Thursday, 22 August 2013

22nd August 2013 - Ledge route with outward bound

Had a cracking wee day today on ledge route with Martin and his group from outward bound. They are camping for two nights but I was only dropping in to support on the route. Peeled off back round from the top and down the screes by castle ridge. Glorious day!!

Monday, 5 August 2013

5th August 2013 - A huge catch up!

Things have been extremely busy here at Craig Dubh Mountaineering, which has prevented me really having any time to keep this blog up to date. In this post I will try to bring things bang up to the present, and will try harder to post things as they happen!

On the 27th June I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides, guiding a team from Travelodge up Ben Nevis with the intention of building a replica bedroom on the summit. There were 4 teams in all, Led by myself, Dave Anderson of Lochaber Guides, Will Rowland of Atlas Mountaineering and John O'Sullivan. It was a bit of a windy day, and on top it got cold very quickly. My team was up first so we had to wait a while for the others to arrive so that we could get the room built as quickly as possible. In the end the guys pulled it off, and raised a good amount of money for Macmillan Cancer Care, as well as performing a nifty bit of PR for themselves - well done team!

On the 28th June I was up to Aviemore for an induction day with Wilderness Scotland, who I hope to do some work for in the future. This was a great day for finding out more about the company and its aims for the future.

The 1st and 2nd of July saw me working at Outward Bound, doing a few gorge sesions, paddle sessions and a tree session known as Baby G. Both days were great fun as always.

The next few days were spent working on my marketing materials, namely my flyers and car art work which was getting done by Allround Signs of Fort William - highly recommended, they did a fantastic job! Now you might see my car dotted around the Fort, or further a field! Only down side is I have to now watch how I drive!!!

Look out for this vehicle!!!

The 6th of July heralded in a very special day, the wedding of Graham Boistelle and Anne McVey. It was a great wedding, great food and excellent company. I consumed rather more than I intended, and as Anna and I were driving down to the Lake District the next morning, this meant that Anna was doing all the driving :)

We spent a week in the Lakes, the first two days with Anna's family who were staying in the area. As the weather was scorching, we were only interested in finding good rivers to swim in and good pubs to drink in! Anna's brother Will, and I, went for an explore up a river near Langdale which ended up being a terrific little gorge walk, which culminated in a great little pool deep enough to jump into and swim about. This was really refreshing and great fun which everyone got involved in.

Once Annas family had headed for home, we went to Great Langdale and camped up for the rest of the week. We spent our time enjoying the sunshine, and had a great day on Jacks Rake with our old friend Pete and his girlfriend Olivia. It was great to catch up with Pete, who we sadly dont see very often! We had a lovely meal at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel before Pete and Olivia headed for home. Anna and I headd for Shepherds crag in Borrowdale the next day, and both led a few good routes before heading back to the campsite for a slap up BBQ!! It was far too busy at Raven crag, and far too hot at Scout crag the next day so we satisfied ourselves with a swim in the river instead, only being interupted by a school group doing a gorge walk!!

Anna admiring the view over to the Langdales
Disappointed with the portions at the Britannia!

A glorious summer sunset

The sun setting over the Langdales

A scene from the Walking Dead??

 Once we were home in Fort William it was straight back to the grind for us both, with a few days guiding on the Ben, and even around Cow Hill for me, followed by the Nevis River Race which I helped supervise with the Rescue Team. Luckily, no casualties - mostly due to the complete lack of water I'd imagine!! On the 22nd and 23rd July I was at Glenmore Lodge on my TCL Training, which was brilliant fun and very informative. Met some great guys there who I hope to get out biking with in the near future!

Not so much water for the race this year...

