Sunday, 30 December 2012

Light my Fire

The Simply Epic team were out for some CPD & exercise and thought the Arrochar Alps a fine day out.   Parking in Glen Croe around 830am we were confronted by Noah and his Ark coming over the Rest and be Thankful...even he had his Goretex on.

Bill suited and booted
Some mild consideration of what to do saw us agree a plan to get out and do was pouring and the wind was building but hey ho.

Five minutes up the hill, the rain stopped and the wind blew us up to Bealach a' Mhaim and we headed up Ben Narnain.   The snow level was down around 350m or thereby, building the higher we went.

Wind picking up towards summit ridge
At the Bealach, the wind was collecting and blowing plenty spindrift around, making walking and seeing problematic.   We pushed on despite increasing gusts (50-60mph maybe) and got to the summit over scoured slopes, tho the 'ice' was soft enough for a winter boot to cut in.

Walking out from the Bealach
A very quick summit pic and we were heading down, into the teeth of the wind, with spindrift doing its worst :(   Vis was poor and we erred on the sensible side of things and followed a bearing back to the Bealach in 15 mins then headed back to the car; 200m from the car the heavens opened up to give us a final soaking and test Bill's waterproof strategy to breaking goretex all round?

All in, a great day in really challenging conditions - a true quality winter's mountain day to test us.   Hopefully we will be back to climbing VERY early in the New Year if conditions improve...fingers crossed.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Swimming Against the Tide

Craig and Bill went for a spin around Aberfoyle with Andy and Aneela McKenna and Andy McCandlish, enjoying good banter and good trails, if a little wet...biblical proportions wet - see video.
Chillin' chit chat
A good time was had by all, tho we thought we'd lost Aneela in the water at one point - the River Forth has burst its banks big time and there is water lapping over the Loch Ard road - hopefully residents are still dry. Loch Forth?
A scoot around some nice technical trails and over to both Andy's to catch a coffee and chat ended a great day out.   Plans were made for bothy nights and Torridon Affairs (heard that somewhere before!) so fingers crossed for more great, indeed simply epic, biking adventures.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Digging for Victory

Saturday 04.50hrs saw Craig and Mark heading for the Norries with The Seam on their mind and a report the ski road was closed to the carpark the day before.  So with some trepidation, we were happy to see the gates open tho the drive to the gates from Aviemore was rather sketchy.

No faff saw us off into the corrie and into an increasing cold wind, softish snow and a meandering path to the boulder field.  The cliffs were plastered with snow but the temperature was probably hovering just above freezing and most of the snow remains soft under a crust, making walking unforgiving at times.

We cut directly towards the buttress but a party ahead made it to the first pitch a couple of minutes before us but one dropped their glove down the hill and we were able to retrieve same and they were kind enough to let us climb thro :)

I led the first pitch finding conditions pretty naff, with little neve and everything plastered, making placements very time consuming; there was a very long run out before the first gear and the pitch took some time.  The wind and spindrift was increasing, and the soft snow and generally poorish conditions put us off The Seam, so we continued up Invernookie, which shares the first pitch with the Seam.

Mark on the second pitch

Me coming to top of pitch 2

Tricky wee move

Mark headed off up the next pitch with two nice moves over short tricky pull overs (not a jumper) in the soft snow and found a good belay short of the wall.   I led off up the third crux pitch with the move around the wall above the belay interesting in the conditions; finding protection was time consuming and a piece of tat was handy, tho I'm sure entirely psychological!   This is a lovely pitch which can be taken all the way to the top but we like using the cave to belay to give each a fair share of leading.

The final pitch starts with an airy traverse on the snow, wondering what's underfoot but Mark topped out into a biting, howling wind we were largely protected from - from having good comm's on the way up, Mark could hear nothing and three tugs on the rope indicated safe to go.  

Mark on the airy traverse - final pitch

We headed off towards Fiacaill Ridge, which involves a snow traverse to the low point on the ridge's notch and down slabby snow build by the prevailing wind, although it was not thick enough to cause concerns.  Out of the wind for the first food of the day a cup of Heinz Tomato soup saw us refreshed for the yomp to the car park; started in the dark and finished in dusk; it is always a long day, hard going but immensely enjoyable :)

The Seam will definitely get a visit from us this season but sadly not for now.   Hopefully conditions continue to improve and the neve builds up with a couple of freeze/thaw cycles; the route was in better condition than our earlier visit but the digging for runners was a pain, tho good for body and soul no doubt.

Fiacaill Couloir
There were some other parties out but the corrie was surprisingly quiet given the general conditions; a route on the LHS of Fiacaill Couloir had a couple of parties on it - checked Allen Fyffe's Cairngorm book but the routes isn't in it...will need to check it out, as it looks nice :)

Walking down from the notch

Climbers on an unknown route left of the Couloir

Ben Ledi Navigation Day

Bill was away doing nav' practice with Grant on Saturday as part of his NNAS development and general hill walking regime to 'get out there'.

