Wednesday, 3 November 2010

26th May - Hammer

We enjoyed the Etive Slabs so much yesterday that Lorenzo and I went back today for another route. This time we went up the brilliant corner line of Hammer (HVS5a or 5b depending on which guidebook you read). The Scoop pitch (4c or 5a in some guides) was lovely - blank steepening slab followed by a corner crack with good gear and an awesome belay stance. After this comes the infamous traverse - originally tensioned and given 5a or even 5b in some guides. Either way it's pretty thin and we were both glad of some good gear either side of it! It feels like the main climb is over after that pitch, but the final traverse pitch was a wee sting in the tail!

25th May - Spartan Slab

Today I was climbing with Lorenzo and with a good forecast and not too many midgies yet we decided to head to the Etive Slabs. I hadn't done any routes on them as yet, so we headed up Spartan Slab (VS5a) as an introduction. The crux move over the overlap is hailed as being difficult for the short and I can certainly see why - I found t very awkward! A great route though, and I confirmed my love of granite slabs, leading the 4c pitch very happily.

15th-22nd May - A week in the Lakes

This week I've been in the Lake District with Thom and Chris, staying with my long-suffering godmother in Whitehaven. With only one day of rain, we managed to get a whole lot of climbing done. Not bad considering that Thom and Chris had only trad climbed a couple of times before in the Peak and had never done any multi-pitch.

On the first day we wanted a crag that would give us lots of easy and non-threatening routes which we could split into pitches and practice multi-pitch techniques, so we headed for Shepherd's Crag. We climbed Brown Slabs (Diff), Brown Slabs Arete (Diff), Brown Slabs Direct (VDiff) and the classic of the crag Little Chamonix (VDiff) and aside from a brief trip off route making Thom's first lead a little more exciting than intended, all went smoothly.

With this in mind, we thought we'd head to Wallowbarrow the next day and up the ante slightly, climbing Wall and Corner (VDiff) and Thomas (Severe). A lovely crag with a great outlook and much quieter than yesterday!

The following day with a great forecast, we fancied hitting a mountain crag and decided to head to Dow Crag. Unfortunately the weather wasn't quite as nice as we had hoped and we ended up bailing after the first pitch of Murray's Route (Severe) in the rain before heading up a slightly damp Giant's Crawl (Diff) and taking a wander round onto Coniston Old Man. We got a stunning sunset though, so no complaints here about the route change!

After easy climbing for the first few days, we were keen to push the grade a little, and headed to Hare Crag - a small granite outcrop in Eskdale. We started off soloing slab routes in hot sunshine, climbing The Rib (Diff), Easy Slab (VDiff), Birch Tree Groove (VDiff), Pleasant Slab (Severe), Plaque Route (VS4a), Celebration (VS4b) and Hirsute Slab (HVS4c). Thom was keen to get on a lead of something a bit harder and headed up the excellently named (and good value at the grade!) Fireball XL5 (MVS4b), and we put a top-rope up on The Brazilian (HVS5a) and The Groove (E15b) just next to it. Chris finished up with a lead of Jugged Hare (HS4b) which turned out to be a nice slab route again to finish the day.

My godmother Judy had the following day off work, so we all went for a wander around Ennerdale and then to the wall in Keswick where she got her first taste of climbing and Chris & Thom played on the steepest bits they could find.

Whilst Chris headed home and with rain on the cards, Thom and I spent the 20th on a ghyll scramble on the upper Esk. This gets grade 2 in the guidebook, but we suspect that this may be for lower water levels as it was quite tricky in places!

On the 21st we met up with Guy at Raven Crag and climbed The Original Route (Severe 4a), Mendes (VS4c) and Bilberry Buttress (VS4c) before heading to the Mountain Festival to see Andy Cave speak.

On the last day we decided to head full circle and pick off another couple of routes we fancied at Shepherd's Crag - Jackdaw Ridge (Diff) and Donkey's Ears (Severe 4a) which has a brilliant hand traverse and a really noisy nest of birds in the back of a deep crack which nearly made me fall off said hand traverse! Then it was back to the Mountain Festival to see Andy Kirkpatrick talk (hilarious, seriously can't recommend him enough) before the long drive back north.

A great week, good company, some quality routes and loads of sunshine. Win!

