Sunday, 18 December 2011

Lessons learned...

Last day of climbing and the plan was a great one. Into Beinn Eighe for a mega last route of 2011. So full of psyche i left for inverness and the black isle late friday night where Gregor's dad has a country retreat. Alarms sounding at 5:00am we got up and headed to meet pat at contin garage to sort out gear and head off to Beinn Eighe.

20mins later and we had turned around due to rubbish road conditions and a blizzard. With an easy walk in to B Eighe out of the question with that much snow falling we decided to go back and come up with a plan b. Pat decided to leave us to it as it looked inevitable that we should head back down the A9 to climb at hells lum or similar. Myself and Gregor fancied something on the west as i havent done any winter climbing in torridon and the NW in general so was keen to see some new places!

Sgorr Ruadh

First Lesson. If its bad once, returning 10mins later wont help: On the drive west we decided to go into Sgorr Ruadh the crag 200m north of fuar tholl. The roads were terrible and we were reduced to 20/30mph all the way.

Second Lesson. Learn when to get up: The north west is an amazing place to climb in winter (i expect, as this post suggests i have failed to get a route done every time!) and is remote. This means that long walk-in's are inevitable and i need to start the climbing way earlier than i have been. Today after all the faff of making decisions in the morning, poor road conditions and a 2hr 30min walk in to the crag meant that we were ready to climb at 12.00. 4hrs of daylight to climb a 260m route and navigate off in a possible white out on a hill i have never been before. I got on the route fox's face and to add to all that had gone before the route wasnt in nick, turf that should of been frozen wasnt because of the snow insulating it, and as a final nail in the coffin there was a ton of spindrift flowing heavily down the route.

Reburns Butress on Sgorr Ruadh
Third Lesson. Save the day: After the long walk in we decided that we could still get something done. We trudged up thigh high windslab gully hell past a route that i am going to come back here to do, a four star chimney/gully line called Tango in the night, a stunning 100m VI 6. Once at the top of the gullly we walked over to the munro Sgorr Ruadh with stunning views when the clouds occasionally broke.

Fourth and final lesson. Fulfilment: I reading an article the other day that Dave Macleod had written about reasons for climbing. He'd said that he was down in the lakes climbing lots of easy (for him) routes and didnt go on anything hard (again, for him) during this time. He came to the conclusion that to get an amazing day out he had to have all the ingredients of friends, weather, scenery, situation and most importantly for him (and for me this time) there had to be a great physical and mental challenge involved such as climbing a hard route to get the maximum fulfilment out of the day. Although we had a great day out, number 1 we failed to set out what we set out to do, climb which although the right decision was still annoying. And number 2 it didnt have that massive physical and mental challenge that comes with climbing a hard new route.

Offshore during the next week of thaw and back on the 3rd jan, hopefully to amazing conditions!

Happy christmas and new year!!!!!!!! 

Friday, 16 December 2011

CIC week

Diary. 10th - 14th December : Stay in CIC hut, 4 days of climbing on the Ben.

Reality: Storm force winds have ripped some of the roof off of the hut above the sleeping area.

New climbing wagon!

Bit unfortunate to say the least! So after the plan of climbing some awesome mixed lines on Ben Nevis myself and Pat stayed around the cairngomrs, the usual Sneachda and Lochain. First day in Sneachda saw us after and easy day and heading into the mess of pottage. Teams were on all of the popular lines except from the message, a IV 6 corner line up the middle of the buttress. This was my second ever winter route back in 09 so i was up for leading it this time. Conditions were ok, but lots of useless powder on top of a thin layer of neve. Three enjoyable pitches later we were packing up and heading back to the car planning our next day.

The Message

We stayed in the SMC raeburns hut near Laggan and after cheking the weather decided that a long day into CarnEtchachan was out, high winds and deep windslab. Sneachda again provided the days climbing antics, more specifically Fiacaill Butress and Belhaven. A hard V 6 (ukc VI 6?) taking a striking corner line to the left of Invernookie. I ended up leading all of the route which i thoroughly enjoyed. The first move from the belay is pretty technical but safe and a one move wonder, from the top of that wall a rising right traverse takes you to the main groove. I got to it expecting to find some tat for a belay, whether it was buried or whatever i couldnt find anything, so after 5mins trying to get some gear sorted (2 suspect cams in a semi iced up crack) i had to push on up the corner to find a decent belay.

Running it out to the belay on Belhaven

Trouble was this groove was pretty technical, not that sustained as being a groove you can back and foot and take your weight off of you amrs and vice versa with your feet. But there was nothing at all for you feet or axes. After a couple of sketchy moves above the gear i got one good hook and pulled up and swung the other axe into some powder/neve, not having the choice of anything else i gently pulled up and got my feet and other axe on a ledge system on the left of the groove. Well above the gear by now i was glad to see that up another 2m would get me to a belay on a small ledge, directly below the groove proper. Pat seconded that pitch and agreed that it was the least helpful groove ever.

