Stob Beinn a Chrulaiste, Glencoe

 Buachaille Etive Beag
Today Jonny and I headed to Glencoe with the intention of climbing Buachaille Etive Mor via Corrie na Tulaich (thanks Jamie B for the suggestion) but on arrival there we changed the plan drastically. Jonny is a keen photographer and being as photogenic as The Buachaille is, we decided to walk up Stob Beinn a Chrulaiste on the East side of the A82 and make the most of the views and allow Jonny to get some great photos of Rannoch Mor, Buachaille Etive Mor and The Three Sisters in Glencoe. We also got great views across to The Mamores.

Ben Nevis

Jonny on the Zig Zags

Jonny on the Trig Point

Jonny relaxing on the descent

Last night Jonny said it would be wrong to come to Scotland and not climb the highest mountain so today I took him up Ben Nevis. Although we considered one of the gullys we finally settled on the Tourist Path and set of for the summit. Unlucky for us we didn't get any views whilst at the top but got a few on the way up and down. Temperature was -6.0 at the summit and

Although we were fully equipped we didn't need crampons and the axe only came out very occasionally. A number of people were on the mountain including the usual under dressed persons slipping about in trainers.

When I asked Jonny to sum up his day he said "My feet hurt". I am hoping for something more profound at a later date

Aonach Mor

Me with Ben Nevis behind

Camera not exactly straight

Jonny at Aonach Mor Summit

View to The Mamores

Today I took Jonny to Aonach more to winterise his summer hill walking skills. We started by looking at kicking steps and using an ice axe for support as we headed up the Nid Arete. We also looked at the snow pack as we found pockets of windslab here and there.
We continued up the nid putting on Crampons and looking at French, American and mixed techniques. As we reached the ski patrol hut the mist rolled in and with a few jints Jonny was able to take a couple of bearing and using pacing skills got us to the Sumitt at 1221m. Just before we arrived the weather cleard and gave great views of Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis.
On the way back down we stopped and looked at Ice Axe arrest although Jonny was having some real trouble sliding due to his trousers being particularly grippy.

This was Jonny's first Scottish Mountain, first winter Mountain, first Munro and first 4000er, so a day he will never forget.

Moonlight Gully, Ben Nevis

 Callum gearing up in the mist

Some thin Ice left on the route (water pouring down it)

Trident Buttress

Callum on the Top Pitch

Today Callum and I headed up The Ben to see what was climbable. The weather was not the best and we had rain, snow and even the odd bit of blue sky during the day. We climbed Moonlight Gully which is supposed to be grade II but in the current condition was easily a III. At the bottom of the route we were able to see the remains of a large avalanche in Number Five Gully that happened a few days ago, it certainly wasn't fresh debris. The route finished in the top wide section of Number Five Gully and we soloed out through some very steep ground to avoid the large cornice. The cornice has started to fracture in places so may not be there much longer and would certainly be a problem for anyone in the gully when it collapses. With the current avalanche forecast I will be staying away from this and other gullys on The Ben for the next day or two.

Skiing in low visibilty

 As I headed up the hill, the visibility got worse

Today having been stood up by my climbing partner I headed up to Nevis Range with th eplan to Ski out to Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag. However as I headed up the ski tows visibility reduced to only a few metres. It was impossible to ski at any speed at all as you couldn't see far enough ahead. I decided to stay on piste to see if the weather improved and spent a few hours skiing down runs (by memory from yesterday more than actually being able to see where I was going) and deploying emergency stop techniques when fences materialised less than a metre away. The visibilty showed no sign of improving so I decided to call it a day and go shopping instead.

Red & Blue on Nevis Range

Still some snow left

Relaxing on The Quad Chair

Runs still in reasonable condition

Worn out in the cable car

After a few more days of rest (car problems) I decided to go up to Nevis Range and ski as many of the Blue and Red runs that were open. I was pleased to see that the upper runs still had some reasonable snow on them although the lower runs were more like ice skating than skiing. It wasn't very busy today so I didn't have to queue for a lift once.

