Friday, 20 July 2012

Coire Lagan

Morning Coire Lagan
Final day dawned another great day, a bit of cloud hangin around sgurr sgumain and Alasdair but nothing that looked as if it wouldnt clear during the day. Most importantly it was dry.

Boots touched down on Bastinado at 9 and we were discussing our next adventure at the Glacis by 3. 6 hours of great climbing in a place that gets better every time you go, as you learn more about the history, geology, climbs and geography of the place.

Bastinado a 2 star route is a 4 pitch E2 5c with a reported 'brutal' crux. Martin lead off on the first pitch, taking a nice 40m layback crack to the 1 st belay.

Martin P1

2nd and third pitch was combined to give a warm up crux of 5b and the actual route crux of 5c in a nice 30m pitch. Crux was pretty desperate, not hard physically but just a really long, awkward, frustraintingly close to getting it hold. But once caught it leads onto a nice exposed flake line leading to a belay. The final pitch leads easily up below the great hanging slab of the Cioch.

Bastinado E2 - 1st crux

My lead again and it was great to climb up the slab and Arrow Route, passing the great fun looking line of overhanging crack on the Cioch itself (note to self: get on this next time). No gear, just really weird bobbly rock. Great fun.

Arrow Route - VD

Last butress was breached by climbing Atropos. Atropos gets a bit of bad press on UKC being apparently a rubbish line, loose, poor belays but I liked the climbing. The first slab is really nice and the second pitch feels like your free climbing 2 overlaps in one pitch and ending up on the glacis is a great feeling no matter how you got there. The second roof is a bit loose but this is the mountains, just got to be careful. A great day ended by finding martins bag of biscuits and my lunch box half way down the crag in bits after the local crow had decided he was a bit peckish. Got to commend them really, swines!!!!!

Atropos P1 - E1

Decided to drive home late that night to convert the van the next day.

Campervaning it up living the life

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Skye - Kilt Rock

Kilt Rock - Amazing Place to climb
Second day dawned sunny but with some ominous looking clouds above. On the road to Kilt Rock we drove through several showers that started to dampen our spirits somewhat. However at the turning north from Portree all was well with the Old man of stoer looking awesome in the summer light.

After the walk across the field that leads to Kilt Rock i got my first sight of the columnar jointed mega seacliff. This place has loads of character and an air of scaryness that i started to feel at the top. It was Martins lead and he chose to get on the nice line of Tartan Terror to the left of Skyman, my eyes were on this for the day until i got there!!

Martin post fall on Tartan Terror

Martin did a good job leading the 25m to the crux, he geared up, psyched up and went for it. And then he went for some flying lessons, after a much fought battle he had to concede and take a winger onto the bomber gear. Good effort though, and from the ground it looks good and doable. But when your starting up the crux you soon feel the sustained nature that consumes so many of this jamming crack paradise (or any other way you feel about jamming). So after more minutes of grunting and sweat Martin got to the top after winning an impressive battle against the crux crack. My turn on second and got up but had to learn how to relax whilst using jams pretty quick, very nice but pumpy E1.

Abbing down Grey Panther
Next up was the 45m crag classic Grey Panther, E1 5b ****. It doesnt take the normal crack line as most others do, instead a cunning use of Bridging has to be used to wiggle your way up the impressive and never ending Dolarite corner. Half way up you start to think you havnt even made a dent in the route as there is still so much climbing to come. Then the thin for the feet crux comes and i started to sweat underneath my jacket in the warmth of the sun.

At the top looking down the route is great, so many quality moves all the way up. A climb i wont forget in a while :)

Last route to wind down for the day was the classic HVS Electric Bagpipe, by the way, a freezing belay seems to ensue during the leader dispatching the route. Nice climb aswell, very worth while abbing down the gull once more at the end of a day for a wind down. 115m of climbing in three routes. Day is over but im definitely going to come back after a longer running spell of climbing hard (and using my new learnt and trusted jamming techniques ;) I have a few more of the harder classics to get on!! Cuillin tomorrow

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Back to it - Skye - Neist

Neist Point Lighthouse and Harris

Neist - Arrived late Tuesday night at Neist Lighthouse car park. Nice weather and a decent breeze saw the worst of the midgies away. I got the familiar feeling of being somewhere new and being excited about the climbing to come in a new place. Also being at Neist Point with the weather as it was confirmed how much i love being in, and exploring Scotland.

Lazy morning breakfast finished and the boots donned, it was time to head off to the Financial Sector for the action to begin. This will be the first time i have been outcrop & Sea cliff cragging in Skye with my previous trip being up the cuillin. It was a great day, i started the day with Bridging Interest, a lovely climb that, as the title suggests, has some good bridging moves.

