Thursday, 31 January 2013

A fun day. Climbing Wall Award Training Day 2 for WHC students.

Up close and personal. Rescue me Alan.

Knots and all that jazz.

Me trying to demonstrate static and dynamic moves.

Concentrate Ewan.

Al Halewood stretching out.

Today I was working with or more like learning from Alan Halewood  on day 2 of a CWA training course for my West Highland College students on the Advanced Outdoor Learning Course. Based again in the Ice Factor we concentrated on all things rescue, group awareness, warming up and specific rock climbing movement skills using a variety of props and ate some chocolate eclairs too! Outside it was a nice start to the day but by mid morning the snow was falling at car park level and by mid afternoon climbers and instructors with clients were retreating from Ben Nevis and from else where. The fresh snow hampered progress and ice petered out half way up roues apparently. Some days it's best inside. Al and I even managed a few routes, bonus!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Mountain Marathon Training. Creach Bheinn 810m.

I am just in from a fantastic run with my Mountain Marathon partner Mikey Clifford. We are now in the thick of trying to get fit for the 'Highlander' and it is beginning to hurt. We opted for Creach Bheinn today a fabulous hill above Loch Creran. We manged 14 k 1014 m ascent in 2 hrs 32 mins. The weather was kind for a while then the ferocious winds hit again, the combination of hail and storm strength winds was interesting on exposed skin and slowed us down to a crawl at times. The views were spectacular across Argyll and up into Glencoe, the dramatic skies and seascapes certainly made the ascent worth it. It certainly looks as though a fair bit of snow has been stripped or perhaps redeposited!
Back to rock climbing tomorrow with day 2 of running a CWA course, inside though!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

George Heriot's School, Winter Walking Skills Course in Glencoe.

George Heriot's School staff and pupils returned for their annual winter walking skills weekend to Glencoe. It was fantastic to see even more young people on the course this weekend. 21 pupils signed up for the course  in the winter hills this year. We had a mixed bag of weather and conditions in Glencoe but that didn't stop their adventures this weekend. Saturday was a perfect day for survival skills as the new powder snow was perfect for building 'pile ups', understanding the snow pack [ a topical subject at present ] and avoiding avalanche terrain and making emergency survival  shelters. We were able to trigger small slab avalanches and the crown walls left illustrated how slab avalanches occur.

Our two groups heading up the hill in a dramatic landscape. 

Tunneling through small cornices we found.

The team in the Lost Valley.

A huge pile up shelter, we got eight people inside.

Some ice left in The Lost Valley.

Follow me team. 

Pretty testing conditions today.

Sunday, was all together different as a nasty front passed through the glen. A good morning and a dreadful afternoon as the wet snow returned above 500 m with the winds picking up dramatically and some thunder thrown! We opted to head up into The Lost Valley and to explore some ice bulges that were left and what snow was left at approx 600 m.  So lots of ice axe wielding  river crossings in the rising burns and using our crampons in the ever softening snow. Thanks to Ben Wallace, Mike Clifford and Ed Watson for working with me and inspiring the young people in testing conditions.  Great working with such a professional and experienced team and a fabulous bunch of young people. Can't wait for next year and before that the School are back in March for their 'Guided Winter Mountaineering Weekend'.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Raw and Thaw in Glencoe. Run up into Corrie nan Lochan today.

Today I had a run up into Corrie nan Lochan to put some steep ground on the legs for the Highlander Mountain Marathon in April and get a feel for what is happening up in them hills. They call it the 'Hurt Lochan' and it hurt!
Loads of new snow was being blown into the corrie at 750m, but raining at 500m. There were folk out and about climbing and walking. Mostly folk were low down on the crags below 800m. It was a raw morning and a rawer afternoon.

Spot the climbers?

I am at Alan Kimber's house after hiring 25 pairs of winter boots for this weekends course we are running, hope they all fit! Thanks Alan a brilliant service!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Ski Touring in Yorkshire today. Yes the Dales!

An early start today in Oban. But after much head scratching and many phone calls decisions were made to postpone day two of our course 'Winter Mountaineering Skills for Ski Tourers' . Due to the very high winds from the worst direction and not great snow cover in Glencoe, it seemed to make sense. We needed to be travelling through the hills for day two progressions. Day two and three will still happen and these decisions are normally for the best for everyone!  I was due to drive to Yorkshire in the evening, so a head start enabled me to have a short ski tour in the Dales. I headed to Giggleswick en route to Harrogate. There is so much snow in the Dales, in fact more than in Glencoe and the opportunity was too good to miss out on. I started near Giggleswick and skinned over to Feizor and back on lovely fresh powder snow. It is always good to be back in the limestone country and even better to be on ski. At only 260 m a harsh easterly wind cut into my face and it has sculptured reasonable sized cornices on the crags which, in May I had been rock climbing on.  I maybe able to get another cheeky skin in whilst  down in God's country, we shall see. It looks like the weather is settling down towards the end of the week when I will be back in Glencoe to run a Hebridean Pursuits, Winter Walking Course for a group of 20 odd folk. I guess it will feel a little busier at the weekend compared to the relative solitude of the moors today. It would be excellent to not have the wind to contend with, time will tell, watch this space.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Perfect timing for winter's return for five days mountain work in The Cairngorms.

On the summit of Cairn Lochan 1215 m on Tuesday.

Monday. Practicing essential foot work skills with crampons on. 

Wednesday, so beautiful between the blankets of high level cloud.

Learning to build pile up emergency shelters with fresh blown snow at 1083 m.

