Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Recceing camera positions...

Soft wet snow by Sprinkling Tarn

Today I've been out above the snow line in the Lake District recceing camera positions for a forthcoming BBC spectacular. Watch this space....
There's plenty of soft snow on the tops with knee deep drifts above 550m however we didn't need ice axes or crampons. Underneath the turf isn't frozen so suspect there's no winter climbing to be had at present. Great End was well covered and a good freeze will produce some great conditions in the gullys

Great End with a good covering of soft snow

Monday, 27 January 2014

A spot of Munro bagging in the white room

Using the stalkers track from Glen Feshie

The summit of Mullach Clach a' Bhlair!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Getting a Cairngorm work over!

Battling the wind on the ascent of Meall a Bhuachaille

Jude about to face plant into the heather after a big gust!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A swim up Invernookie

Heavy going on Invernookie III 4

 The final traverse before popping out on Fiacaill Ridge

The Coire Cas cornice which caught out 3-7 climbers today depending on which report you read!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Blown off Lurchers Crag

Fighting the wind on the approach to the Chalamain Gap

Stunning sunrise over the Cairngorm ski area

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Fiacaill Ridge

 Well rimed conditions on Fiacaill Ridge

Windy conditions on the crest

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A buried Tower Ridge

 Good neve into Observatory Gully

For the final day of SKKs Everest Expedition Prep course we upped the stakes and headed back up onto the Ben aiming for a very snowy Tower Ridge IV 3. It had been climbed at the weekend but in the event there was very little evidence of their passing and there was plenty of post holing and digging to be carried out. Yesterdays thaw and a freeze overnight had produced good neve up observatory gully until we tried to climb up onto the ridge. This is where the swimming started with plenty of unconsolidated snow and a few exciting cornices. Where the snow lay over bulges and rocks there was good neve and thick rime but for the most part feet and axes were pulling straight through. Protection was very hard to come by and you'll need to be competent at waist belays, buried axes and stomper belays to get up the ridge in these conditions. 
Despite all this the route was in a very easy state to climb with several of the tricky rock steps fully banked out. The Eastern Traverse was exciting but gave good foot placements with the thick cloud hiding the void below. The climb onto Great Tower was the crux today with the usual difficulties at Tower Gap reduced to one hard pull on the axes. We made good time topping out in 5 hours into a full whiteout. We descended on a compass bearing via Red Burn and were back at the lower carpark in a round trip of 10 hours.

Swimming across the Eastern Traverse

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Wet tooling... plus a quick dash up Sron na Lairig.

 Sron Na Lairig on a blue sky day

The forecast was terrible with rain, wind and a freezing level above the summits bringing a high avalanche risk. Conditions were supposed to improve slightly in the afternoon so we spent a few hours at Onich Slab working on crampon technique and confidence on rock holds. The north ridge of Everest has surprisingly little snow above 7500m due to the high winds and this proved to be a very useful session which should give SKK the confidence to move quickly and safely along some of the more challenging passages of climbing above 8000m, including the Second Step. Still relatively dry we drove up to Glen Etive to put some more miles and height gain into the legs. We set a quick pace up towards the Sron na Lairig ridge diverting briefly to have a look at the full depth avalanches which had come down the corrie to it's east. Once on the ridge we climbed the obvious groove and snow gullies to the half way ledge. The snow was saturated with water running behind the remains of any ice. With the normal descent route being via the avalanching corrie to our left we opted to descend back down the ridge before a quick blast back to the van.

Significant avalanche debris on our approach

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Golden Oldie on Everest!

 Stunning views over the Great Glen

Another stunning day in Lochaber tempted us on to the classic Golden Oldie II on the West face of Aonach Mor. Surprisingly the approach was very quick despite some very deep drifts. The east face of Carn Dearg Mheadhonach opposite us was looking very white with some significant cornices. These caught at least 3 walkers out this week, luckily without serious injury despite some big falls.
Our ridge was almost buried but still the best option on this face. The other popular route, Western Rib III, was totally buried and all four teams in the valley opted for Golden Oldie. Going first meant that there was a lot of digging to find decent belays but good snow over most of the tricky rock steps meant progress was quick. There was some suggestion of cross loading and cornicing on the easy final slopes so we opted to pitch the final 70m but in the event they were stable and well frozen and we topped out in time for lunch.

 Fort William enjoying some early morning sunshine

Deep snow on the approach

 Approaching the first belay

Linking together patches of neve

Three teams behind us enjoying the buried conditions

 On the exposed and corniced crest

Retrieving one of the few pieces of protection we placed

The exit slopes to the summit of Aonach Mor

A very snowy Ben Nevis

Monday, 13 January 2014

Start of my winter season on Castle Ridge

A very snowy looking Ben Nevis to start the season

This week is the start of my usual Scottish winter season and I seemed to have timed it very well with great weather arriving after a couple of weeks of wet snowfall and gales. For the next 4 days I'm working with SKK who's away to attempt Everest in April this year. the plan was for a full skills audit, plenty of mileage and height gain and lots of exposed mixed terrain. The Ben was looking pretty impressive in the sunshine and Castle Ridge was the obvious target. This grade III sees far less traffic than the neighboring Ledge Route and it's notorious crux groove has flummoxed a number of very good climbers. Conditions today gave plenty of helpful snow and ice on all the tricky steps and secure footing on the exposed upper reaches and we made quick time up into the cloud and the top of the ridge. Strong winds and spindrift meant that we needed goggles as we arrived on the plateau. We navigated to the top of No 4 Gully but the huge cornice and evidence of significant loading meant that Red Burn was the only sensible descent option. The swirling southerlies were also loading up the left bank of the final gully but it was easy to find a safe path back to half way lochan and down across the bog.

Deep snow & good ice on the ridge 

 Breaking trail up Castle Ridge III

Good neve in places

Checking out the descent down No 4 Gully