Sunday, 27 February 2011

West Coast of Scotland at its best!

All seasons in one day on Saturday.
A steep thrutch for 800m!

Summit of An Stac 814m, looking over to Rum.

Heading towards An Stac on Sunday.

The fine scrambling on the NNE ridge of Sgurr Ghiubhsachain.

This weekend I have been hill walking with Mark on the West Coast above Loch Shiel. We were keen to get away from the main honey pots and explore new terrain for both of us.
The weather was amazing, as forecast a combination of snow showers and bright warm sunshine.
This coastal area is stunning with fabulous views out to The Inner Hebrides and The Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. With spring like conditions both days saw us on three steep and shapely Corbetts. I even found the first berries of the year! Starting at sea level these hills demand respect for their rocky ridges and fine craggy faces, giving great fun and easy mountaineering ground. At no stage was anything frozen up, but fresh snow was falling and the Lochaber hills certainly looked much more wintry on my drive home.

The photos say it all, just beautiful outside in Scotland.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

R & R for a few days with the family!

It's has been a busy winter so far. Here are some images of why 'Scotland Outside' is so unique, looking forward to spring conditions high up in Scotland's Mountains. Remember winter climbing and walking continues well into May. HPL has courses running until the snow goes! Last year we skied toured Cairngorm in mid June, climbed on Ben Nevis in May!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Another Beautiful day in Glencoe. School House Ridge II.

Today was as good as it gets in the mountains any where in the world. To avoid the deep and unconsolidated snow, Steve and I headed for the prominent and most striking School House Ridge, Grade II on Sgorr Dhearg above Ballachulish. We were really lucky as the snow line started about 500m and the snow was firm under crampon. It's a fabulous route in good snow cover, steep little steps exposed in places lead to a fine broad ridge and hence to its summit of 947m. From there one of the most shapely coire rims in Scotland awaits, which in turn leads onto Sgorr Dhearg's fine 1024m summit. Today we descended the narrow North Ridge and went exploring into Allt Guibhsachain, a remote and isolated coire, hidden from the road by forestry. NW facing slopes remain loaded with deep soggy snow, which was increasingly warming up as the day went on. It was raining in the glen as we reached the cars, these are the best days out when plans work out and the weather is kind.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Winter in Scotland's Mountains February 2011

It's been a great February up in the hills. HPL are offering courses through March and April at very competitive prices. Please check out our website HPL.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Forest fight and flight today.

Loch Leven and The Mamores beyond.
Can't see the wood for the trees!

Looking up to Sgorr Bhan.

First thing I saw this morning!

Today was a raw and blustery day in Glencoe and else where by the sounds of it. Matt and I were up on Sgurr Dearg's North ridge. The fresh blown snow was deceptively deep in hollows and stream beds. A day for keeping to ridges and where possible scoured slopes [but these are few and far between at present! ]
Sometimes ideas of different ways off hills work out, today was not one of those days! We thought it would be great if we could drop straight down the north ridge to the van, well you can but it involves 'jungle war fare'. Never quite crawling we made it back to the Forest track some what damp. Ace fun in a perverse way it has to be said.
The North facing coire below Sgorr Bhan has two large avalanches running the length of it's slopes. I am sure it is not the only place they are naturally triggering. The south east winds are forecast over night and over the next few days, so route choice and approaches will need to be
carefully considered. I had a coffee with Andy Turner who had just fled from the Ben, his description of swirling snow and spindrift says it all really.
Winter is back and HPL has places left on courses over Easter and they are very good value!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Pea Souper Today in Glencoe!

It was hammering down in Oban this morning as I left for Glencoe. Never the best start to the working day. By the time I arrived in Glencoe it was falling as wet snow, by 9 am it was pelting us in an horizontal fashion. Being at 160m things felt pretty 'mingin' to say the least, so 1000m would be grim? I met Daniel who was joining me on a winter skills training day. He had booked through Footprints Glasgow, HPL are now their training providers. We decided to head as high as possible, as quickly as possible. So up lift completed we were now into proper snow fall and about as much visibility as the length of my arm, a Proper winters day! Daniel and I spent the day concentrating on all things winter walking skills based. The new 60cm of snow [see photo] on a firm base proved interesting in places, we reached the summit of Meall a Bhuiridh 1108m in pretty horrible conditions but Daniel was really chuffed to have done another Munro. A fun day in proper winter weather. The sliding up there tomorrow will be amazing, if you can get out, go out! Powder Monday....

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Climbing Guiding in Glencoe today.

