Lowland Leader Award

At the weekend Martin and I were working on a Lowland Leader Award in conjuction with Falkirk Community Trust. This is an excellent introductory walking qualification. More details can be found at www.mountain-training.org.

Swiss-Perimeter with Rupert and Frost Guiding

This week I have been out with Rupert on behalf of Frost Guiding. Rupert is currently trying to complete the whole of the Swiss perimeter in one summer. As part of this adventure we climbed nine 4000 metre peaks and one major summit over five days. Rupert’s adventures can be followed at, www.swiss-perimeter.ch.

Our week began on Sunday with an ascent of the Breithorn(4164m) before overnighting at the Klein Matterhorn station. The mountain was in good condition.

The weather was less than perfect on Monday but we still managed to climb Pollux (4092m) and Castor (4223m) on the way to the Quintino Sella Hut. Pollux was in very good condition. The upper section of Castor is now becoming icy and requires steady cramponing.

We left the Quintion Sella hut early on Tuesday morning to traverse the Passo il Nasso. The ascent of this required three pitches and ice screw belays. After we traversed the pass we climbed Ludwigshohe (4341m), Parrotspitze (4432m) and Signalkuppe (4554m) before overnighting at the Rifugio Margherita. All three peaks were in good condition.

The next morning we climbed the Zumsteinspitze (4563m) before traversing to the Dufourspitze (4634m) via the South East Ridge. This AD ridge requires very precise crampon technique as the ridges are very narrow and mistakes are not an option!

After descending the fixed ropes we then climbed Nordend (4609m) before descending to the Monte Rosa Hutte. This glacial descent is complex this year and the track passes very close to significant serac fall debris.

Yesterday, we climbed Cima di Jazzi (3803m) from the Monte Rosa Hutte before traversing the Stockhorn to the Gornergrat railway and Zermatt. This was a very long day on which we saw no other parties.

More photos can be seen on the climbnow facebook page.

Rupert on the South East Ridge of the Duforspitze.

Rupert on the South East Ridge of the Dufourspitze.

 

Pygmy Ridge and Afrethought Arete

Yesterday I was out in the Cairngorms with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors team of Alasdair, Alec, Imran and Wilson. We had an excellent day climbing Pygmy Ridge in Coire an t-Sneachda after which we walked over to the Loch Avon Basin and climbed Afterthought Arete on Stag Rocks. We then headed back across the plateau to pt. 1141m and dropped back in to the ski area.

Wilson and Alec on Pygmy Ridge

Wilson and Alec on Pygmy Ridge

This made for a classic circuit taking in two good Moderate rock climbs. Care is required with some loose rock on both climbs and on the approach to Pygmy Ridge. The rock was generally dry and we had one light shower during the day.

John, Imran and Alastair on Afterthought Arete

John, Imran and Alasdair on Afterthought Arete

There are a few snow patches still around, but they didn’t impact the approaches to our routes. Hell’s Lum Crag looked quite damp and still has a significant snow patch underneath it’s right hand side. I’ve put a few more photos from the day on the Climbnow Facebook page.

The First 4000ers of the Season

This past week I have been with Frost Guiding who are based in Evolene.

We began the week on Sunday by completing an Ecole de Glace and crevasse rescue session on the Ferpecle Glacier before walking to the Tracuit Hut on Monday and climbing the Bishorn (4153m) on Tuesday. The mountain was in good condition with a track in the glacier to the summit. The new Tracuit Hut is very comfortable.

On Wednesday we approached the Gnifetti Hut from the Gressoney valley. We had hoped to climb Lyskamm the next day but had to abandon this plan due to very high winds that were not forecast.

Instead, we climbed II Naso (4272m) and Punta Giordani (4046m). II Naso was in good condition. The route from Punta Indren to Punta Giordani is drying out very fast in the current heatwave and may not be in safe condition for much longer.

Yesterday, we completed the Clocher de la Couronne (3101m). This mountain provides an excellent rock traverse and can be accessed from the Moiry Dam.

Of note, this season I have already witnessed more significant rockfall than I did during the whole of last season. This problem will continue as long as the current heatwave continues.

The Zinalrothorn from the Tracuit Hut.

The Zinalrothorn from the Tracuit Hut.

The Hawkcraig, Aberdour

Ivor, Nettle and I met up for a morning’s climbing at the tidal quartz dolerite sea cliff of The Hawkraig at Aberdour in Fife today. The sun was shining and the seals were singing out on the islands, which made for a very pleasant back drop as we climbed a bunch of easy to mid-grade routes.

Nettle and Ivor at the top of the two star Severe, The Lilly.

Nettle and Ivor at the top of the two star Severe, The Lilly.

The climbing at the crag is generally very good, although a bit of care is required with loose rock/soil/sand higher up on some of the routes. It’s definitely worth checking tide times if visiting the crag as the access to a lot of the crag is much easier at mid to low tide.

Blackford Quarry

Mai and Suresh were up in Edinburgh for the weekend and fancied an half day introduction to rock climbing today. To maximise climbing time we headed for Blackford Quarry in Edinburgh.

Mai climbing Komik Kuts with Suresh below.

Mai climbing Komik Kuts with Suresh below.

They took to climbing on rock well and we managed a number of bottom ropes on the main west facing wall, whilst learning to tie-in and belay, before they seconded me on Komik Kuts and the Quarry Pinnacle. We finished the day with a stacked abseil on the main wall and headed back to the car just as the rain began to fall in earnest.

Suresh climbing the Quarry Pinnacle.

Suresh climbing the Quarry Pinnacle.

