Winter Mountaineering Course - Scotland


ROCK CLIMBING - CUMBRIA (Lakes) (1 to 4 days),
SNOWDONIA (3 to 5 days)

NAVIGATION Courses - CUMBRIA (Lakes) (1 or 2 days)

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Ground Frost in Cumbria

Another wonderfully cold day in the Lake District. Clear blue skies and hard snow - mountain walking today and forgot to takephotos until late, but I'll ask Tom if he has any photos I can use.
The air has been cold, but the ground has been (slightly) warmer and air has been rising up through the soil. When the warmer air reaches the surface the moisture in it freezes, just behind another bit of frozen moisture, and these tiny columns if ice appear like magic to grow out of the ground.
The forecast is for continuing cold so crossed fingers - maybe some ice climbing by torchlight this week!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Climbing in the Lake District

It's turned colder again - yipee! A late change in schedule saw me able to cram in some personal climbing so I was up at 4.30 to drive to Patterdale for an early walk-in to Red Tarn on Helvellyn.
We arrived as the sun rose and were alone on the mountain, which gave us the pick of the routes. We climbed V Corner III - I added a bit of early "spice" too it by climbing a semi free-standing 3 meter icicle to gain a runnel near the crest - brilliant. I had to kick my crampons in carefully so what I was standing on didn't fall away. The V-Corner towards the top was excellent.
The first of the masses started ariving at 9.00 and we summitted as the walkers started gathering on the summit.
From the top we could see the cornices undercutting beside the trig point.
Striding Edge was starting to look busy (later it had a continuous line of people all along it).
We decended Swirral Edge, grabbed a warm drink, and then climber Gully I Buttress II as it was one of the few available lines.
Conditions look good for the start of the week but be early to avoid the masses.
My plans for the coming week include some night climbing before heading abroad for a few days.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Lowe Alpine work

"Just hanging around the Lowe Alpine office" and "This hot desking thing won't catch on"
Today I was in the Lowe Alpine office and a member of the public had written regarding the strength of the haul-loop, so we decided to test it......

PS - don't try this at home kids, it could hurt as no rucksacks are actually supposed to be suspended in!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Aonach Mor - Roaring Fourties

Today was to be a shorter day so we took the early uplift on the Aonach Mor Gondola. Weather's been cold and the avalanche forecast is fair.
The carpark was packed at 7.30 and we were worried... until we saw some familiar faces and SARDA dogs - it was a host of Mountain Rescue Teams out training with the dogs.  Al, an instructor I know from Glenmore Lodge, jumped into our cabin and we caught up on gossip.
We took the 4-chair lift onward and walked up to the top with 2 other pairs. The cornice is big enought into the decent gully to make an abseil off a snow bollard a wise move.

We enjoyed dropping down Easy Gully (grade I) in the soft snow and headed off to Roaring Fourties IV,4 140m. There's snow covering most features so be ready to do some digging for gear, and the resulting hot-aches that this can bring.

The first pitch was open, with thin ice hidden under the snow. Pitch 2 could also do with a bit more ice, and might be more straight forward later in the season, I got an early short screw in and was soon seeking another placement before committing into the steep corner when I found a wire and screw gate, looks like sombody else had a problem here and bailed out but I silently thanked them, clipped it and moved on up. It isn't a one-move mission and the interest continues through pitch 2 into the 3rd pitch. A great route but not a soft touch, maybe some more ice will ease the difficulties?

We got to the top just as the sun came out with some fantastic light and silhouettes, and bumped into a team from Deep-Cut Chimney yesterday.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Deep-Cut Chimney, a Very Long Way

I thought it'd be colder towards the east in the Cairngorms today, but discovered the car covered in frost so we headed west to Glencoe. There was a line of 9 headtorches up the vally ahead of us at 7am. We passed Aonach Dubh as it got light (the Screen looks good) and walked on up to Stob Coire Nam Beith.

North West Gully looks in good condition but we moved left to join the parties on the 450 metre Deep-Cut Chimney, a IV.4 **** yes a 4-star route! And very long - don't arrive late!
Conditions are ok, a bit thin and we placed mainly rock gear and a peg.

