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.