Anna Enjoying the warm sand on Morar Sands
 A few more days of building up my marketing and online presence was then followed by a 7 day Coast to Coast expedition for Wilderness Scotland. I was in the role of Support Driver for this trip, so had to travel ahead of the group, sort out meals and ensure accomodation was all sorted out before arrival. It was great experience but I would definately prefer to be guiding this trip in future - all the more reason to pursue the Mountain Bike Leader Award!!! The route goes from Aberdeen in the East to the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse in the West. Weatherwise we were very fortunate with only one day of consistent heavy rain and one day of showers. All 8 clients did extremely well and seemed to really enjoy the experience of biking in the wilds, and dining on some of Scotlands finest cuisine! I must have put on 2 stone last week!! Its a hard life, this guiding malark!!!

The end of the Coast to Coast - Ardnamurchan Lighthouse
A rainbow over Ardgour
A pleasant lunch spot near Loch Sheil
The finish - Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

No rest for the wicked, as they say...I got home on Friday afternoon, and was straight onto the wettest day I have experienced on the Ben yet, guiding a group of 12 ladies alongside Dave Anderson. I turned back at Corner 8 with 4 of the ladies, as they were struggling and/or getting very close to being hyperthermic! Dave cracked on with the other 8, and made a successful lightening attempt on the summit. The wind on the the Zig-zags and alongside the Half way Lochan was knocking people flat, so the girls did really well to persevere and get up and down safely - a hot shower and a few beers very well earned on their part as well as ours!!

Saturday night saw our friends Amanda and Dave come round to ours for dinner and a few farewell beers for Amanda, who is sadly moving to Glasgow tomorrow.

Yesterday saw me on the Ben again, this time with Andrew and Irene who had come up from Cardiff for the week and wanted to summit Ben Nevis. The weather stayed remarkably dry (I instantly regretted wearing my waterproofs all day) and the wind buffetted us from time to time but never caused us any great concern. We were up and back down in a good time of 7 hours, although I am sure a few muscles will ache tomorrow! Well done guys for sticking at it and not giving up, just a pity the cloud never cleared to give a view from the summit - next time though!!! Both days I was working for Seren Ventures.

The Ladies trooping up the first slopes

The Ladies team at the Red Burn - Half way!!

The cloud lifting above Glen Nevis

Andrew and Irene successfully on the summit of the Ben

And that brings us bang up to date today. I am sure I have missed some things out, but will endeavor to keep a more accurate account of what I am doing, and keep it current!!!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

20th June 2013 - Ben Lawers to finish the 'Big 10'

Low cloud on the walk in

Mark wraps up before the final steep ascent

Graham  looking rather thoughful as that cold wind makes itself felt!

Ben Ghlas (L) & Meall Correnaich (R) from near the summit of Ben Lawers

The guys successfully on the summit of Ben Lawers

Cloud free on our way back down!
Today I met my two clients, Mark and his son-in-law Graham, at 08:30 before we headed down to Loch Tay in order to tick off Ben Lawers. The guys have come up from Dorset to raise money for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Poole Hospital for personal reasons, and are so far looking at donating a whopping £10,000 which is a phenomenal effort. Their target this week was to nail the ten highest peaks in Scotland, starting with Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis, then conquering Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag, Ben MacDui, Cairngorm, Cairn Toul, Braeriach, Sgur an Loachain Uaine and finally, today, Ben Lawers.

After a long drive down, we got to the new visitor car park at about half past 11, and set off under grey skies towards our target. Ben Lawers was my first Munro many years ago, and so it holds a very special place in my heart. I have done it countless times since, and will never tire of it. I also did some Winter ML training here with Climb MTS under Stu Johnston. I have neglected to visit for some time and was surprised to find the visitor centre no longer standing! The lads set a good pace, and we were soon covering ground quite quickly. I guess with the end in sight, and their families awaiting them back in Helensburgh, they wanted to get this final peak over and done with quickly. As neither of them had done any hillwalking prior to this trip, I wondered how they would cope on this fifth day, but they did tremendously well, only stopping on occasion to admire the scenery and listen to me babbling on about plants and history (apologies guys, think of it as a sure fire insomnia-killer!!).