Climbing Wall Award Training

On Tuesday and Wednesday evening this week I was running part of a CWA Training Course for East Lothian Council. We used the small, but good wall at Foresters Park, Tranent and EICA Ratho. The 6 participants were keen and all have an interest in using the award with young people, which made for two excellent sessions.

Lofoten and Vesteralen

Jen & I are just back from a great couple of weeks in Norway and more specifically the Lofoten and Vesteralen Islands. We met up with B and Butch for the first few days for some walking and climbing near Svolvaer and Hennigsvaer.

B on the summit block of the Svolvaergeita

B on the summit block of the Svolvaergeita

B & I climbed two classic local rock routes. Firstly the famous pinnacle of the Svolvaergeita (Svolvaer Goat) by the 3 pitch 1910 Ruta, the bottom pitch was damp but still good fun and the rest was excellent. Both B & I chose the stretch rather than the jump between the two summit block horns. Secondly we climbed the excellent 5 pitch Pianohandler Lunds Rute on the Pianokrakken, which gave very pleasant climbing in a stunning setting.

B climbing in sun on Pianohandler Lunds Rute

B climbing in sun on Pianohandler Lunds Rute

Additionally, Jen & Butch, accompanied by B and me when not climbing, walked the hills of Kongstinden, Floya and Festvagtinden. There’s some delightful walking in the area often on narrow ridges and frequently requiring some scrambling. We were also lucky enough to get a superb weather day for a sea kayak trip to Trollfjord.

Butch about to kayak across to Trollfjord at the foot of the hills behind

Butch about to kayak across to Trollfjord at the foot of the hills behind

We were then met by the sailing team of Bruce, Angela, Jacky and Fraser that had been the inspiration for the trip and picked up the yacht Klara. We spent the next week sailing around the islands up as far as Bleik and down as far as Nusfjord with a couple of drop offs for the walking team to do a traverse of Delpen and Malmora and a beautiful through route from Nappsstraumen to Nusfjord. The sailing was excellent and as a bonus we saw porpoises, orca and lots of sea eagles. On our last day on Lofoten after dropping off the boat Jen and I had a pleasant half day walk/scramble on Blatinden.

Angela, B, Jacky, Jen and Bruce sailing the Klara.

Angela, B, Jacky, Jen and Bruce sailing the Klara.

A memorable trip with stunning views, more granite than seems possible, twenty-four hour daylight and great company. I’ll add more photos on the Facebook page, once I’ve sorted through them.

Fraser, B and Butch relaxing on the boat

Fraser, B and Butch relaxing on the boat

Big Days Out in Les Ecrins

Following a few hours rock climbing at La Duchere crag near Les Contamines last Sunday, Paul and I drove down to Les Ecrins on Monday morning to meet Tina, Scott, Steve and Duncan. We then made the long walk into the Refuge Adele Planchard. The walk begins near La Grave and is very scenic.

Our intention was to climb La Grande Ruine (3765m) on Tuesday morning, however a change in forecast prompted a change in plan. As the weather was forecast to deteriorate at 4am the next morning we opted to climb the peak after dinner. We managed to make the summit in difficult snow conditions before returning to the at 2am. We had a long lie the next morning until 8am before walking out and driving to Ailefroide to overnight.

On Wednesday we walked into the Refuge du Pelvoux before climbing Mont Pelvoux (3943m) on Thursday morning via the Coolidge Couloir. The route was in excellent condition and is best climbed at this time of year when the chance of stonefall is minimised by good snow cover. It is also worth having two axes for the couloir.

Following a short rest we made the 1800 metre hut climb to the Refuge de l’Aigle on Friday at 6.30am. This well named hut (the hut of the eagles) is in a simply stunning location and well worth the effort in getting there.

The approach to the hut involves significant amounts of scrambling, via ferrata and glacier work. It should not be made in poor weather or visibility.

On Saturday we climbed La Meije Oriental (3891m) in excellent conditions before returning to the valley and Saint Gervais for a great meal out in the village.

To see more images of this stunning area please visit the climbnow facebook page.

The team on the summit of Mont Pelvoux.

The team on the summit of Mont Pelvoux.

Paul climbing at La Duchere.

Paul climbing at La Duchere.

Mont Blanc Massif and Arolla

Andrew and I have just had a great five days mountaineering in the Mont Blanc Massif and Arolla Valley despite some challenging weather.

On Monday we travelled through the Mont Blanc Tunnel and used the new telepherique to the Punta Helbronner before climbing the Aiguille Marbrees (3535m) and the Aiguille de Toule (3534m). The parking for the new telepherique is in a new location and it is worth allowing a couple of minutes to find it.

With a poor forecast for Tuesday we made the best of the day by visiting the Mer de Glace and practising the key crevasse rescue skills we would need for our planned expedition over the next three days.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday  were spent in the Arolla Valley were we climbed firstly to the Cabane des Vignettes before an ascent of the Pigne d’Arolla (3790m) on Thursday morning.

After our ascent of the Pigne we made the long approach to the Bivouac de l’Aiguillette. This is a brilliant remote hut and provides some great mountains with no other climbers around.

The weather deteriorated on Thursday evening into Friday but we still managed an ascent of the Becque Labie (3463m) before returning to Arolla

There is large quantities of new snow around which made the return to Arolla on Friday hard work. During our expediton period we did not see any other climbers other than at the Vignettes Hut. Therefore, there are no tracks at the moment so good navigation skills are essential.

There are lots more photos on the facebook page.

On the approach to the Bivouac.

On the approach to the Bivouac.

Approaching the Aiguille Marbrees.

Approaching the Aiguille Marbrees.