Saturday, 26 June 2010

Tower Ridge via the Douglas Boulder

Working for the Ice Factor Al H and I took a group of four friends; Lisa, James, Pete and Iain to Ben Nevis for a days introductory rock climbing. Not being quite sure what the weather would do we had a couple of ideas up our sleeve and in the end decided on a route on the Douglas Boulder followed by finishing up Tower Ridge.
The routes on the Boulder are open to interpretation and the ground is such that it's possible to make it up as you go with a mix of different routes. We chose Douglas Boulder Direct (V Diff) with a pitch of something around 4b at the top. The rock was much more solid than I'd thought it might have been after the cold winter, so there wasn't too much in the way of looseness.
Six pitches later we abseiled in to the Douglas Gap and then made good time up Tower Ridge. A big day out for the guys first foray into mountaineering, so well done to all.

Friday, 25 June 2010

SPA assessment day 2

 Final day of the SPA assessment and we were at Polldubh in Glen Nevis. More group syllabus and simple problem solving today, with the guys taking everything in their stride and all passing. Well done.

Weather has been still and overcast, the midges out and about but bearable and importantly the crags as dry as I've seen them for a long while. Climbers were out on many of the buttresses, the picture above shows a pair on Flying Dutchman, Severe, Pandoras' Buttress.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

SPA assement day 1

Out today with Al Halewood assisting on an SPA assessment this time. Back to a nice dry Kingussie Crag for the personal climbing section where the guys got stuck into some routes and dealt with simple problems that can come up.
Very busy at the crag with multiple groups who all managed to work around each other successfully. There were several teams over from the west, like us looking for dryer weather.

Looks like good weather tomorrow with maybe some more showers on Saturday.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

MLTA workshop

Today I drove over over to the Cairngorms to meet Al Halewood and do some volunteer work with the Mountain Leader Training Association which supports and represents climbing, walking and mountain leaders.
The first thing noted was that it was much colder and the ground much damper in the East with a winter's only just gone feel. The delegates came from a range of backgrounds all pretty experienced in their areas and it was a great opportunity to share ideas and meet some new people. A couple of guys were either on the MIA scheme or looking to register in the future so 5 of us made a group ascent of Fingers Ridge in Coire an t Sneachda looking at rope work and stance management whilst being super careful not to wipe each other out with all the loose rock around. After a good day and lots of shivering we zoomed off down Fiacaill a choire Chais and back to the cars.
It is worth mentioning that loose rock again. Typically after such a cold winter with lots of ice expansion jacking going on there is now an abundance of friable and loose rock in the mountains even on well travelled ridges and Buttresses. On Fingers, especially near the top, much of the rock which you are obliged to move over and pull on is wobbly. It's a case of put the hand holds back when you're finished with them!

Here's some more pictures from Duncan Paterson.

Saturday, 19 June 2010


Yet another brilliant summer day and I was working for the Ice factor running a crag session at Glen Nevis with Jamie B (newly out of plaster after the Bowden Incident). We had 7 highly capable students and two teachers. Jamie worked South West Buttress whilst I made repeated ascents of the Gutter with two at a time. Lots of good climbing was had.
That morning I'd foreseen an absolute mauling by midge; a breezy north wind meaning that we'd be sheltered being tucked behind the south of Ben Nevis and fully at their mercy. It was indeed almost still but thanks to the ace Silver Birch clearing of the Polldubh Climbing Club there is much less shelter for midges and we were hardly bothered all morning!
The West coast is bone dry at the moment meaning excellent rock climbing conditions as well as everything else.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Rock climbing on Ben Nevis

Taking advantage of the good weather Al and I walked in to Carn Dearg buttress on Ben nevis. Despite the dry spring I wasn't sure how dry the crag would be. We decided on the classic Centurion HVS 5a which was first class. The two crux, (most difficult), pitches were damp in all the wrong places, but we had no problem and climbed the route in good time.
This can be the best time of year for big mountain rock routes as the latter half of the summer is often the wetter in the west highlands and the big crags and buttresses can be frustratingly wet for long periods of time.
John Sutherland, Simon Christy and their mate were also out on the Ben today - to Ski down Tower Gully the maniacs! They're all ace skiers so they probably had fun.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

There's no business like show business.

Back with the film crew today for more safety work in their river gorge location. For the actors and stunt department more swimming, jumping, shooting, chasing and shivering. For us more helping people up and down steep ground and providing an inflatable ferry service across the river.
Film shoots always involve long hours and sometimes very hard work, but I've enjoyed my short time with the crew who are, as always, a great bunch.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Ledge Route, Ben Nevis

Out today for the Ice Factor with Joanne and Lorraine who'd recieved a mountaineering experience as a gift. So with that in mind we made for Ledge Route on Ben Nevis, a nice grade 1 scramble. No one else on the route and looking very quiet on Tower Ridge also; we enjoyed a bit of solitude and made very fast time on to the plateau and the crowds.
Thankfully the thunder that some forecasts suggested never materialised, although it is very humid and hazy with big Cumulonimbus clouds stacking up in the afternoon. Tomorrow however it seems more likely that there will be thunder as a cold front moves across from the atlantic.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Horror in the Highlands

Working today for Mountain and Water Safety looking after a film crew shooting a feature film about a group of outdoor enthusiasts being chased by evil baddies through the wilderness. Actually the cast and producers pedigree suggest that it could be quite good!
Shooting in a steep river gorge provided some interesting access problems which gave for a satisfying days work. Had a bit of a savaging from bloodthirsty midges in the morning however.

I haven't done much film work for the last couple of years so it was nice to be involved again.
No pictures I'm afraid as this generally isn't permitted on film shoots.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Scrambling and rope skills workshop on Skye

Back to the Cuillin again, this time to run a training session for some members of Hereford Mountain Club, which had taken advantage of the financial support available from the BMC in order to train members.
Mondays weather was absolutely glorious with high temperatures and clear skies, so I enjoyed a quick blast up to Sgurr Dearg. Today however was pretty murky and damp so we stayed low and maximised our time by using the outcrops in Coire na Banachdich to examine and review rope technique for scrambling and easier climbing. The group were keen to learn about selection and use of anchors so we spent time looking at the very simple to the more esoteric. Keeping things simple in scrambling however is a good thing in order to keep the flow going - important in the Cuillins! We spent a long day out and were a wet crew who returned to Glenbrittle in the evening.

P.S. the midges are now making up for lost time.