12th May - Where the Mood Takes Me

Today I was leading another crag session with local school kids up at Polldubh. Some of the group were out with us last week so we decided we'd take them over to Upper Scimitar so they could climb something a bit different today. Chris and Graham were out with me to assist again and we got set-up a little earlier than expected so decided to head over and take a look at the steep slab lines of Jahu, Sweet Little Mystery and Where the Mood Takes Me. These lines are all 6a, but the crux is at different heights on each. They are very bold - I could only see one tiny crack which looked like it'd take a bit of gear and that probably pretty tenuous - and were soloed on the first ascent. None of us are quite up to that standard so we decided to have a go on a top-rope instead, and rigged a line above Where the mood takes me. Chris made it most of the way up, Graham took a couple of slips but got up it okay and I made it up with a rest on the rope before the hard bit - perhaps the hailstones helped?!

9th May - Ring of Steall

Today I was out on the Ring of Steall with Maz - a circuit I've been meaning to do for a while now. It has a reputation for being a great day out ridge walking and this turned out to be justified, with a few wee scrambly bits to be found if you look for them. I got a bit carried away at not carrying a climbing pack or any winter gear and decided that running some of it would be a good idea... Not sure if Maz agreed, but there we go! My camera decided to have some kind of 70s throwback issue today and all the pictures I took came out pink and lime green, so I'll not subject you to them!

6th May - Flying Dutchman & Spike Wall

This evening Gillian and I headed to Polldubh again. We started on Flying Dutchman with the VS4c finish and then headed for Spike Wall (VDiff) as a quick route to finish so we didn't run out of light. We thought the gear on the start of Spike Wall was surprisingly fiddly for the grade. Two good routes though.

4th May - Resurrection & Crag Session

Today I was running an afternoon crag session at Polldubh with kids from local schools with Rich. Ali, Chris and Graham were coming out to assist too and we managed to hatch a plan to get a morning of cragging in before the kids arrived. We met up with Al and I headed up Resurrection (VS4c) to start the day before Ali and Chris lead a pitch of Right Wall each whilst I set up some ropes.
Most of the kids we had on session had parents in one of the local MRTs and had done some climbing before. We did a spot of bouldering near Pinnacle before heading up to Upper Pinnacle then SW, finishing up with an abseil.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

3rd May - Heatwave & Storm

Today Gillian and I went for an afternoon's cragging at Polldubh. We warmed up on Heatwave (MS or Sev depending which guide you read, but a good route either way) and then moved on to Storm (HVS 4b/4c/5a) which I was pretty pleased about as it was one of the routes I was hoping to climb by the end of the summer. Gillian lead up the first pitch and then I took over for the striking diagonal crack. This felt like my hardest lead to date, although very well protected. Gillian made a good job of the top 5a pitch, lacing it with so much gear she ran out of extenders before the end of it! We then retired to the Fort for a shandy in the sunshine.

2nd May - Ben Nevis

Rich, Gillian, Brian and I took a group of 27 American Scouts and parents up Ben Nevis today for the Ice Factor. A good effort from all of them to reach the top with still a little snow from the top part of the zig zags. After quite a chilly lunch stop to enjoy the view from the summit we headed down in time for a quick cream tea at Café Beag.

Friday, 16 July 2010

30th April - The Dragon's Tooth

Alex and I headed out onto the Dragon's Tooth on the Ballachulish Horseshoe today, a pleasant grade 2 scramble, if a little loose in places. Plenty of other folk out walking the two munros today in lovely sunshine despite the mediocre forecast. On the way down we were entertained by the lambs just above the village - one of them followed Alex bleating at him all the while. We also noted a sheep which appeared to fall over as it ran down the hill, then sat there until we had passed as if it was trying to convince us it had meant to do that... Whoever said sheep aren't very bright!

22nd April - Showery at Polldubh

Deciding that the weather was a bit iffy today and I probably wouldn't get out on anything tricky, I headed to shadow Al who was working for the Ice Factor today with Dan and Amanda. They climbed the Gutter (Diff) in quite heavy rain before it dried out for a little while allowing us to get onto Right Wall on Styx Buttress (VDiff) before beating a retreat as the rain came in again. Gillian came up to meet us in the glen, with the intention of us climbing afterwards, but we decided almost straight away that a session in the wall was a better option!

16th April - Stac Pollaidh

Maz and I headed further north today to a very blustery and slightly damp Stac Pollaidh. Lovely scrambling and some moody views of Torridon and the north-western wilderness, and some slightly hair-raising moments of nearly being blown off the pinnacles on this grade 2 scramble got rid of the cobwebs following a birthday beer or two at the Sligachan!

14th April - The Inn Pinn

Maz's birthday dawned calm, clear and really quite warm. Her dream of doing the Inn Pinn seemed pretty feasible, although we still weren't completely sure if we would come across awkward snow patches or not on the way there. In the event we didn't, made it there, climbed it, abseiled in style and made it back to Glen Brittle in time for ice cream. Result.

