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.

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.

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.

La Cattedrale

The highlight of today was our ascent of La Cattedrale – ramo destro. This is one of the great classics of the area and provided a brilliant route to finish our trip on. It was also Ivor’s 71st birthday today making the route even more special for him.

Martin and I will both be reporting from Scotland next week.

Martin abseiling down the Cascata.

Martin abseiling down the Cascata.

Ivor below La Cattedrale.

Ivor below La Cattedrale.

Here Comes the Snow

Large volumes of snow arrived overnight in the Dolomites. This coincided today with an Italian Mountain Guides assessment in the gorge. This meant that less routes were available than normal. We did however have a great day climbing Cascata della Luna, Baby and another tricky mixed route.

Baby is currently not completely formed and requires mixed climbing (and trad kit) to get to the ice.

Ivor on one of the mixed routes in Serai di Sottoguda

Ivor on one of the mixed routes in Serai di Sottoguda

Ivor climbing Baby.

Ivor climbing Baby.


Cascata and a Little Bit of ‘M’

We have had another good day today in the Serai di Sottoguda. Highlights of the day were Cascata delle Attraversate and one of the new mixed routes in the gorge.

The Cascata was thinner than normal due to the lean season that the Dolomites is experiencing this year but still brilliant. It is probably harder than the suggested grade in the guidebook.

Ivor on the Cascata.

Ivor on the Cascata.

Graham on the 'M' route.

Graham on the ‘M’ route.

Time for some Cascata

Ivor, Graham, Martin and I arrived last night in the Dolomites. Today we had a warm up day climbing in the Serai di Sottoguda. We completed; Arbre Magique, Palestrina and Cascata del Gelato. Conditions on the routes were good.

Martin climbing Cascata del Gelato.

Martin climbing Cascata del Gelato.

Neilston and Snow Factor

Gayle, Paul, Wilson and I have been out today at two venues. This morning we visited Neilston Quarry near Glasgow. It is an ideal venue for those new to leading with lots of easier routes to climb.

Gayle Paul and Wilson climbing at Neilston.

Gayle, Paul and Wilson climbing at Neilston.

This afternoon we visted the Snow Factor at Braehead. We had a good time looking at skills for efficient movement over ice.

Gayle and Paul climbing ice.

Gayle and Paul climbing ice.


Beinn Udlaidh

Nettle and I were looking for a quick climb before the forecast wind and rain arrived today, so we headed to Beinn Udlaidh. This worked really well and despite the thawing conditions we climbed Tinkerbell and Doctor’s Dilema and descended Central Gully.

Leading the lower pillar of Tinkerbell

Leading the lower pillar of Tinkerbell. Photo Credit: J.Foden

Nettle with Central Gully and Doctor's Dilema visible behind

Nettle with Central Gully and Doctor’s Dilema visible behind

Nettle took a very steep variation up an icey groove to the right on the second pitch of Doctor’s Dilema, which bumped the route up to what felt like a good, hard, fun Tech 5. I’m not sure if I’ve used a kneebar on Scottish ice before.

Nettle heading towards the steep groove

Nettle heading towards the steep groove

The routes in the coire to the left of Central Gully generally had large impending cornices over them and there were several sloughs as the day went on.

Cornices over the routes on the East of the coire

Cornices over the routes on the East of the coire. Photo Credit: J. Foden

The freezing level was well above the summit during the day and routes were dripping heavily and softening up. The forecast is for rain and the freezing level to go above the summits for some time, so the routes on Udlaidh are likely to suffer badly.

Making new friends on the walk out

Making new friends on the walk out. Photo Credit: J.Foden

Coire an t’Sneachda and Creag Meagaidh

Jol and I have been based in Aviemore for the last two days for some winter climbing. On Wednesday we headed in to Coire an t’Sneachda. North and West facing slopes were looking pretty loaded with fresh snow, so we headed over to the Fiacaill Buttress area and climbed Fiacaill Couloir. This was approached and climbed on mostly scoured neve with the odd patch of generally avoidable fresh soft snow. We then descended the easier West side of Fiacaill Ridge to the col before climbing the more fun direct line and then redescending. This gave us a chance to look at moving together as a technique as well as the avalanche avoidance/gear placement/belay building we’d covered earlier. There was more snow than forecast in the area during the day with fairly continuous light snow above 650m on a light Easterly wind. This was forming considerable depths of fresh soft snow in sheltered locations. Ski touring looks excellent, but good route choice is required to avoid loaded slopes.

On Wednesday we headed across to Creag Meagaidh looking for slightly better weather, less new snow and some ice. We had a great day climbing Diadem. The two main ice pitches were in excellent condition with Jol describing the long icey corner pitch as “hoofing”. Including the approach pitches up The Sash and the easier exit ground it gave seven pitches and a superb day out. Again more falling snow than I’d expected and we climbed mostly in the cloud. Light snow on and off on a light South-Easterly wind. Some accumulation of fresh snow on the approach and exit pitches, but generally avoidable or soft and not deep. Cornices on the South and East facing aspects were old and solid, but I’d expect considerable fresh snow depths and fresh cornices developing on North and West facing aspects. We exited via the Window, which is relatively well scoured and not currently threatened from above.

Apologies for the lack of photos. I’ve managed to misplace my camera, hopefully it’s only temporarily. A wee update: Many thanks to Carlos for sending through the photo below of The Wand and Diadem, with me just visible leading the second ice pitch of Diadem. We bumped in to him around the top of The Wand/Diadem and he’d had what sounded like a great day soloing I think Smith’s Route, Last Post and The Wand.

The Wand & Diadem

The Wand & Diadem. Photo Credit: Carlos