Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Summit For Heroes

 Duncan & Billy on some steeper ice

This week I'm out with Pete, Billy & Duncan from the Summit For Heroes team helping them begin their preparations for an attempt on Everest in 2016. They'd already been out for a couple of days on the hill so today was about consolidating their new skills, developing some movement skills on mixed terrain and introducing ropework. We used the Aonach Mor gondala to reach the snowline and explored the area around the Nid ridge. Careful route choice kept us in the sun for most of the day!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Busy on the Ben - Tower Ridge

 A busy Orion Face

 An even busier Point 5 Gully - 90 mins waiting time!

Observatory Gully

 Jude enjoying perfect neve on Tower Ridge IV 3

 French team on the Eastern Traverse
 Max Hunter solo on the Eastern Traverse

Team heading into Tower Gully

  Max Hunter topping out on Tower Ridge

Having lunch on top of Great Tower - Photo from Max Hunter

Jude approaching the crux of Tower Ridge - Tower Gap

Prayer flags on the summit trig point

Walking off in the sun

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Crowberry Gully IV 4

 Great ice on the Water Slide

Entering the depths of Crowberry Gully

 Great stepped neve & ice in Crowberry Gully

 Stunning evening light from the summit of the Buachaille

 Original design for a snow bollard! :)

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Twisting Gully Right Hand IV 5

Jude topping out in to the sunshine on Twisting Gully Right Hand (IV 5)

Looking across to Stob Coire Nan Lochan and a climber topping out on Twisting Gully

Climber belaying at the top of SC Gully (III 4)

The Clachaig and Loch Leven from SCNL

Twisting Gully Right Hand (IV 5) follows the obvious icy groove tight against the left hand side of the main buttress

Thursday, 21 February 2013

All their own work - Ledge Route alpine style

Pitching the 'zag' on Ledge Route

The clouds stayed away today and we were back to our usual alpine conditions. Joe & Tom were keen to put everything they'd learned in to practice so we headed back up to the Ben and the classic Ledge Route (II). We delayed our departure by climbing the ice direct to the first 'Zig'. This allowed a couple of teams of 'death ropers' to get clear although Max Hunter also had a few issues with them.  

Note - moving together with 15-20m of rope between you and no running belays is called death roping for a reason. It doesn't make you safer and will have a very negative effect on the health of everyone in your party if one of you were to fall, not to mention anyone else you may cheese wire on the way down!

Our direct start gave 40m of grade III ice to get the blood pumping before the boys took over. They used a combination of pitching and a variety of moving together techniques to make an excellent and safe ascent while I soloed alongside enjoying the views and the sunshine. I have 8 days work left this season which coincidentally looks like how long this stunning high pressure system is due to last :)

 Clouds rolling off the summit of the Ben

 Joe gaining the sun after a chilly belay

 Spot the dots - Plenty of climbers on Orion's Face, Observatory Buttress, Hadrian's Wall & Tower Ridge

Direct belay on the crux of Ledge Route (II)

Topping out on Ledge Route

Stunning views from Carn Dearg

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Hiding in the clouds!

 Topping out on Golden Oldie covered in a nice layer of rime

While the rest of Lochaber was basking in the sun we went and hid in the clouds on Aonach Mor. After a couple of days in gullies Joe and Tom were keen to try a ridge and Golden Oldie (II) on the west face fitted the bill perfectly. We walked in in the sunshine but climbed into the cloud capping the summit on the final pull up to the start of the route. With plans for the alps, today was focused on the skills of moving together on a variety of terrain. The steep snow slopes on the approach were protected with a short length of rope with a couple of direct belays on steeper sections. Once on the buttress the snow disappeared and we ran out two long pitches on rimed rock and frozen turf looking at hooking and torquing. The snow reappeared where the ridge flattens out and we swopped back to moving together with natural and running belays. On this upper section the wind was bitter and the rime was forming in front of our eyes. The boys have had a very easy introduction to Scottish winter mountaineering this week so it was good to top out on to a featureless plateau in a whiteout and experience something a wee bit more normal!
3" of rime on a piste marker

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

South Castle Gully

 Great conditions in South Castle Gully - Grade I with one icy step of II

 Tom leading the final pitch into the sunshine

Joe topping out before a relaxed lunch break

Synchronised descending!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Alpine mountaineering!

 Traffic jam on Tower Ridge - start of the Eastern Traverse. Team also on Stringfellow VI 6 below the Great Tower

 Central Buttress in Coire na Ciste

 Crocodiles forming on Tower Ridge
 High in No 4 gully on their first day in crampons!

 Tackling the small cornice at the top of No 4 Gully

 Stunning views across Loch Linne from the cairn at the top of No 4 Gully

Walkers on the summit of Ben Nevis

Heading for home at the end of a great first day in the Scottish mountains

Friday, 15 February 2013

Invernookie & Twin Ribs

 Large avalanche in Coire an s-Sneachda, Off the slabs to the right of Jacobs Ladder

For the final day of Chris' MIC assessment preparation we walked into Coire an t-Sneachda to look at teaching leading. The crag aprons were covered in deep snow and a large avalanche had come off the slabs to the right of Jacobs Ladder. A few teams had managed to get to the buttresses and were evacuating plenty of snow as they climbed upwards. However the easy gullies were out of the question so we retreated to the Twin Ribs area on the Fiacaill Ridge to look at short roping, ghost roping, soloing and stance management. late afternoon and with Chris as ready as he'll ever be the decision was made to make a speedy ascent of Invernookie III 4 to finish the week on a high. We'd already seen a team on the route who'd been doing plenty of clearing and there was a safe approach so we solo'd to the start of the difficulties and made a very snowy ascent in 2 pitches before a comfortable walk down by headtorch. Best of luck next week Chris and thanks to Jon Gupta for being a willing guinea pig

 Chris running through his ropework on the Twin Ribs

 The approach slopes to Invernookie III 4

Chris & Jon swimming up the first pitch

Jon enjoying the top pitch