Maz really enjoying the scree... No, really!

First view of the pinnacle from the airy scramble on the way up

The classic view of the Inn Pinn in stunning weather.

The Moderate ridge route I lead Maz up.

Sgurr Alasdair and spot the meerkat.

Happy much Maz?!

Not a bad spot for a first 'proper' abseil!

13th April - The spur on Sgurr an Fheadain

On the second day of the Skye mini-break, Maz and I headed for a nice easy scramble on The Spur of Sgurr an Fheadain. This is a grade 2 route which I'd been eyeing up for a while as a pleasant short day out. It takes a line next to the fantastic Waterpipe Gully for the top section, which I'll need to go back for some other time. It's a nice wee scramble with good sound slabby rock for the lower part although there are a few looser bits high up. We descended the screes on the right hand side into the coire and walked back via a bit of boulder hopping down the burn. This was the first time I'd really stopped to look at the Fairy Pools and I can certainly see why so many folk go for a wander by them - stunning rock formations and aquamarine water in the sunshine is a winning combination!
Back to Glen Brittle for the evening where we found ice cream first (got to get your priorities right in these things after all!) followed by nice somerset cider on the beach, with a fire, some other random campers and a guitar. Good times!

12th April - Coire Lagan

Today Maz and I headed up to Skye for a few days of holiday. We got to Glen Brittle in the early afternoon, pitched camp and headed up into Coire Lagan for a spot of bouldering. Maz managed to skin her shin on the rough gabbro whilst we played on some problems. We also managed to get a good look up into the top of the coire and it looked as if most of the snow was cleared, just a few patches left. Not sure I'd have fancied the Great Stone Shoot up to Sgurr Alasdair though, still quite a large patch on that.

2nd April - North East Buttress

North East Buttress on Ben Nevis is an amazing line - the skyline ridge as you approach from the North Face car park. It presents an imposing route and a long day out. Pete and I got an early start on a beautiful day after a last minute decision in the bar the night before to head to the Ben rather than any of the other options we'd mooted. We swung leads for most of the way up, with Pete taking the trickier pitches of the 40 foot corner (great climbing) and the Man Trap (we went round it in the end after a few attempts). A fantastic day out with a gorgeous blood-red sunset over the Rum Cuillin on the way down.
I'm inspired to climb the ridge in summer now to see the differences in the line and lead the Man Trap... Perhaps have to come back and do it in winter at a later date!

Friday, 28 May 2010

23rd March - Polldubh

Today Maz and I headed up to Polldubh with Alex for a spot of cragging. Alex hadn't climbed much with ropes for a while, and this was the first time Maz had been climbing outside. I started off by leading up Repton Ridge (Diff), Alex lead up The Gutter (Diff) and then I took us up Right Wall (VDiff) on Styx Buttress. I finished up with a quick solo of Slanting Slab (VDiff). The aim of today was to give Maz some confidence on outdoor rock in preparation for the Inn Pin next month, which we achieved with her confidently climbing a route 2 grades harder than the climbing on there will be!

17th March - Coire nan Lochan

Ali and I were out for the second day of the MIC assessment in Coire nan Lochan. Today was a teaching day, looking at mountaineering skills. We covered snow and rock anchors, placement of pitons, snow pack stability, multi-pitch ropework and logistics and finished up by playing on some steep rock on a top-rope with our ice tools. Congratulations to Gaz who deservedly passed his MIC despite everything Ali and I could throw at him!

16th March - Thomson's Route

Today Ali and I were out being guinea-pigs for an MIC assessment with PyB. We had a great day on Thomson's Route (IV,4) which is an icy mixed route near to No 3 Gully Buttress (our original aim, but there was a large party on it already). The ice was great and Stu McAleese kept us entertained on stances whilst Gaz did his thing leading the route. There was quite a lot of debris around under the gullies today, and some deep soft snow on the walk in.

10th March - Italian Climb Right Hand

In total contrast to the previous day cragging in the sunshine, Jamie and I headed for the Ben today to climb Italian Climb - Right Hand (IV,4). This route has a meaty first few pitches, followed by a few of easier terrain to come out onto Tower Ridge. We then descended the ridge and agreed that it is one route you could justify abseiling off after the main part if you weren't planning to head up TR afterwards.

