Pentlands

There was excellent sunny autumn weather in Edinburgh this weekend and Nettle and I managed to get out for a run in the Pentland Hills this afternoon.

Nettle on a small outcrop near one of the tops of East Cairn Hill

Nettle on a small outcrop near one of the tops of East Cairn Hill

We did a circuit from near Buteland taking in fair bit of trackless ground around East Cairn Hill as well as the path back past the Bore Stane. The ground was generally quite good underfoot with the odd soggy/muddy section and any outcropping rock was dry.

Pygmy Ridge and Afterthought Arete, Cairngorms

Out today in the Cairngorms with Harry and Fiona. After meeting in the ski centre car park and being pleasantly surprised to find the majority of the cloud below us we headed in to Coire an t-Sneachda and climbed Pygmy Ridge.

Harry & Fiona high on Pygmy Ridge

Harry & Fiona high on Pygmy Ridge

We approached the route via the line of Central Left Hand and then a short traverse, which works well. The rock and turf on Central Left Hand were damp from having been in cloud, but the rock on Pygmy Ridge was dry.

Near the top of Pygmy Ridge

Near the top of Pygmy Ridge

We then headed over to the Loch Avon Basin and climbed Afterthought Arete on Stag Rocks. Again the rock was dry and we enjoyed excellent views from the route.

Harry on Afterthought Arete

Harry on Afterthought Arete

A stroll back over the plateau and a wander down Fiacaill Coire Cas completed a very good day out. Lots of ptarmigan about in their autumn plummage and the odd hare.

Fiona and Harry with Carn Etchachan behind

Fiona and Harry with Carn Etchachan behind

Dry all day with light easterly winds. As we descended the cloud was rolling in over the plateau.

Rock climbing in the Lake District

Steve topping out on Middlefell Buttress.

Steve topping out on Middlefell Buttress.

 

Today, Duncan and I climbed at Shepherds Crag. We had intended on climbing in the South Lakes but low cloud and drizzle persisted longer than forecast. We climbed Brown Slabs Arete, Brown Slabs Direct and the super classic Little Chamonix to finish. All three routes were dry and the crag remained quite all day.

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Yesterday, Duncan, Steve and I were climbing in Langdale. We began the day by climbing Gimmer Chimney on Gimmer Crag. The route is given ‘Very Difficult’ in the guidebook but felt harder than this due to the low cloud making the rock damp. The chimney on pitch two is also currently wet and the rock is green.

After descending out of the cloud and down to the base of Middlefell Buttress, the lads then led this classic three pitch ‘Difficult’ rock climb. The rock was in perfect condition.

Sea kayaking in Croatia

The last three Septembers Jen and I have had a sea kayaking trip to North-West Scotland. This year Jen fancied somewhere further afield and we are just back from a week kayaking in Croatia. 

Jen with some typical limestone scenery

Jen with some typical limestone scenery

After flying to Dubrovnik and being picked up by Dom from Adriatic Kayak Tours we had a wander around the beautiful walled city before meeting the rest of the team.

The team with Dom in the background

The team with Dom in the background

The first three nights were in tents as we paddled up the coast from Zaton bay to Broce in the Ston Kanal. At Broce we moved in to the first of the very friendly guesthouses and hotels used for the rest of the trip before a walk in to Ston to see the walls and for another excellent meal. Good food was a definite feature of the trip.

Crossing between islands

Crossing between islands

From Ston we headed back to Dubrovnik over the next three days via the islands of Olipa, Sipan, Lopud, and Kolocep before finishing back in Zaton Bay. The coastline is mostly limestone with lots of caves to explore either in the kayaks or a couple we had to swim in to. There would also be plenty of climbing and deep water soloing potential. The weather wasn’t too hot, we had some rain and evenings were cool, which suited Jen and I. The previous week it had rained properly for the first time in nearly three months, so if you’re a sun lover it might be worth going earlier in the year.

Liz paddling between stacks

Liz paddling between stacks

Thanks to the Liz, Dave, Rosanne and Philip for providing great company and to Tammy and particularly Dom from Adriatic Kayak Tours for his excellent local knowledge, good kayaking tips, patience and sense of fun.

Jen and I near the end of a delightful trip

Jen and I near the end of a delightful trip

Alpine Summer Report 2013

A team on the ascent of Roche Faurio with the Barre des Ecrins beyond.