Ben Ledi, near Callendar, was the chosen location and turned into a good day with plenty of ice about and snow lying above 300m or thereby.   Plenty of opportunities to look at pacing, tick off features, hand-railing and relocation strategies, which Grant is picking up quickly and efficiently.

There are a number of routes to the top of Ben Ledi and Bill and Grant parked at the bridge by the Falls of Leny, striking off path at times to look at contour interpretation.   Bill and Craig cycled here regularly years ago and there are plenty of good tracks about which need to be explored further.

All in, a cold but highly rewarding day; another day for the log book for Grant and more learning points for him to consider and put into practice for next time he is out and about.
Grant decked out in his fancy Arc'Teryx gear

Monday, 3 December 2012

Social Climbers

Alpine start saw Craig and Mark arrive in the Coe at 0700 hrs for a climb in Stob Coire nan Lochan.   This is a wonderful location for winter and summer climbing but to be honest is a brutalising excursion in winter with a hefty pack on; it rise directly from the River Coe at around 100m to 800m unremittingly over a distance of some about is however a fantastic training day for the heart and lungs.

We had an eye on a a couple of climbs but waited to check conditions in the corrie; there was unfrozen turf, insulted by powder snow making climb a slow and thought provoking exercise to ensure good axe & crampon placements.  Hence we chose a route we knew in such conditions and headed for Raeburn's Route on central buttress (also known as Ordinary Route).

This goes at IV4 but we reckoned it was a technical grade harder today with the conditions.  Mark led off the first chimney pitch which is usually the crux, tho there is much interesting climbing throughout.  It was lean and sketchy with the rock not frozen in place, so care was needed.  I led thro the second pitch and Mark took the third pitch up the chimney and thin/exposed ledges to a good belay; this is another great pitch and hard moves required on the ledges with no neve.   We'd climbed this a couple of years ago and my recollection was the fourth pitch was fairly straight forward...little did I know what was waiting.

Mark on pitch 1
Mark coming up pitch 4
Craig at top of pitch three - powder snow in evidence...

The final move started fairly easy but got consistently harder due to the lack of good snow/neve and unbounded rock.  There are a series of short steep walls to negotiate, one in particular being meaty and required some thought and a back off after I couldn't find a placement once committed (of a sorts) to the final pull over...loose rock was all I found under the snow.  A different approach worked next time round and before we knew it, we were on the summit having a Mars and a crumpet...much needed.

A quick descent down Easy Gully saw us back at the bags for much needed water and some classic Heinz Tomato Soup - the soup of mountaineers :)   Then a quick change out the kit and a whirl down the technical 5 path - super icy and slippy.

Up at 0430hrs and home for 1910hrs after a long hard day; this though was worth of a five star shout as a day; great climbing; great weather; and, home for a great bit of steak pie...what more could a man ask for.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Ae out on their Bikes

Friday saw Craig and Bill out scoping Forest of Ae 7stanes resort for future visits with groups.   It took us about an hr from the south east of Glasgow, down the M74 towards fairly close to hand for us as compared to other places we visit.

We went round the red route in good time with a couple of punctures, enjoying the technical bits here and there.   It's a good location with red, blue and green routes available; the red route is certainly not suitable for the unfit or those lacking in good bike handling skills.

It even has a bike wash at the end of the day - great, and an honest bunch of locals and cyclists...I left my camera on the rear bumper of the der Panzer and it was there on return :)

All in, a great day and location...we will return to hone the skills.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Friendo's Spur

18 November 2012
Craig and Mark had an early start to Fort William with a plan to climb North East Buttress. 24hrs of snow made the Ben look wintery but it didn’t feel all that cold. As we passed a deserted CIC hut we decided that conditions were not really “in” for NEB so opted for Tower Ridge instead.

Getting to the bottom of the route involved some ”interesting” soloing up deeply snow covered un-bonded rock held in place with non-frozen turf.

Once on the ridge it was obvious the snow had no base and conditions were tricky , but we pressed on till we were wading waist deep in places beneath the little tower. The wind got up, it started snowing heavily, and both of us had that gut feeling of impending doom. We bailed with a couple of abseils and picked our way back down to the hut via an incredibly laden Easy Gully but thankfully the snow was sufficiently wet to hold together well.

We met Spike and his mate who had climbed and boarded down no 4 gully-good effort.

A speed walk out saw us back at the north face car park feeling the effects of a long day. Notwithstanding our bail, this was a fine day underpinned by determination and good decisions...fight another day :)

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Acapella in the Snow

Craig and Mark were out in the hills for the first winter climb of the season, whilst Bill was working for Tayler Made Adventures.

