Monday, 26 May 2014

26th May 2014 - From Singapore sun to Ben Nevis fun!

Today I was up the Ben again with Chris and his two lads Jack and Ben. The weather was looking pretty good for the day, and we weren't disappointed. We made steady progress up to the second aluminium bridge, at which point the boys started to lag and struggle a little bit. We managed to coerce them up to the Red Burn for a spot of lunch, a drink and a good rest. After this they sped off quite happily until corner 3 where they started to lag again - time to release the big guns. I started plying them with riddles to keep their minds occupied - this also made them try and keep pace with me to learn the answers or get more clues!! We all had great fun doing the riddles, and even some random mountain users got involved too!

We made the summit in 4 hours, and after a few photos at the top, we headed back down and were treated to some stunning moody views - I even had to fix both of Jacks shoes, the soles of which were determined to fall off!. We made it to the car park in 3 hours, with the lads determined to have an expensive Blade of Beef for their dinner - these kids had rich tastes!! But after the effort they put in they definitely deserved a treat!! Cheers for the good company and riddles guys!

The lads at the start of the day - fresh and raring to go

Stunning views down the Glen

At Windy Corner, the boys feeling it a bit!

At the half way point, a much needed rest!

Jack having fun in the snow

The team on the summit!

Glorious views rewarded our efforts

A quick fix with some tie tags for Jacks boots!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

21st May 2014 - Going Down Under on the Ben

Today I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides on Ben Nevis. I met Daniel at the Ben Nevis Inn at 8am, and after a quick chat about the day we set off. Daniel is from Canberra in Australia and is doing a bit of a Euro tour at the moment, which sounds awesome. The weather today, though, was not what he was used to back home. It pissed down relentlessly throughout the morning, and even with waterproofs on I was soaked with sweat. The craic was brilliant all day, and due to our early start we only came across a handful of other mountain goers so we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Made the summit in just over 3 hours, and back down in about the same time. It was freezing up top so we didnt hang around long, and as it was Daniels first time walking on mountain snow, it took a bit of getting used to heading back down Macleans Steep - but we got there in the end.

We were lucky enough to be descending as the weather cleared up and we got some really stunning views to reward our effort. All in all we had a great day on the mountain, even though the morning was pretty wet!!

Daniel on the summit

The clouds beginning to break on the descent

Looking better half way down

Daniel on the final lower stretches

Saturday, 10 May 2014

10th May 2014 - The Only Way is...Ben Nevis

The Birthday Girl Jane - Happy Birthday!

The girls looking sprightly before we headed off. Those waterproofs didn't last long!

The famous Mel adding a bit of glamour to the Red Burn

Stunning views from the Zig Zags

Enjoying a brief respite

The successful team on the summit - well done Jane, Mel, Tracy, Natalie and the two Sams!

Another quiet day in the office...

The girls making light work of the snow...

And time for a change of...socks...

Feeling the ache of descent

The weather just got better and better

Today I was working on Ben Nevis for Adventure Nevis. I had no idea what I had signed up for until I met the group in the morning. Turns out it was 6 lassies from Essex celebrating an important 40th birthday (its ok Jane, your age is secret with me!) - ear muffs would have definitely been a good idea!!

After shuttling the girls to the Car park in the Glen and going over the plan for the day we set off. The banter was top notch from the word go and the girls had no problem at all keeping their spirits up. The weather forecast was not looking great, but we were spoilt with some really moody views of the glen and the surrounding mountains.

We made really steady progress up the first half of the mountain, careful to try and conceal Mel who happens to be a television superstar in the Far East. She didn't want us to be slowed down by her handing out autographs...

The track was, as is usual for this time of year, really busy with loads of groups attempting the 3 peak challenge. We waded our way through them, reaching the summit in just under 4 hours which is good going for 6 novices. The descent was a real laugh with the girls deciding to descend the snow until Corner 4, slipping and sliding in complete disarray as they came. They must have been heard from Loch Eil and beyond!!

We made it back to the car in 8 hours after a steady descent, with the girls obviously saving themselves for the celebrations in the evening! Lets hope they can walk steadily enough tomorrow to catch their flight home! Thanks girls for the laughs and well done on a great effort!