9th March - Gairloch Cragging

First cragging of the year up at Gairloch in Raven Crag area. Jamie B and I decided that the rock would be warm enough to jump onto today so headed to these lovely crags for some early season mileage. Hard at first not to try and kick each step to seat it after what feels like a long winter, but loving the feeling that you could lace each route with gear! I lead up Lucy (VDiff) to start, followed by swinging leads on Charlestone (Sev 4a), Jamie lead Plump (VS 4b) a nice little steeper line on Fruity Crag, I lead the slightly eliminate line of Leac McCac (VS 4c) and Jamie finished up with Acorn Slab (VS 4b) on Druid rock - a lovely thin slab to start, but a bit loose higher up. Warm enough whilst the sun was on us, but as soon as it dropped behind the horizon we were reminded that it is in fact still only March!

7th March - Winter Mountaineering Day

A day out shadowing Jamie B, who was working with a couple wanting to improve their winter skills and ropework for easy climbing terrain. We spent the day looking at snow stability, anchors and movement techniques in Coire nan Lochan, before heading up the East Ridge in pitches over some rockier terrain to get them thinking about using the rope to protect each other on more exposed terrain. The cloud opened on the summit to give a few views and we stopped on the way back to look at some snow shelters that had been dug by others.

4th March - An Steall Ban

A busy day on Steall Falls. Ali and I went up early for her first outdoor ice climbing. She found it nice and easy and even lead a pitch at the top. After abseiling off, we managed to hitch a lift back to the Fort from some fellow climbers.

3rd March - Beinn a'Chochuill & Beinn Dorain

After such a great day on Ben Cruachan the day before, James and I decided to head to the next Munros across, Beinn a'Chochuill & Beinn Dorain. These hills aren't quite as pointy as their neighbours, but still gave a satisfying day out, finished with a bum-slide of a good 300m :-D

23rd February - Aonach Eagach

Finally that blue-sky névé day I'd been waiting for on the Aonach Eagach. Having spent last winter working in the Clachaig and talking to lots of happy mountaineers who had returned from that perfect winter day (including the other 4 climbing staff members at the time on a day when I was working!) this route was high on my list. I didn't want to do it on a grey day or when things weren't just right though, and it was well worth the wait. Chris, Dan, Lorraine and myself headed out. As it was Chris's first time wearing crampons outside (!) we moved together over most of the ridge and abseiled the first steep descent from Am Bodach. Great day on the hill.

22nd February - Onich

Given a cold and sunny day again today, Ali, Chris and I escaped from centre for a few hours to head to Onich Slabs for some staff training. This gave me a chance to get familiar with the set-up for this crag and Ali and Chris took the opportunity to rig top-ropes and releasable abseils which they have been practising indoors recently.

18th February - Beinn Udlaidh

Less powder and colder, so a trip to Beinn Udlaidh. Jamie and I climbed South Gully of the Black Rocks (IV) and Green Eyes (IV,4). The ice was good, if a little brittle and there were lots of other teams out enjoying the conditions too.

17th February - Salamander Gully

Despite a good 6 inches of fresh snow in Kinlochleven, Jamie and I managed to make it out of the village and over Rannoch Moor, where there was less powder (although I did almost persuade him that skiing would be a good option!). We went to climb Salamander Gully (III) on Beinn an Dotaidh. There is only really one main pitch on this route with easier going either side. The ice was cruddy on the steep section which made it trickier than it might have been. A good day nonetheless and the cloud opened as we descended to give some stunning lighting and views.

12th February - Aonach Mor

Went up to Aonach Mor with Alex to find near white-out conditions on top and lots of fresh snow. Abseiled down Easy Gully to check out what things looked like on the climbs, but found the slope under the crag to be pretty unstable. We decided to cut our losses and climb back up, then spent the afternoon pottering and playing with map & compass.

11th February - Ben Cruachan

Another cracking ridge-walking day - James and I followed the good forecast by going south a little to Ben Cruachan. We walked the horseshoe on nice névé with the weather sometimes making us wonder if it was really February still! Although we didn't rush the day, we got back in the same time as my guidebook suggests for summer, which we were rather chuffed with.

9th February - Twisting Gully

A fantastic day in Coire nan Lochan, Glencoe with sunshine and lovely névé. Gillian and I climbed Twisting Gully (III, 4) which is a classic line. We made an early start and had descended Broad Gully by lunchtime. We considered jumping on another route, but I had to be back in work for the evening and the coire was quite busy so we had to call it a day.

3rd February - Sgurr an Fhuarail

Went up to Glen Shiel with the intention of walking the Three Brothers ridge with James. Interesting and somewhat unstable snow conditions on the ascent followed by very odd and time-consuming snow formations on the ridge meant that we cut the day short having visited the first top of Sgurr an Fhuarail.