Glen Shee

After I headed back up from down south yesterday Nettle and I were keen to get out in the hills today to blow the Christmas cobwebs away.

Nettle enjoying a Christmas snack under the summit of Creag Leacach.

Nettle enjoying a Christmas snack under the summit of Creag Leacach.

We headed for Glen Shee and very hopefully took ski touring gear thinking there was a small chance we might be able to link snow patches for a quick tour. The skis stayed firmly in the van and we headed out for a walk over Glas Maol; out and back to Creag Leacach, around to Druim Mor and up to Cairn of Claise. This took in three new Munros for Nettle and a new top for me and fitted the day well.

Nettle with Druim Mor behind.

Nettle with Druim Mor behind.

There were quite a lot of snow patches around higher up. The snow was generally wet and soft, but was firming up at height as the day wore on. The ground was saturated and above about 1000m some of the turf was still firm. Early on in the day it was raining continuously with this falling as sleet above 900m. The rain eased off early in the morning with just the odd hail or sleet shower in the afternoon. Strong southerly winds through the day and these were increasing in strength to above 50mph at height as we descended.

Thaw

The last week or so has been somewhat frustrating from a winter climbing point of view with several climbing trips having to be cancelled due to the unseasonal warm temperatures leaving the crags black and reducing the snow cover.

It’s meant I’ve spent a couple of days in the Falkirk Community Trust Base doing things like sharpening axes and crampons, a strangely pleasing task and worth thinking about at this time of year if you haven’t done it already.

Sharpening winter tools.

Sharpening winter tools.

Ivor and I resorted to an afternoon of skiing at the SnowFactor at Braehaed last week. It was the first time I’d skied there and well worth a visit.

SnowFactor Braehead. Ivor is the speeding blurin black.

SnowFactor Braehead. Ivor is the speeding blur in black.

Here’s hoping for some conditions more like this in the near future.

Tower Ridge, Ben Nevis in blue sky conditions.

Tower Ridge, Ben Nevis in blue sky conditions.

Ski Touring in the Lawers Range

Today was the first day of my winter season. I was out with Andy and Martin from East Lothian Council who are soon to be running ski touring courses for young people and adults.

We spent the day in the Lawers Range near Loch Tay looking at teaching key skills such as kick turns and avalanche rescue techniques. The minor road was not passable so we skinned from the main road. There was a good quantity of snow up high although it was hard to tell how much as the visibility was very poor.

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CWA EICA Ratho

I was working on the second day of a Climbing Wall Award Training course today at EICA Ratho. Alasdair, Inga, Lynda, Neil and Will did a great job of staying attentive throughout the day, particularly given the low temperatures in the arena. It’s definitely worth taking a belay jacket and hat, gloves etc. if your visiting Ratho at the moment. My job was made much easier by having a group with a genuine interest in climbing and/or working with groups in a climbing wall environment.

Winter climbing conditions further north looked like they may have been excellent today as there was a hard frost in Edinburgh this morning and a good dusting of snow on the Ochils.

British Mountain Guides AGM

This year is the 40th anniversary of the British Mountain Guides. At the weekend I was in North Wales at the AGM and dinner celebrating this. On Sunday we completed a very informative day looking at various aspects of risk asseement related to the role of a Mountain Guide.

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New Zealand

Jen and I are recently back from a trip based in Christchurch, New Zealand. The main reason for our trip wasn’t climbing or walking, however we did manage to get out for some easy family bouldering on the superb limestone at Castle Hill with Paul, Lara, Rowan and Tilly.

Paul, Rowan and topping out at Castle Hill.

Paul, Rowan and topping out at Castle Hill.

We also squeezed in some walking, or as Kiwis tend to call it tramping. We completed the Cass-Lagoon Saddle track over three days with Lara; a two day circuit with Paul of the Kirwan’s Track and Waitahu Valley from Capleston near Reefton and three days up to the Carroll hut and exploring the Kelly Range and the Bald Range near Arthur’s Pass.

Jen and Lara just above the Cass Saddle Hut.

Jen and Lara just above the Cass Saddle Hut.

Most of this walking was based around the excellent DOC (Department of Conservation) way marked trails. The routes would tend to be described as easy to moderate tramps, but this being New Zealand that does mean that there were a fair number of river crossings and some steep tree route pulling sections on some of the paths. The unmanned huts on these routes varied in quality from excellent new huts with stoves to little more than very basic bothies, the Kirwan’s, Hamilton and Carroll huts were all very pleasant.

