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 Pianokraken, 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 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.

 

Two More Days with the Alpine Academy

I have just spent the last two days with the Arc’teryx Alpine Academy in the Mont Blanc Massif. This excellent event is held each June in Chamonix with the aim of providing climbers and mountaineers with skills training.

The weather has been mixed over the last couple of days with further snowfall at altitude. However, we have had two great days out. The first at the Aiguille du Midi and today at the Mer de Glace.

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Arcteryx Alpine Academy

I arrived in the Alps yesterday evening to start my summer season and today I have been teaching on the Arcteryx Alpine Academy. This very successful training event is held each year in the Chamonix valley.

Today I was out on the Vallee Blanche near the Aiguille du Midi looking at skills such as crevasse rescue. There is a lot of deep snow around. This should be taken into account when planning objectives.

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Aonach Eagach

Yesterday John and I were out with Derek, Isobel, Kostos, Lorn and Perry from Falkirk Community Trust on the Aonach Eagach in Glen Coe.

Derek, Isobel and Lorn on the Aonach Eagach

Derek, Isobel and Lorn on the Aonach Eagach

There was rain and sleet at times, but generally conditions weren’t too bad. The views to The Lost Valley and Stob Coire nan Lochan showed there’s still plenty of snow high up with major gullies and high North and East facing slopes holding plenty of old snow. I’ll put a few more photos on the Facebook page to show conditions.

Looking back to the Aonach Eagach during the descent

Looking back to the Aonach Eagach during the descent

SPA Training

For the past three days I have been course directing an SPA training course for EICA Ratho. As well as climbing at Ratho, we visited Aberdour, Rosyth Quarry and Blackford Quarry. Despite the mixed forecast we managed to get lots of climbing done at these three quick drying venues.

Andy leading at Aberdour.

Andy leading at Aberdour.

 

Four Days and Four Seasons on Skye

I’m just back from spending Monday to Thursday on Skye with Marian and Hazel. We visited all eleven Munros on the Skye Ridge over the four days and experienced some very varied weather.

Hazel and Marian with Sgurr Alasdair and Sgurr Thearlaich behind on June 2!

Hazel and Marian with Sgurr Alasdair and Sgurr Thearlaich behind on 2nd of June!

On Monday with wet snow down to around 750m and sleet falling from early afternoon we had an early start and went up Sgurr a’Ghreadaidh and Sgurr a’Mhadaidh from An Dorus.

Marian and Hazel just above the chimney on The South-West Ridge of Sgurr Alasdair

Marian and Hazel just above the chimney on The South-West Ridge of Sgurr Alasdair

The forecast had worsened for Tuesday, but we decided to attempt Sgurr nan Eag, Sgurr an Dubh Mor via Sgurr Dubh na Da Bheinn and Sgurr Alasdair via it’s South-West Ridge and descend The Great Stone Shoot. Fresh snow and fairly constant sleet/rain made for a long day. However, the occasional break in the clouds gave amazing views and successfully completing the planned route made it very rewarding.

Hazel and Marian on top of Am Basteir with Sgurr nan Gillean behind

Hazel and Marian on top of Am Basteir with Sgurr nan Gillean behind

The best weather of the week on Wednesday saw us traversing Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir and Bruach na Frithe in sunshine or broken cloud for most of the day.

Marian and Hazel in cloud on the top slab of the Inaccessible Pinnacle

Marian and Hazel in cloud on the top slab of the Inaccessible Pinnacle

Thursday didn’t live up to it’s better forecast and we spent most of the day in cloud and later steady drizzle as we visited Sgurr na Banachdich, The Inaccessible Pinnacle and Sgurr Mhic Choinnich.

Hazel lowering off the Inaccessible Pinnacle

Hazel lowering off the Inaccessible Pinnacle

Skye, as usual, didn’t disappoint and Marian and Hazel coped brilliantly with all the weather had to throw at us. An excellent few days in very good company.

The sun on Wednesday and drizzle on Thursday had cleared most of the fresh snow by the time we left. However, the odd patch was still making some slabby sections quite treacherous and care was definitely required. I’ll put some more photos up on the Facebook page.

Another Great Trip to Skye

I am just back from another very successful trip to Skye with the Falkirk High Tops Team.

On Thursday we visited the beautiful Spar Cave. As the tide was in we abseiled into the inlet which gives access to the cave. Following our visit to the cave we jumared back out.

We made use of an improving forecast for Saturday by climbing the North West ridge of Sgurr a Mhadaidh on Friday before making a water and food drop in preparation for Saturdays activities.

On Saturday we left the Sligachan at 4am for Sgurr nan Gillean. We then spent the next 20 hours completing a one day traverse of the Cuillin Ridge.

Following a long lie this morning we had a full Scottish breakfast in Broadford before returning to Falkirk.

There are many more photos on the climbnow facebook page.

Near the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean.

Near the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean.

Blackford Quarry

Nigel & I were out again today with another group from Grangemouth High School for Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors. We were rock climbing and abseiling at Blackford Quarry in Edinburgh. This works well as a group crag and although Mike was also there with a small group and there was another group it didn’t feel too crowded. There was plenty of climbing for everyone, particularly as we worked with each other and also rigged lines away from the main face.

The crag was dry and it was sunny with a light wind. The group and teachers worked well together, which made for an excellent day.