Monday, December 29, 2008

Good fun on Grooved Rib.

A little whiter than of late!
Davy and I had a walk in to Coire an-t Sneachda this morning, with one half rope and a light rack, with the intention of playing around on the easy gully lines. However when we got there, the crag had been in the cloud overnight, and after a light dusting, and hoaring from the cloud, a few other routes had come into reasonable nick. There was a strong wind blowing from the south all day, and by the end of the day, things were looking a lot whiter still.
We started with Grooved Rib, a good fun route with a couple of nice grooves, the right hand one had a little steeping before the top of the second pitch, and a good chimney to finish. Spindrift, frozen eyebrows, it was a proper winters morning on the route. Top fun.

Davy on the Middle pitch of Grooved Rib.

Top Pitch.
Rob and Murdo just so happened to follow us up the route, a small world this climbing one!
Rob and Murdo having fun.
We finished the day with a solo of Crotched Gully, again top fun.
Davy told me it was a fair number of years since he last soloed Crotched Gully, I wont say how many , but enough that I was impressed anyway.

Davy at the top of Crotched Gully.
The snow was not quite as firm as it has been in the last few days, so perhaps things just warmed up slightly by the end of the day. Still good enough though.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Concrete Neve In Coire an-t Sneachda

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Day Ben Wyvis.

Well we had a quick dash up Ben Wyvis yesterday, before Christmas Dinner, and it made for a lovely start to Christmas Day. Becky and I shared a mince pie on top!

Today after a year of pestering, I finally got Becky out to do a winter route! The snow in the Northern Corries is absolutely concrete neve. The easier gully lines are full, with rock solid snow ice, and the odd patch of water ice here and there. Ideal sport for an easy day, we left the carpark at 10:00 am, and the Coire was busy with 3 other teams! All doing the Runnel! Becky and I did Central Left Hand, which had a bit of ice to play on just before the cornice on the top pitch.

Ice Shocker in Coire an-t Sneachda. (central left hand)

Just informed Becs I forgot the Mince Pies!
Becs on the top pitch.
New Self Arrest technique displayed by Becky.
Aladin’s Mirror was complete, as was Goat Track Gully. Red Gully looked good as did the Runnel, Spiral and Central gully. Crotched gully needed a small step to be avoided, but otherwise was complete, if you want a day of easy fun then all the major gully lines will keep you busy. The buttresses could all be climbed as rock climbs, so you really could have a mixed bag if you fancy it.
Aladdins mirror direct.Anyway we had a fun day, back home in time for the family boxing day tea too.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sax Appeal

A day for making the best of things. Andy was stuck at the snow gates at the Lecht whenI left town this morning, a run in with a friendly local saw him through, and by 9:00 a little later than planned we arrived in a very black looking Coire an t-sneachda. Plans to get further put on hold thanks to the Lecht snow gates. The best looking buttress was Fluted Buttress. Some of the other buttress looked very black indeed, but out choice held an onious snow and ice line. The snow was concrete, and freeze of melt water meant all the cracks were chocked with verglas. In the end Andy and I went for Sax Appeal, I pulled the straw for the first pitch. The old guide had this route, as poorly protected and V4 a very odd grade for mixed. After a short excursion into cruising and a hairy traverse back left I can understand the poorly protected bit. Not sure it was an overall V, but the gear is a little sparse and the climbing thin. Anyway somehow, and despite the late start and the fact there were 3 other teams on Fluted Buttress Direct, once we joined that route, we managed to top out by 3pm. Another really good day on the hill though. The snow lines and gullies in the Coire were excellent, and may be worth a trip back as long as things don’t warm up too much in the next few days.
Andy on the middle pitch of Fluted Buttress Direct, after Sax Appeal.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cairngorm Skiing: After a failed attempt to find winter conditions out west.