Before we knew it we were heading up the final steep section, with Mark doggedly determined and making good progress up in front until we topped out, relieved and justifiably full of pride and relief at having reached their target! After a spot of lunch and a few photos, we packed up and headed back down again, enjoying the chat and good craic as we went. The hill was quite busy today, and we were fortunate enough to have a fairly cloud free summit, unlike others who went before us.

Back down at the cars we said our farewells before departing. Hopefully the guys raise all the money they hope for - they have certainly earned it, taking the hillwalking charity challenge one step further and making a real full on challenge of it - so well done both Mark and Graham and all the best with everything in the future guys, thanks for your company today!!

Today I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides.

Day off tomorrow and off for a fun filled Stag doo this weekend - can't wait!!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

18th June 2013 - CMD Arete in the mist

John and Angie enjoy a quick break on the initial ascent

Who said anything about summer?? Cold and very misty on the Arete

A rare glimpse of the route ahead through the clouds

John and Angie making light work of the ridge

Angie and John celebrate on the summit of Ben Nevis

On the way back down, away from the madding crowd of the Tourist Track
Today I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides, taking John and Angie along the CMD Arete. John had come up from the Lakes to fulfill a long held dream of summiting the Ben via this tremendous route, and Angie has come all the way from Singapore to visit family in Ireland and take in some of the sights of Scotland - including a tremendous coast to coast bike ride, summiting Ben Nevis and then travelling to Skye for a few days - I hope it doesn't rain!!!

We managed to get up to the upper car park before the harvesting begins, which took away a fair amount of early morning slog, and after a brief kit check and safety chat we were soon on our way along the Allt a' Mhuillin track, warming up our muscles before the onslaught up Carn Mor Dearg began! Both John and Angie were bursting with enthusiasm and super keen to get up on the arete, so we made excellent progress up the slopes, stopping now and again to look at some flowers and plants, and sighting a ptarmigan on the way. Hopefully I was able to answer all of their questions through the day!!

Unfortunately the cloud was not interested in playing ball, and obscured much of the North Face for most of the day, but the little glimpses we did gain were still spectacular, and allowed us to talk about the formation of the landscape and the ongoing changes which are subtly taking place.

Finally we were submersed in cloud, and the wind began to pick up, although not enough to deter us from what we were doing. We got to the top of Carn Mor Dearg in good time, and had a brief break and a wee chat about the arete and the options that we had should either of them get a bit spooked with the wind at any point. Once we were all happy we descended onto the arete itself, and quite literally, the wind died. This meant that we could get right on top of the arete and really challenge ourselves, avoiding the little track on the side and giving John and Angie a real sense of the adventure. They took everything the ridge threw at them in their stride and really seemed to enjoy the challenge, especially when the cloud swooped up and cleared for brief moments, allowing them to take some hasty photos either side.

We finally came to the narrow 'table top', where the wind began to pick up again, but both of them opted to go for it and did really well on this very exposed little section. From here, it was an easy climb to the finishing cairn - time for a brief rest before we endured the final slog onto the summit plateaux.

I made a point here of marching ahead of the guys in order to keep them moving on this final stretch, as it is so easy to stop too often and lose momentum, and I think they appreciated this given how quickly they reached the top. They had both researched the route thoroughly and were both a bit apprehensive about what they had rear with regards to this climb, so were relieved to find it over and done with in no time at all! And there we were, abruptly, on the summit of Great Britain with some other summiteers; proud in the knowledge that we had taken the hard route up and had over come the fears and doubts in order to succeed. For John this was a great achievement, at 70 years young he is still going strong and hopefully this helps him to realise he can still keep up with the best of them! And for Angie, coming from a country with a high point of about 164 metres, this again is a great accolade - especially after a week of biking across the country! So well done to both of you, I hope your pint (or two) went down smoothly because you both deserved it!

