Tuesday, 26 February 2013

26th February 2013 - Tower Gully

Anna looking pleased with herself

The gorilla stand making itself useful

Anna topping out

The Black Cuillin dancing in the clouds

Could it get any clearer?

Anna negotiating the cornice

Anna in Observatory Gully Tower Scoop and Gully in the background
Wonderful conditions all day

So its my birthday today, and Anna managed to get a day off work so that we could go for a climb in this glorious weather. So after opening some lovely presents (and Anna baking a carrot cake at 6.30 in the morning - mad, simply mad!) we had a leisurely start up the CIC track, ariving at the CIC at about 10.30am. We decided to go ahead with Plan A which was Tower Scoop. It was a long and arduous tramp up to the base of the climb, but on arrival after setting up a quick belay neither of us seemed keen to actually get on it. Yesterdays tragic events were still fresh in our minds and I think watching another team ahead of us back off of the route put us off a bit. The vomit streaks were not attractive either.

So we opted for a calf burning, thigh busting trudge up Tower Gully (I/II). We had some amazing views of Tower Gap, with Max Hunter on his solo traverse negotiating it steadily. The best bit was definately climbing up through the cornice. It was probably the easiest bit, and almost every placement was spot on. Its always nice to haul up out of a cornice to the amazement of passers by - even if it is an easier climb you have completed! We basked in the sunshine of the summit, where we met some members of the LMRT who had completed Hadrians Wall.

A steady walk back down the Red Burn brought us finally back to the car. We had a really wonderful day on the Ben. Hoping to get out again soon and properly try out my new crampons (super shard, ripped my new gaitors already!!). Maybe Good Friday this weekend if Anna is keen!

Back home for a wonderful birthday dinner followed by watching Ted (the talking walking bear...) on DVD - great film!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

24th February 2013 - Curved Ridge

Overcoming one of the obstacles. Steeper than it looks

What a fine derrier

Long way down

Anna at the top of the ridge

Never ask a Glaswegian to take a photo of you and your partner on the summit....

Approaching the top

Thats more like it!

My favourite mountain bird

Glen Etive and Ben Starav in the background

Anna looking good

Ignore the gear, not required on this occasion!
Today Anna and I got an earlyish start and headed south for the Buachaille in order to get on Curved Ridge (II/III) which has been on our tick list all season. There seemed to be quite a few people heading in the same direction but many opted to do Easy Gully instead.

After gearing up before the ridge we had a wee go on some ice, traversing out onto it from mid height and continuing up it towards the base of the ridge. We then climbed up steep snow to traverse leftwards onto the ridge, and upon getting there thought that the broken mixed line on the right looked much more interesting than the ridge proper, which was in almost summer conditions. This line offered some nice ice, bit of mixed with a nice chockstone move and some steep, bullet hard snow, before getting back on to the ridge for the interesting final sections. The weather, needless to say, was outstanding. So good, in fact, that we decided to traverse all of the Buachailles tops before descending, which was hard work (I was not feeling tip top) but totally worth it for the views. There was not a breath of wind, so it was bloody warm in the sun!

After an interesting descent and looking at some substantial avalanche debris, we beasted back to the car for just after 5. A cracking day out, and good weight training with the rope and gear we never used.....

Saturday, 23 February 2013

23rd February 2013 - North Ridge of Stob Ban & the Devils Ridge

Dream team, with Stob Ban in the background

Kev doing his bit for charity

Anna on the North Ridge of Stob Ban

Kev and Anna on the Devils Ridge

Stunning views on the Devils Ridge

Looking over to a busy Ben Nevis
Out today on a jolly with Anna, Kev and Amanda on the classic little circuit of Stob Ban North Ridge, then over to the Devils Ridge of Sgurr a Mhaim. The weather in the morning was pretty grim, but once established on the ridge it broke clear and blue and the views were astounding. Snow is bullet hard and enjoyable to move on - no knee deep powder here!

Friday, 22 February 2013

21st-22nd February 2013 - Avalanche Skills Course with WHC Students

Preparing to dig a hasty pit

A glorious walk in

Nothing hasty about this snow pack!