Bit of a silly mistake this morning when Andy and I left Inverness at 5:45, instead of turning left for the Cairngorms, we took a risk and went west.
Well when we had enough light to see, at 8am, it was pretty clear we were not going to be doing a winter route this morning. Things were wet and black, so we turned around and headed back to Inverness. Back in Inverness by 9am after a 180mile round trip, Becs and I headed for the slopes of Cairngorm instead. After a strong Southerly wind all night the gorms had had a top up, the plateau providing a good snow store for the wind to collect from.
Becky tried her hand at recording a run today, the results you can see below, she made a pretty good job. a good steady hand to say she had to watch where she was going too. The Ciste provided the best snow.
On the piste, where bashed the snow was nice, off it, it was a little scoured, and in other places wet and crusty. Still we had a good day out and made the most of it.
On the way down I spoke to a couple of teams coming out of the Norries where reports were of clearing, clearing, and more clearing.
Hopefully be out to play in the morning, probably a short day in Coire an-t Sneachda, but will wait and see how much snow comes down overnight, the forecast is for a fair bit. We shall see.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Short Circuit: Fiacaill buttress.

Jamie and I had a fantastic day out the other day. We headed into the northern corries and despite the recent snow, things looked surprisingly black, but Fiacaill buttress had been out of the teeth of the thawing wind so looked white, well hoared and covered in rime as a result of the thaw and refreeze. One team had set off up the couloir, so we were left to do something on the right of the couloir. We opted for Short Circuit. A good little route, with the pitches getting progressively harder as you go. The top pitch was a cheeky little number, I quite enjoyed the steep crack but the slab was thin, I suspect it may have had more turf at some point in the past. A good short day out, good fun and good company, what more can you ask for?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Frustrating day in Loch Avon.

View of a frozen Loch Avon from the 1st belay on the Shelter Stone.

On approach to the shelter stone.

Hells lum-Two parties on a very icy looking brimstone groove

Cascade area.

Stag Rocks

Conditions are fantastic at the moment in Loch Avon Basin. Stewart and I headed for a route on the Shelter Stone, but after the first pitch he was keen to head home. Despite one or two desperate pleas, I almost thought about begging things looked so good, I couldn’t convince him to carry on. So we abbed off after the first pitch and started the long walk up and out.
We had made excellent time on the way in and was on the route for a little after 9:00. Thats about 2hrs 30 from the car.
The slog out was hard work, post holing every step. There was a layer of windslab on top of the powder and it just made life hell.
As a result we were back at the car for early afternoon.

The positives, all the crags I could see looked good.
Anyway the turf was bomber on the Shelter Stone and everything was lightly hoared up. Stag rocks, and hells lum were cacked in ice, couldn't comment on its quality though. Cascade area was also in.
We did see two people ski across the loch though, so the ice must be ok.
Anyway a few pics from a frustrating day out. The weather was excellent too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Meall Faur-Mhonadh:

Becs and I had a lovely day out above Loch-ness. The views were stunning and the weather fantastic. A few pics from our afternoon out. Some sledging action was also had on the way down!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dissapointing day in the Cairngorms!

A quick dash into the Cairngorms at the weekend, saw Davy and I very disappointed once the cloud lifted and dawn was breaking. We could see a very black looking set of buttresses in Coire-an-Lochain, We picked the whitest line we could find, many routes really were as black as you could imagine.
Anything steep had held no snow after the thaw, and the dry air meant nothing was hoaring up. The line we spied from the floor was Ewen Buttress, it really is a short and quite poor route. 2*???
One very easy pitch followed by one or two moves, followed by 60 mts of plodding. We untied at the top put the stuff in the bag and walked off to find we still had a nice looking horizontal arete to complete the route.

As it wasn’t quite mid day, we dropped down the goat track and ran up goat track gully. This as usual had the wee ice pitch which was fun. The turf is like concrete, all over the Northern Cairngorms, this should be good once the snow arrives. Still a quick successful day out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Aonach Mor: Early season action.