Above the obvious difficulties is some old abseil tat. We continued on up and went right at the big buttress and kept right for 2 pitches.

Another party who went left seemed to have a more straight forward time. It's a long journey above the difficulties to the summit and we met another party at the summit just before it got dark. The decent was good, but we did see lights at the summit an hour later and think it was one of the other 2 parties who started way behind us. Great route, but get there very early!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Cautley Spout

Making the most of the cold weather Dan, Simon and Gareth and I headed off to Cautley Spout tonight.
Cautley is in the Yorkshire Howgills and is a 250 metre grade III icefall that takes a lot of cold weather before it's climbable.

Tonight there was a fair amount of runing water, but there's still plenty of ice. Beware though as the ice is "thin" on the first 2 pitches with poor protection.
After 2 pitches we decided to solo, so then the ice got firmer but we just kept moving on. Another excellent outing.

I thought my Petzl Myo RXP was very bright.... but when Dan and Simon switched on the bike lights they'd mounted on their helmets it got seriously bright (Dan's bikelight is off in this photo).
Now I'll need to save up for one of those Ultra bright Petzl headlamps!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Sunshine Gully

Ali and I could only manage a short day today. We waited behind a pair on Green Eyes but then moved over to Sunshine Gully, and can thoroughly recommend it.

Sunshine Gully follows the ice up and left in the above photo. It's given grade III but the party we passed and both of us felt it more a IV today.
The winds were strong with plenty of spindrift causing problems on some of the routes to our left but it was ok on S.G.
We caught up with another party roping up at the botom of S.G. and they kindly allowed us to climb alongside them and, as we were moving well, we were soon ahead and out of their way.
The route has a nice bulge on pitch one that we all felt deserved IV, and above it is a magnificent "thread" where you could go caveing behind a great thick column of ice, creating a natural runner (I didn't, not a caver). I got a good belay on the ridge on the right of the gully using nuts and threads. Ali led through to summit out on pitch 2.

Beware - you probably won't be able to hear the leader as they top out, and don't expect any obvious belays on the gently sloping summit.

Green Eyes

Green Eyes on Ben Udlaidh is the line going up and rightwards on the ice in the middle of the photo below - it's nice and fat, but it was windy today with steady streams of spindrift hiding ropes and climbers.

We went to climb this (IV.4*) but a leasurely start, and a party ahead of us, resulted in a change of routes but here are the pictures for anyone wanting info on this fantastic route.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Tebay Night Climbing

Tonight was sooo cold - the car thermometer said minus 12 and the air was freezing in our nostrils. So we had to go out with our head torches, didn't we?
Literally a step (or 3) from the car saw us tying on and attacking the brittle ice. This "crag" gives a number of lines approximatelly 13 meters high. The ice was thin and brittle ice with sparse protection - beware! So after Dan led the first route we were into top ropeing and having some quick fun.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Steall Falls in conditions

2nd January 2010
News was that Steall Falls was in condition thanks to the cold weather we've been having.

So Ali, Al, John and I made an early start and arrived ahead of Dan and his group of 6 but a headtorch start had Dan overtaking us. Later we were joined by Alan Halewood with 2 clients who had this superb route as their second ever ice climb!

The falls were wide enough to accommodate us all so everyone enjoyed a great climb, unfortunatelly thawing slightly as we climbed it.

Friday, 1 January 2010

No 6 Gully Aonach Dubh

What an amazing route! Park where the Clachaig Inn road meets the A82 and look South at the big West Face of Aonach Dubh. Today it had limited snow on the face it but in the gullys is some fantastic ice.
Number 6 gully (IV.4 ***) is 240 meters with great climbing throughout.

Following a late start (Oops! But that's another story) we passed other groups and arrived with just one pair ahead of us. It seems we managed to avoid the crowds again.

We placed loads of screws, a peg and small wire and found a few bits of in-situ bits of gear.

Swinging leads and a bit of moving together we made great progress, stopping to chat and disagree about whether the crux was the iced corner, or the the long ice pitch with the peg in the left wall.

We topped out, grabbed out kit and helped another party with their ropes before decending in the gathering dark.

Another wonderful day with great company on a fantastic route.