The walk back down, as always, is long and never ending seemingly, but we had a lot of great chat and craic which made it much more enjoyable. We were all glad to reach the car in an excellent time of 9 hours! Looking forward to getting out on the hill again on Thursday, this time down on Ben Lawers by Loch Tay!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

16th June 2013 - A wee jaunt over the Aonach Eagagh

Panorama of Glen Coe from the Aonach Eagagh

Anna, Rachel and Alex on the ascent of Am Bodach

Anna and Rachel on the ridge

Cloud licks the summits of Stob Coire Nan Lochan and Bidean nam Bian

Anna tackles the pinnacles

Looking back along the ridge on our descent
This weekend Anna's sister Rachel and her boyfriend Alex were stopping by on their way up to Torridon, and they were keen to get out on the hill with us. As I was working at Outward Bound on Saturday, we were left with Sunday and the hope of good weather. They have both had their eye on the Aonach Eagagh ridge in Glen Coe for quite some time, and by Saturday the forecast looked quite reasonable (dry and wind-free) and so we made this our objective.

With the luxury of having two cars we left one at either end, saving us a long walk or hitch hike at the end of the day. Starting from the eastern end of the ridge, we plodded up the never ending flank of Am Bodach, and were blessed with some terrific views and photo opportunities on the way up. As we reached the summit, however, it was evident that the cloud was not intending to play ball as it lingered motionless upon the ridge ahead. Undetered, we made our way to the first of the difficulties and stuck on harnesses. As this was both Alex and Rachels first time on such terrain I wasn't taking any chances, and felt much happier knowing that if they got spooked or into difficulty I could make them safe quickly and easily.

Anna led off downclimbing from Am Bodach onto The Chancellor, followed by Alex. I then came down talking Rachel through the motions and giving her a bit of confidence on what is exposed and consequential terrain, especially for those who are not used to it. After this we plodded on, overcoming the tricky sections quite easily, and being treated with views northwards (but not south!!). There are a few tricky steps along the way until you come to the real highlight - the Pinnacles. This short, exposed section is the only part I thought I would maybe need to get the rope out, but once Anna had shown the way, Rachel and I moved along the Pinnacles side by side and she did absolutely fine negotiating them, only having a bit of a wobble when she laid her hand on a very loose peice of rock!! Alex then followed on, and Anna got some terrific shots of us crossing over.

By this time, of course, the cloud cover had changed, now sporting terrific views southwards and blocking all such views northwards, which was a pleasant change for us as we pushed on and completed the final 'hands on' sections of the ridge before the slow plod up to the summit of Stob Coire Leith, and finally Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh, the second of todays Munros. From here we made a bee-line straight down the scree slopes in order to bolster Rachels confidence on such terrain before they head north to tackle some of the Torridon mountains (Liathach being an obvious objective with a particularly knarly scree descent). Again, this little jaunt helped her to overcome her fear of loose rock, but as is always the way, once we had left the scree and were following a fairly pleasant little track she went cart wheeling down the hill and recieved a bash on the nose for her efforts! Luckily she was only a bit shaken (as was Anna who was no doubt aghast at seeing her sister fly past her upside down and back to front - a rather novel way of descending and not one I think she will want to repeat!!)

Finally we were down by the road, relieved to let our legs relax after the steep downhill slog. We had a great day - Rachel and Alex ticked off a long held ambition, we had great views throughout the day, and just enough cloud to make it look very dramatic, it didn't rain and we never once had to even think of getting the rope out - a massive confidence booster for the guys. There was only one thing left to do - head to the Clachaig Inn for a nosh up fit for Kings, washed down with some fine Fraoch Ale! Thanks guys for a great day!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

10th & 11th June 2013 - ICE Project with Stramash

Some arable farm land on Kerrera

Looking northwards towards Oban

Westwards looks rather flat!

From the summit of Carn Breugach (189 metres) - home of the Fuel Crystal!
On Monday and Tuesday I was working for Stramash on their ICE project, which is designed to get students outdoors, learning about the environment and instilling an appreciation for the great outdoors.

On Monday we were working with Primary 4 students on the Island of Kerrera. After getting the ferry over, we made our way through a few farms before heading off road towards the highest point on the Island. The kids were tying this trip in with a project of their own, and this mission to the top of the Misty Mountain was to try and discover the ancient 'Fuel Crystal' which so many had tried and failed to discover!