I managed to ski 12 different runs and skied around 25 runs in all by linking up different combinations. All was going well until I caught a ski on the matting at the bottom of the Quad Chair and "ate snow", still it is all part of the fun and it was the only rest I had.

Back out climbing tomorrow.

Golden Oldy, Aonach Mor

Soloing up the easier ground

Graham on the lead

Graham and Kevin

Today I went out with Graham and Kevin to climb Golden Oldy II on the West Face of Aonach Mor. Graham wanted to lead his first winter route and I agreed to solo alongside to help out if needed. We were a bit late starting and on top of that, the conditions on the route were challenging with a lot of snow and copious amounts of digging to find gear placement. This really slowed us down.

We soloed up the easy ground to the start of the route when Graham then led off in 3 pitches before starting to move together on the top section. We managed to make the summit before darkness fell but we realised we would miss the Gondola down and started the long "Walk of Shame" down the Mountain Bike Track.

A good long day out though with some clear blue skies and sunshine at times. Snow is quite loaded in the gullys on the West Face and a layer about 5 inch deep shears off with one hand. Be careful!

Stunning Views!!

Stunning View

Today we walked into the North Face on Ben Nevis to do a couple of routes but the weather deteriated and in the end we could see very little so due to this (and the fact that my knees were hurting today) we turned round and walked out. I will be having a day or two of enforced rest now to allow my knees to recover

Covered Routes in Coire an T'Sneachda

Snow covered buttresses

Today we walked into Coire an T'Sneachda to see what the routes were like, we climbed up to the bottom of Aladdins Buttress and looked at both Doctor's Choice IV 5 and Patey's Route IV 5. Both were chock full of soft snow and all the cracks were full of ice. After needing to dig to find belays and chip out ice place gear we decided this would be a long day of digging and scraping so we downclimbed and walked out to save ourselves for a day on The Ben tomorrow.

Ledge Route, Ben Nevis

The start of Ledge Route

Looking along the route

Looking back down

Today I walked up to the North Face on Ben Nevis to have a look at the climbs and decided on what I could do for the next two days once my climbing partner arrives. However as I started up Moonlight Gully II in the first 10m I ended up chest deep in snow! I very quickly changed my plans and headed for Ledge Route II which other than the first few metres up No 5 Gully had less snow on it. Unfortunately the weather had closed in and I did not get much of a look at other routes (neither The Curtain or The Curtain Rail are complete and it will be a while til there are).

On topping out the conditions were harsh with wind, rain and sleet blowing hard and I needed to put goggles on for the descent. Red Burn was deep but seemed stable enough so I walked down the side of it to the Tourist Track.

I think I will be going East to The Cairngorms for the next couple of days.

Skiing in typically Scottish conditions

The runs are bald in places

I needed to hide from the weather

The mountain has been seriously stripped of snow since last week

Today I went up to Nevis Range for a few hours skiing with the vague plan to ski up to the summit of Aonach Mor and have a look at the climbs on Ben Nevis to see what state they are in after the thaw. However due to high winds and generally unpleasant weather conditions I stayed on the lower slopes (as the upper lifts weren't running) and skied all the open runs a number of times.

Snowshoeing with Rudolph

Raised Footprints and Snowshoes

The Reindeer Herd

Rudolph and I

Today I was on a Staff Induction Day at Glenmore Lodge and we headed on up Meall Buchaille on Snow Shoes whilst discussing good practice and aims of courses. At the top we bumped into the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd and tried to dissuade them from eating our sandwiches.

The White Owl has now been Smoked

The route starts in a mini gorge

and continues up to Sgurr Finnish-Aig

Geoff on Pitch 2

Me topping out

Today Geoff and I headed out to climb Smoking The White Owl III 4 on the North side of Sgurr Finnish-Aig.
We started in a mini gorge and soloed up the ice until the start of the steeper stuff. We then climbed in 4 pitches and Geoff kindly allowed me the last few metres of the top pitch so I could lead up into a 3ft deep snow drift. Thanks Geoff.
On arrival at the top, we were met by 60mph winds which confirmed our suspicion that the Gondola would not be running. Although the walk down the Mountain Bike track was only about an hour, the wind caused me to have to crouch a few times to stop myself getting blown over.