Friday, 9 May 2014

6th - 9th May 2014 - Environmental studies and Hillwalking with Stramash

Over the past four days I have been working with Stramash in Oban delivering environmental studies to Primary 4-7 kids. Each day we were working with a different primary school from around the Oban area, and utilised a number of different venues to help illustrate how our diverse and ever changing environment can be explored, protected and shared.

On day 1 Rob and I took a group of P 6/7 kids into Glen Lonan, and ascended Deadh Choimhead which has stunning views and is a great mixed venue which illustrates the different environments we can find in a very small area. The kids loved the chance to explore and discover, as well as the games, riddles and jokes we had along the way.

On day 2, I was working with Rob again and this time we opted to take a P4 group up Ben Lora, which is slightly easier than the previous day, but equally rewarding and a stunning venue. The weather was a bit rubbish, with zero visibility at the top and persistent rain in the afternoon. The kids found this really exciting however, and enjoyed the experience regardless.

On day 3 & 4 we were based at Loch Creran with kids aged 8-11 doing a mixture of canoeing with Russell, and an environmental explore with me. We took a wander round the Pinemartin trail at the head of the loch, and found many interesting plants, trees, flowers, animals and even some intriguing history! Again the kids enthusiasm was really great to see, I struggled to keep up with them!

Overall it was a great couple of days exploring some new venues and meeting some new people, back to the grind on the Ben tomorrow!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

3rd May 2014 - A busy day on the Ben

Today i was working on Ben Nevis again, this time with Enrico, Izzy, Vlad and his wife Liubov. Enrico is originally from Russia but lives near Birmingham and his Russian friends Vlad and Liubov were visiting.

After a late start we set off up the hill, making steady progress and really soaking up the stunning conditions. We had some really good discussions about the mountain and Scotland in general, as well as chats about history, sport and current affairs. We started to slow a bit after the aluminium bridges, and Izzy started to struggle with her knees,but persevered up to the red burn. Here we stopped for some lunch and a good drink and took some nice pictures of the views.
We set off again, but it was clear we were not going to make the top quickly. The team seemed determined however, and i was keen to see them succeed so we pressed on, sharing a few laughs with other folk in the mountain. Between corners 5 and 6 we stopped to don crampons and unsheath our axes as we prepared to continue in a direct line up and onto the summit plateaux. There were loads of folk not using crampons, but i deemed it to be the best choice given group experience and ability, and it paid off as we moved much quicker than many others on the snow. The snow cover at present is pretty much constant from corner 6 onwards, with Islands visible and usable if required up until the stone ring above corner 8.

We continued to make steady progress, and reached the summit not a moment too soon a Izzy was close to breaking point.

Another busy but successful summit, we enjoyed a second lunch and a chat about the fragile environment, picked up some other people's rubbish as well as our own, and began our way back down. We kept to the snow all the way down to corner 2 which proved exciting and saved some time. After this it was just a steady old plod back to the visitor centre. Four tired but satisfied clients who put in a sterling effort and made the round trip in just over 9 hours. Well done guys!!

Today i was working for seren ventures.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

16th April 2014 - Ben Nevis again!

So today I was working up on the Ben again, this time with Stephen and his 13 year old daughter Alice and her friend Charlotte. It was a bit of a last minute job, and with the weather forecast I wasn't sure whether we were going to make it up there successfully or not. But we gave it a bash!

I met them at their hotel just before 9, and after a look at their kit and the handing out of hire kit we set off from Achintee. It was a really pleasant day, and the team worked really hard to keep a good pace going. The two youngsters were great fun and seemed to enjoy themselves.

We made steady progress, not needing crampons or axes until around corner 4. Once we had them on, the difference compared to others who weren't using them was massive. The three of them quickly got into the swing of things, and beyond corner 8 it was just a case of careful navving into the whiteout. Luckily the 60mph gusts that had been forecast never materialised and we were able to make it onto the summit successfully.

