Wednesday, 23 January 2013

23rd January 2013 - Cascades on the Ben

Joe and Kev gearing up
Walking in

Kev setting off
Promo shot!
The extent of the Cascades, all looking good!
Homeward bound - Me, Dave, Joe and Kev
So today with a reasonable weather forecast, Dave, Kev, Joe and I decided to take a wander up to the North Face of the Ben for a short day on the Cascades. After a leisurely start (Joe turned u at mine about an hour early, before my alarm had even went off!) up to the top car park, we kitted up and strolled in with light winds and a lot of routes looking in good condition. On approach we had a good view of our target, and decided early on that the right hand cascades would be in condition and within our capabilities. Another team was on the central line, and the CIC Cascades were not being attempted by anyone.

When we got to the Allt a' Mhuilinn crossing, the icy cold wind became more apparent and it was a feature of the day. The walk over the boulder field to the foot of the falls was hellish ankle breaking terrain, but we eventually got there in one piece. After having a play around testing the ice and working out if it was in good enough condition, we paired up (Kev and Dave, me and Joe) and Kev set off on the lead. You really noticed the wind standing about on the belays, but the views were superb and the craic, as always, was top notch. Soon Dave was away u, and I got myself ready to lead. I was keen to try out my modded DMM Flys which I had put grip rests and trig rests onto the previous day. The difference was incredible - not feeling that my hands were going to slide off the ends meant that I barely had to grip the axe and could focus much more on my foot work. I soon arrived at the belay where Kev was belaying Dave on pitch 2, set up a belay for myself and brought Joe up, who then led on using Daves pre-placed screws. Terrific wee lead on Joes part, his first on outdoor ice and he will inevitably become a terrific climber <insert choice words here>!!!

After what seemed a lifetime, Joe brought me up the second, slightly shitty second pitch (brittle ice in poor condition, but a lovely step to finish) and we quickly derigged and joined the other lads on a reccy walk round into Coire na Ciste to see what was going on there. After going back to collect our packs, we headed for home having had a great day playing on grade III/IV ice. Happy with my axes - no need to buy some quarks or nomics for another season :) I'll not be climbing that hard this season anyway! Looking forward to our next outing!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

20th January 2013 - North Ridge, Stob Ban

Today Anna and I opted to have a quick short blast up Stob Ban via its North Ridge (I). After yesterdays tragic events in Glen Coe neither of us had the appetite for any big epics given the still poorly bonded snow condition, high winds and lack of consolidation.

We set off from the Lower Falls car park and followed the usual route, taking it easy and enjoying the views. We made the ridge in good time and got a few pics, but the wind was pretty gusty and icy cold. I was trying out some new Rab gloves I got and have to say I was massively impressed with how wind resistant and dexterous they were - excellent purchase! The scrambling on the North Ridge is straight forward but it is still a lovely route, and Stob Ban remains one of my favourite hills and the best last minute option in the area for a quick jolly! We had a good look at the snow pack in a few places and found conditions to be very poor on certain aspects. Yesterdays incident certainly reminds us to take all necessary precautions and not take anything for granted. Every slope, route and day is different and should be treated as such.

The wind was really the only issue, and on the only narrow section of the ridge it was very gusty so each step was carefully planned! Not many folk out today but we met a few; one on the summit and 4 others on the way down. Good to get out and about and keep the fitness topped up!! Possibly out again tomorrow but will wait and see...

Pics to follow....

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

14th January 2013 - NE Ridge Stob Coire Sgreamhach

Davie looks on to Gearr Aonach and the Zig-Zags

Looking back to the A82 - pretty white all over

Davie wading through thigh deep snow. This was quite shallow compared to other areas...

Looking over the route to come. Stob Coire Sgreamhach in the distance

Davie captures our route

Making quick progress through difficult conditions

Unconsolidated snow made these sections an interesting traverse

Looking back, our footprints visible beyond

We triggered a small slab avalanche which slipped maybe 15 metres. Hearts in mouth.

I am aware that I haven't updated this blog since the beginning of December, so thought I would give a short update. In December I was pretty busy with things, but managed to enjoy a weekend in the Cairngorms for the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotlands annual conference. It was a great weekend jam packed with excellent work shops and lectures.

After a long break back in Glasgow to see family and friends I returned to the Highlands refreshed but lacking in fitness due to a lack of good winter conditions and not enough time to get out and about. Today though, Davie and I decided to head out in Glen Coe and attempt the NE Ridge of Stob Coire Sgreamhach (II), a little frequented route it would seem.

Snow fall at the car park made it obvious that the snow on the mountain would be fresh and deep. We headed straight up the nose of Bhienn Fhada which provided an interesting way to gain height quickly. We were soon on the ridge proper, and began fighting our way through huge drifts of snow, sometimes waist high and more. The winds picked up steadily through the day, blasting spin drift up into our faces and making visibility difficult. We pressed on without stopping much. Each time we made a summit, we looked out to see another rising before us. The ridge is far from technical, but it is quite enjoyable with some terrific views (when the cloud lifted) and the only area of difficulty was the Bad Step. Afte a short easy down climb into a narrow gap, we had to skirt round a steep face. This proved a bit tricky given the snow conditions, and we accidentally triggered a small slab avalanche which only ran maybe 15 metres, but left us being extra careful as we made our traverse round. As the ground steepened, making good foot and axe placements became more and more tricky. We ended up spending a long time swimming up a gully, tiring, laborious work in the conditions but the snow pack here seemed more secure.

Out of this gully, it was a short troop up to the summit and then off towards the bealach above Lairig Eilde, and down in to the glen towards our cars. Another cracking day in great company. Working at the college for the rest of the week, and hoping for good conditions for the weekend to get out.