Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ski Mountaineering Skills Course. Day 1.

Today I was working with Richard in Glencoe, on the Glencoe Ski Resort slopes running an intro to ski mountaineering course. Concentrating on learning to ascend on ski touring equipment, not teaching skiing as Richard skis well. The weather forecast was not inspiring however I have started using the new Met Office Mountain Forecast and it was amazingly accurate today. It was very windy but remained dry until late afternoon as predicted. The conditions were good for our aims today. We were looking at putting climbing skins on, skinning up using 'high lifts' on the ski bindings, traversing, skiing with skins on for short distances, climbing steeper terrain and we also looked at using crampons and ice axes. We had some great skiing from near to the summit back to the top of the chair lift. The chair wasn't running due to the high winds so we had  the added bonus of walking up and down which was welcomed to stretch the legs after recent mince pie consumption. A great way to finish the season and what a year it has been. We also have new two new web sites and We look forward to the 2013 season and being back outside in Scotland very soon. Happy Christmas everyone.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Courses for 2013 coming soon.

It has been a brilliant year, thanks to all our clients and staff for making it such an inspiring and adventurous season. Hebridean Pursuits Ltd will be launching their new website in the near future. A variety of courses such as winter walking and winter mountaineering courses, sea kayaking, surf kayaking and coasteering skills courses will be listed on the 'what's on' page. Our winter courses program is booking up and we are looking forward to next years Roses Project residential courses at Tavool House. We are running Coasteering Skills Training courses again so here are a few photos to wet the appetite.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Ice, Ice and more ice. A cold day on Dun Crutagian.

A change of pace today in lower hills of Argyll. I was working with the young people form the North Argyll Young Carers Adventure Project that we [Hebridean Pursuits ltd] formed two years ago. This was day three of their ten days with us and will carry on until the spring 2013. Today's theme was map work but ended up being smash every ice puddle on route! We went walking above Seil Sound on Dun Crutagain, which is above Ardmaddy. It is a wonderful wee walking route and takes in some fine landscapes over to Mull. A cracking day out with sunny and extremely cold weather  This freeze certainly has created some fine hoar frost and ice patterns. Yet again being outside in Scotland is wonderful and it illustrates how varied the choices we have are when working in the outdoor industry. It is easy to get caught up in grades or known adventures, but the quiet and less challenging days out often are the most memorable, today was just charming on all levels.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Guiding in the mountains of Knoydart. Fantastic Conditions.

Beinn na Caillich 785m

Early morning on Sgurr Coire Chionnnichean, Inverie Bay behind.

Sgurr Coire Chionnichean 796m

The long thrutch! 

Dusk on Knoydart at 600m

It is ten years since I worked over in Knoydart and to be back was fantastic. Being in Knoydart is extremely special as the hill walking is just so good and the landscape so dramatic. I was over working with the students from the School of Adventure Studies, West Highland College on their two day expedition, thus finishing off the first part of their mountain module. We were blessed with absolutely  incredible weather and conditions under foot. We arrived mid morning on Monday and walked over to Beinn  na Caillich 785m, a remote Corbett approx eleven kilometers from the ferry drop off. Being in the north of the Knoydart massif it feels very remote indeed. After ascending it's long plateau and descending the long snow covered slopes it was time to navigate in the dark. The night navigation was ideal to concentrate the students minds on all the other training they have had whilst out on the hills this term. Three hours later we reached our campsite for the night in Gleann Meadail. A cold night followed and an early start saw us ascending Sgurr Coire Choinnichean 796m. This hill gives a very steep thrutch to it's sharp ridge to a perfectly placed summit overlooking Skye, Rum and the larger hills surrounding it in Knoydart and up to Torridon. The hills are looking very fine with snow highlighting the ridges and gully lines. Skye looks like ice burgs rising from the ocean and Ben Nevis was pristine white as we drove back to Fort William. These two days have been some of the finest days I have had in the Scottish hills in over 24 years of working in the mountains, the weather is set to stay good for a few days, so if you can get out, do so and enjoy Scotland Outside! Knoydart offers hill walking for all abilities and interesting private bothy and self catering accommodation to base your explorations from, get in touch if you would like to know more about this fabulous environment which offers so much to the outdoor enthusiast be it sea kayaking or hill walking or both!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

The difference a day makes in the outdoors!

Loch Loyne.

The long thrutch!

Yesterday was very cold and really clear in the hills. It was one of those days that makes Scotland the finest hill walking country in the world. I was out in the hills above Loch Loyne. The relatively short and straight forward ascent of Meall Dubh 788m turned out to be anything but. It was tough going through the knee deep heather and fresh snow. A battle of wills ensued to get us to this obscure wee hill's summit. Today was another world all together. The early morning drive to Fort William was grim. I was expecting new snow at least but to no avail, it just lashed down! A brief morning at West Highland College expedition planing and then the afternoon at the crag teaching group abseiling techniques and a detailed look at the pros and cons of such a session. For once I didn't take a photo apart from one of my hand.
Snow is falling high up, which is brilliant for the ski season in Glencoe and at Nevis Range and of course for HPL's winter courses, as the base will be forming nicely, filling the gully's and plastering the crags.  What a difference a day makes!

Monday, 3 December 2012

A varied few days.

I have been working and learning in a variety of places since last Thursday. Outside in Scotland has been a massive contrast too, from warm sunshine in the central highlands to sub zero Arctic conditions in The Cairngorms and heavy hail storms, rain and snow on the west coast and of course all in the same day today!