Our little shelter.

Late afternoon, the return to 'welcoming' cairn of .1141m on the Fiacaill Choire Chais.

Pretty murky and very cold at times above 1000 m. Perfect for navigation practice.

Getting colder as the Hoar grew on Monday.

Sometimes walking off a little later is a good thing! Aviemore in the distance.

Exploring and building snow holes under Cairngorm's summit.

Over the last five days I have been working in The Cairngorms and refreshingly away from all things internet based. But I am home so here are a few photos of the hills, students from West Highland College and other wintry images taken since Sunday. The five days on the east have been amazingly good and the cold weather has developed as we required it. This all added up to a quality experience for all concerned. The variety of conditions from blues skies to blizzards have been awesome for instructing a range of skills from winter walking to my observation of teaching mixed leading for a Mountaineering Instructor Certificate candidate who is about to take his assessment. I was again working for West Highland College / Advanced Outdoor Learning Course this week on their winter residential to Aviemore. We completed the students comprehensive winter mountain module with adventures onto the Cairngorm Plateau and in the Northern Corries.
Else where conditions seem good. Over on the west many routes have been climbed and folk are enjoying good walking conditions. Whilst driving home to Oban I could clearly see new snow in the hills of Glencoe. This is exciting as we  are back out running courses next week in Glencoe. We have a 'mountaineering skills for ski touring day', 'winter walking skills course' and an 'introduction to winter mountaineering day' which are all happening between now and next Sunday. It is brilliant winter is back!  Check out our What's On page on for more events and great value winter courses for 2013.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Colder and clearer today on Aonach Mor.

I was working with the students from West Highland College again today on their winter walking module. We headed up to Aonach Mor and the Nid ridge area again as having been there on Tuesday it would be a good bet there would be some good firm snow after the colder conditions of the last two nights. It is still not that cold up there but the water logged snow has turned to good neve providing excellent material for lots of crampon practice on steeper terrain. Terrain at the limit of winter walking ground certainly concentrated everyone's minds. The views over to Mull and Ben Nevis were wonderful. It is always brilliant to have such clear air quality in the winter, this is the unique experience of being up in the mountains in Scotland and  especially when so close to the coastline. Conditions remain thin but there is plenty to go for and explore. What snow is left is ideal at present for mountaineering and walking skills courses. Folk are 'praying for more snow', it would be lovely but sometimes having lots of fresh snow makes life more tricky for us when we are working. If the cold weather continues the ice in the runnels and water courses will form well as the ground is so saturated and some ice climbing would be great fun.

Euan on the Nid Ridge. 

Great neve snow.

Testing Patagonia's Fusion Guide Pants, they are amazing!

Tools of the trade.

On Sunday I am heading over the Cairngorms for five days winter work so a change of scene will be excellent. It is always enjoyable being in the Northern Cairngorms and hopefully sociable on the walks in's too!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Winter Walking Training Days Offer. Feb 1st and March 23rd.

HPL are offering these one day training courses for just £40 per head per day. We require a min of 3 people on them to run. The days will be based in the Glencoe area. Led by highly experienced and qualified instructors. We will concentrate on the essentials for winter walking such as foot work, ice axe use, self arrest and safe travel and route choice techniques. Equipment such as Axes, Helmets and Crampons is included.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Winter Walking Skills Training Day on Aonach Mor.

Heading for the Nid Ridge at approx 1000 m

Sophie having fun on the steeper snow.

2.30 pm looking NW.

Essential foot work practice equals not falling!

Soggy start to the day, but still smiling.

We were out today instructing winter walking skills on Aonach Mor. Driving into Fort William this morning felt utterly depressing as the heavy rain lashed the windscreen. However, as so often happens if you go out it rewards one with fine views and better than expected conditions and so it came to pass! By lunch time we were walking on firm snow, seeing breaks in the cloud and blue skies. By two o'clock the sun came out. The wind kept blowing though! Surprisingly even though allot of snow has receded we found some good long patches to link up and some steeper sections over the droopy cornice onto the Nid Ridge. Today the group after a discussion of gear and how to carry it, concentrated on using our boots as tools for essential foot work, use of the ice axe and crampons for ascent and descent. Much discussion was had comparing summer and winter walking and personal organisation of equipment in the harsher conditions of winter. Our ascent was made onto steeper ground after careful consideration of conditions and coaching of appropriate skills. The Groups extrinsic and intrinsic feed back paid off, as everyone felt they had achieved their personal aims for the day. It is fantastic to see folk happy especially when most of the group had never walked in snow before.We are out again on Thursday so I hope the promised cold front helps to stabilize what snow is left above 800m. What ever happens being outside in Scotland is always worth the effort, great fun and totally magical.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope it's been a great festive holiday and it is a fantastic new year for you and of course an adventurous one outside.


Mull on Hogmany.

Tavool House on Mull. A fantastic location for self catering holidays, family parties and Hogmany. 

Snow on Mull before the thaw.

Soggy times above Durour!

Hebridean Pursuits have been on a well earned break and it has been brilliant to spend some valuable time with my young family. I have also had some great times out running, walking and exploring the coast with my wife Gill. Lots of folk have been outside, walking, climbing, running, skiing and surfing to mention a few adventure sports. The winter conditions have taken a hit with a big thaw on both the East and West but there is still snow in the easy gullies and big areas of snow to run courses on. We are returning to the hills to run courses this week and the weather appears to be cooling down next week and a return to colder conditions will be just be perfect for all concerned.