Monday, 30 January 2012

Snow holes and self arrest skills day.

Today I was working up on Meall a Bhuiridh in Glencoe running a 'survival' skills day. We concentrated on skills required to look after yourself whilst out in the winter mountains.
The group had already looked at essential foot work and use of crampons on a previous day with us, so today we got the digging gear out!
The weather was raw today. Dry but very cold. Approx -5 at 800m and with 30 mph wind it felt like -19!
If the conditions stay like it was today the ice we could see from the road will start to build. Hebridean Pursuits Ltd are running intro climbing courses and winter skills courses from Thursday to Sunday this week. We have availability left on some dates so do get in touch if you are interested in our winter programme.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Stob Ban. Sun and Snow!

I was working with Biz and Jamie today on Stob Ban in The Mamores. Fresh deep 'fluffy' [technical term!] snow covered the hills over night and continued to fall into this morning. By lunchtime the sun was out and the sky was bright blue.
We broke trail and found the going tough under foot. The reward was some amazing 360 degree views of some of Scotland's finest peaks and Glens.
We only saw two folk out today who were just having a wee ramble up the glen. The ridges and buttresses are plastered and with a couple of cold nights there will be some excellent routes to be had on Stob Ban.
After six days on the hill I am heading to the beach tomorrow for a change of scene, after all when the sun is out Scotland is the best place in the world be all things outdoors!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Garbh Bheinn in full winter cloak.

Today I was working for the UHI. We headed for the fantastic and often overlooked Garbh Bheinn above Loch Leven. At 867m it sat just out of the low cloud until lunchtime when the snow started. The day was a great mix of winter walking skills and navigation. Just half a kilometre from the road an unfortunate accidental of a short slip resulted in a real evacuation of a casualty from the hill. This gave the students an opportunity to experience just how problematic even fairly minor slips on wet grass can be high up in the mountains. I am glad to say that the injured person is fine.
Snow fell for about 2 hours while we were out. It was still very warm at 800m, I am wondering if the cold high pressure will reach us as predicted?
The hills certainly are in winter cloak now.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Winter Mountaineering Course Day 2, 3 and 4.

Dorsal Arete and Broad Gully finish. Great fun in the top corner today.
Looking down to Joe and Scott at the bottom of Broad Gully and Dorsal Arete. Charlie belaying.
Getting to grips with moving together.
The wind blew hard on School House Ridge. The lads at the start of the tricky steps section.
Four days of skills training with Hebridean Pursuits Ltd. Joe and Charlie are now set for their adventures.
I have been working with Joe and Charlie on their winter mountaineering course over the last few days. The weather has been challenging but each day we have been really lucky as the conditions reflected the theme and content of each day.
Day 1 Rock and Scrambling rope work and belay management. The Zig Zags and Gales. See previous blog post.
Day 2 Snow Belays. We headed to Aonach Mor to gain height quickly so as to access the good snow conditions on the back of the Aonach Nid at approx 1000m. Here we concentrated on belaying in snow, ascending steep snow terrain and trying out descending techniques including abseiling off snow bollards, threads and spikes.
Day 3 Rope work and movement skills. We headed up onto School House Ridge, Grade 1. This ridge offers challenges of technical steps that are hard to protect. Joe and Charlie were keen to practice moving together on 'alpine terrain'. So day 3 was based around short roping and moving together. The conditions were just fantastic. Deep new snow presented us with interesting climbing conditions on the ridge and atmospheric shafts of sunlight made the ridge look really dramatic. On reaching the summit the cloud cover promoted some micro navigation practice for the lads. We had this classic ridge to ourselves all day.
Day 4. Putting it all into practice.
Over night the snow line had dropped to around 450m. So we headed up to Dorsal Arete and Broad Gully in Stob Corrie Nan Lochan. The weather was kind again. We had a dry walk in. The rain didn't really come on until we reached the last pitch. Topping out we were greeted by a blast of very warm drizzle!
The lads led the route, placed their own protection and all in fine style. We saw a few folk out. One party climbing on Ordinary Route and another behind us on Dorsal. Very quite though. The conditions are good up there, we just need another freeze and the new snow will be amazing!
Thanks to the Glencoe Independent Hostel for looking after Joe and Charlie.
Thanks also to Scott for his help. Scott is working towards his MIC assessment and it was great to have him along observing the course.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Day 1 Winter Mountaineering Course.

The descent.
Between the gusts at 700m.
Charlie leading.
Joe's belay!
Today was Joe and Charlie's first day of their four day course. Joe had been on a Manchester University Mountaineering club, Winter Skills Course with us a few years ago so it was great to see him again and meet Charlie. Both keen winter walkers they are looking to progress onto steeper snow and more technical ridges. I was joined by Scott an Aspirant MIC whom I am mentoring. It's great having him along to look after me.
Options were limited today as the wind was gale force and howling through Glencoe. Fresh snow was being put down in the gullies and on lee slopes. We concentrated on rock belays and scrambling techniques in the relative shelter of The Zig Zags. This worked really well as we could split the day into two, rock and snow. We looked at essential skills from running belays to taking stances and moving together and relating all this to winter. Allot of hail was blown around today and the ledges began to turn white as we reach approx 600m.
We continued over to Stob Coire nan Lochan which was exciting due to the very gusty squalls being thrown at the ridges, we often had to sit out the stronger gusts and move between salvos.
Surprisingly not much new snow seemed to be in the Coire on our descent. However as we descended fresh snow was falling and the wind direction changed to more Northerly direction. Freezing level was well above 900m. Other teams were seen in the Lochan area running skills courses.
It Certainly felt and looked more like winter today.
I am staying in the Club Hut in Glencoe over the next two nights so blogging will resume on my return.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Instructing Indoors and Outdoors Today.

