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!