The climbing above this followed a similiar trend to what had gone before, i climbed up to the crux roof and clipped an old peg and chockstone tat (i didnt know it was on a chockstone at this point, but..). From this point i was happy with the gear but took a while to get a decent axe placement. Thin rime for the right axe and thin ice for the left, not ideal. I tried to pull on these to get my feet up when my right axe ripped and left promptly followed along with one foot. Somehow the left axe found a chockstone that the tat was on and held my slip/fall. Now having a bomber hook i got through the crux and the usual snow/ice/rime clearing pursued to get some gear and make progress up to the top of the climb. Success!
Me leading Belhaven

Thursday was fine weather aswell, after 'hurricane bawbag mkII' missed scotland by 500 miles, so myself and Pat decided Lochain would be good to go. I have only climbed in Lochain once before and seconded the crux pitch of deep throat, so the coire is still new to me. We headed up to number three buttress to where my route was, Hoarmaster. The classic chimney line gets alot of ascents in a season and i wanted to give it a go. Given VI 6 in icy conditions (which it certainly was!) this is my first climb at this grade. I was full of anticipation before the climb and until i tied on and started climbing, would of gladly accepted another offer of an easier route. Anyway, after manning up i got up the first wall and climbed into the chimney. To my surprise the climb is quite helpful with mostly bomber hooks and only a couple of small foot placement to worry about. My only problem was all the cracks filled with ice, good for axes not for gear. Guide book said maybe drops a grade if cams can be placed quickly, i didnt place one the entire route, it would of just been pointless. But the in-situ gear helped on a couple of occasions and i got to the belay pretty tired but really happy with how the route went.

Top of P1 on Hoarmaster
We abbed off after that and Pat lead off on the number 2 buttress route, central crack. A IV 5 that takes a rising right traverse. After seconding the route it was now 4 O'clock and getting dark, so my lead saw me running up the last 40m of snow banks and small steps until i got to the cornice and started to sh*t myself. After running out the last 20m in my eagerness to get to the top in the dark i found the last moves pretty tricky and i wasnt happy basically soloing it. So i took stock and started digging for some gear, after much faff i got two wires in and progressed to the summit cairn. Belaying on the cairn there wa no wind, awesome bright star lit sky and weird whispy clouds surrounding us, at that moment i could of stayed up there all night........... But i didnt i was hungry! So trekking down fiacaill ridge saw us back at the van's and an end of another awesome day.

View from Lochain
Little things.....
Maybe one more before the christmas trip offshore?? Word of Beinn Eighe? Maybe we'll see.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Snow is falling.......

After all my impatient posts previous to this winter has arrived, and im so psyched to get into the hills and have an awesome winter season. (Mental note - keep bouldering and trad climbing when possible to keep finger strength up!!)

So Saturday 3rd saw me taking the first winter walk into Sneachda to get some climbing done. MWIS forecasted gusts of up to 90mph westerlies in the morning and gradually dying down to 50-60. Not ideal but i figured it should be sheltered enough in the corrie to provide some decent and enjoyable climbing!!

Myself, Chris and Dave (who incidentally will be going to Canada with myself and Dan and ned) walked in to sneachda, along with the usual crowd of people associated with a Saturday in the N Corries, to find it in 'all right' nick. Not good but climbable, some turf frozen which meant we had to be careful not to swing at the unfrozen turf. Ice was beginning to form after a couple of freeze thaw cycles, but the majority was thick verglassed rock with a thin layer of rim over that.

Sneachda Conditions - 03/12/2011

We chose to go to Fiacaill buttress to avoid the worst of the wind but unfortunately another 4 teams had the same idea. I ran the ropes out up to the beginning of the first pitch of the Seam and belayed beside the first team. Pitch 1 starts up a 6ft vertical wall that i was just tall enough to reach over and carefully mount with just enough helpfull verglass and frozen turf around to save my dignity! After getting around the corner and traversing over to the bottom of the main pitch of The Seam we were greeted with two teams in front of us. 1 on the seam and the other on the Seam-stress. After talking to both teams we decided to go for the Seam-stress, a route that has on hard section over an overhanging roof right at the end of the pitch, graded IV 6. So on i led up the groove to the beginning of the hard section. The first move is to move left onto a ledge that gains the overhang, this turned out to pretty tricky. After getting some bomber gear in at the crux i went onto the overhanging block.

What seems to be the familiar wait for a route......
Although intimidating the moves up through the roof arent too bad with bomber hooks all the way, and good gear. However, i found it awkward to get out of a back and foot position as the good hooks ended and and awkward mantleshelf found me panting and at the top. Chuffed! Great route to start the season on, one more week and it off to the ben and the CIC for 5 days of mixed nevis action.
Mid merky crux of The Seam-stress