Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fluted Buttress Direct.

The weather forecast talked of an approaching warm front today. Perhaps as early as midday, so we opted for a climb in the good old Northern Corries. Coire an t-sneachda can allow you to be on a route an hour from the car park. Today are objective was a *** route called Fluted Buttress Direct. It is marked in green on the photo of the crag.
The route is a IV5 and was good value for money for the grade, I found the second pitch up an obvious chimney quite stiff, and the third pitch taking the right fork continuation of this chimney was also no pushover.

The sustained nature of the climb adds to the fun and I can see why it gets ***. Topping out onto the plateau was not so much fun though , as I pulled over I could feel it was a little bit breezy up top. The winds must have been in excess of 60-70mph and nothing else but getting off was on our minds. The gear was dumped in the bag and we made a quick dash down the goat track, which had formed a nice little cornice due to the strong SouthWesterly winds.
Once down in the Coire we were back in the car within an hour or so, walking through a very rapidly thawing Coire as the temperature had obviously risen during the day quite markedly. The climbing today was top fun and makes me want to get on some more of the Cairngorm mixed classics.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Biking through the forest.

Feeling tired from a long day yesterday a leisurely day was in order. So Becky and I went biking along the off road trails in the Abernethy Forest around Nethybridge. These trails stretch from Grantown in the North down through towards Aviemore in the South and open up millions of acres of forest.

Not too technical they provide some good terrain for x-country biking and although today was only a short visit of a few hours, it has given us insight into a new venue to perhaps explore for a biking/camping weekend.

The only down side to the day was that any standing water was sheet ice and at times we resorted to pushing across some sections of the paths. Although I don’t do it very often today reminded me that I enjoy getting out on the bike, and indeed that I should perhaps do so more often.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Central Gully Lurchers Crag today.

Juan, Davey, and I headed off to Lurchers Crag on the Western side of the Northern Cairngorms this morning. Parking at the sugar bowl car park we were soon off in the direction of the Chalamain Gap.
Passing through the gap the climbs are situated on a crag on the east side of the pass that runs the length of the cairngorms known as the Lairig Grhu. The target for the day was a two* grade III. Climbing as a three is never that quick and as we were still in the carpark at 9:30 this seemed the best option.
The climb itself is a very large gully running in the centre of the crag. Its first lower pitches were nothing more than a snow plod, however higher up the gully redeems itself with several small ice pitches, which though never too steep do provide some good sport. I lead the first 5pitches, leaving Juan to lead a final ice bulge.

Though not too steep these ice pitches did serve as a timely reminder to tidy up my ice technique before Rujkan as the mixed stuff of late requires a whole set of different skills. As we started late we returned back to the car after dark to complete a 12hour day door to door.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Home in time for tea and medals.

Today, it was a case of making the best of the conditions. I was out with Davey today who only last week had surgery on his elbow, whilst my surgery on Tuesday to have my wisdom teeth out means none of us were up for a major difficulty day. With an approaching warm front, we opted to make a quick dash up to Meall Gorm on Applecross. The beauty of this corrie is that you can drive right the way into it, and therefore be at the foot of the climbs a tiring 15minutes from leaving the car.
The temperature rose slowly from Inverness at –2 to a steady 5 when we left the car. Still the crag looked white and we opted for the complete gully of Mono Six Track Blues, a steady II snow plod!
The line of the route is the right hand of the two gullies. A nice looking line from the car!

The climb itself was pretty non descript but the snow had consolidated in the gully and was not too bad.

After topping out we took in the summit cairn and nipped back to the car, to be home in Inverness in time for tea and medals, for the wounded! A good day out and a handy venue for a short day.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Routes on Lochnagar

Saturday was an early start with the alarm set for 4:30. By 4:45 I was on the road for a two hour journey to meet Andy in Ballater before heading off to Lochnagar. Made only slightly longer by the untreated roads and few inches of snow that had fallen.
As usual I forgot how long the walk in to Lochnagar is, today it wasn’t helped by a very breakable crust on top of some deep powder. This should have given us a clue for things to come.
The weather for once was fantastic with wall to wall blue skies the order of the day. Crossing the col we had our first glimpse of the crag, very plastered was our take on things.

