Thursday, 28 February 2013

Stob Ban North Ridge. A very atmospheric days work.

Max Hunter, keeping a watchful eye out for the students.

Keep right please!

Kilimanjaro or Ben Nevis?

Today I was working with the students from The University Highlands and Islands on the Degree in 'Adventure Tourism and Management' on their Winter Walking  / Navigation Skills Workshop. We headed to Stob Ban's North Ridge which still has good snow cover and interesting technical ground to cover before the summit. It was a very photogenic day as the cloud came and went and the sun broke through the thin mist creating shafts of strange light. This a wonderfully interesting and shapely mountain, it was great to be back on the North Ridge as it has been a while since I have ascended this route and I will be back again before long. So that's nearly 9,000 m ascended over the last 8 days out. Not a drop of rain and almost wall to wall sunshine over that period. I am getting used to these conditions, how long will it last? I hope for a while. The snow cover was however thawing as we descended. Yet a couple nights of lower temperatures and the ice that has formed in the corries and gullies will be superb.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Scotland Outside continues to be incredible! Teaching navigation skills on The Island of Kerrera today.

Gylen Castle at the south west end of the island. 

The only map required....The Bunk House / Bothy is worth a stay in.

Oban Bay from Kerrera.

The shadows are still long!

Today I was working over on the beautiful Island of Kerrera with a bunch of young people. Kerrera is a short ferry ride from Oban and has a charm all of it's own. Once off the four wheel drive tracks it is craggy and rough under foot, making it ideal for teaching navigation. It was another incredible day of wall to wall sunshine. With no wind out at sea it felt really summery. Kerrera has a fine tea room and small bunk house which can be booked up. It also has a very loud parrot sanctuary! It was great to be at sea level for a change and very pleasant to stretch the legs a little on the flatter ground. Back to the snow covered hills tomorrow and again on Friday for more winter guiding work. The forecast is looking a little more changeable, I am getting used to summer! But don't be fooled we have some of the best winter conditions for many years on the west coast and HPL are still offering winter mountain based courses through to April.  

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

It's official! Hebridean Pursuits Winter Courses are better than the Brits Award!!

An email from a school teacher made me very proud. Good to hear that the kids prefer winter mountaineering to media hype!

Thanks to Alison for sending the quote on to us!

Dear Andy,
Just had to send you this quote! Julia Brown (- girl who won the cereal box 
competition !) was at the Brit awards in London this week + I went to speak to 
her regi class about writing an article about the Winter Skills weekend. Ed 
suggested I ask her why she was looking so tired. Turns out she had been to the 
Brit awards but she said ( in all seriousness ) 'it didn't top Winter Skills' 
!!!! I think there must be a potential marketing opportunity here for you -  
'Winter Skills - better than the Brits !!' Thought you'd like this. 
Hope all well with you. 
Can u send me dates for next year again as I have deleted other e mail by 

Best wishes,

Monday, 25 February 2013

Tiree Hi School's annual Winter Walking Weekend. Sunday 24th and Monday 25th Feb

A year passes quickly. On Sunday and Monday I was back in the hills with the pupils and staff from Tiree High School. This is a special piece of work for me as it always impresses me how much effort and ambition the pupils from Tiree put into these two days. Coming from an island no higher than a few hundred metres and for some never having stood in snow it is a big experience all round!
So Sunday we went with the weather, pure Alpine conditions dictated an ascent of a lofty and shapely mountain. We opted for Sgorr Dhonuill 1001 m above  Ballachulish. This peak is just so beautiful and has a interesting final wee climb to it's well positioned summit. The pupils did so tremendously well. A corniced narrow snow ridge led us to the summit and the reward of a view back to Tiree off the west coast and other west coast islands.   On Monday we headed to the relative ease and reward of up lift at Glencoe Mountain Ski Resort. The tiered legs of the day before's 1000 m ascent the up lift was gratefully accepted for a brief lift up the hill dose make a huge difference. We spent the morning completing skills training and a lot of fast sliding and some smooth stopping before ascending Meall a Bhuiridh. The Pupils were so determined to summit again, gain another Munro and get the photo of the views!  

It has to be said that being in the hills over the last few days with many school pupils has been inspiring. Whilst society and many schools and teachers become risk averse, these pupils and their staff have illustrated that the hills and outdoor education is a worthwhile and essential educational activity. Indeed the  mountains provide an education that can not be found in text books nor class rooms.  Thanks to all involved for making these experiences happen for the young people.

George Heriots School Morocco Expedition Team Meet. Saturday Feb 23rd.