A team on the ascent of Roche Faurio with the Barre des Ecrins beyond.

It has been an excellent summer in the Alps. In many areas this past winter and spring ten metres of snow fell. This has led to some fantastic conditions on the glaciers and the ridges of many regions.

It has been a busy summer for the ClimbNow team. Paul has been busy throughout North Wales teaching rock climbing and summer mountaineering skills. Martin has been doing similar work in many parts of Scotland and has spent some time climbing with me in the Alps. I have spent the summer guiding throughout the Alps during the months of June, July, August and September.

Tina and Scott on the summit ridge of Les Agneaux in Les Ecrins.

Tina and Scott on the summit ridge of Les Agneaux in Les Ecrins.

My summer began with a holiday in Les Aravis and the Chaine du Bargy with Rosie. From here, I drove to Les Ecrins and spent two brilliant weeks climbing in the best conditions I have seen in the massif for many years. Routes such as the Voie Originale on the Pic Coolidge were in good condition. Normally this route would be unsafe by late June.

Steve, Duncan and Steve climbing Pic Coolidge.

Steve, Duncan and Tim climbing Pic Coolidge.

After Les Ecrins, I had three weeks climbing in the Mont Blanc Massif, around Saas Fee and in the Val d’Herens. I had the opportunity to climb many interesting and beautiful mountains such as Alphubel, Mont Blanc and the Lagginhorn.

A team descending from the summit of Mont Blanc.

A team descending from the summit of Mont Blanc.

At this point in the season, I often find it useful to have a few days off. This year I returned to the UK for a few days and to attend a wedding before returning to the the peaks around Saas Grund and the three areas mentioned above.

Sunrise on the ascent of Weissmies from the Almageller Hut.

Sunrise on the ascent of Weissmies from the Almageller Hut.

Highlights from this period include; the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn, the traverse of Pigne d’Arolla and Mont Blanc de Cheilon, the traverse of Weissmies and Allalinhorn’s Holaubgrat.

John, Harvey and Andy on the summit of the Lagginhorn having completed the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn.

John, Harvey and Andy on the summit of the Lagginhorn having completed the South Ridge of the Lagginhorn.

The season continued with many fine summits in the Mont Blanc Massif and Gran Paradiso National Park before I returned to Les Ecrins for two more brilliant weeks of rock climbing and peak bagging.

Pam on the summit of the Aiguille Dibona.

Pam on the summit of the Aiguille Dibona.

The final week of my season was spent in the mountains above Saas Fee and Zermatt. Conditions were challenging but as always the mountains and the team I climbed with provided some amazing memories.

This season I have spent fifty seven days climbing and mountaineering, twenty four nights in sixteen different huts, have climbed thirty four alpine summits and eleven multi pitch climbs as well as many single pitch climbs and completed five Ecole de Glace sessions.

I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone who has joined me on the many adventures this summer has provided and made it such a memorable season.

Outside the Refuge de Soreiller with Martin and Ivor.

Outside the Refuge de Soreiller with Martin and Ivor.

 

Zermatt and Saas Fee

For the last five days I have been guiding for Northern Mountain Sport in the Zermatt and Saas Fee valleys where the weather and mountain conditions have been challenging.

Andy and Rob scrambling on Pollu(4092m) in less than perfect weather.

Andy and Rob scrambling on Pollux(4092m) in less than perfect weather.

 

Andy, Rob and I met on Saturday with a variable mountain forecast. We immediately used the Klein Matterhorn lift to gain height before using map, compass and GPS to locate the South West Ridge of Pollux (4092m). We climbed this in deteriorating weather before more map work safely deposited us in the Refuge Guide Val d’Ayas.

The weather the next morning was even worse than the day before with fresh snow covering all tracks. Mountain Guide Bruno from Fiesch did a great job in putiing a new track over the Grande Glacier di Verra which all teams used to return to the Klein Matterhorn station and Zermatt.

The forecast for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was variable. We headed to the Britannia Hutte above Saas Fee via the Plattjen lift. After some lunch we had a great afternoon on the Holaub Gletscher looking at crevasse rescue, the construction of ice anchors and ice climbing skills.

Andy waiting to be rescued from a deep crevasse.

Andy waiting to be rescued from a deep crevasse.