Jamie and I left Inverness at 4:45 on Saturday to head down to Aonach Mor. With a better weather forecast, and perhaps less snow I thought that West might well be best this weekend.
Missing out the finer points of walking up the downhill track, in the dark, we arrived at the top Gondola station after an hour and half, why oh why these places do maintenance with snow on the ground is a different story.
Contouring around from the climbers col things looked good and we settled on Force 10 buttress. The weather was also settled with zero wind, and the cloud just lifting off the summit.
I was expecting a romp. I was wrong.
The gear was well, er, poor, and the whole thing was sustained at 4 with quite a lot of 5. The guide book says it climbs steep and surprising ground for the grade, and it does, whatever grade that might be! I think it may have been graded for Neve and good snow, as the powdered up route we found was quite a challenge. There was a mention of excellent protection, 10mt run outs above dodgy pro, gave me a different story. Still we had fun. If you are in the Coire this winter check the route out, well worth doing. The crux sequence of chimney and crack is well protected.
A torch light descent of the world cup mountain bike trail just added to the days entertainment. The view from the 1st belay, the only pic to have survived the thaw in my bag!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fannaichs: Meall a' Chradgaidh

The other Sunday Becs and I had a quick wander into the Fannaichs, despite the late start we managed to bag Meall a’ Chrasgaidh and be back to the car before it was too dark. Some lovely views on the way especially to the north and Beinn Dearg. Sgurr Mor also looked good too but I couldn’t see resurrection just yet.
We did very nearly get caught out with an Iron Hard patch of snow, just below the col that leads to the plateau, we left the axe and crampons back home. A few delicate steps and a few big kicks to make some of our own and we were on the summit. A nice gentle day out, and a good day to be in the hills.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hidden Chimney: Direct start

The other day Jamie and I headed into the Northern Corries. Arriving in the car park at 8am to a warm, foggy and wet vista. The presence of the local winter climbing elite made me feel a little better. Despite the tight lips for possible destinations and routes I knew these guys would get something done. So we trudged into the mist. The muddy path gave way to a few signs of snow after 30minutes walking, but things weren’t looking good. The low cloud meant we saw nothing of the crag and we arrived at the lochain of Corie an-t-sneachda things looked a little more promising. This was only Jamie’s second ever winter route, but he was keen to try something a little bit harder than the stuff he did last time out, so I opted to go for the direct start of Hidden Chimney. Although I have done this twice, the guide book mentions another variation to the start, up a chimney just right of the direct start at about the same grade of IV 5. Although they only came in short bursts, the difficulties were steep and quite thin, a good solid IV 5.
Within no time at all, and after only one or two expletives Jamie joined me on the belay, smiling so I think he enjoyed it. Conditions underfoot were good with some useable snow and everything really hoared up for that full on winter effect.
I lead through the next two pitches and surprisingly for the first time actually got around to doing the top chimney pitch of hidden chimney.
This is a lovely pitch and well worth its 2**. The chockstone is a little awkward and was over come with a neck and footing chimney technique!!
A very good day out after such low expectations on the walk in. On the way home the cloud lifted to give us a nice view as we dropped back down to the car park.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cairngorms: North and South for a weekend of winterfun.

A busy weekend! Yesterday Andy and I were driving up Glen Muick at 6:30 following a Car and I was thinking the place would be busy. The other car was slick and they were off before we had parked up, but that was to be a bonus!
On the snowy walk in this guy gave us a low down on conditions, snowy was his take on things.

Thankfully we had team slick in front and they broke trail all the way to the coirre lip, waste deep powder and breaking trail, and still only the 1st of Nov.
Anyway the helpful other team looked liked they had other plans and we were left to swim down into the Coirre and the start of the routes.
Lochnagar was officially plastered.

An hour or so later we were at the bottom of Shadow Buttress A, a classic 300mt IV5 mountaineering route. We opted for the alternative start of Bells route to give us two routes for the day. This was an old fashioned route, with good turf, and little gear!

Andy dispatched the Crux of the whole route on the second pitch with one gymnastic move over the overhanging Iron shaped face you can see here.

The rest of the route is long! 6 pitches in total saw us top out just before it got dark, after being visited by the Mountain Rescue Helicopter whilst we were still on the route.

All that remained now was the 2hour walk back off the hill in the dark. To complete a fantastic but tiring day.

Today Becky and I headed off to Cairngorm to make the first few turns of the season.

What a day, the Gorms looked magical this morning, and the weather was brilliant all day. Surprisingly despite being open yesterday, Becky still managed to sniff out some fresh powder and we had a good day, in good snow! Lets hope there are many more weekends like this one, as winter sets in!