Cairngorms was the climbing location and there was an alpine start and arctic conditions to get there;

Eventually arriving, we headed into the corrie in cold windy conditions with plenty of snow about;

We had our eyes on Invernookie 111,4 which takes a line up the RHS of Fiacuill Couloir (number 6 in diagram); we take a picture of the route and route description on our iphones - technology is wonderful nowadays...

Sadly, my Nikon Coolpix 5000 died a death after some years of abuse (drop and survived many times) but it is now officially deceased have to look on ebay for a good all pics are from Mark.

We found the start with a team ahead and one right behind, so things were a bit slow for everyone. opting for the direct start on the right before entering the start of Fiacuill Couloir; this has some meaty moves with little for foot placements in the thin conditions and Mark led it well for a full rope.

Next up, I led through and met the team ahead, with more moves on steep walls with nothing for feet. After waiting for the team to move off, I brought Mark up and he led thro' to the cave near the top  - this was the crux pitch with hard moves for a 3 IV in the conditions we felt it was more 4 - good lead :)

I then topped out with a delicate traverse in the powder to a final crack move to the top with the usual absence of foot placements (see pic below).  A team on the Seam to our right were having a great time too - that looks a very attractive climb for another day.

Final pitch traverse
We headed off over the plateau to the Goat Track, being buffetted by strong cold wind and spindrift on the way and made our way to the car to complete a great day for the first climb of the season.

On the plateau

Views to Cairngorm
Near the carpark, we met a group from St Andrews out doing a photo shoot for an Acapella group called "The Other Guys" - we asked and were given a rendition of their Christmas Carol, which was great!  Good luck to them.

More to come, and hopefully the early snow is a good indication of an excellent winter.

Bill has 2 more TCL training courses running over the next 6 weeks. If you have aspirations of becoming a Mountain Bike Guide you need to get on the programme ASAP. Call Bill on 07717 005 803 for details.

Acapella - just so you know

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Trail Cycle Leader Training @ Mugdock Park

While Craig and Mark were out kayaking on a chilly Loch Lomond, Bill was running a TCL training course over two days at Muggy Park - a great hidden gem of MTB trails which requires much scoping to find the secret lines there.

A beautiful Saturday led into mixed weather on Sunday for Liam and Sarah-Louise, who both enjoyed the scenery;

The training course covers all the requirements to lead people in fairly simple MTB terrain but is the stepping stone to further MBLA Course.   Topics covered include navigation, first aid, trail fixes for 'broken down' bikes, coaching and MTB skills, amongst other issues.

This is a busy two day course, crammed with great information and delivered in Simply Epic style in great locations.   
Liam and Sarah-Louise enjoying the biking 
TCL is the gateway to all further MBLA courses for MTB leadership - see MBLA info for more details.

Contact Simply Epic Adventures for availability & dates on further TCL courses, delivered anywhere in Scotland or north England.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Bothy Nights

Nipped out for a cheeky expedition night at a lovely bothy in Argyll with the Milngavie Youth Cafe; the weather was rather challenging with snow down to 500m and poor weather indeed.


Loch Long
We got to the bothy and sadly it was a bit of a mess; buried rubbish and used toilet paper in the main camping field - unacceptable face of uneducated campers :(

Anyway, we had a great time even tho the girls had an all-nighter in case they were attacked by a spider - scardy cats!! !   All in, a good experience for them although they were all like burst couches on the journey home :)
Thankfully, we were able to leave it much cleaner than we found it

The one time resident - those days were hard

The Mountain Bothy Association are to be commended and supported for all the work they do in maintaining bothies for walker/climber/bikers etc to use.  Check out their site.


This guy looks like a guy who used to be in the Muppets??   Sam the Eagle?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Weekend? Must be Glen Coe!

Sore backs and sore necks meant the team went for different options in the Coe.  Craig and Bill headed up on the bikes to scope out some new trails around the Glen and the Devil's whilst Mark went for a sprint round the Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach, SCNL, Bidean nam Bian.

We all had a great time. Bill and Craig checked out the 'directissimo' on the Devil's Staircase before seeking new tasty trails nearby.

The technical riding on the Devil's varies from fairly straight forward to super hard, depending on the line you wish to take.   This is really what makes the ride so good, and there are many options to extend the run to include fantastic trails around Kinlochleven.

A great run down into Kinlochleven and the excellent Ice Factor saw us have a nice lunch and cake followed by a fast run back towards the car in Glen Coe.

The weather held nicely for us but it was cold and windy at 600m. The views up the Glen were fantastic, with Aonach Eagach ridge looking very inviting for next week indeed...who knows, it may come to pass.

The glen never fails to impress and views all round are worthy of any tourist magazine...

Bill, blending into the landscape...

The ridge in all its glory 

Aonach Dubh from Clachaig

 The boys bringing up the rear !
Bill! Just so he knows :)

Who knows, next week might see us somewhere near to this location again...