Yesterday, we climbed to the Adlerpass (3789m) putting in a new track all the way across the Allalin Gletscher in deep snow. From here we attempted to climb the Strahlhorn but had to retreat in poor weather and dangerous snow conditions (lots of fresh snow covering deep crevasses on the ridge).

Rob and Andy on the Allalin Gletscher during a spell of good weather.

Rob and Andy on the Allalin Gletscher during a spell of good weather.

Today was the final day of our trip. We had a great day traversing from the Britannia Hutte over the Holaub and Allalin Gletscher’s (again utilising Scottish winter navigational skills) and the Schwarxbergchopf (2868m) before descending to Mattmark from where the excellent Post bus service returned us to Saas Fee. On the way we also spent time relooking at crevasse rescue and also practising prusiking skills.

 

It has been a tough but rewarding week to finish the season on. Tomorrow I return to Scotland to begin the Autumn season.

 

Pointe de Burlan

Euan looking for the way through the initial overhangs

Euan looking for the way through the initial overhangs

Ivor has passed through some photos from last week, so I thought I’d upload a few of the day on the excellent Voie Muriabelle on the Pointe Occidentale de Burlan; see Euan’s earlier report for more details. All photos in this post courtesy of Ivor McCourt.

The superb pillar on the 6th pitch

The superb pillar on the 6th pitch

The pillar on the 6th pitch of this route would be a three star pitch in it’s own right on any crag.  

Starting the descent from the summit

Starting the descent from the summit

 The descent by abseil is quite complex and care is required to avoid the ropes getting stuck on the rough weathered granite.

Euan back at the base of the route

Euan back at the base of the route

 

La Duchere, Les Contamines

Yesterday, on our last morning in France, Ivor and I visited the well developed crag of La Duchere near Les Contamines.

Ivor leading pitch 3

Ivor leading pitch 3

On a recommendation from Euan we climbed the delightful route of “Le Nain Jaune attend”. The route is nine pitches of well bolted, varied climbing on good quality gneiss.

Enjoying high quality gneiss on the crux pitch

Enjoying high quality gneiss on the crux pitch

Following the route, we walked back to Les Contamines on well marked paths, before meeting Euan for a last lunch in St Gervais and then heading back to the airport.

The final hanging belay

The final hanging belay

A very good final day to an excellent trip.

Ivor meeting the "Nain Jaune"

Ivor discussing the weather with the “Nain Jaune”

Coupeau

Following our time in Les Ecrins; Martin, Ivor and I have returned to Saint Gervais. We had a good afternoon yesterday climbing at Coupeau. This crag is located near Chamonix and provides a good selection of sports routes which are well bolted on gneiss.

Well bolted climbing at Coupeau (photo by Ivor McCourt).

Well bolted climbing at Coupeau (photo by Ivor McCourt).

Pointes de Burlan

The weather has continued to be perfect in Les Ecrins. Martin, Ivor and I have made the most of this by travelling from Ailefroide to La Berarde. From here, on Tuesday, we made the steep walk to the Refuge du Soreiller.

Martin carbo-loading before the hut walk.

Martin carbo-loading before the hut walk.

This hut gives access to a number of amazing granite summits including; Aiguille Dibona, Aiguille Centrale de Soreiller and Tete du Rouget.

The Aiguille Dibona (3130m).

The Aiguille Dibona (3130m).

We decided to climb the Pointes de Burlan (3299m) via Le Voie Muriabelle (D+,V+). The route gives excellent varied climbing on red granite.

Ivor enjoying steep granite in Les Ecrins.

Ivor enjoying steep granite in Les Ecrins.

The descent can be made either via abseil or a long scrambling ridge. We opted to abseil. Care should be taken with this to avoid the ropes jamming.

Ivor on the descent of the Pointes de Burlan.

Ivor on the descent of the Pointes de Burlan.

 

 

 

 

 

It is worth noting an important mistake in the guidebook. It suggests the route can be climbed on a 30 metre rope. This is incorrect. At least two of the pitches are 45 metres in length. To abseil the route, two 50 metre ropes are required. The route has lots of bolts on the harder sections. On the easier sections, the bolting is sparse and some teams may choose to carry a few wires and a couple of cam’s.

 

Ivor and Martin with the Pointes de Burlan (3299m) behind.

Ivor and Martin with the Pointes de Burlan (3299m) behind.