Golden Oldie and Ben Nevis

Yesterday the team and I visited the West Face of Aonach Mor where we climbed Golden Oldie. The route was in good condition with frozen turf, some excellent neve and some interesting fresh snow arête’s following the recent weather.

Today we spent some time on Ben Nevis climbing ice pitches in Coire na Ciste and the CIC Hut Cascades.

Snow arête on Golden Oldie.

Beinn Udlaidh and Tower Ridge

On Saturday and Sunday Andy, Rob and I were on Beinn Udlaidh and Ben Nevis. It was thawing with rain at valley level and snow at the top of the crag on Beinn Udlaidh. Cloud meant we were unable to see the top of the crag and sloughs were coming down some of the gullies, so we chose to climb Horny Ridge with a grade III variation start and cutting in to the top of West Gully once we could see the cornices.

Andy above the clouds on Tower Ridge on Sunday.

On Sunday we walked in to Ben Nevis with Rob deciding to turn around at the CIC Hut and Andy and I continuing on to climb Tower Ridge. It had been snowing on Saturday and overnight on a mostly south-easterly wind, this made the approach up The East Gully of The Douglas Gap easy on soft older snow. However, it meant many of the normally easy angled sections had fresh knife edge snow aretes, which had to be negotiated with care as we were the first team up and breaking trail. Once higher than the Douglas Boulder we were above the cloud and had stunning views with a cloud inversion all day. After the Douglas Gap we took the variation icy groove rather than the right traverse, which was hard (Tech 4/5) but good. Beyond we followed the normal route to the summit and a long standing ambition fulfilled for Andy.

Beinn Dorain and Ben Nevis

Yesterday I was out on Beinn Dorain with a team from Ballachulish looking at skills required for guiding on grade I/II ground. There was a good covering of firm snow on many aspects above 500 metres and ice still present on the crags.

Today we have been on Ben Nevis climbing routes in the CIC Hut cascades area and an ice flow below the Curtain. The ice was in good condition today. However, things will be different tomorrow if the forecast is correct but should improve again towards the weekend.

Climbing an ice flow below the Curtain.

British Mountain Guides Winter Assessment

For the past week I have been assisting on the British Mountain Guides Winter Test. Teams visited Ben Nevis, Torridon and the Cairngorms throughout the week. Congratulations to all the candidates for their efforts during what is a very physically and mentally tough assessment.

More photos can be seen on the facebook page.

Climbing a steep chimney during a storm.



Ben Nevis

I’m just back from a two day Ben Nevis Mountaineering Trip with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors team of Billy, Brian, Devon, Jack, Kathryn and Linda. High winds meant the Nevis Range Gondola wasn’t running on Saturday, which changed our plans. After walking in to the CIC Hut we did a traverse of the Douglas Gap up the West Gully of the Douglas Gap and down the East with Devon and Kathryn leading pitches of the West Gully.

The team approaching Garadh Gully this morning with the lower section of Tower Ridge beyond.

The southerly winds were forecast higher again for Sunday, so we opted for sheltered routes with an ascent of Garadh Gully, which currently has a short section of Grade III ice. We then descended in to Coire na Ciste and climbed Moonlight Gully before descending it by abseil to level with the top of Moonlight Gully Buttress and then traversing back in to Coire na Ciste. As we walked down from the CIC Hut it was raining heavily below 600m on a wind gusting circa 50mph.

Two excellent days despite the less than ideal wind levels.

Ben Nevis, Gulvain and Braigh nan Uamhachan

The last couple of days I’ve been based in Fort William. Graham was up for a flying visit with the aim of climbing Ben Nevis on Wednesday. The forecast was less than ideal with 50mph+ south-westerly winds and fairly constant heavy rain. We decided on heading up from the North Face car park and via Coire Leis in order to be sheltered from the worst of the winds until popping out on to the end of the Carn Mor Dearg arête. This worked well and although it made for a longer day meant we didn’t have to battle the wind and rain/hail until high on the mountain. We descended via the zig-zags to the half way lochan before cutting back to the Allt a’Mhuillin.