Bridging Interest HVS 5a
Martin led Insider dealing, being another good route going through a roof with the 1st of many jamming moves to come on this trip. Two more good routes soon followed with an interesting wall climb, Security Risk and a rediculous climb, A fistful of Dolarite finishing the morning session. A handfull of good wee routes to warm up on in a great setting and even better rock. Eyed up the better climbs on this cliff, in particular Wall Street and Hurricane Hideaway, the former being a route when im climbing a bit more.
Security Risk E1 5b

To finish off the day i fancied heading to the Bays, Bay 3 had a nice looking crack line going at E2 5c I was a bit apprehensive but got on it anyway and had to rest on the crux after misreading a thin move to get into the main corner crack. Above this it was an awesome crack line and really enjoyable climb. Loved it, supercharger looks doable!!!!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Floods, breakdowns and Distractions.... And Climbing, finally

Long time since my last post from the West Coast trip. A few events have stopped me from getting out and concerntrating on my climbing. I think the main one being the construction of my new log cabin that will be used as a summer house / second house long term but my folks will be moving into there as i move into their house. So lots of building and sitting on a roof hammering nails through cedar shingles.

Dad at work
A new van for myself has also taken up some of my time as i work to convert it into a camper with beds, power and cooking etc.Riding bikes, both motorised and pedal power are another distraction from climbing. And i suppose not forgetting the wettest summer ever!!!!!!

But anyway I had planned, for the 2nd year in a row, to head down to N Wales and sample the classic climbing delights of Angelsy and Snowdonia. 2 days to go the MOT ran out on the van and after a manic phoning session to find a garage who could do it asap, the van had been looked at and had failed. What!?!

A simple fix, sticking rear brake, very harsh to fail it but failed it was. And with the transport failure the wales trip soon followed, down the pan. Plan B soon came together and a trip to Skye was soon organised, apparently the driest place in the uk and had been for 2 months.

The next three posts will sum up the excellent trip to Skye with Martin.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Climbing in the Med - Day 4

Last day dawned the hottest yet, and the warmth had definitely ruined the hard climbing at reiff for me so we decided to move back south again on a bouldering road trip. We started off climbing at Reiff in the Woods, did a good few problems until the midge mayhem returned and we bailed.

Not a cloud in sight over the Stac

A new place for me was Ardmair beach (still yet to climb at the crag aswell). A nice stroll along the beach presents a picture perfect bouldering area. Absolutely stunning place to go bouldering. Really steep juggy bouldering at a respectable grade. Did three highly recommended problems here up to 6b+ so was going well but finger's were starting to say no more.

Homeward bound for ready to get straight back to building my dads log cabin. Happy days.

Ardmair lovelyness

Friday, 25 May 2012

Climbing in the med - Day 3

Day three dawned really really.... Dry. Wow. OUr plan for today was to climb at Gruinard crag.

After a shortdrive we reached the car park next Gruinard Bay itself. A really lovely beach, bit close to the road which will mean a busy place but still a cool place to hang out. A short walk up the road heads towards the crags, our chosen crag being road crag. A steep gneiss crag which is a perfect place for me at the moment grade wise. Loads of E2 and E3 climbs, and on my favourite rock of 2012 so far. What more could we want.... well no midges actually. The heather seemed to be the perfect breeding ground for them and, such a shame, we had to leave as it was pretty bad!
Gruinard Bay

So plan B was to go to Reiff early and get a couple of climbs in before the day was up.

Sean had his eyes on the Black Rocks classic, Black Gold. So Black rocks is where we went. Love the abseil to the bottom of this crag, really atmospheric and gives a great sense of what black rocks is all about.


Black gold is a slabby VS, lots of gear and loads of nice steady climbing, proper three stars!!

My chosen climb was an E1 arete to the left of Black Gold, but wait a minute, soaking. How can a crag after a week of the hottest weather in ages still be wet. The only explanation can be thqat the rock which absorbs water in cold weather, releases it in hot. So my plan b was an E2 5C which takes the headwall above tystie slab head-on. As i reached the headwall, and to my dismay the climb was also a bit wet and greasy. Not wanting to come away empty handed i persevered with a hard to place cam and committed to climbing the steep climbing above. 4 really strenuous moves and i reached a good break where i could get some more gear and chill-out a bit.

Pump subsided, onwards i went. Up a final 3 m wall to the top out pulling on grass. Love it.

