps a km from the summit itself.

I made my way up to the summit, somewhat surprised at how few people were actually up there given the droves I had seen heading up in recent days. The snow is still a few feet deep on the summit, wet and slippy, and I was glad that as I moved down towards the CMD arete the snow line came to an abrupt end. The arete was in glorious condition, with only a little cross wind cooling me down but not risking my balance. Again I opted to ignore the well worn path on the ridge, and stuck to the craggy rock line. The haul back up at the other end to Carn Mor Dearg was very hot, very sweaty and seemed to take ages. In reality it was very quick, and I was soon on my way down to join the North Face path and back towards the car park and the end of my day. All in all it took 5 hours 15 minutes which I think is a pretty respectable time.

I had a great day out on the hills again, hoping that this weather prevails over the weekend for the MRC of S Level 1 Rigging Course!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

20th May 2012 - Ben Starav

Looking north towards Buichaille Etive Mor and its smaller relative, Beag

Anna surrounded by some of Scotland's most stunning scenery

Anna leading on to the summit of Ben Starav


From the summit of Ben Starav towards Trilleachan and its infamous Slabs

From the summit of Ben Starav looking north east

This view epitomises what hillwalking is all about. Loch Etive in all its majesty

The clowds cast impressive shadows over a trully impressive vista

A Sea King Rescue helicopter returning from a call-out

A striking band of Quartzite in the north ridge of Ben Starav

The stunning ridge of Buichaille Etive Mor. Stob Dearg to the right

A zoomed in view of the south flank of Ben Nevis. Little Brenva Face, North East Buttress and the CMD clearly visible

A lovely example of a traditional Scots Pine nestled deep in the glen
Last weekend Anna and I headed down to Glen Etive to have a wander up Ben Starav. It has been on my radar for quite some time, but one thing after another has prevented me getting down there. Yet again our plans were foiled by the combination of a very late start and the appearance of a horrible weather front. Neither of us fancied getting up only to enjoy no view, get soaking wet and risk the high winds that were forecast...so we waited until today to pop down and give it a blast, and boy did we get it right!

There was only the gentlest of breezes, very few clouds in the sky and lovely hot sunshine throughout the day. Heading up from Coileitir we made good progress up the north east ridge after crossing the Allt Mheuran, overtaking several other parties befors stopping for some lunch and a good drink just shy of where the ridge levels off prior to the final summit ridge. The views across Loch Etive towards the Etive Slabs and down towards Taynuilt were absolutely stunning. Anyone who wonders what the appeal of hillwalking is should take one walk up Ben Starav on a good day and they would understand.

The final summit ridge is a good scrambly section, not difficult or exposed but you will need to get your hands involved and it is far better than a grassy slog! On the summit we had a long break sitting in the sun soaking up the spectacular views and tranquility. We had a long chat with a group of lads who caught us up while we were relaxing. They have recently got into hillwalking and are knocking off all the Munros, so good luck to them! We moved on towards Bhienn Mhor, taking the direct line over the rocky ridge towards Meall nan Tri Tighearnan rather then taking the easier path to its side. Then we beasted up the grassy slopes to the summit of Bhienn Mor, and off its other side to the bealach at Sron nan Cabar before rattling down Allt Mheuran through some stunning Scots Pine (the Glen having once been densely covered in forest before industry took over and as much as 2 acres a day were being felled to fuel the Bonawe Furnace!). Back to the car in 7 hours which given the hour we had on the summit is not too bad at all. Ben Starav now ranks in my Top 5 mountains in Scotland (that I have done) and I would highly recommend it to anyone in the area as the views are just breathtaking, and even though parking can be a bit of an issue, we only passed about 8 people on the entire day!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

19th May 2012 - Helicopter Training with LMRT

So today there was some last minute mountain rescue training in the Coastguard S92 helicopter. I have never been in a helicopter before so was pretty excited to say the least. The purpose of the training was to familiarise ourselves with the crew, the helicopter itself, emergency procedures and what to do when being winched up and down in various conditions and locations.

After a reasonably long wait for the chopper to meet us in Glen Nevis, we got sorted out into groups and started looking at hazards inside and outside the helicopter, how to board and alight, and the features of this specific model of aircraft. Then it was time to get winched up and practice everything we had been taught before going off for a flight around the Ben, visiting various locations. Malcolm, Henry and I got dropped off at Carn Dearg, while the chopper went to fetch team two. On its return, it picked us up for another whirl around the mountain before dropping us safely back at our starting point.

It was a terrific day and really demonstrated the capabilities of the S92, as well as the important part it plays in mountain and coastal rescues. I can't wait for another training session....