Graham and me on top of Ben Nevis with the summit shelter just visible behind.

Graham was catching the early train today, so I took the opportunity to head up Gulvain via Gleann Fionnlighe. After summiting I returned to the low point before the south top and then descended steeply to head over to Braigh nan Uamhachan, which I traversed before returning to the glen. This made for a good horseshoe, but the descents from Gulvain and back in to the glen are steep and rough and not really to be recommended in the current very wet conditions. The hills in the area are saturated at the moment and it rained fairly constantly both days. Stream crossings that are normally ok are currently problematic and this needs to be considered when making route choices.

Curved, Castle and Ledge

For the last couple of days I have been guiding and instructing on behalf of The aim of the two days was preparation for climbing the Matterhorn.

Alongside Mountain Guides Alan Kimber and Jonathon Preston, the team and I visited Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe on Friday. Here we climbed Curved Ridge before descending the route of ascent. This is great practice for the Matterhorn as the only way off the summit is to climb down the route of ascent!

Descending Curved Ridge.

Descending Curved Ridge.

Yesterday we visited Ben Nevis were we climbed up Castle Ridge and down Ledge Route. Ledge Route finishes at the bottom of Number 5 Gully and here we used an axe.

Climbing on Castle Ridge.

Climbing on Castle Ridge.

Guides Test Take Two

This week I have been assisting with the second round of the British Mountain Guides Winter Test. We ice climbed on Ben Nevis and mixed climbed in the Cairngorms.

We did have some good climbing conditions. However, it is worth noting that due to the lean conditions there are many loose blocks to contend with.

More photos and a video on the facebook page.

Ice climbing on Ben Nevis.

Ice climbing on Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis

Over the last three days Joanne, Gregor and I have been climbing on Ben Nevis and staying in the CIC Hut. After walking in and drooping kit off at the hut on Monday we new we’d have to go high due to the rising freezing level, so we made for Creag Coire na Ciste hoping North Gully would be holding ice. There was ice in the gully, but it was broke, thawing and there was above so a quick change of plan was required and we nipped across Number Four Gully to climb Number Four Gully Buttress. This worked well with the climbing being on soggy snow, frozen turf and rock, but with some care being required with loose rocks. We descended to the hut via Number Four Gully and returned to the hut thoroughly soaked.

Gregor topping out on Number Four Gully Buttress.

Gregor topping out on Number Four Gully Buttress.

The forecast for Tuesday was for very high winds and rain, so we chose to stay low and climbed the Douglas Gap West Gully on snow and the chimney out of the gap on to Tower Ridge before abseiling Douglas Gap East Gully and returning to the hut, again thoroughly soaked even after a short day. It dried up and started to cool down later in the day, so I took a walk up in to Coire Leis to get a look at The Little Brenva Face.

Gregor climbing out of the Douglas Gap on to Tower Ridge,

Gregor climbing out of the Douglas Gap on to Tower Ridge,

Today we made use of the previous day’s recce and the cooler overnight temperatures and headed around to the Little Brenva Face where we climbed Bob Run on good snow and water ice and were out of the wind until topping out. We took in the summit, by which time it was raining at summit level. We then returned via Coire Leis to the hut, again thoroughly soaked, before walking out this afternoon.

Joanne enjoying firm snow and ice on Bob Run.

Joanne enjoying firm snow and ice on Bob Run.

Some of Tuesday’s precipitation had fallen as snow at height and overnight and a few areas of fresh wind slab had developed that required care today, however these were getting soaked this afternoon at all levels.

Well done to Joanne and Gregor for dealing with the conditions, which meant we got climbing on each day even if we did end up a little wet!


Ben Nevis

Today the lads and I visited Ben Nevis where we climbed up Ledge Route and down Number 4 Gully.

Ledge Route was heavily verglassed in the upper two thirds with good snow on the upper third. The snow in Number 4 was very firm and careful cramponing was required.

Today the avalanche risk was low. However, if new snow arrives the risk will increase rapidly and the approach to Ledge Route may not be feasible and climbing in Number 4 will not be advisable.

Lots more photos on the facebook page.