The motto for the day was ICE WAS NICE, WEATHER WAS SCOTTISH.

Beinn Udlaidh Dissapointment

Looking up Quartzvein Scoop

Pitch 1

The East Face

Geoff cutting steps

Today Geoff and I headed off to Beinn Udlaidh hoping it had survived the thaw. The approach slopes were somewhat unstable with accumulated windslab. We soloed up to the ice proper and after having built the belay and feeling the temperature rise all I was getting from ice axe placements were huge bits dinnerplating and falling off. Slush puppy was coming out of the ice screws rather than a proper core so we decided to down climb and call it a day rather than smash the route to pieces. The descent was bad with the snow having become more unstable and a few slabs broke off below our feet.

We spent the rest of the day with me teaching Geoff how to Ice axe arrest, make snow bollards, ice axe belays and cut steps on ice, so it wasn't a wasted day.

A few teams climbed routes on the West Face and seemed to fair better than us.

Steall Falls, Glen Nevis

Looking up the route

Water is still running behind the ice
Looking Down

Click on the picture to enlarge and see the climbers on Steall Falls

This morning I headed out alone into Glen Nevis to climb the much sought after 120m Grade III Ice climb of Steall Falls. Although it has been in condition for over a week now it is quite rare for this to freeze. In fact I have been waiting 3 years to climb it and the purest method was to climb free of ropes.

On arrival at the base of The Falls I could see a couple of teams starting and a team gearing up. I asked politely and no one objected to me starting and passing them on the route. Within 50m of climbing I was the highest person on the ice fall and I enjoyed the solitude of solo climbing and not being delayed by placing gear or belaying. Rather than attempt to abseil down between teams I walked off left and used a descent gully that a couple of the local Mountain Rescue guys had told me was the best way down.

As I returned to the bottom of the routes there were about 6 teams either on or about to start the route and I passed another team coming in as I was walking out.

What an amazing morning

For those that haven't seen Steall Falls before this is what it looks like in summer

Taken September 2008

First Aid Renewal Day 2

The Cairngorms in full winter plumage

Today was the second day of being inside looking out of the window trying not to get cabin fever. The good news is I passed the exam and am now fully qualified for the next 3 years. This means I will be out on the hill tomorrow.

First Aid Renewal Day 1

Lunch Time stroll through the woods

Today I have been on a First Aid Renewal course run by The British Association of Ski Patrollers at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore.

With the exception of a 40min walk at lunchtime we have been inside all day refreshing our skills and looking wistfully out of the window at the deep powdery snow.

Snow conditions over here are much greater than back in Fort William and with another snow fall last night, it made things difficult to all trying to access the Cairngorm Mountain Ski Road.

Big Freeze Kills Car

Aoanch Mor and Ben Nevis from Caol

Overnight temperatures were around -18 and this meant all fluids in my car were frozen this morning and the battery died after repeated attempts to start it. By the time I got eveything going (with a little help from the AA) it was mid afternoon so too late to go out, so todays picture was taken from Caol (just down the road from my chalet) as the sun was setting.

I am off to Aviemore tonight as I am on a First Aid Renewal Course over the weekend at Glenmore Lodge. The course brief states that some of the practicals will be held outside!!!!

Saint's Slip on Sgurr Finnish-Aig

Smoking the White Owl III 4

Looking Down

Looking up my route (some of the better ice)

Amazing views all day

Today I went to Sgurr Finnish-Aig to climb "Smoking the White Owl" III 4 but on my arrival there were already 3 teams on it and it would have been bad etiquette to solo above them so I traversed to a line of ice on the left called "Saint's Slip" II/III and made my way up that instead.

Unfortunately the ice was not that great and was faily rotten in places. When I placed an axe the ice just collapsed around it and water spurted out. As I was soloing (no rope) this was not the best thing that could happen. I managed to continue up the route trying to bypass the worst of the ice by using some frozen turf to the right of it.

On topping out I enjoyed a short stroll to the ski range and caught a ride in the gondola back to my car.