A quick blast around the pinnacle area saw me only get one climb done - immaculate deception. A predictable deceptively steep E1.

Some learning from climbing here after being pretty confident on gniess. The rock when warm is really greasy and doesnt aid hard climbing, accentuating the pump. Not really much you can do about it, only aim to get good conditions or leave the sandstone for cold & dry days.

Still yet to climb confidently at Reiff, keep coming back as its an awesome place!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Climbing in the med - Day 2

It certainly felt like the med today, really hot and humid and not a breath of wind! Unbelievable for Scotland.

Stone Valley

Stone valley was the chosen venue for our second day. A longish walk in (due to our shortcut to Atlantic wall turning out to be just not that) through heather found us at Atlantic wall. There were a couple of climbs to do here but after 5 mins of eyeing up the routes the star of the Scottish west coast show appeared, in clouds. After then itching away our tan's for another minute we ran away in search for higher ground.

We stumbled on the next buttress on the way to Stone Valley crag, Playtime Walls. A short, almost very highball bouldering venue, crag with a couple of tempting routes. I started the day on Playtime wall, a bouldery E2 6a. After a desperate start to get off of the ground and slap up finds a good ledge in which to place some good gear. Another really awkward rock over move leads you to steady climbing to the top of the crag.

Sean then led a nice crack climb to the right called primary care. A nice warm up area and good for a quick couple of routes either before or after the main climbing.

The main crag is a dome shaped buttress with the front face including a mixture of slabs on the left and steep crack climbs on the right. Further round to the left on the west face of the crag is a steep section including a steep E3 and a slab VS.

I kicked off with the classic Bald Eagle HVS 5a ***. An excellent slab climb, steady and interesting all the way with loads of gear bar the top 4m run out section. The other crag classic is Open Secret another route of equal quality to the left of Bald Eagle. Together they make 50m of great 3 star climbing.

Sean Leading Open Secret *** - Line of No beef through roof on left

A bit of lunch and the final route of the day was the bold E3 No Beef to the left of the previous climbs. I had in my mind that I haven't done a proper E3 yet and after reading the guide book description ' bold for E3' was putting me off slightly.

Geoff on No Beef E3 5c

I eyed it up for a good while and eventually decided to have a look. I climbed the bold corner groove up to the main ledge. From here you are 12m up still with no bomber gear and an exposed balancy move is yet to come before some semi good gear. Standing at the ledge a decision had to be made. Can i get to the roof without falling off... Maybe. If i do get to the roof will i get pumped and not get any gear anyway.... No. So i went for it and got to the roof and some gear. Although not as good as i was hoping. I was in a semi comfortable position and managed to place a blind cam and nut, not 100% convinced by this gear i placed another reassuring cam in a slot. Good gear but now i have lost a vital hand hold that is needed to proceed over the roof.

Another look over the roof revealed a small spike, a potential placement for a sling. So getting a sling ready for this i chalked up and using one of the good hand holds with the other hand free i went for the spike and found a good hold and place for the spike. Happy days? well my hand was using the spike and i couldn't move my hand to get the sling on, after much faffing and getting pumped i managed to place the sling and compose myself for the crux move.

I stayed in this position for too long and as a result was getting tired and scared. Eventually i moved from the good spike handhold and tried the crux move several times, trying to find the crucial hold, but failed and after all that faff decided to give in and rest on the sling. Gutted. After a quick rest and a cleared head i did the crux move first time and found it to be pretty simple. Funny how things build up and make you unsure of an outcome even though the process is straight-forward.

So a bit disappointed not to get the route but satisfied that i made this bold route relatively safe and also safe in the knowledge that technically i  could do the move we left for the campsite ready to move on tomorrow.


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Climbing in the Med

Back from Norfolk after some family catching up etc and checking the forecast for the week, it looks good. In fact it looks too good.

The theme for the trip :)

Heading to loch Tollaidh Today underneath an azure blue sky.  We arrived at the crag early afternoon ready to hit the climbing. Gairloch area is home to some of the best climbing on Gniess in Scotland, really rough and grippy which gives loads of confidence when pushing it.

We started off at Ravens Crag and gradually made our way rightwards ending up at Dinosaur Buttress. By mid afternoon the temperatures must have reached around 24 / 26 DegC, making the climbing a bit more interesting.

Sean led three good routes with Rough slab being the pick of the bunch, a great VS slab which takes a nice line up the slab right of Gairloch wall.

Seans starting up Rough-Slab

My three routes for the day started with Ewereka, a short route with 1 5c move through a roof to gain nice easier climbing above.