Shiny toys.

Moody Mamores. Which Way?
Instructing for West Highland College UHI again today. The students were concentrating on leadership skills and preparing for their practicals for running an indoor climbing session and leading a walk in the hills.
Pretty wild outside today, but the snow has returned to the higher tops. Fingers crossed for better weather from Saturday as are running a Winter Mountaineering Course through to Wednesday.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Walking Day on The island of Kerrera.

Lovely late afternoon sunshine.
Mull from the tops of Kerrera.
My wonderful Adventure Project Team!
You must visit!
A beautiful day on the West Coast.
Today I was working with the young folk form the 'North Argyll Young Carers Adventure Project' that Hebridean Pursuits Ltd organises every third week of the school term.
We headed over to the fine island of Kerrera just off Oban. The weather remained dry and cold all day. the views across to Mull and down to Jura were amazingly clear. We made a circuit up over the moors and around the coastline giving us changing and differing views as we progressed.
Looking up to Ben Cruachan and over to Morven, any snow that was there a few days ago has gone! Hopefully tomorrow the snow will return to the higher peaks. A bracing day out on a fantastic island that everyone should visit if in or near Oban.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Winter Skills Day on Aonach Mor.

Cold air in the jet stream.
Trying out a variety of techniques.
Andrew enjoying the hard snow.

The light today was very beautiful.
Today was a bitterly cold, crisp and superbly clear day which made for a very enjoyable time high up on Aonach Mor.
There is not allot of snow around on the ski slopes, but the east faces still hold a large amount of rock hard neve. the exit slope are steep and the approaches will need care due the brick hard surface.
I was working with 6 students today. All of whom had never worn crampons so the weather and the snow was perfect for their first experiences. The terrain was interesting giving a variety of ground to walk and climb through. The large expanses of flat ice also gave us some quality crampon practice.
The weather is due to change again over the next few days, but I am told that some new snow will be delivered. Be careful if it does come, good route choice will be needed. Loading on these bone hard surfaces will create a high risk of avalanche. Time to be planing for some ridges again.
Have fun out there.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

AMI getting to know Ben Nevis Better day.

Castle Ridge and Gullies.

Today I joined other mountaineering instructors and mountain guides for a day of exploring the North Face of Ben Nevis. The aim was to look at ways of using this huge face for running a variety of specific courses. I was lucky enough to be shown around by local mountain guide guru and authority on Ben Nevis, Alan Kimber. We spent the day ascending and descending various bits of the face. Ending up on Tower Ridge , down and around the Douglas Boulder. A fascinating day, with a great bunch of aspirant and qualified instructors.
The Ben was busy with allot of folk walking in quite late. The conditions remain stable. The snow in the major gullies is very firm and the rocks are at present very slippy with verglas. Ice is building slowly.
Unfortunately a serious accident happened to a climber higher up on the mountain today. A very long fall resulted in the rescue team being called out and a helicopter rescue. I believe the climber was seriously injured but stable. I wish him a speedy recovery.
It was good to see the roof is now back on the CIC Hut thanks to some fine work from local builders and climbers from Oban!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Colder in Glencoe Today.

At last, a cold, crisp and dry day. Well nearly dry! Good timing meant Scott and I only spent ten minuets in the rain as we walked back up to the car park in Glencoe today.
I was asked if I would mentor Scott during his aspirancy for his Mountaineering Instructors Certificate assessment next year. I wish him well on a challenging and fascinating journey to becoming an MIC. So today being the first time we have met we opted for a physical day covering some easy mountaineering ground giving us a chance to stretch our legs and also have a chance to have a blether. We headed up into Stob Corrie Nan Lochan, ascended Broad Gully 1 and then descended into The lost valley via some lovely Snow slopes. A good move because nothing over grade 1 was in condition. All the main gully lines have snow in them and the colder temperatures have helped stabilise what is left. The Buttresses were black and no ice could be seen. A few folk were heading for NC Gully, others followed us up Broad. Early days yet but it is a start! A very enjoyable day, thanks Scott!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Mamores Today. Binnein Beag or Bust?

Rare Glimpse down Loch Leven.
The illusion of dryness.
The retreat!
With a forecast for patchy drizzle and winds of only 30 mph it seemed a good day for a longish hill walk with Gill. She had not done Binnein Beag .943 in the Mamores and it appeared to be a reasonable day to 'knock it off'.
Binnein or Bust? Bust! By lunchtime the clagg had rolled into give a fine view of 50m, the wind was gusting so much we struggled to stand up on exposed areas and the snow was depressingly deep and soaked through to the surface. So at 7.5k in and at approx 800m we made a wise turn around and headed back to Mamore Lodge, Soaked!
As they say, the mountain will always be there. There is allot of snow lying still on the North and North East faces of the Mamores. Unfortunately the temperature has gone through the roof. When will this winter become a winter?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Oban Adventure Activities. Indoor climbing 4th birthday party

Today Oban Adventure Activities organised a 4th birthday party for Joe and Ruari. We based the party at the Ice Factor the kids had a very energetic day, swinging, climbing, bouldering, playing in the soft play and charging around. They certainly kept us on our toes, we are shattered this evening!
Thanks to the guys in the Cafe for laying on some great fun party food, the kids loved it!
OAA can organise adventure party's for all age groups indoors or out.