On Saturday, I was working with 14 pupils from George Heriots School who are joining HPL on an expedition to the Atlas Mountains in June to trek in the wonderful Atlas Mountains and possibly attempt North Africa's highest peak, Toubkal 4001 m. We spent the day walking in The Black Mount in Coire Toaig, on the Aonach Eagach ridge of Stob Ghabhar and up into the Coire na Muic. Whilst out in the glorious sunshine we also covered a variety of 'what if' scenarios and moving on a variety of terrain we may encounter whilst out in The Atlas. The 14 young pupils all did really well, we have a strong team and the trip should be a real adventure for all.   The weather was amazing again. A claggy start to the day with low cloud down to 600 m created  a spooky atmosphere but by the afternoon it cleared up with blue skies and splitting wall to wall sunshine. The snow softened up and ground became a little more forgiving for descending on. The Heriots expedition will be one of three Hebridean Pursuits Ltd are running in Morocco during 2013.

Winter Mountaineering Skills for Ski Touring Course Day 2. Friday Feb 22nd.

It has been an incredible few days in the mountains. On Friday I was working with Richard on his second day of a Mountaineering Skills for Ski Touring Course. Richard is a keen skier and has 'found' ski touring! He is keen to learn mountaineering skills so he can ski tour and of course learn about using his skis and skins as well. Friday was calm and cold but strangely stormy looking. We headed to the Black Mount area to explore the area of Creag an Fhirich and the SE ridge of Clach Leathad after ascending Meall a Bhuiridh. We looked at climbing skills, survival shelter building and snow pack analysis and of course to find some fun skiing and skinning in an isolated environment. The snow was bullet  hard so we donned ski crampons and had some interesting times ascending icy sections. The down sections were fast and leg rattling! I was working for Hebridean Pursuits Ltd.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Aonach Eagach, The Dragons Tooth and Broad Gully over the last three days.

Over the last three days I have been guiding and instructing in Glencoe. On Monday I was working alongside  Jamie Bankhead. We guided Andrew, James and Simon along the iconic Aonach Eagach ridge in totally Alpine conditions.They had been wanting to do this classic traverse for a longtime. It was one of the best days work I have experienced  in the winter hills over 24 years! On Tuesday I was instructing Richard and Tom on The Dragons Tooth. This is a fabulous route for a combination of climbing and mountaineering skills. A 200 m grade II snow gully which the lads led themselves and then a great exposed ridge scramble, which includes an abseil and followed by a Munro summit to boot! Both on Monday and Tuesday the sun shone giving an Alpine feel to the adventures. Early in the mornings the snow was superb for climbing on, by the late afternoon it was pretty soft and damp on the descents. Tuesday night was clear and cold creating fantastic neve for Wednesday's adventures.

Today, Wednesday, the weather was not as good, much colder with a harsh wind and very dense cloud down to 600 m. Tom, Richard and I headed to Broad Gully in  Coire nan Lochan. The lads wanted to lead it themselves and make their own decisions on route, create their own rock and snow belays and try out their new axes. This they did really well. On walking out from the coire it was getting warmer and the snow was being stripped back quickly below 600 m. There is however loads of snow in the gullies high up. We met folk who said both Twisting Gully and on Forked Gully were in good nick! Happy days. Now for the next five days of HPL skills courses in the mountains. Fingers crossed on the weather.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Winter Mountain Skills Course in Glencoe. Saturday 17th.

Thanks to Dan Goodwin for sending me these photos of our course yesterday in Glencoe. Dan  was working for us with  a Father and son team, The Clarkes. They came along after mum, Mrs Clarke had bought them a Christmas present voucher to spend a day with us looking at winter walking skills.  Dan had a great day in warming conditions ascending to 1108m and the fine Munro of Meall a Bhuiridh. As the team ascended they concentrated on the essentials of winter walking and mountain going in the winter.  The happy team said they had really enjoyed themselves, learnt alot and felt more confident on the winter hills. We still have courses running through to April so more details can be found on Thanks to Dan for his knowledgeable and experienced instruction yesterday. A bright morning in Oban. A good forecast is promised over the next few days. We have 8 days of climbing and winter skills course coming up, blogging maybe intermitent due to lack of connection. Back soon! 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Feed back from one of my students.

It is always lovely to hear we have made an impact whilst instructing, coaching and guiding  Thanks to Nicola for these kind words.

