Sunday, 26 November 2017

Optimistic Optics

Craig and Mark went for the first outing of the season to the 'Gorms in the hope of some action.  The usual early start saw them at the carpark around 8 and a quick walk in saw them at the Snechda lochans looking at black rock.

The walk in was more positive looking but the wind has scoured the upper corrie with pockets of windslab in abundance and well frozen ground in scoured areas.  The windchill was making it very cold and wind blown snow was making visibility difficult at times.

We chatted with other parties and went for a walk to see what conditions were like on Aladdin's Buttress.  It was very black and not much looked in but Patey's Route was the whitest of the lot and we went to scope things without much anticipation as it is more of an ice route but we wondered if things would work in mixed conditions.

We rocked up and Mark set off up the first pitch; sadly, the deeper protection of the gully meant the snow was way too soft, turf not sufficiently frozen and things all a bit sketchy.  After battling up part of the first pitch, common sense prevailed and we decided to bin the day for coffee and cake in town.

The tools, rack and ropes got a walk and we're stoked for some better condition in early course.
Some pics of the day...

Mark on first pitch 

Spiciest moment of the day

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The DEVIL is in the detail...

Saturday 2 September

With time running out to Linda’s next birthday Mark was under pressure to magic some fine weather for a day out on Tower Ridge. With the help of some contacts it was agreed that the sun would shine on Saturday. So at 4:30am they left Glasgow and drove in the dark to Fort William.

Mark takes up the story...

Mist and low cloud greeted us as we walked into the CIC with Linda questioning if the
Douglas boulder was actually a boulder! Eh, no, I guess not, but then I have never really given it any thought!

We played leap frog with the boys from Newcastle and headed on up into the mist meeting
Marc  Chauvin and wife at the little tower.

Linda was trusting her feet and climbing well so fast progress was made to the Eastern traverse and the fallen block chimney. Next up, walk the plank and get lowered into the gap. All done without hesitation or deviation. Summit sarnies and news that the Ben Nevis race was about to start made us decide to take in the CMD arête just as the sun burnt through, giving us fantastic views of the North Face.

A Simply Epic day leaving Linda looking forward to her next birthday...

Linda McFall

Linda McFall

Monday, 14 August 2017

Tooth ache…

August 17

The alps this Summer was always going to be tricky with less snow over the winter period than normal and then very high early season temperatures…Mark takes up the story.

Craig and I arrived in Chamonix knowing that the Frendo was not in condition. So, after a day at the crag we headed up the Midi for a look at the Midi Plan Traverse…we got as far as the col and turned back as there was a lack of good snow cover to make the climb possible or enjoyable. On return to the Midi we opted for the Cosmic Arête, this was on rock all the way and was quiet so we made good time despite coming from sea level the day before.

The next day we headed to the Torino hut to put ourselves into a good position for the Dent du Géant and make use of the only good stable day forecast for that week.

We headed out in the afternoon to scope the route and see how many slots we would be negotiating next morning. After a night of no sleep and reminding ourselves that alpine huts are not for sleeping in (they are for spending the night in!) we were up and out the door at 4:30am. The glacier had firmed up nicely and we made good time to the rock band after point 3537. We tiptoed over the loose rock for an hr to get to the Salle a Manger to find others already on the route.

Surprised to find all other parties were sporting full racks and rock shoes, we on the other hand had 4 slings, 4 draws and big boots. The first pitch had some fixed cord to pull on but the climbing went at 4 so we carried on keeping the pitches quite short till we got to the Burgener slabs. The route was busy but we held our own and arrived at the summit by pulling on the odd ankle and standing on  Italian and French guides heads (or Heids as we sometimes say here in Scotland).

We made the normal abseil down the short side easily with 3 x 60m raps but not before the Italian guide managed to cluster f**k our ropes (this is a true European skill). This meant 4 of us had to hang, unite and sort the tangled mess (Craig is quite skilled at this).