The Ben in great nick

Not a cloud in the sky

Analysing the snow pack....

Transciever practice

Following the flux lines

Probe search techniques

With recent tragedies and events in the Scottish mountains these past few months, the emphasis on Avalanche awareness and training has become more important than ever. I was asked by West Highland College to take a group of students out for a 2 day avalanche course in order to improve their knowledge of risk assessment, travel strategies and reactions in an avalanche situation. It was a fairly comprehensive course and included search techniques using probes and transcievers, as well as digging techniques and emergency procedures.

On day one we headed to the North Face of the Ben, and were able to identify several avalanches caused by the recent thaw. We looked extensively at avalanche forecasting, the weather forecast and interpreting slope aspect and potential consequences of not taking this vital issue into account. Choosing a good, undisturbed spot not far from the Douglas Boulder, we looked at analysing the snow pack and digging Hasty Pits. We identified several different layers in the snow pack, but found it to be pretty sturdy. We then did a little experiment. At the same height, and approximately 1 metre apart, I got the students to dig some Hasty Pits that we could test. The purpose of this was to illustrate the limitations of digging solitary pits to assess avalanche awareness. I tested each pit which were each the same size and depth. The results showed the even just one metre apart, the snow pack behaved varyingly.

We moved on to looking at quicker methods of analysing the snow under foot, using techniques such as the Trench Test, which can be done quickly and easily several times, and gives an accurate account of your body weight and its impact on the snow pack. After a quick look at snow probes, we headed back down to the bus, and discussed equipment to carry on the hill. I still carry a probe and shovel (and transciever if my partner has one) wether I am climbing or generally mountaineering. It was interesting to hear the students points of view with regards to being this way equipped. A good day had by all, and hopefully plenty of food for thought.

Day 2 saw us up at the transciever park on Aonach Mor, where we looked more in depth at probe searches, and intoduced transcievers: how to use them, things to watch out for and their effectiveness. The Park is a great resource which I will certainly use in future. The students got a chance to search for 'victims', and we looked at how to conduct a proper search rather than mashing all over the snow, potentially crushing a buried victims air pocket.

We attempted to dig, but the snow was bullet hard, and so a theory lesson was in order about where to dig once a victim is discovered (regardless if by probe, transciever, dog or otherwise) and how to dig efficiently if with a larger group or on your own. We rounded off by talking about what to do if you witness an avalanche in several different scenarios, and what to try and do if caught by an avalanche.

A pretty full on two days with tonnes of info, and a great group of students who asked loads of questions and were keen to get involved! The weather wasn't half bad either.....

Friday, 8 February 2013

8th February 2013 - Ledge Route

Walking in

Davie and his Mona Lisa's smile with Andy

Anna practicing her snow pack analysis

Coire na Ciste

Someone high on Indicator Wall. Amazing zoom on this camera

Anna looking less than impressed that there are other people on her route!!

The final section

At the summit cairn, 1344m

Chilling out by the Shelter

Anna and Me

The snow was still thick down low
Annas friend Aoifa was up visiting from Manchester, and Anna was keen to get her out enjoying the Scottish mountains. Last year we took her up the Ballachulish Horseshoe (I) and the Pap of Glen Coe, and this time Anna wanted to take her up something a little harder. We opted to take her up Ledge Route (II), a real all year round classic with enough excitement and jaw dropping views to get anyone hooked on the Ben.

We walked in with Davie and Andy, who were looking to get up something in the III/IV range, and the banter was excellent as usual. Unfortunately the joys of having a Ben key were a little lost on me as my exhaust fell apart part of the way up the track (apparently the new part hadn't been fitted properly...), but I was keen to not worry about it until later. Conditions were looking really nice, and loads of folk were heading to the North Face. Max was up working with a team from Jagged globe and had a good day on the SW Rib of the Douglas Boulder (III), Graham and Ben were aiming higher and got up Vanishing Gully (V, 5) and then the Curtain (V, 5). So all in all, loads of routes saw some traffic, which is fantastic, loads of smiling faces!