Hi Andy, I'd just like to say a massive thanks for everything you've instructed to me over the years, but mainly working on the mountain sports module through West Highland College, Badaguish was possibly the best experience and thank to you and Ben Wallace I enjoyed myself and learnt a lot. That's just one thing I'm grateful for, your leadership and instructing techniques are amazing and any other young person that gets to work with you should be very lucky. Its safe to say my thanks comes from everyone at UHI. See you at the end of course meal and also I look forward to working with you again. Nicola Fay xx

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Start em' young. Ben and Ruari at the climbing wall today.

Off work, but back to the climbing wall with Ben my son and his best pal Ruari today. The two adventurous five year olds had a fun day on the ropes and the bouldering mat. I think they also had a great time just meeting other instructors and guides who were working indoors today. The great escape from the foul conditions outside was on the books for most by the looks of it. The early morning snow was quickly followed by a downpour of biblical proportions.The weather is due to continue windy until Friday and then to get much milder through the weekend but stay dry.

A wee wander in sunny Argyll yesterday. Great therapy!

Argyll is home. Landscape therapy.

Amazing colours but what are they?

Loch Creran and Bein Sgulaird 937m beyond.

Port Appin looking cross to fresh snow on Morven and Ardgour.

As I write this the snow is falling heavily at home in Oban, although transient it is great to see. Yesterday I had a day off and some cherished time with my beautiful wife. Wandering is very therapeutic when man flue hits and it was just the ticket. We headed to Loch Creran and then Port Appin for a spot of lunch. This corner of Argyll is so magical and diverse. It's great to rest the legs and although the next three days will be energetic with Ben my son and a bunch of other five year olds. The Ice Factor is the location of choice for the boys today. Climbing here we maybe busy in there looking at the hill forecast. Oh it has now stopped snowing and it's thawing, doh!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Winter Walking Skills Course today in Glorious Glencoe

Today I was working with Andy and Katherine in Glencoe. It was Andy and Kat's first taste of winter walking. What a day a first day, just fantastic conditions under foot. We headed up to the Glencoe Mountain Resort  to access the snow line quickly to maximize our time in the snow. The snow was just perfect for the essential walking skills training and we found some great flat ice to practicing crampon technique on. We made an ascent of Meall a Bhuiridh 1108m via it's north and south west ridges thus avoiding any unstable snow pack. There was a fair amount of neve and accumulations of wind slab on the hill especially in lee slopes facing north westerly. The skies were blue for a large proportion of the day and the wind behaved for once! I am now on annual leave for a few days and looking forward to spending time with the family. Hebridean Pursuits Ltd courses continue through the week into the weekend. Reports will be posted when my children allow me to stop playing!

Guided Climbing in Glencoe and on Ben Nevis last Saturday and Sunday.

Ben Nevis on Sunday. The Curtain is there to be climbed.

Dorsal Arete. 

Hebridean Pursuits Ltd were running a guided climbing course this weekend. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great [ worse than forecast ] but the team still had a productive time. Scott Sutherland guided John and Alastair on Dorsal Arete in Glencoe on Saturday and North Gully on Ben Nevis on Sunday. It's a long way from London but worth it to climb in such amazing environments. Thanks to Scott for the photos. Conditions are getting better and better for climbing and mountaineering so get those tools sharpened and come on up to Scotland.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Possible new winter route whilst out fell running today.

I unexpectedly found myself with four hours to get out and explore this morning. So I headed back to Coire Buidhe above Loch Creran. I had spotted an obvious ramp / gully line on Creag na Cathaig grid ref 039436 at approx 630 m whilst out running over Creach Bheinn 810m last week with Mikey Clifford.

The obvious line of my ascent can be seen running left to right.

The Dash in!

The line runs left to right across the face of this steep, heather and turfy crag. The crag faces NW and has been catching new snow blown in on the fresh easterly winds over the last few days. Old snow patches were found in the gully and on the more open ramp sections broken ground where the turf was just chewy. Fun, easy climbing was found throughout. This was pleasing because I was trying out the classic winter mountaineering  combination of fell shoe and very flexible crampons and one 40 cm ice axe! I am not sure if any climbing has ever been recorded on this out of the way crag? Those with knowledge have been informed and asked. It has a few short much harder steeper routes to be adventured on and another more technical fault line to be followed above the ramp I dashed up today. If it is a new line then I will call it 'The Dash', Grade I. 150 m.   I only got two photos as the battery died on me, teach me not to charge it up. The wind strength was certainly stronger than expected today. Scott, who is working for Hebridean Pursuits Ltd  today called this morning to say the gondola was not running so his plans had been altered.  He was heading to the Ben with our climbing clients instead. More reports and photos of how the three of them got on today and yesterday later on.