It was great working with such youngsters, to whom every rock and fence post is an adventure and has a deep hidden secret to tell. They discovered slate rocks with secret messages and morbid clues to the location of the crystal, as well as a few 'headstones' for pirates such as Billy Bones and Long John Silver who had evidently perished on their quest for the crystal! We learned how to make arrows from rushes, and how to move quietly through the heather.

Typically, I had to run on ahead sneakily to place the crystal at the summit cairn, and the skirt round to come up from behind the group without them noticing! We finally reached the summit, and the kids went fervently in search of the crystal, discovering it to their delight with a scrambled message which they finally deciphered as 'AMAZING' which all tied in to their school project and their achievement today.

They all had an absolute blast of a time and it was really refreshing working with such fertile minds again! In the evening I was out in Oban with my friend Chris who is working at Sea Kayak Oban so it was great to catch up on old times!

On Tuesday it was over to Kerrera again this time with some 4th Year students from Oban High School. This time I stood back and let Dougie, one of the Stramash Trainees, take control of the group and lead the day, just inputting some information now and again. We headed south from the ferry, making our way over track and moor to Gylen Castle, which was once a fine 15th century stronghold perched precariously on top of some fascinating rock formations. We explored the coastline, set a few challenges and had a look in a cave which may have been a store house for the castles inhabitants. On our way back to the ferry we had a stone skimming competition and had a look at tree identification. Well done to Dougie who did well steering the days session and kept the kids engaged throughout.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

8th-9th June 2013 - Camping by Loch Duich and the Five Sisters of Kintail

Anna by Loch Duich as the sun sets

Our wee BBQ warming up

Anna enjoys a beer by the camp fire. Eileen Donan Castle illuminated in the distance

Our camp spot in the morning
A panorama of Loch Duich with the Five Sisters to the right

Anna heading towards Sgurr nan Spainteach (Peak of the Spaniards)

Anna descending the scambling section

Courtesy of the Gorilla Pod, Anna and I with Loch Duich

Anna contemplating the final sections of the ridge

A superb panorama with Anna just right of centre looking over Loch Duich
After guiding on the CMD yesterday and finishing around 6, I got home and quickly showered and packed some camping gear so that Anna and I could quickly get up to a lovely wee spot Anna had spied to camp on before tackling the famous Five Sisters of Kintail.
Anna bombed us up to Glen Shiel, and even though we arrived quite late, it was still very warm and perfectly light. So we got our BBQ ablaze, and then set up the tent while the coals turned white. I then built us a massive camp fire on the beach, before getting the cooking under way. We had a lovely spread and we were both absolutely stuffed by the end of it!
By this time, night had crept in, and we took a few photos before lighting the camp fire and enjoying a well earned beer, before turning in for the night.
We got up reasonably early and pottered around packing ourselves up, I felt really rough and sluggish and wondered if I would manage the day, but by 10:15am we were on our way up the steep initial slope of around 550 metres. Topping out on this gave us superb views of the surrounding landscape, and the mountains rolled on mile after mile. It was another scorcher, and we really felt the heat as we moved on at a good pace.
The Five Sisters is a group of mountains I have wanted to do for many years, and it was great to finally get there and have a bash at them in fine weather. We moved quite quickly and took a million photos, enjoying good banter. The views were amazing, and the best thing was there were very few other people around - bliss! The route is quite rocky and has one or two scrambly sections, but nothing to worry about if you are confident on such terrain. It narrows in a few sections, but again, not worryingly so. For the most part it is enjoyable walking with a few steep ascents which are well rewarded with incredible views all around. It is about 15km from start to finish so not particularly long, but the heat certainly takes its toll.
We finally reached the last peak, and made our way back down to civilization where we hitched a lift back to the car, before enjoying a well earned meal at the Cluanie Inn. A fantastic weekend full of everything I love, and the very best conditions to tick off a route thats been on the list for so long!