Heading down to the glacier the air was full of the sound of falling rocks so it was no great surprise when stepping across the bergschrund that half the hill (mountain) fell across our path…Running at altitude tied to a rope should be in the Olympics!

Safely back in Cham we set about replacing the 3,000 odd calories burnt by eating double Pizza and rehydrating with grande biere.

The next day as per the forecast the rain thundered down, but we were happy siting about eating more pizza and drinking copious cappuccinos (lots of biere).

With a deteriorating weather forecast our planned move to Switzerland for a go at the Matterhorn didn’t happen so we set about reading guide books for easy long routes at lower altitude to do in the rain.

All in we had a great trip even if it was cut short by the storms…

Monday, 29 May 2017

Meat in the Sandwich

Craig and Mark followed the sunshine on Saturday, seeking a new route but one which has been much admired from a distance.  It's been a few years since Corrie an Lochan was visited, maybe 7, 8, 9 even 10 years since Craig and Bill climbed RH Y Gully??, and it's a very pleasant walk in if a little rough in places over the boulders.

Craig takes up the story...

Savage Slit was on our minds and I recall seeing it that winter thinking it looked such an awesome line...not necessarily in winter at that time for me!!  Things have changed a little since then, tho the walk in pretty much was as I recalled...lovely

The approaching cliffs look very enticing and SS is well over the right, so we headed past the beautiful lochans, with the great slab coming into view in all its avalanche threatening horror; smooth and perfectly angled - it even released a bit of snow as we made our way to the cliff!

Great Slab in the corrie - Scotland's most renowned avalanche site?
Past the lochan, it's a nice steep pull up a gravely path to the base, where we came upon a pair on P1 who had been completely invisible to us on the walking...a surprise but we had a nice chat and a leisurely prep as they cleared the first stance.

It's intimidatingly steep from below and understandably demands respect; Mark took P1 whilst I watched & belayed attentively.  The book suggests a 10m first pitch followed by a 20m second; this seemed counter-intuitive (even in winter I don't see the benefit but what do I know) so he linked 1 &  2 together, as the first pair had, and struck off up the inviting rock and 'slit'.

The view up P1, as Mark actually abs off the top after we finished
The view down from P1
P1 is a lovely opening pitch with nice bridging and generally stays out the Slit.  The rock is super grippy granite with plenty amenable hand holds and an abundance of foot placements.  The attention it receives in winter is obvious with the wear on the rock from crampons and picks on numerous key placement edges in much evidence.

The only thing about the stance on P1 is the low head height which hardly helps Mark or I as we kept banging our heads on the overhead rock!!  A slick change over and I was off up P2 with a meaty start onto a small platform after about 10 feet, providing a nice photo opportunity;

Craig's feet  heading off up P2
P2 is a lovely pitch, which kept me in the Slit for much of the time and a lovely place it is too.  The hand holds are there when you want them and the narrow constriction in the slit offers nice if narrow bridging and chimneying, and even a little lay backing. The pitch terminates on a nice spacious ledge serving at least three climbs and obviously well set up as an abseil station.

Mark approaching the abseil stances on P2
The book suggests the final pitch is of limited enjoyment and so it proved with an easy scramble interjected with a pull over an overhang.  We got to the top and abb'ed straight back down to the abseil stance proper and used the plethora of heavy duty in situ tat and krab to get back down where we met Allan and Morag who were up for a split shift climb from the Lodge.  As we chatted and checked out, they headed off for a fun day.  The walk out was fast and sunny...

Every pic with an iPhone 7 - what a camera!
...and we got back to the car in a sweat!  It's a long drive and an average walk in to the Gorms from Glasgow but today was worth it.  What lovely climb!  Reasonable on the grade and a stunning location with a quick abseil back to the bags...what's not to like.

We scoped the climb and thought of winter; it's a V6 and a serious proposition for us...but maybe worth the effort to try.  