Today I was out with Jasmin and Ian. They are heading off to try Island Peak in Nepal in April and were looking to gain some experience of steeper snow climbing, use their Jumars, for ascending fixed ropes and practice their abseiling. Stob Coire nan Lochan was busy today, with masses of folk queuing again on Dorsal Arete. Parties were on Central Groves, Scabbard Chimney and Ordinary Route and in NC Gully. New snow had fallen overnight and which had been shifted on strong south westerly winds and consequently there was allot of evidence of avalanches on North East Faces.
We headed up onto the fine mountaineering ground from the lowest point on the buttress under Boomerang Gully. From there we headed up grade 1/11 ground and short steps of mixed ground up to grade 3 and we had it all to ourselves! We looked at taking stances, crampon use, the use of one and two ice axes and through some short roping in for good measure. We topped out right at the summit after approx 300m of fun climbing. A great day with two charming people.

Today I was working for Focus Mountaineering .

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Avalanche in Twisting Gully today!

Matt exploring, such fun picking our way up to the summit.
Crest Route, looking good and a much safer option on the ridges and steeper routes at the mo!

Dorsal Arete covered in new snow.

Crown Wall above Twisting Gully, You can see the scoured head wall.

I had a trip down memory lane today when I met up with Matt Heffer MIC whom I did my MIA training course with in 1994! We headed up into Stob Coire nan Lochan to have a look-see at what the conditions are like as we both have clients booked in over the next few days and into the weekend.
It was raining on the walk in but by mid morning it had cleared up rather nicely. It felt warm and a little quiet in the coire. We were concerned about the new snow and the large cornices hanging over most of the gullies. We were keen to seek out an alternative to the Dorsal Arete and it's ques. So we headed over to the Boomerang Arete area and found some great mixed ground, neve and easier ridge climbing.
Half way up We heard an avalanche go off in the snow fan above Twisting Gully. Two climbers were climbing at the time and We were very happy to hear their shouts of relief after the avalanche had settled!
A large crown wall could be easily seen below the cornice on the right hand side. We had met a couple gearing up to do Twisting, luckily it all happened before they got to close. It is known for it, but to see it at first hand was pretty thought provoking! We continued cautiously!

There were parties out on Crest Route, loads of folk on Dorsal Arete and quiet a few folk enjoying the lovely North East ridge up and over the summit.
Some hefty cornices are forming and the thaw predicted will make these even more unstable, time to consider carefully our route choices!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Calmer day in Coire an t- Sneachda today.

fun times in a snow hole.
Shelter not needed today!

Looking north to the mighty Moray.

Snow belays, always interesting to build.

Day two, of Manchester University Mountaineering club's winter skills course and a very pleasant day it was too! Hordes of folk were walking [rushing] into Sneachda today with large climbing packs and an urgency to match! Whilst the gullies are full of good material, the buttresses of both Coires looked some what black today? As we headed for the Fiacaill Ridge, it felt a whole lot more peaceful. I even let Hamish [the dog] come along as the weather seemed so settled and much calmer. The students were keen to progress onto steeper ground and get to grips with winter belays. After an evening of home work at the hostel of tying in, knots and systems they were ready to be let loose outside on some steep snow [well at present brick hard neve!]. We had a busy day constructing various belaying systems and discussing effective usages of the rope in a walking / mountaineering scenarios. A lovely day out with a really charming bunch of young people and with some great views up to the Moray coast. Must be time for surfing soon!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Better conditions than expected in the Cairngorms today.

The gang.

Essential foot work, brick hard water ice over grass!

Today was a pleasant surprise for everyone! Howard and I were working for HPL on our annual Winter Mountaineering weekend for Manchester University. We had expected high winds and a high windchill but we got spring like conditions, fantastic! Every where we walked we found solid neve or water ice on the west faces and interesting wind slabbed areas on East facing aspects, ideal for skills and snow pack inspection and essential foot work skills.
We get to play with ropes tomorrow!
One of the students reported he soloed, Hidden Chimney, Broken Gully, Wave Length and Invernookie today and apparently the neve was perfect , good effort!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Escape from the Wild West to the Snowy East.

I headed over from Oban to Aviemore early this morning, hoping to beat the snow fall. Didn't beat it! As I got to Laggan the skies opened with the white stuff!
Aviemore is damp and very windy just now! Wind speeds of 140 mph up on the ski slopes where mentioned this afternoon, but it is due to calm down a little for Saturday.
I had a short ski tour behind Cairngorm Lodge today. By the time I got back to the van I was soaked, why do we do these things?
With a weekend of mountaineering skills courses coming up I cross my fingers the weather improves a little. What ever happens it will be fun up in them hills.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Great feed back on Winter Cousres!

The storm has arrived!
A horrible day out there, so it was lovely to receive this note from Mike Bazley this morning. HPL worked with His students a couple of weekends ago in the Cairngorms, running a Mountaineering and Walking Skills course which you can see in previous blog pages.

'On behalf of both the students and myself I'd like to say a huge thank you to both yourself and to your staff for your excellent input during our course. I was really pleased how well the students were challenged and the amount of skills that they achieved during the short period of time. They left on a real high and their winter mountaineering experiences was the highlight of their week.'

Mike Bazley, Programme Leader.

Back working over east on Friday for a few days, so I hope the weather improves!