Saturday, February 21, 2009

Family Fun.

Hebs and I had a lovely walk along the ridge above Strathpeffer today, followed by a really, really rich and indulgent hot chocolate at Maya in Strathpeffer. Mum, Dad, and Aunty Becky also came a long to keep an eye on us.
It was very mild, and the snow was disappearing off of Ben Wyvis rather fast, as we pottered along. Looking colder towards the end of the week though.

Perfect training for a winter pack!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Aonach Mor: Solarwind, Jet Stream, Aquafresh and Whiteshark

Andy and I had a very busy, but fun day on Aonach mor today. We both set off with low expectations but the climbing turned out to be very good, on steep snow/water ice allday. It ended up being a 7* day with 2 and half routes in the bag!
The temperature was still warm this morning when we dropped into the climbing col and traversed around toward Solar Wind. After the excellent first pitch, the ice in the groove ran out, so after Andy had a look over the rib to the left we decided to finish up Jet Stream. Although I did this the other day it looked complete so made for an obvious finish. Before we could head off that way I had to climb out of the guides variation chimney below after I unexpectedly fell down on the traverse to finish Jet Stream, nothing hurt other than my pride, but still it added another 10mts of climbing to the day!
After topping out we made a quick dash around to easy gully and towards the Shark Buttress, where White Shark looked really quite good.
Andy was chief photographer today, so a few pics of me for a change!

The first pitch of Solar Wind.

On the finish for Jet Stream.

Andy on Aquafresh which we used as an alternative start to WhiteShark.

Me on the steep last corner of Whiteshark.

The top corner was quite steep and felt more like V5 on the day. Topping out it was 4:40 and with the gear in the bag at 4:44, the last Gondola was at 5:00, we made it by 5:03. That gives you a good indication how extreme the bum sliding was!
In terms of conditions although wet-take plenty of gloves, the ice was still pretty fat and took the odd cosmetic screw here and there, the buttresses were wet and black as you might expect. Still lots to go at if you fancy a trip up there.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Warm and slushy: A day to ski!

With this thaw starting to set in, I gave up on finding anywhere to climb on Sunday, and went for a slide in the slush instead. A group of us headed over to the Lecht, to try to avoid the tales of monstrous queues on Cairngorm. Though the 6:30 alarm felt like I was off climbing again.

A busy hill, but no too busy!

We had a good day, with good snow, if a little heavy off piste. As the day went on the surrounding hills lost some of the uniform whiteness and a few patches started to show. With all the lifts open, good visibility and a wait of never more than a few minutes, the Lecht provided for a good day of Scottish skiing, it is just a shame that the longest runs are still so short.

Bec and Claire.

The week ahead looks warm though a small window of opportunity of cold weather looks like popping up at the end of the week, and the synoptic charts for next weekend and just beyond look cold again with snow, just very windy at this stage.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jet Stream: In the rain.

When I picked Davy up at 6:30 this morning it was snowing heavily, by the time we reached Aonach Mor and had walked to the top ski lift it was raining heavily. After a few cornice dilemmas we dropped down to the climbers col to traverse across a fairly slabby slope. The fresh windblown snow was sitting on top of the hard neve underneath. Saturated by the rain, it wasn’t the healthiest looking slope. Anyway we ended up opting for Jet Stream, which was in very good nick with fat chewy ice, thanks to the rising temps. I thought it was a top class route and well worth the 3*. The steeper second pitch was probably the best bit of ice climbing I have done in Scotland.

Davy on the first chimney pitch.
Once at the belay I could see Davy would have some cornice capers to pull through a now dripping monster, which he did as calm as you like. The snow was now completely sodden and should be stonking if we get a freeze.

Cornice Capers.

As a bonus we were able to bum slide virtually the entire lift of the unused Warrens tow, to get us back to the warmth of the café pretty quickly. A really good day on the hill despite the foul weather.

Monday, February 9, 2009

An Teallach: New Route for Glas Tholl.

The Corrie on Approach
It was a long old day yesterday. Davy and I headed NW to poke our heads in and have a look at Glas Tholl on An Teallach. Once out of the woods, it was clear the walk in was going to be hard work, every foot step was sinking in powder, the higher we got the deeper the powder. Eventually we reached the Coire, a little longer than the guide book recommended time!
A long approach
We spied an obvious unclimbed buttress between the Third and Fourth Prong. A good long route with a surprising finish, up a gully. The turf and neve on the route itself was very good, and we dispatched the 300mts or so, pretty efficiently.
I climbed a chimney of about tech 4 on the lower buttress but this was avoidable on the right and as it turned out not really in keeping with the rest of the route, which ended up being in a way, disappointingly easy, but still a good mountaineering line.
Davy in the groove!
On Route!
It did pass some spectacular rock scenery though, and the gate way through up to the upper gully was quite atmospheric.

On top we were treated to a spectacular sunset, and a few magical views with every piece of land insight being covered in snow.

A fantastic view.
Once finished we attempted to climb up and over Bidein a Ghlas Thuil but the powder was simply too deep so we dropped down towards Loch Toll an Lochain, a little unnerving on the loaded south facing slope. Once down we flogged out from the Loch. Despite being thigh deep in powder most of the way until past the loch, and also falling in a stream or two, and having to wrestle out of the occasional 4ft hole! We managed to get back to the car a couple of hours before midnight.

As for the route.

Post Hole Prong Phewy!
300m II Will Wilkinson Davy Moy 8th Feb 2009. Follow a turfy groove up the right side of the obvious buttress in between the third and fourth prong. At 150mts the Buttress splits with a through route up a 3mt wide gully in the centre of the buttress. Climb down and right into this gully and follow it through the gateway and exit right at the top(35mts). Continue up the obvious gully to the top (130mts).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Shelter Stone: Success on Western Grooves.

The morning approach
Andy and I had a really good day over on the Shelter Stone today. It was bitter on the walk in, and the whole of the ridge upto p1141 was sheet glass. We plodded on into quite a strong southerly breeze, that made us both look like an icicle, and dropped down to the Shelter Stone. 2 hours 20 from the car, including soloing the first 40mts of our route and being geared up ready to go, was quite amazed how easy the good snow made the going underfoot.
Anyway we opted for Western Grooves, a really nice route, a couple of short tricky bits, and some quality mountaineering up the Shelter Stone.
Andy on a couple of the tricky bits.
The highlight was perhaps the best straddle seat belay in the world, with a couple of hundred feet beneath each foot.
Andy on the brilliant belay onto of our second pitch
When we topped out some guys reported that Sticil face was good, as they and another team just behind them had enjoyed some good ice.
Looking accross the cascade looked abit sorry for itself, but there were quite a few teams out enjoying Hells Lum.
Hells Lum and the Cascade.

We found the snow a bit cruddy, but good enough, and things are only going to improve once this cold spell really gets hold.
Back at the car for 6 so a 10 hour day. As we dropped down the goat track things looked much whiter in there, Fiacail buttress was especially hoared up.
The path out of the coirries was an ice rink and I fell at least 5 times on the flat!! Much to the amusement of everyone who just seemed to cruise past I am sure.
PS check out my spare axes on ebay. Aztars on Ebay.