The girls leading at Ratho Climbing wall on Thursday.

Liam Irving in Hidden Chimney on Friday.

Scrambling skills on the West Coast, today.

Eigg from Ardnish Point today.

On Thursday I was teaching leading at Ratho Climbing wall. On Friday I climbed the fantastic winter route Hidden Chimney grade III in The Cairngorms. On Saturday and Sunday I was at Glenmore Lodge up dating my BASP first aid qualifications and today I was over on the west coast teaching summer hill walking skills to my college students form West Highland College. A variety of work and play is the spice of life, but it is great to be home seeing my kids and my lovely wife! 
Hebridean Pursuits are gearing up for running winter courses and we still have availability on Winter Skills and Mountaineering courses, for more details or to book a date of your choice contact us on It is looking like a good winter is on the way!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Winter climbing, Hidden Chimney in The Cairngorms.

Andy Spink climbing the top pitch of Hidden Chimney.

Liam at the bottom of Jacobs Ladder.

Hidden Chimney grade III, Liam following up the last pitch.

Today was my first day out winter climbing this season and it was brilliant to be back out and climbing in the Cairngorms. HPL's Winter Courses are booking up and if the conditions continue it will be a good one for all! I was climbing with Liam Irving, who had climbed it yesterday and recommended it. It was in fantastic condition with plenty of rime and snow to hook into. It was also fun to climb a route in the Northern Corries that i had never done before. Interesting and fun climbing through tremendous scenery. The weather was slightly over cast, yet the temperatures seemed low enough for the turf to be starting to freeze up. I also saw Max Hunter who was heading to do 'The Seam', I am sure he will have had a great day out too.
Yesterday I was working down at Ratho Climbing Wall teaching leading skills to the students from West Highland College. It is a huge indoor arena with a huge variety of climbs and boulders to be had for all abilities and level. It was however colder inside than outside yesterday! Always fabulous to be back on the hills what ever I am getting up to. The skiing looks great at Cairngorm and they are planing on opening for the weekend. Winter has begun!      

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Fantastic weather and conditions outside in Scotland.

I was working in Edinburgh yesterday giving talks to pupils and parents from George Heriots School, who are coming on a variety of winter adventure and skills courses and expeditions in 2013. On the way down I had a wee run up Beinn Each 813m. It is a great hill with a fantastic track to it's shapely summit. The views of the central highland yesterday were incredible. The snow line is approx 600 m.

This morning I woke to one of the finest sky scapes I have seen for a long time. Ben Cruachan was looking majestic  This cold snap is due to last for a good while, so fingers crossed for everyone to be able get out and enjoy Scotland Outside at the weekend.

Monday, 26 November 2012

A fine day working on the Ardgour hills.

Wall to wall sunshine and cold conditions made today a fabulous day for all the students I was out on the hill with. The views from Sgurr na h-Eanchainne were superb. I was teaching hill walking skills to the students from Adventure Outdoor Leadership Course from West Highland College. They are working towards an expedition in December and consolidating their navigation theory and practice in order to achieve this and of course expand their general knowledge of hill walking. I had never been up this wonderful hill but I will return as it is tremendously set just above Corran ferry and deserves more attention.  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Trail running along the Great Glen Way today.

Colorful but damp conditions under foot on the trails today.

Gill an hour into the run along Loch Lochy.

After a great party for my Bro- Laws 40th  at Morag's Lodge in Fort Augustus, Gill and I headed out with thick heads for a trail run from Clunes along the side of Loch Lochy. The damp 'clag' was hanging low on the hills today which was a contrast to the crisp snow fall of yesterday on the hills. The Great Glen Way offers fantastic scenery whilst cycling, running or rambling. Folk were out high on the crags and summits today. They all said they were finding life slightly damp and as yet not consolidated. A deep freeze is required and it's looking like it may happen during the rest of the week with colder conditions heading in. I am out working in the hills tomorrow so it will interesting to see what is happening up there. Really excited about another varied week of work inside and outside in Scotland.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

NICAS Climbing award coaching today.

The Chalk bag.

I got to climb a few nice 6b routes.

 Sam and Kationa in action.

Today I was coaching the students from West Highland College who are working towards their level 1 NICAS climbing award. We headed to the dry of the Ice Factor [ two days inside it is unheard of!]
The award is very progressive and inclusive for all ages and abilities. It concentrates on the foundation skills of indoor climbing and then moves through a variety of levels to advance climbing techniques and leading routes.
We had a great day, climbed many routes and my guys all felt they had progressed and achieved personal goals. I even got to do some climbing, which was great fun. Hill walking next, variety is the spice of life!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Teaching Rock Climbing Skills and Rope Work Today.

Today I was working with The North Argyll Young Carers on their second day of adventure activities and learning outdoors. Indoors though today and it proved to be good decision even though it was lovely outside and it would have been warm on the damp-ish rock. Day 2 was the start of rock climbing basics for the young carers. Learning knots, belaying and movement skills so everyone can be more independent outside next time we meet up. Everyone did brilliantly, by the end of the session they were tying in, belaying and choosing routes to ascend.
It was a sunny day in Glencoe and the Mamores, clearing up as the day went on. A dusting of fresh snow could be seen on the highest summits in Glencoe. I am back teaching at the wall tomorrow with the UHI students as they progress through their NICAS awards. The weather looks less pleasant tomorrow so being inside may not be to bad after all.