Winter Climbing Leader

This week I have been delivering a Winter Climbing Leader course for the Joint Services.

After visiting the Ice Factor on Monday we traversed the Douglas Boulder Gap on Tuesday. We then spent Wednesday climbing The Slant in Coire an t-Sneachda and on Thursday we went ice climbing very near to the Twin Burns in Coire an Lochain.

The conditions on the Douglas Boulder Traverse were fine. It should be noted that in other areas of Coire an Lochain from where we were that large amounts of ice were falling down.

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.

Overnight in Lochaber and a Day Out in the Cairngorms

I have just had a great three days out with the Falkirk High Tops Team. On Thursday we walked to the CIC Hut before traversing the West and East Gullies of the Douglas Boulder. The route was in good condition. Of note is that the abseil tat at the top of East Gully is not currently present.

We then ovenighted at the hut before ascending Carn Mor Dearg early next morning. After descending to the base of the West Face of Aonach Mor, we then climbed Western Rib to the summit of this mountain. The routes was very white but the turf was variable.

Today I have been in the Cairngorms teaching winter skills. We found good hard snow for sliding and managed to cover lots of useful techniques. The buttresses looked very white. We came accross new windslab on a number of aspects.

Descending towards the West Face of Aonach Mor with the NEB in the background.

Descending towards the West Face of Aonach Mor with the NEB in the background.

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Ice axe arrest practice in the Cairngorms.

Ben Nevis

I’m just back from five days away, the first two of which were spent on Ben Nevis with Scott & Tina. On Saturday the 23rd we walked up to the CIC hut and then climbed Tower Ridge starting via The East Gully of the Douglas Boulder.

Tina and Scott on Tower Ridge

Tina and Scott on Tower Ridge

We descended Ledge Route as far as the “Jenga” boulders and traversed around Number 5 Gully to reach Number 4 Gully and return to the hut. The weather was mixed, with some cloud, some sunshine and even a couple of snow showers.

Tina & Scott on Direct Route

Tina & Scott on Direct Route

On Sunday we climbed the Direct Route on the Douglas Boulder in 8 pitches, abseiled into the Douglas Boulder Gap and down the East Gully. The day was sunny with light winds. There was a fair bit of seepage on the route and we varied the line to try and make use of the drier rock.

Abseiling in to The Douglas Boulder Gap

Abseiling in to The Douglas Boulder Gap

A great weekend in excellent company and Happy Birthday to Scott for Monday.

Scott & Tna with The Douglas Boulder and Tower Ridge behind

Scott & Tna with The Douglas Boulder and Tower Ridge behind

Ben Nevis

On Ben Nevis today with Euan, Sharon, Ian and Steve. We were hoping Vanishing Gully would be sheltered from the winds today, but the wind was fairly wild and gusting around the coire so we opted for Fawlty Towers with a variation finish trending left rather than right after the icy chimney and taking in a nice chimney/mixed section higher up. We then descended the ridge, abseiled down in to the Douglas Gap and descended The Douglas Gap East Gully. The icy chimney on Fawlty Towers was pretty well iced, and taking screws if you were selective, but probably climbing hard for the grade at the moment. Some loose rock on the upper variation required care.

Sharon and Steve in the icy chimney

Sharon and Steve in the icy chimney

A team abseiling off Vanishing Gully after the first pitch reported it dripping heavily at the first belay. A few other teams out today with one climbing Central Gully Right-Hand in good condition, but with pretty strong winds. Quite a few teams turning back from the coire today due to the wind.

Mac with the angle of the rucsack strap hinting at the wind

Mac with the angle of the rucsack strap hinting at the wind

Some light rain/sleet on the walk in and the snow flurries through the day. Below freezing at crag height all day with turf well frozen and a thin coating of verglas on a lot of the rock. Old snow generally very firm and care required approaching routes. The crags were riming up during the day in the moist cold air. Strong East/South-Easterly wind, but swirling around the hill and with some gusts of circa 70mph in the coires.

Ben Nevis

Just back from a great three day trip to Ben Nevis with a Falkirk Community Trust team of John, Eliot, Gayle, James, Jim, Nigel and Tam.

Elliot & Jim in Green Gully 22/02/13

Eliot & Jim in Green Gully 22/02/13

There are lots of routes in excellent condition with very well consolidated snow and generally good ice. Care is required on the hard snow particularly on crag approaches and descents as a slip would have potentially serious consequences.

Elliot & Jim on Tower Ridge 23/02/13

Eliot & Jim on Tower Ridge 23/02/13

Over the three days members of the team climbed Green Gully, Number Four Gully (in descent), Central Gully/Central Gully Right-Hand (Creag Coire na Ciste), Italian Climb, Tower Ridge, Glover’s Chimney, Douglas Gap West Gully and Traverse, North Gully, Vanishing Gully, Garadh Gully. All of these routes were in very good condition.

Elliot approaching the 1st belay on Vanishing Gully 24/02/13

Eliot approaching the 1st belay on Vanishing Gully 24/02/13