We kitted up at the CIC, and Anna, myself and Aoifa looked up towards the train of people heading up No. 5 to Ledge Route with a little disappointment. But we headed on up nonetheless, and very quickly over took several groupd who were moving slowly. Jamie B had some clients on the route and he let us sneak past early on. Aoifa was steady on her feet and more than capable. I let Anna lead most of the route to give her some confidence. Aoifas only (hilarious) wobble was downclimbing the short ledge. Draped over the rock, feet only 6 inches off the ground she chanted 'oh God, oh God, oh God' until Anna, laughing merrily, slipped her down to the safety of the ground!

We nestled in behind Di Gilbert and her client who were moving at a fine pace, and enjoyed ourselves taking photos, trying to avoid the nice guys behind us who were unfortunately giving a fine display of death roping....

We topped out in really good time, and made a b-line to the summit so that Aoifa could claim the top in winter conditions. Visibility was really poor so I took a wee bearing to get us on track and away from the edge. After what seemed an age, we made it to the summit, took some snaps, had a break and headed on down by the Red Burn and back to the car. We made really good time and had a thoroughly good time. Anna did really well leading Aoifa and giving loads of information while I acted as Safety Supervisor and photographer.

On the plus side, got the  (very loud) car to the garage before it closed and they fixed it free of charge - winner!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

2nd February 2013 - Aonach Eagagh

The Three Sisters, Glen Coe

Bhienn Fhada and Stob Coire Sgreamhach

Looking down Glen Coe

Stob Coire nan Lochan and the Bidean nam Bian massif

me and Anna. Is that new boots Anna?

Andy abseiling the bad step

Looking back over the ridge

I hate down climbing!

Looking on to what is ahead

Anna making light work of the first climb

Anna tackling the Pinnacles

Anna summiting the short chimney climb

Cracking views of a cracking ridge

Some git spoiling the view! (me!)

Anna on the final climb

Davie and Andy on the final narrow section

The Aonach Eagagh (III)

So last night Davie suggested a traverse of the Aonagh Eagagh Ridge (III), which he has done countless times and ranks amongst his favourite mountain excursions. I have done it several times in summer, but not in winter. So Davie, Andy, Anna and I met early in the morning and sorted out cars at either end of the ridge before setting off on the steep ascent of Am Bodach.

Anna was trying out some new winter boots and was concerned that they might be too big or give her blisters. In the end they worked perfectly and gave her much more confidence on steep ground with the crampons on, and kept her feet much warmer too.

On our way up, we overtook the same four lads me and Davie had spoken to yesterday on CMD, and luckily they had taken on our advice and hired some appropriate crampons for the job. We trooped on after a friendly chat, determined to get to the Bad Step and away before them!!! We reached the top of Am Bodach in reasonably good time, and could see that the ridge was in great nick so we were psyched! We geared up quickly, and Davie and I headed on to get the abseil set up before the traffic built up behind us too much. Davie abbed down, and I got Anna set up to go down next, followed by myself and then Andy, leaving the other lads our tat and some pointers on how to get down efficiently.

We made good progress over the ridge, we all seemed quite confident, with the only bits slowing us down being the down climbing (which I hate - its the only thing that makes me a bit nervous!) but Davie was in good form spotting and route finding. We made light work of all of the technicalities, until we reached the Pinnacles. Here, after witnessing some horrendous death roping techniques, Davie set up a tension traverse to allow the rest of us to cross safely. The climbing is daunting because of the consequences of a fall, but the climbing is straight forward and easily negotiated. From here we only had a wee bit of downclimbing, which was getting a bit easier now, and then a final steep climb which heralded the end of the difficulties and all that remained was the long ponderous slog up onto Stob Coire Leith, and then across to Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. Given conditions, we opted to carry on along to the bealach at the Pap of Glen Coe before heading down towards the car.

We had a terrific day, and the Aonach Eagagh remains one of my favourite trips out. Now Andy is back up in the area hopefully we will be able to get out some more. Next objective is Goof Friday Climb (III) on the Ben. Thanks to Davie for his experience and input during the traverse!