We had a quick bite and a drink before heading back down, carefully navigating our way back to the zig zags. From here we just followed the huge snow pack by the Red Burn all the way down to corner 2, the girls having great fun bum sliding down large sections of this. After packing the crampons away, we trooped on down in good time, just under 7 hours. The team worked really hard and rallied each other to make the day fun and successful - but I bet there will be a few tired heads tonight and sore legs tomorrow! Well done troops, you earned that summit!

Charlotte pulled off some magnificent mountain poses through the day! (Stephen, Charlotte, Alice l-r)
They insisted on having a photo with me. So here we are at the Red Burn
Here's the team just after we entered the white room
Here they are, elated at what remains of the summit cairn. Charlotte, at 12, was the youngest to summit today I reckon
Some huge cracks appearing above the path as it crosses the Red Burn, wonder where that will go...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

15th April 2014 - Sunny climbing in Ardnamurchan

Today Craig, Dave, Allen and I headed out west to the fabled Ardnamurchan peninsula to try and get some good climbing done. We were not dissapointed. The drive and walk in were stunning, the weather nice and sunny (bit chilly in the wind though) and the rock was clean, insanely grippy and really good fun. Dave and Allen headed off to get some routes in, and Craig and I paired up and knocked off a few great multi-pitches up to VS 4c. We had a really good laugh, and it was a great break in day after the rubbish winter we have had.

Managed to see a snake (maybe an adder, maybe not, need to look into that actually...) and a sea eagle, which was my first. So overall a fantastic day. Sun burnt, wind chapped, hand ripped to bits but very happy with the day none the less :)

Stunning clean rock. Craig and I climbed a lovely 2 pitch climb on this crag, and dropped the guide book!
Hooded crag and beyond. Some lovely routes completed here by both teams
Craig leading up pitch one of Vulcan. Tricky start, but lovely climbing
Do belay stances get any more stunning than this?
Mr McKay himself. Sun cap and forty layers of clothing....
Bit blurry, but topping out of pitch 2 on the 4 pitch climb we did.
Craig on the first lead of the day, interesting start!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

2nd April 2014 - Ben Nevis with Outward Bound

Negotiating the Red Burn, still a little tricky

The Half-Way Lochan, the teams camp spot

Looking toward Meall an-t and Loch Linnhe & Loch Eil

Martin leading the group over a snow patch

Luke James Partridge leading his clients towards MacLeans Steep

Looking towards Mull and Lismore down Loch Linnhe

Glorious conditions with scattered cloud

A view from the way back down. Is there anywhere I'd rather have been? Probably not...
Today I was up on Ben Nevis helping to guide a group of Outward Bound students from Harrogate. The team had camped at the half-way lochan with their instructor, Martin, and I was to meet them there at 9am. Having completely mis-timed the ferry (still adjusting to the ferry element of my commute) I was running a bit late, and set off from Achintee at 8:15, 45 minutes to get there seemed pretty tight (I'm not a hill runner either, so moving THAT fast isn't usually on my agenda. Chastising myself throughout the climb up, I slowly began to realise that it was going to be a glorious day. To my amazement, I got to the meeting point just shy of the Red Burn pretty much bang on time, which with a full winter pack and heavy winter boots was good going for me!

I met the group, and chatted to Martin about the plan before setting off, managing the group over the remaining snow at the Red Burn. The going was pretty steady, with some struggling more than others, but working effectively and caringly as a team. At Corner 4 we donned crampons and after a little lesson in crampon management, we set off. We left the path just after corner 5, and made our own route to the stone circle. The views were stunning in between blasts of cloud, and things only got better as we got higher. After plenty of co-ercing and encouragement for one or two of the students we managed to make the summit, where we had lunch, took some photos and relaxed a bit.

We made super fast progress heading back down, keeping the crampons on and blasting down as far as we could on the snow - the kids loved it! With such a spectacular and dramatic view in front of us the whole way down, who wouldn't want to have been on a mountain today??

Martin and his enthused team left me to go pack up their tents, and I made a swift descent of the bottom half of the mountain. Glad to be down, but equally glad to have had such a great opportunity to share a brilliant mountain day with Martin and his group of young adults - well done guys. You didn't just climb Ben Nevis, you climbed Ben Nevis IN WINTER!