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.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Teaching navigation.

Today I was working on the first day of the 'winter module' at UHI on the Outdoor Adventure Leadership Course based at West Highland College in Fort William. I am working on the whole course this year which is exciting and the students seem really keen, up for learning and big challenges. Being woken at 3 am by a blast of wind and rain that sounded like it had been released from fire hose didn't fill me with confidence about the day ahead as working around the Fort William area is sometimes a lottery with the weather at the best of times. We struck lucky as by 11 am the rain had ceased and the sun struggled from behind the heavy clouds for a few hours. We headed out to the heady heights of 250 m above sea level to keep below the forecast 85 mph gusts, this proved sensible as the clouds rattling over Ben Nevis seemed to be hitting it with some force. The snow patches we could see were visibly retreating through the day. Nothing new for this time of the year, we await real winter to start soon.  A day of micro navigation followed, setting compasses  pacing, timing and finding ridiculous little features kept the students busy and intrigued, whilst I battered home the need for attention to detail and precision in the hills, especially when the navigation and conditions get tricky. Navigation is often over looked on courses and the unsexy relation to other more 'exciting' aspects of hill going. But it is the essential skill.      

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Dramatic photos from Scotland Outside by Andy Spink.

Oban's coastline.

The Firth of Lorn.

Mid summer sunset on  The Island of Ulva.

Early winter high pressure. 

Ben Cruachan sunrise.

East Lothian on a calm afternoon.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

George Heriot's Pupils request more Coasteering.

The Gang after the journey.

The big splash zone.

Chris climbing the Easdale cliffs.

Adrian Henderson leaping into the zawn.

Today was day 2 of George Heriot's School's adventure weekend and the pupils asked for steeper and bigger and longer Coasteering action. So they got it! We spent three hours today journeying along the coast  in the sunshine, jumping off big cliffs, playing in powerful swell and generally having a blast! It is brilliant to be working with such a dynamic school which values 'real' adventure activities and challenging situations. It maybe an old fashioned and slowly outmoded concept but real life does have risk and managing it is a huge life skill. We look forward to working with them on their winter skills and mountaineering weekends in 2013 and heading off on an expedition with them to the Atlas Mountains next June which we have organised and will guide. Thanks to all the gang from this weekend's Adventures.
Oban was still and calm today, the high pressure remains and new snow could be seen on Ben Cruachan. Tomorrow sounds wet, but it will be putting snow down on the hills and that can only be good for the start of the winter season.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

George Heriots School Adventure Weekend in Oban.

Today was day 1 of two. We were working with George Heriots School from Edinburgh. Coasteering and Climbing. Calm conditions and out of the wind for coasteering. The rock was greasy and damp but started to dry off as the day went on. Yet again the photos explain the fun we had today. Looking forward to tomorrow, what ever we do!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Black Mount Hills, Mud and The Big Shepherd.

I was out today with Gill in the Black Mount running some of the wonderful tracks behind Forest Lodge. A mixed day but dry until mid afternoon. The ground is boggy at the mo and if we get a freeze soon it will start the cooling process well for the first proper dump of snow and then hopefully a good base can develop.

We drove back to Oban via Glencoe where the hills looked broody and menacing  just waiting for winters onslaught and the rigors of climbers ascents.

It was great to be in the hills and starting to gain winter fitness for the long season ahead. This weekend we will be working with a large school group on an adventure weekend, anything could happen from Canyoning to coasteering to climbing and scrambling. The weather will determine the adventures!

Monday, 5 November 2012

SLSGB Coasteering Safety and Rescue Award Assessment in Oban.

400m keep going boys!

Welsh Rugby players good at throwing things!

Tools of the trade.

A third day in the sea today for me and the lads. Whilst others winter climb and ski we headed back to the ocean to run a SLSGB assessment.  It was flat calm in the sea off Oban today, some what of a contrast from Saturday. The air temperature was approx 5 degrees and the surface of the sea steamed as we swam towards Connel. The back drop of Mull and Ardgour was beautiful, snow covers the hills and the crystal clear water reflected the sky blue. Arwell, Steve and Stewart were being put through their paces in all things safety and rescue related in Coasteering. This award has been widely valued by those whom have taken it over the last year or so. It is realistic for those working in this environment yet challenging enough to make the candidates realize just what is required to rescue in difficult conditions or over long distances. So being flat calm, swims and towing were the order of the day. I am pleased to say that all the candidates passed and in fine style, well done all.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

BRAWA Coasteering Skills Course Day 2. Rescues, Ropes, Rock and Roll!

Taking flight!

Leaving Terra Firma is always fun.

Swim lines a quick way to get a group across. 

Towing practice.

The gang on the rocks.

All things rescues and technical today on the coast and in the impact zone. No snow showers today and  with much warmer air temperatures we could spend time looking at techniques and discussing scenarios  The sea still felt warm and the smiles said it all. I guess the photos say it better!  The next course will be in the spring of 2013 watch the website for dates.