Sunday, 21 August 2016

Curved Ridge

Sara and Giles have been slowly expanding their scrambling experience whilst bagging their first 50 Munros. Today I was working for Kirkhope Mountaineering helping them push onto something a little more technical in the form of Curved Ridge. The mist came and went until the cairn atop the Ridge when it got a bit grey and mizzley but that didn't stop us taking in the top of Crowberry Tower from the crest of Crowberry Ridge but the Smidge was definitely in use lower down today and we were glad of the breeze on the summit! Good craic with this pair of scientists as we discussed everything from indoor climbing grades to quantum physics!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Blustery on Tower Ridge

Charlie walked up Ben Nevis earlier this year and spotted me taking two folk up Tower Ridge. When we came round to the summit he wanted to know if he could do that? 20 seconds of questioning and the answer was 'Sure you can'. So he enlisted Dave and today was the day. We set a healthy walk in pace on the windy walk in and were soon heading up onto the Ridge. We had some visibility and dry weather until near the Great Tower where we entered some dense damp cloud and the rock got a bit greasier. That made the Gap just that bit more interesting and there was a bit if 'having a word with themselves' going on! we were on the plateau less than 5 hours from the car and it after a short visit to the top we plunged down the Pony Track and then off into the mist to the top of Ledge Route in very blustery weather. We made a brisk descent passing 2 large groups from OB LochEil on their way up and just as the rope came off the rain got a little more serious speeding us on our way back past the CIC Hut and on to the car park. Having had a well timed day is was all the more ironic that it took over 40 minutes from Torlundy to the Mallaig roundabout!
Nice to have Andy out observing me today and well done Charlie and Dave- enjoy the beers!
 Best view of the day
 Still dry and Ledge Route visible on the horizon
 Getting higher
 Still dry
 The Little Tower
 Soaking it up
 Here comes the mist
 Up the side of the Great Tower
 A big step across Tower Gap for Dave
 It was everything Charlie expected and more!
Summit heroes... now lets not be boring and take the Pony Track down lads...

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Getting High in Glen Nevis

The excellent SMC Highland Outcrops South came out again as Rich and I had a rare day off that coincided with each other and some dry weather. Fancying a change we made the hour long schlep (look it up, its Yiddish and means 'a tedious or difficult journey') up from Sheep Fank Buttress out above the trees and bracken (and insects too) in sweltering weather to reach Saddle Crag where rather than walk up the side we mad a quick big boot ascent of Albatross- a pleasant Diff (although I led us up the finish of the neighbouring VDiff, Seal as it looked much more interesting). This brought us out below Rounded Crag where Rich led us up Blue Lace which we both found tough for VS4c and I led Omegalegs (it gets Severe but although the climbing feels VDiff there is very little protection worth the name. Then we drifted right past Gully Crag and Boulder Buttress to Twin Buttress where the line of Middlelast a 3 pitch HS had fought our eye. The first pitch (Scrappy in the guidebook- try filthy) led to a steep pull over onto another blank slab. Rich brought me up to the belay and we look up and across pitch 2... a 15m traverse on a fearless slab. No thanks. Escape was made easily up Cigol a Severe with gear but sharing the first pitch of Middlelast (although that pitch would give a Severe leader nightmares for life!). Impressively these routes are all Klaus Schwartz 1970s specials climbed in poor rock shoes with little gear or just soloed. They built them tougher then!
It was fun exploring somewhere new close to home but sad to come down to news that 2 members of Scotland mountaineering and instructional community are no longer with us. Rest in peace James and Paul, you'll both me missed not least by your families who have my sincerest condolences. Maybe you're sharing a rope at a big crag in the sky...?

Hitting the wall

After a weekend drying out post Ben Nevis Survey I did 3 days of wall work. For 2 days I was delivering Staff Training for Transition Extreme covering use of their abseil platform, floor walking and route setting. Then yesterday I was at TCA in Glasgow working with Duncan Paterson to deliver a Mountaineering Scotland FUNdas 2 to the staff team from Blairvadach OEC. As ever the perverse nature of life means it seems that when it was torrential rain I was on Ben Nevis and when the sun was splitting the sky I was in a climbing wall!
 Group abseil
 Autobelay suspension (Jay going for an Oscar)
 Reviewing LTPD from FUNdas 1
 Thinking about triangles
 You WILL climb with straight arms
 Mirror me
 Too hot in the wall!

The Ben Nevis Survey

It ended after 3 great years a week ago but as I wrote on Facebook:
The third year of our mountaineering/geology/botany partnership on Ben Nevis. Reports are being written but we have identified huge new populations of nationally scarce plants (and some first records for Ben Nevis) as well as contributing to a better understanding of the formation of Britain's highest mountain. Thanks to: SNH and Nevis Landscape Partnership for making it possible, Mike of Abacus Mountain guides for putting such a great team together, The Botanical Society of Britian and Ireland and Ian, Matt, Dan and mountain botany's very own Yoda- Gordon, Roddy our insight into geology and all his team from Midland Valley, the Trainee Volunteer Rangers (strong backs and good humour abounded), The John Muir Trust for lending us Ali and Blair, the SMC for the use of the CIC Hut and all my fellow walking leaders and Mountain Instructors for their skill and professionalism and endless good humour and hard work despite the worst that British weather could throw at us (never have so many worn 2 sets of waterproofs at a time to so little effect for so many days) and the various others that volunteered to help out and learn lots on the way. Every now and then you get to be a part of a project where the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts, the synergy that this project generated was great to feel and results have already been described as truely valuable and extremely exciting. Abacus Mountain Guides Nevis Landscape Partnership Scottish National Heritage Midland Valley Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland Kirkhope Mountaineering Donald King The Highland Mountain Company Lochaber Guides Atlas Mountaineering John Muir Trust Association of Mountaineering Instructors