As we dropped into the Coirre we could see avalanche debris everywhere and lots of windslab still to release. Not fancying the track across the debris to the heavily plastered crag we headed up to a small buttress on the left of Coirre directly beneath the area known as the ladder.
Here we found some good rock, and new lines!
Andy climbed the corner, now known as Sonshine corner III, a good route with perhaps a move of two of tech 4.
I then had a go at the inset face left of an obvious buttress, this was a slabby climb in nature and used some helpful cracks to get established underneath an obvious roof. I turned this on the left through a bulge to finish up the arete and a shared belay with the top of Sonshine corner. The route was called fluffy face IV4. Partly because the face had tufts of turf sticking out and partly because I hadn’t had a shave for a few days and Becky thought it apt.

The routes provided us with a good safe days climbing when the Coirre is full of windslab like it was. My first, first winter ascents so we sent an email to the SMC for good measure.
The long walk out and drive home saw me complete a 15hour day door to door.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Lessons today.

I was out with Nick of Alpha Mountaineering today. Having decided to try and push the grade a little this year after several IV5s, I thought I would use the services of one of the guides down the wall. We went for Pot Of Gold on the Mess of Pottage, at V6 it would be just the sort of thing I would be looking to lead in the not to distant future.
The day was good, full of useful tips and hints and importantly a good insight into some steeper harder terrain. The conclusion was a few more IV’s wouldn’t go a miss. Still the route was good, technical and well protected where it mattered. One to consider for the future.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Late start and a dark finish.

Juan joined me this morning for a walk in to Coire an-t Sneachda. The weather was forecast to be good, so we opted for a slightly later start. Feeling not quite so easy about walking in at 9am we headed straight for Fiacaill Buttress.
Our route for the day was a little known IV5 which takes the left edge of Fiacaill Couloir. After sharing the opening pitch with the gully the route breaks off left through some broken ground to gain the buttress properly.
Juan was feeling a little uneasy on the more technical ground and was happy to give me the lead on the last 3 pitches.
The climbing on the route is very good, thought provoking and well protected. The last chimney pitch is hard, and I felt quite committing to make the last few moves for the capping chockstone. This must have taken me over 30minutes to lead and its only 10mts!. Still once over this the route is over and we made our way back down to the Coirre floor just before the light failed for the dark walk out. A lesson learnt about early starts I think.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Hiking pays off for the best runs at the Lecht.

Becky and I headed over to the Lecht today for a bit of fun on the snowboards, despite moaning about the lifts and queues I had a good day. The best runs as usual were sniffed out by Becs as she had me off walking from the top of the chair to the old lift station over on the right as you look up at the Lecht. From here we were able to make our way down some unlisted runs and put the first tracks into powder albeit wet.
The weather was great, and once away from the crowds the place had a spooky feel to it. The ease at which Becky shot down the off piste let me know I still have a lot to learn. The best way is to watch the masters though!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Dry and very cold rock in the North West.

A very cold day today, and after covering half of Scotland in search of winter conditions yesterday with no luck, we opted for a safer bet and some dry rock. Davey and I went off towards the North West. Our search took us to a small sports venue just south of Gruinard Bay. Kuhjo crag contains a few lines, some with a bit of seepage, perhaps 15. Right next door a small slab called Clown slab has a few easier sports routes. These crags were to be our venue for the morning.
After the mornings sports climbing, a spot of easy trad was the order of the afternoon. A small slab near the parking area for Gruinard bay itself lent itself well to this task. Here we did 4 or 5 short trad routes in big boots to provide a bit of winter practice.
On the drive home the snow line was sat at about 500mts and perhaps bodes well for getting something done in the next few days.

The view from the crag just above the car park is lovely and helps add to the appeal of the Gruinard Bay Crags.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year and a nice little scramble to kick it off.

Becs and I eased ourselves into the new year with a little scramble up Stac Pollaidh. A lovely little hill that can have you on the top and back to the car again in two to three hours. New years day is obviously a busy time slot to visit Stac Polly. We saw in the region of 20-30 people enjoying the airy summit ridge. The scramble over the final short tower which guards the Western Summit, is not for the faint hearted and today with the rock very wet could almost be classed as a small climb. The weather just about held off and all in all it was a nice way to spend a New Years day.