Definite Type 1 Fun today.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Cairngorms; Into the Wilds

Craig and Bill went into the southern 'Gorms from the Punchbowl seeking a wee adventure on the bikes scoping a dofe route for East Dunbartonshire Council.  A sweet looking route was identified and we set off in the sun seeking single track sweetness.

Craig and Bill have explored a bit of the S' Gorms but this took them to River Avon and the stepping stones, thence to an eastward route down the River Avon.  Sadly, after the Hutchison Memorial Hut turn off, the path becomes very bumpy and unrideable all the way to the Refuge at the River Avon...bummer.

Single track ahead
Time for a swim Jason?
River Avon
Bill contemplative?
Arty Farty...
Nice wee refuge :)

After a long push down the River Avon, we got on our bikes again for the last leg to Faindouran bothy...what we later learned was three hours short of our intended bivy site!!  However, tired and getting cold, we decided the bothy was too good to miss and we settled down for the night, with some food and music.  This is a wonderful bothy, well done MBA; clean, well stocked with wood and warm despite it being at least -3c overnight.  

Comfy wee spot
Bothy #2...all of 6 paces away
Wee Pony Man's Bothy
A few stories to tell
After an early rise, we were off about 630am and found the Wee Pony Man's Hut...not sure if it was the pony or the men who were small but its a great wee find and would make a good howff overnight if required.  The path is well rideable from here for a long distance and we made good time.

The big house at Inchrory is mighty impressive and we then headed south for Lochbuilg with some lovely single track enroute.

Heading for Linn of Avon - beautiful :)
Raised beaches on Lochbuilg...what's the story??
A bit of walking to get through Creag an Dail Mhor and Beag saw us approaching civilisation again...we saw people far in the distance but saw after a coulee of beautiful spots;

A rather pleasant spot
Be this Scotland??  Damn right!!!
Not long after this we got back to the van and somewhat refreshed our selves at the rather special Bramear Bothy Cafe on cake, coffee, coke and scone...burnt a few calories; put them straight back on.  

More especially with the large coke and McFlurry in Perth!!  Who gives a ...........

Anyway, a great wee adventure into the wilds, rewarded with sun, snow, single track and...scones!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Day to Day Mixed Climbing

After a very disappointing winter season, Craig and Mark were off for some rock action but optimistically (after recent reports) took some winter kit 'just in case'!!

Saturday saw a visit to the HS Ardverikie Wall with 4 pitches of fun climbing in a stunning location.  Craig led the hero pitch 1 with a long run-
out on beautiful grippy microgranite; he ran the first 2 pitches together but it seemed the obvious thing to do.

Craig high on P1
Mark coming up P1 slab
Mark ran the flake pitch with a tricky move or two as well as the 4th pitch which was a bit wet and slippy.

Mark moving onto the Flake pitch
Nonetheless, a super climb in cold conditions - snow counts as cold I believe!!  They topped the peak and took a direct line to the car and pizza in the Grog and Gruel.

Overnight in the NF carpark (slumdog disco-life and a nice Rioja with Pringles) saw them second guessing the weather for rock or a Ben classic ridge...low cloud dictated the Ben and crampons with a single tech axe saw them head for Tower Ridge.

It's never a short day on the Ben and the walk in was cold, windy and long but a pleasant chat with folks at the hut saw them heading for the ridge past the Gap.  Sans axe and crampons until the start of the Little Tower saw good progress with careful footwork on the rock.  Thereafter crampons made sense and things a bit easier.

Mark on the Eastern Traverse
The snow was fairly well frozen in places with reasonable hard compacted snow and one wouldn't want to cross the traverse without crampons on.  We Gap itself was as good as snow free but the exit slopes were well covered.  They then headed for No 4 Gully and dropped down for an escape to the car and home.

Looking back onto Tower Gap
A great adventure weekend with a real contrast in climbing styles but both days definitely Type 1 fun.