The ramp was the next mission. An interesting route in as such that it has a lot of different elements packed into one climb. A hard boulder start leads to a confined weired roof crack, a horizontal traverse then leads to a fine open groove and a slab to finish.

My final route for the day was between Buena Vista on the hidden wall or Rouged-Up on Dinosaur buttress. At the top of Seans last lead we wondered over to the hidden wall area to find a pristene section of 30m high gneiss glowing in the evening light. And for some reason for this very reason i didnt want to climb it. I wanted to leave it for another time, something to come back to and look forward to.

So I got on Rouged up. Graded E3 5b with no runner in the adjacent line, red faced. I climbed the initial groove and got over the roof to be pleasantly surprised by three bits of good gear below the crux. After contemplating the '5b' move for a while i finally swung onto the hanging slab, buzzing at how good the move was. It seems that if you have the time to stop and think about a move in that situation where it feels hard and committing, and you overcome these feelings to concour the move it increases the satisfaction after the move has been completed.

Rouged-Up E3 5b

This proved to be the end of the day and gasping for some fluids we walked back to the van, downed a litre of water and made our way to Gairloch campsite and got ready for day 2, Stone Valley.

Abbing down Rouged-Up, Loch Tollaidh

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ice Climbing in Canada - Day 4

Walking through Canmore

Yesterday was actually a good warm up for today, we were heading to the premier mixed climbing venue of the Banff area,Haffner Creek. essentially another canyon but with around 30 - 40 different lines to climb and decent bolts its a must for all mixed climbers!

Remains of the Trees after a devastating fire in the region in 2003

In the lower section there are 4 ice pillars / falls that touch down to the ground, the rest dont even get close and require gymnastic approaches on rock to reach the delicate hanging daggers of ice.

Half n' Half   M7

My first climb of the day was Half n' Half, a 20m mixed climb that really does warrant its name. I led of pulling up on worn axe holes in the rock, the first section being a smooth slab. Once the slab has been negotiated a series of torques see you pulling up and having to reach the final rock hold before launching out onto the ice. The final piece in the puzzle was a stein pull in the roof just below the ice, fully committing on this and a big lock off enables you to swing the axe into bomber ice. A fair bit above the last bolt there is a mantle onto a shelf (the end of the first half :) and clip the last bolt before moving out on the icy headwall.

Four more moves pulling on ice see's you standing on the top of the crag, ab off of 2 bolts and your back down ready for the next one....

Central Ice   WI5

.... The next one being Central Ice, picture tells a thousand words. I'll just add that there were two pretty big cracks right through the ice through guided parties bashing there way up! So a delicate approach was required.

The next climb was hard and scary.

After some lunch Dan decided to try one more route, Shagadelic is a mixed line up a corner which steps out onto a hanging dagger. Unfortunately for Dan he never made the hard mixed rock start and was lowered off. I then decided that i would give it a go but would probably just do the same as Dan.

Jockey TR Shagadelic M6 ish?
So i climbed up the first delicate mixed bit and soon found myself way above the last bolt mantling on to the ledge. So i managed the first bit that in my head i wasnt going to do and was going to lower off and go home, and was then in a position where i 'had' to finish the route. Pumped and scared already the next section looked horrible, a thin dagger had formed and if i was going to climb it i would have to get past this thin 5m dagger and get my first screw in in the thicker stuff above.
So i tentatively stepped out onto the ice and to my surprise it held my weight, 3 more moves and my first screw was in and i could relax. I stayed there for what seemed ages, not wanting to leave the sanctuary of having a screw right next to me, and was getting more pumped the longer i waited. Eventually, and not knowing how, i climbed the rest of the ice completely drained, arms dead.

Time for home.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Ice Climbing in Canada - Day 3

After 4 hours of rough sleep after a hefty night out in Canmore myself and Jockey were the only one's still keen to go out and get some climbing done, under the watchful eye of superstar David 'Heavy' Whalley. The walk in was supposed to be a trip out in itself and was just what the doctor ordered to cure the hangover.

The walk in to the chosen crag, Grotto Falls, utilises a frozen river to gain access up the stunning gorge, past indian paintings on the canyon walls and up to the headwall where the water fall flows over in the summer.

Mental Jewlery M7

When we arrived at the headwall we found a pair already climbing Grotto Falls. This area has also been developed as a sport climbing crag and a mixed climbing crag, we took advantage of the latter. 1 week previous to today Dan and Nick Sharpe had climbed here and found good ice on the mixed climbs, but as you can see above the ice had somewhat receded. This made our climb impossible to complete as the section above me in the picture is blank and requires ice for progress. Never the less the crux is pulling over the roof and after this i clipped the in-situ krab and lowered off. Jockey had a bash and by the time we had climbed this a couple of times Grotto Falls was free.

