Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ben Rinnes.

Today was another one of those dictated by the weather. Original plans of a walk amongst the Munroe’s of the Northern Cairngorms were soon changed as we passed the Slochd Summit. The low grey cloud and persistent rain forced the car in a North East direction and we were soon at the car park at the foot of Banffshires biggest hill.
Ben Rinnes is a Corbett of 840mts with a very nice path from car to Summit and back again. As a result our day in the hills was restricted to a few hours of Corbett bashing. The view south into the Cairngorms was very depressing, with warm rain and very little snow. As a thought I do wonder if we will be able to get the winter climbing gear out again this year? A Scottish winter climber is certainly a person of patience this year, oh well we have booked a ski holiday in Austria today! :o)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Next stop Norway.

The Corrie of Mael-Rjukan-Norway.
A weekend of fun and ice was planned and on Friday I joined the hundreds out in Norway. With only two full days of climbing, I knew we were going to have to be canny to get in as much as possible.
On Saturday we headed to the area known as Mael, which is infact a small corrie towards the North of the Valley overlooking the town. With a 45minute walk uphill and an abseil approach we guessed it would keep the masses at bay and we were right. The Corrie itself was pretty majestic, with 4 very obvious icefalls across it’s back wall. These would come in somewhere between 200 and 250 mts so it is a full day out.
We climbed the route of Isoroser which is the left most line on the photo. A WI3 so the guide said. The first pitch was nice, with a steep wall for about 25mts before laying back into a bay. My first all Ice Screw belay, this winter! Anyway after leading the second pitch, Andy my partner for the day had a blow from some ice and wanted off, luckily the other team were able to split and as Andy went off (2 hours in a hanging belay waiting for this to be sorted) John joined me. I then went on to lead the rest of the route which was magical, thick steep ice that took screws, albeit some of it was rotten in places. The route was full on Scottish IV with a sting in the tail, I took a right hand finish up a vertical pillar for 15mts before topping out onto a small shelf. WI 3 certainly has plenty to keep you busy!
Whilst up there I saw a very dodgy team on the route to my right, I say dodgy because it was obvious they were not strong, moving on wobbling sticks and looking a little gungho about it all. This resulted in the leader taking the biggest fall I have seen, it must have been over 80ft with 50ft of it free fall. To my relief he just got up and abseiled off! I thought he was dead.
Day two dawned and we went to the craging area of Krokan. The day started ok with a quick, very, very easy WI2 route upto set up a top rope on something “nails“. I dropped off and let Andy sort the top rope, this was a mistake as it took over one and half hours and by the time he was done I was ready for home with lots of pent up frustration. We climbed around this area till about 1pm with a few WI4 and WI5 being done! By then my faff patience had run out and I needed to escape. The very busy nature of the area and my mood made for a pretty forgettable day to be honest.
My lesson for the weekend is to ensure on a trip like this you are out with like minded individuals as it is easy for aspirations to be different and to be left feeling disappointed.
Still a good introduction to get my bearings, I will be back, to get some of the harder routes done.

Ice bouldering at Kroken area-Rjukan

Monday, February 11, 2008

Summer arrives in the North West Highlands.

A Typical February View in the North West Highlands.
What a day! The weather today has been positively tropical, with a forecast of a balmy 15degrees and wall to wall sunshine I headed off to the North West Highlands for a spot of trad climbing and some Mediterranean style bolt clipping.
The first venue of the day was a crag called Aztec tower, which is an outcrop of metamorphosed sandstone just north of Gairloch. The routes were clean and quite slabby in nature and we did several lines. The guide book had them down as HVS, VS and even E1 though we both thought these grades were a little on the soft side. Still good to be feeling strong on the first proper rock trip of the year.
Enjoying a VS route called Cortes.
Martin solos an E1 Conquistador.

After lunch we headed over towards grass crag a small bolted outcrop of Gneiss about 5 minutes away, these routes provided a complete contrast to the morning with some very steep moves and painfully sharp holds.
We did a few routes on this crag, the grades make no comparison to the wall and the routes felt a good two grades harder. I was pleased to work 6b+, to get it clean by the end of the afternoon, and onsight a few 6a`s which felt an achievement due to the hard nature of the grades. Still the winner of the day had to be the weather, and although it was niggling away at the back of my mind that this sun and warm winds would be stripping the snow from the higher crags. I have to admit to enjoying climbing with the warm sun on my back.
Excellent preparation for Norway and two days of Ice Climbing I think!
On Human Sacrifice HVS 5a

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bouldering at the beach.

A wet and dreary start to the morning put pay to plans to get out and do a hill or two, the weather was wall to wall grey this morning. With little motivation to slog around in the clag, Becky and I opted for a more gentile way to pass the afternoon. A spot of bouldering along the coast at Cummingston, this was combined with a bit of beach walking, and rockpool investigation. All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon and although the grey never really lifted the rain did just about stay off. The area know as the Prophet walls seemed to be our venue of choice, and I was pleased I managed to complete the traverse girdle, after several efforts!!
Crimping on a hold on an unkown problem at Cummingston.
This is a 6B problem known as Baywatch. It has some very crimpy moves and few rests from start to finish. The rest of the day was spent looking for something to catch my eye with the camera, this effort I was less pleased with, but still all a learning curve, there is so much to learn with photography, but my starting point seems to be composition!
On an attempt of Bay Watch 6b.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

An almost powder day!

Heavy Snow on the Ski Road.

With the heavy snows on Friday, climbing looked like it might be hard work today, and with an avalanche forecast of 4, Becky and I decided to head off to Cairngorm with the snowboards in tow, in search of some powder!
The ski website talked of all runs and lifts being open and fresh powder. As we discovered pretty early on there was quite a bit of fabrication in these claims. The drive down the A9 was entertaining with the snow still lying on the carriageway. The snow gates were still closed at Glenmore when we arrived at 8:20 and after 40minutes wait we were on the hill.
Yesterday's snow did arrive on the back of strong winds, so some slopes today were scoured, and others had some large drifts. By mid morning we had gone through the plum powder we could find and were keen to head over to the West wall. In true Cairngorm style the lifts over that side of the mountain were closed and so we had to content ourselves with runs down the Cas and back to the carpark.
Busy on the lifts.

By 2pm the winds very very strong on the top and the funicular stopped running, by now we had enough of people dodging on the busy runs and decided to call it a day.
Still good to get some runs in on some nice fresh snow after our holiday of ice!