Mont Blanc – The Italian Way

I have just had an excellent week with Mel, Michelle, Tom, Andy and www.frostguiding.co.uk.

Our week began with an ascent of the Bishorn (4153m) from the Tracuit Hut in perfect conditions. We then completed two via ferratas (Nax and Evolene) on Tuesday as a semi rest day before our next planned route!

On Wednesday we made the significant approach to the Refuge Gonella before traversing Mont Blanc (via the Pope Route and the Gouter Route) on Thursday and overnighting at the Refuge Gouter. Today we descended at 5am from the hut to the valley.

A few notes on conditions:

  • The glacier on the approach to the Rifugio Gonella is not as dry as normal. A rope is advised.
  • The glacier above the Rifugio Gonella has significant serac danger.
  • There are only a couple of icy sections around the Piton des Italiens.
  • There has been stonefall in the Grand Couloir. It is best to cross this early.

Summit of the Bishorn.

The final ridge to Mont Blanc.

Borrowdale

After a day running orienteering, team building and stream walks with Steve at Muiravonside on Friday I headed down to the Lake District on Saturday to meet Andy, Harry and Rob. On Saturday we had a mountaineering day climbing Intake Ridge and Outside (Face) Route on Dove Nest Crag in big boots and with sack with the Central Chimney proving a struggle with bags for some.

Rob, Harry and Andy at the top of Central Chimney on Outside (Face) Route, Dove Nest Crag.

Sunday saw us back in Combe Ghyll climbing on Glaciated Slab, which had been quiet when we passed above it on Intake Ridge. However, it proved a popular choice today, but teams worked well with each other and we climbed Trod Yan, Trod Tan, Trod Tethera, Trod Methera and Trod Lethera as well as doing a practice stacked abseil for Harry to the right of the crag. It was dry on both days with today being hot and sunny and the crags were in great condition.

Skye

Just back from a Falkirk Community Trust Skye and Glen Affric trip. On Monday after dropping Craig and the walking team off to walk in to Glen Affric John, Donald, Joanne, Linda, Pete and I carried on to Skye.

Donald and Pete on Clach Glas.

On Monday afternoon we headed to Talisker and did the Boaswell’s Buttress and Summit Buttress scrambles on the unusual Preshal Mor. This hill is made of columnor basalt up to 120m thick and gives interesting scrambling, although care is required with loose rock and the basalt is slippery in the wet.

Linda and Joanne above Loch Coruisk.

The original plan had been for a two day Cuillin Ridge traverse, but a forecast of heavy rain for Tuesday night saw a change of plan to give us a roof over our heads. We started from Loch Ainort and scrambled up and over Garbh-bheinn before completing the classic Clach Glas Blabheinn Traverse and descending the south ridge of Blabheinn to Camasunary. After a night there we walked around to Loch Coruisk via The Bad Step before ascending The Dubh Slabs to Sgurr Dubh Beag and then on over Sgurr Dubh Mor and Dubh na da Bheinn to Coire a’Ghrunnda and out to The Glen Brittle Youth Hostel. Two classic Scottish mountaineering days. We had good weather during the day on Tuesday, whilst the southern part of the main ridge was in cloud. On Wednesday it was sunny until above the Dubh Slabs after which we were in cloud with heavy rain and occasional sleet showers. Today was spent retrieving the mini-bus, picking up the walkers and travelling back.

Mont Blanc

Congratulations to Amanda and Trevor who summited Mont Blanc yesterday. We climbed the mountain via the Refuge du Gouter and the Refuge de Tete Rousse.

Amanda and Trevor with the summit behind.

The Grand Couloir was quiet during our ascent (between 2.15am and 4.15am) and our descent (between 5.00am and 7.00am). I did hear activity during the afternoon and evening. The conditions above the Gouter Hut were excellent.

Rifugio Torino

Amanda, Trevor and I have been at the Rifugio Torino (Mont Blanc Massif) for the last couple of days. Here we climbed the Aiguilles Marbrees, the traverse of Le Petit Flambeau and the Aiguille de Toule. The mountains were in good condition.

The snow ridge of Le Petit Flambeau.

Edinburgh and the Cairngorms

This week I’ve been working with Peter and Tommy delivering a Gold DofE training for The City of Edinburgh Council based out of their outdoor centres at Bangholm and Lagganlia.

One of the groups walking towards Meall a’Buachaille.

Tuesday to Thursday was a practice expedition in the Cairngorms, where we changed the planned route to a lower one to avoid the very high winds forecast for Wednesday & Thursday. This worked well and we missed the worst of the wind and rain.

First Summits of the Alpine Season

I have just completed the first summits of my alpine season in the company of Amanda and Trevor. These were in the Vanoise.

Following an excellent meal and night at the Refuge Col de la Vanoise, today we climbed Pointe du Dard and La Rechasse. The mountains were both in perfect condition and very quiet.

The summit of Pointe du Dard with a stunning inversion behind the team.

Ben Vane

Mick and I had a very pleasant day climbing Ben Vane near Loch Lomond today. Early cloud lifted above the summits and we got some fine views. There was no rain whilst we were on the hill and the rock was dry.

Mick and I at the summit of Ben Vane.

It’s worth noting that when the breeze dropped the midges are now out and biting even at summit height.

Weem

Euan and I were back at Weem for the last day of our three days of climbing. We climbed a mixture of trad and sports routes.

Starting at Wood Wizard’s Crag we climbed “Ring Twitching”, which is quite dirty at the moment and probably feels a grade harder than the guidebook, and the good but pumpy “Two Boys and a Cup”. We onsighted both, but generally the routes on this crag might be worth a quick clean on abseil before climbing.

Euan leading the steep arete of “Right in the Face” at Easter Island Buttress.

We then moved on to The Easter Island Buttress and Manyana Wall crags for some sport routes. Good to see some of the EICA Ratho team out staff training today at the crag.

Sma’Glen and Balgone Heughs

I’ve been climbing with Euan the past two days. On Wednesday we were at Newton Spur in the beautiful Sma’Glen in Perthshire. We climbed six good routes on the Flat Line Wall, the pick of which was probably “Ouzels of Fun” before soloing the two rightmost lines on The Sentinel. See the Facebook page for a photo of me on The Sentinel.

Euan below Statement of Heuth.

Today we were sport climbing at Balgone Heughs south of North Berwick Law. The crag faces north-west and is in trees, so can prove a good choice in dry hot conditions.