The last couple of days Jen and I have been based in Glen Esk in Angus. On Saturday we were out with Andy Malcolm of the Dalhousie Estates. After meeting at the very friendly Glenesk Retreat we headed up Glen Esk and Glen Lee and out as far a Drumhilt. Andy is hugely knowledgeable about the wildlife, flora, land management and history of the area and we had a superb day and learnt a lot.
Today Jen and I walked up past Loch Lee and the Falls of Unich before cutting back to the top of Hunt Hill. We then retraced our steps a short way before climbing past the Falls of Damff to Cairn Lick and descending the Shank of Inchgrundle to regain Loch Lee. This made for a good route with very varied scenery and great views. Both days were days of sunshine and showers with rocks exposed to the wind drying quickly in between the pockets of rain. I’ll add more photos to the ClimbNow Facebook page.
The start of this week in the Alps brought snow and even avalanche warnings being issued in the Mont Blanc Massif. Therefore, after climbing the Aiguille de la Charlanon, Rob, Andy, Mike and I escaped to Les Ecrins for a couple of days.
On Monday we walked to the Refuge de la Pilatte before traversing Mont Gioberney via the North East Ridge and the Voie Normale. The cold winds had covered the North East Ridge in rime and verglas which made the crux UIAA IV crack pitch pretty hard. It had a very Scottish feel. This should now have all cleared with the warm weather.
We spent the next three days in the Aiguilles Rouges and the Mont Blanc Massif climbing; Via Corda Alpina, Athina on the Contrefort de Droite, L’Index (2595m) and the Arete des Cosmiques.
All these routes were in good condition. The rock on Athina is not as good as that on the routes further left on this buttress and some of it should be treated with care. The Arete des Cosmiques still has enough snow on it to wear crampons the whole way.
There are lots more photos on the facebook page.
The last three days I’ve been supervising a Silver DofE Qualifying Expedition for The City of Edinburgh Council for a group from Trinity Academy. The group had specifically wanted a flatish route, so had planned their expedition in the coastal region of East Lothian. This still allowed for some good walking, wild camping and some possibly more tricky navigation than in a hillier area.
Tuesday was dry, Wednesday was definitely wet and windy during the day with plenty of rain until the evening and the group finished in the dry on Thursday.
Pamela and I had a very pleasant day climbing in the sunshine at Creag na h-Eighe, North of Dunkeld, today. After the weekend’s rain we were looking for somewhere that would dry fast and this worked out well.
Today Rob, Andy, Mike and I climbed the Eperon SSE de droite on the Aiguille de la Charlanon (in the Aiguilles Rouges above Chamonix).
This excellent route was quiet and judging from the descent gully doesn’t get climbed very often. It deserves more traffic.
John and I spent the 18th July at La Duchere crag near Les Contamines. This excellent venue has routes up to six pitches in length and is super well maintained. The photo shows John finishing the classic, ‘Le Nain Jaune Attends’ (‘The Yellow Dwarf Waits’).
Ivor and I were looking for somewhere quick drying to go climbing today after last night’s rain and opted for Ratho Quarry, as it had the option of heading inside if the rock wasn’t dry.
However, the rock stayed dry and we were able to climb some of the sports routes in the quarry in sunshine with occasional cloud.
Jen and I took the opportunity of going down to my niece’s graduation in Newcastle yesterday to have a couple of days walking in The Borders and Northumberland. On Sunday we had a short walk up the Leithen Water and then via forestry tracks near the Williamslee Burn up on to Middle Hill and Whitehope Law before descending over Windside Hill to Glentress. This gave a pleasant round with some rough going on the higher ground.
After staying in Wooler on Sunday night we did a circuit from Cocklawfoot south of Town Yetholm, which included Windy Gyle, King’s Seat, Score Head, Cairn Hill, The Cheviot and Auchope Cairn. This was pretty much as per the route described in the excellent SMC book “The Grahams and Donalds” and gave a good high level walk on the Scottish/Northumberland Border.
We had bright sunshine on both days with circa 20 to 30mph winds. Both walks are better done in dry or frosty conditions due to the boggy moorland nature of some sections. However, the sections on the Pennine Way and up The Cheviot are much improved by the slab paved paths, which have reduced erosion and allowed significant regrowth since I first walked in this area. One team was making good use of the dry conditions on Monday to climb on the remote Henhole Crags.
Today John and I climbed the Alphubel (4206m) from the Tasch Hutte. We ascended via the South East Ridge and descended via the Voie Normale.
The approach to the col which gives access to the ridge is incredibly dry for this time of year. Sharp crampons are needed on the very hard glacial ice.
The South East Ridge was good fun. We had to do pitches using ice screws for belays and protection on the Ice Nose.
The Voie Normale crosses several lines where seracs have fallen down.
A 3am breakfast and efficient movement are currently essential to get the mountain in reasonable condition.
John and I have spent the last three days in the Monte Rosa Massif. We approached from Staffal (Gressoney) on Thursday after driving from Saint Gervais les Bains and made the ascent of Pyramide Vincent (4215m) in good conditions.
During Thursday night/Friday morning a serac collapse crossed the track giving access to the summits of the Monte Rosa. John and I took a different line to avoid most of the danger over the next couple of days without any problems (although most teams kept walking on the main track through the debris!). Taking the line John and I took exposure to risk is a couple of minutes in ascent.
On Friday after crossing Il Naso (4272m) we climbed the Cresta Sella to the summit of Lyskamm (4527m) before descending the East Ridge. The Cresta Sella was great fun and in good condition (the section crossing the col between the two peaks may need ice screws for protection soon).
The route on Il Naso from the Rifugio Moantova is completely different this season from how I have ever done it before. It is worth checking on the best way to go with the Guardian as it is different from the guidebooks.
Yesterday we climbed Ludwigshohe (4341m), Parrotspitze (4432m) and Signalkuppe (4554m). A number of teams turned back due to the cold and wind chill factor from the strong breeze. Big jackets and gloves are advised!
More photos on the facebook page.