Still going strong

Great weather and conditions over the last few days. ‘Probes’ have been out on Hadrian’s Wall – Point Five – Zero – Minus Two Gully(?). The first three routes look very complete. Orion Face is looking good in places, but thin around the Second Slab Rib, from a distance. No action in Coire na Ciste, as climbers avoid the awful approach conditions underfoot. Deep unconsolidated snow with a nasty surface crust forming. We noticed an avalanche which slid off of the approach to Douglas Gap, East Gully, two days ago. We were roping down after ascending S.W.Ridge of Douglas Boulder. That ridge is a very ‘sporting’ mixed grade III and probably worth a few more stars I think. A number of pretty awkward moves with reasonable protection. Take a large sling for rapping-off the top of the Boulder into Douglas Gap. Plenty of action on Vanishing Gully and all of the routes between it and Douglas Boulder. Short approaches and fairly easy descents on rappel.

Yesterday Shield Direct was climbed again. Don’t be fooled by the photo on the cover of SMC-Scottish Winter Climbs guidebook. It’s nothing like that at the moment! We noticed climbers sniffing around the foot of The Shroud and Harrison’s Climb. Also, Mega Route X looks as if it might repay inspection. Also teams out on the North Face of Castle Ridge. Lots to look at folks.
Yesterday I had a very calm and sociable day on The Curtain, where five people managed to use the first belay at the cave for security. Don’t get too close behind the person in front and make sure no leaders are above you before climbing! The day out on S.W Ridge of The Douglas Boulder on Tuesday was much more rugged, with strong, cold winds forcing us to shelter for a long time with friends in the hut drinking tea, before our conscience and improving weather encouraged us out. It was a fine afternoon, but the winds continued to freeze our ‘butts’!
Today we have milder weather, which should not damage the ice much, in fact some dripping ice will build better conditions if the cold returns.

Great weather, but avalanches possible

It’s still very fine and cold. An avalanche beneath the Curtain is rumoured to have injured two climbers, so watch out on approaches. Two hardy (?) folk who were advised not to bother going anywhere near Point Five Gully, took two hours from the CIC Hut, but decided they had too little time to finish the route, when common sense finally sparked into life!! The current conditions are set to continue, but serious trail-blazing is the order of the day in many places. A report from Glen Orchy suggested that the routes towards the left side of the Beinn Udlaidh (Coire Daimh) were coming in better than the right side. The exit slopes may carry potential avalanche hazard also.

Have fun and be careful of avalanches.

A team arriving home from Tower Ridge, after an early start, looked tired and reported heavy going on the ridge in deep snow. Well done folks.

Cancel all flights abroad and head north!

Head north and west, NOT South!! Conditions are very good on the low and mid level routes on Ben Nevis. Not sure about higher up, but certainly plentiful ice for training and playing. Ski touring must be good as well just now

Recent days

Working recently in the Cairngorms we met some of the Reindeer population. Getting out our map cases produced interest, as they wrongly thought they were harbouring packed lunches! On 26th I was working with Mountain Magic and Paul Boggis One fairly ‘rugged’ day on Ben Nevis and a quieter session up on Aonach Mor yesterday, prior to the incoming Arctic blast. The recent good conditions have been overtaken by more wintry storms, which can only add to the ice conditions on Ben Nevis. Be careful of the cornice and avalanche potential. The migrant mountain workers are arriving with their wonderful transport and mobile homes, including log burning stoves. The one shown is a long wheel based Ford Transit with a high roof. Nothing special from the outside, but the interior is very comfortable. Coming to a lay-by near you:)

Snow in Cairo?

Any bets for snow in North Africa in the next two weeks? Check this out
Plenty of space at Calluna until 13th February.


Mountain training

Working on this two day training course on behalf of the Chris Walker Trust
Today has been a wet day out west, but glimpses of blue sky are now in attendance as the front moves through and pulls in drier and colder airflow. for the time being.

Visit Fort William

andyCheck out the best local website in the area. The picture taken above was shot this week.

Ice Climbing

Home from the limited but good icefalls in Cogne just now, to a massive selection of ice around Ben Nevis. Conditions are good in the popular places, but approaches to others are tiresome in deep snow. We have a group staying at Calluna at the moment who trenched their way into the east side of Beinn a’Chaorainn, so that is easier, unless the wind has filled the track! A slightly milder spell might consolidate the snowpack a little, but breakable surface crust might be the result, which is even worse. We found some evidence of windslab cracks appearing out of boot tracks just below the CIC Hut, but sensible route choice will lead to loads of good, safe climbing.

Yesterday was a family day out with Victoria and she shot a lot of the photos in the gallery. We climbed the first pitch of the Curtain on the afternoon ‘shift’, avoiding the early rush, before ‘rapping off’. Zero-Point Five-Vanishing-Hadrians-Gemini-The Curtain-Waterfall Gully-Harrisons were all climbed and no doubt others which we could not see. The big ridges were vacant all day.

Glenmore Lodge came over to do some ice climbing coaching as the ice is buried in the Cairngorms. So, you know where to head folks. It’s a ‘no-brainer’ and we have plenty of bed space at Calluna next week after a full weekend. Our superb drying rooms have not been used this week much, due to the dry and cold and superb weather.

The British Mountain Guides are running the winter training section of the award at our place this week and Richard Bentley is doing the same at a lower level in the Winter Mountain Leader section of UK awards.

Thoule – Cogne

thoule P1080935 P1080931 P1080927 Frankenstyle

We had a great day with Bruce Poll on Thoule. We met Frank and ‘Scouse’. overcoming hangovers by all accounts! Two great guys.


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Silvana is just one of the superb staff that help to run the Hotel Barme. Quite seriously the best hotel I have found in the Italian Alps. Climbing at Cogne, today we all ascended ‘Parti’ and abseiled off before the hard pitches. A very good day, but much busier tomorrow, with good weather. Working for West Coast Mountain Guides. Still the best guiding company, developed in Fort William in recent times!

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