Curved, Castle and Ledge

For the last couple of days I have been guiding and instructing on behalf of www.highmountainguides.com. 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.

Polldubh

This week I am rock climbing with a team from Ballachulish. After spending yesterday at the Ice Factor, today we visited Glen Nevis and climbed at Polldubh.

We spent the day looking at trad climbing and lead climbing skills on routes such as The Gutter and Tear before, during and after heavy rain showers. Many of the routes in the Alp area of Polldubh were drying quickly during the dry periods and  some were possible during the rain.

Stacey and Mark belaying on The Gutter.

Stacey and Mark belaying on The Gutter.

Aonach Mor

The team and I were out today on Aonach Mor. After completing a micro navigation session on the plateau we descended the Nid Ridge. At a safe point we built snow bollards and practised abseiling.

The snow on the surface was soft and heavy. However, there is an icy layer underneath and crampons were essential. Cornices were visible at points on the ridge.

Abseiling on a snow bollard reinforced with shovels.

Abseiling off a snow bollard reinforced with shovels.

Aonach Mor and SCNL

The weather has been fantastic on the West Coast of Scotland over the last couple of days. Yesterday, the team and went to the West Face of Aonach Mor where we climbed Gendarme Ridge.

The face was completely snow covered. Lots of redistribution of snow was taking place with slab forming in sheltered locations.

Today we visited Stob Coire nan Lochan. Here we climbed Pinnacle Buttress Groove. Mike Pescod’s book grades this route at III. This is more appropriate than the II/III given in the SMC guidebook in the current conditions.

The turf on the route was variable. Some of the snow in the corrie now takes an axe, but much is still unconsolidated.

On the Aonach Mor plateau.

On the Aonach Mor plateau.

Nice mixed climbing in SCNL.

Nice mixed climbing in SCNL.

 

Winter Mountain Leader Assessment

This week I have been helping to deliver a Winter Mountain Leader Assessment. Following a day in Glencoe and a day in Lochaber earlier in the week, the last three days have been in the Cairngorms.

Large volumes of snow have accumulated in the Cairngorms over the last couple of days. Given the weather on Saturday I would expect significant avalanche activity and careful attention should be paid to the SAIS forecasts.

Testing navigational conditions in the Cairngorms.

Testing navigational conditions in the Cairngorms.

 

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.

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Easy Gully

Today I visited Easy Gully on Aonach Mor with a team from Ballachulish. The snow was excellent for climbing and the cornice was not a problem.

Matt leading Easy Gully.

Matt leading Easy Gully.

Ben Nevis

I was back out on Ben Nevis again today with John and Chris. Chris hadn’t worn crampons before and there was a good bit fresh snow, so we headed up in to the back of Coire Leis where we used easy angled old snow to get used to crampons and axe. We then put the rope on and made our way up to the North end of the horizontal section of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete linking scoured snow and rocky sections. After traversing the CMD Arete we made our way up to the summit before descending the Zig Zags and then back to the Allt a’Mhuillinn.

Chris and John approaching the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

Chris and John approaching the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

There’s been a fair bit of fresh snow over the last couple of days and the more recent snow was forming soft wind slab in sheltered locations on lots of aspects above 650m; some of this is sitting on a graupel layer from earlier in the week, which is on top of old neve. If you’re out and about in the snow over the weekend choose your route and approach wisely. It’s worth noting the Scottish Avalanche Information Service is providing forecasts for Lochaber and the Northern Cairngorms for this weekend.

Douglas Boulder

Lance and I visited the Douglas Boulder today on Ben Nevis where we climbed the South West Ridge before descending East Gully. The route was white. Heavy snow showers fell throughout the day.

There is some loose rock on the route which requires care.

Lance climbing on the Douglas Boulder.

Lance climbing on the Douglas Boulder.

Golden Oldie

I have been out today on the West Face of Aonach Mor where Grant, Lance and I climbed Golden Oldie. The west face has a good covering of snow. However, the turf is not frozen and some loose blocks require care.

A number of small slides came down the gullies either side of the arête.

Lance and Grant on Golden Oldie.

Lance and Grant on Golden Oldie.