The excellent Kirwan's Hut.

The excellent Kirwan’s Hut at over 1200m.

The walking terrain varied from braided rivers; beech forests; West Coast rainforest, complete with parrots; open tussock ground and even some easy scrambling in the Bald Range.

Jen and Paul on the ridge of Kirwan's Hill (1297m).

Jen and Paul on the ridge of Kirwan’s Hill (1297m).

I’ll add some more photos to the facebook page.

 

Skiing at Hillend

It was beautiful today at Midlothian Ski Centre in the Pentland Hills where I was teaching skiing. This season I will be writing reports from next month onwards from ski touring days both in Scotland and the Alps. The first of these will hopefully be soon as it looks like the conditions may not be far away.

The view today from the Pentlands.

The view today from the Pentlands.

Lowland Leader Award

Lunch on the beach during todays LLA course.

Lunch on the beach during todays LLA course.

This past weekend I have been working on a Lowland Leader Award training with John Jackson and Craig Mclaren on behalf of Falkirk Community Trust. Today we were at Dalmeny Estate near South Queensferry which provided a great venue to look at a number of aspects of the syllabus.

 

Autumn Days Out

Over the past few weeks I have been enjoying climbing, scrambling and walking in Scotland and the Lake District.

I have visited Kirrie Hill with Gordon and Greg sports climbing. This crag is an excellent choice at this time of year as it is very sheltered and catches the sun.

With Colin, Chris and Paul I visited the Lake District. We had a good couple of days scrambling in Sourmilk Ghyll and bouldering at St.Bees. The great advantage of visiting the Lake District at this time of year is that it is very quiet. We were the only climbers at St.Bees.

Bouldering at St.Bees

Bouldering at St.Bees

Northern Lights and Classic Mountaineering

Andrew flew up on Wednesday and I picked him up from EICA Ratho, where he’d visited Alan Lockhart who’s working with him to solve some long term injuries. We then headed North with the aim of four days of mountaineering/climbing. Andrew is planning some long term goals in the Greater Ranges and the idea was to improve Andrew’s efficiency of movement on alpine terrain, look at some specific skills and also have a good time ticking some Scottish classics without aggravating any injuries. As we drove North we were lucky enough to get a great view of the Northern Lights along Glen Dochart and North of Crianlarich. On Thursday we climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor and descended Curved Ridge taking in Crowberry Tower. We had sunshine at times and the rock was surprisingly dry with most of Rannoch Wall looking dry enough for climbing.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

We then headed up to Skye as Andrew had never been in the Black Cuillin and was keen to get a feel for the ridge. The weather on Friday was unfortunately worse than earlier forecasts, so Andrew didn’t get much chance to see the hills. However, we ascended Sgurr Dearg via Coire na Banaichdaich and it’s North-West Flank; climbed the Inaccessible Pinnacle by it’s East Ridge and descended the South-East Flank of Sgurr Dearg to the An Stac Screes. Having been in constant steady rain and cloud for most of the day we then decided to bail down the screes and out via Coire Lagan.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

With the forecast not looking great on Skye for Saturday we had an early start and made for the Cairngorms. Here we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda. After a pleasant chat with Glenn and Euan who were headed for Hell’s Lum Crag we climbed Pygmy Ridge. We approached this via the line of Central Gully Left Hand and it’s worth noting that there a couple of sizable perched blocks in this area at the moment. Once on the plateau we headed down Coire Domhain and around to Stag Rocks where we climbed Afterthought Arete, sticking to the ridge as much as possible to maximise the climbing.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

We had accommodation booked over in the West for Saturday night and needed a shortish day to allow for flights on Sunday, so the final day saw us back in Glen Coe. We climbed Barn Wall Route on the East Face of Aonach Dubh, this requires a steady approach as although there are excellent positive holds throughout there isn’t a lot in the way of gear. We then headed around under Stob Coire nan Lochan, so Andrew could get a look at this as a potential future winter venue, before heading out along Gearr Aonach and descending The Zig-Zags.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Four days of Classic Mountaineering in mostly very good weather for the time of year with the exception of Friday. If you’re heading out it’s worth knowing that we haven’t had a proper frost yet and hence the midges are still around and biting, thankfully for me they seemed to prefer Andrew.