Grotto Falls WI 3+

Grotto Falls itself is a short 25m ice climb and can be made really easy or a bit harder depending on which line you take. We mucked about on this, enjoying an easy warm down after the pumpy mixed session. The climbing here is really pretty cool as the canyon creates a scenic and mellow place to come and climb. Would be a cool place to sport climb aswell!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Ice Climbing in Canada - Day 2

Morning views
After waking up in Field with views like the above it was time for a quick drive to what can only be called a mini meca for ice climbing. Climbs such as Pilsner, Guiness Gully, kronemberg and our chosen climb for the day Carlsberg Column are all within a 30min walk of each other. And all are of 3 star quality.
The walk in through deep powder and underneath tall pine trees was a pleasure in itself, after 20mins the first view of Carlsberg became clear through the trees. First thought was, wow thats a massive bit of ice.

First View of Carlsberg!

After gearing up it was Dan who raced up the steepest section of the classic WI5 climb, a full 40m later he arrived at the hanging belay. It was good to see Dan 'Master of Ice' carroll climbing on the ice as it really is a master class. However it was also interesting that after keeping simingly perfect technique (keeping the 'A' shape all the time) that he had to rest on a screw half way up the pitch, be this due to motivation, nerves or strength i dont know, but when he was resting he put on his leashes and flew up the rest of the pitch no problem.

Allways steeper than it looks: Carlsberg WI5     Dan Left - Dave Right
This leads me to my interesting stubborness on my own use of axes and being leashless. Throughout my climbing in Scotland i have allways been leashless, mainly due to the ease of swapping tools and also due to the added sense of freedom and how you aren't tied to the axes. This also went for the ice climbing, although the need for swapping is not as great. The main thing with this is that due to the climbs being so steep for so long its not if you get pumped its when. But due to my stubborness i kept going leashless as it was more pure in my mind and harder, in the sense that it was harder to keep a cool head aswell as physically.

Me and Dan on Carlsberg
So I tried copying Dan's technique and soon joined him at the hanging stance, ready for my pitch. The second pitch was just as steep, very wet but shorter, around 25-30m. I led off and was instantly tired after the monster 1st pitch, the water running down my axes and soaking my gloves made me grip tighter as it felt less secure. The you reach the old age climbing problem of placing gear and getting even more pumped or not placing gear saving energy but gripping harder anyway due to the added seriousness. Catch 22! Another theme that continued throughout the trip :) I reached the belay really happy but my arms were shot, Dan joined me at the belay and we abbed off in search of cake and tea. Fuel for the next day.....

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Ice Climbing in Canada

Cant believe that I would have that title on this site. For ages i have been intrigued by Canada, its wild and remote mountains with glacial lakes and postcard pictures everywhere you look. So i allways imagined i would go in the summer just for a look, never an ice climbing adventure!

Flights were booked 3 months in advance and the trip couldnt come soon enough, climbing in Scotland this winter didnt really allow much prep, i.e much ice! So here i was, on my way to Canada, still without leading a proper ice climb in Scotland, or anywhere.

Snowy Calgary

I arrived at 10pm Canadian time, roughly 3am GMT, at Banff. Met up with Dan, Jockey, Ned and Dave in a local Irish bar. Short skirts and beer all around but this wasnt sinking in and all i could think about was getting a kip and waking up to see where i was!!

3 min walk from car - Pretty Nuts WI 4 **

So the first day dawned cold and cloudy, a theme that would repeat itself throughout the trip, a we packed the Dodge Durango 4 x 4 in pursuit of the ice. An hour later we arrived at Kicking Horse Canyon. Our chosen climb for the day a 2 pitch WI4. Jockey led off in the rain (didnt start off with the best of weather, unseasonly warm and wet, basically Scotland all over again. This soon changed though and most days were spectacular) and topped out 50m later onto a tree belay. I followed making the most of the easyish climbing trying to get my head into ice climbing. The next pitch, the crux, was offered to me and the next thing i knew i was at the bottom of my first WI4 lead in Canada. A short 10m pitch of vertical ice was enough to get me in tune with the ice and i loved every move on it. Bit weird hanging off of axes placing ice screws as it was unknown territory for me, and it was something i would have to learn fast due to the sustained nature of ice climbing. Efficiency is the key.

Staying in a cool little place called Fireweed Hostel in Field tonight, then Carlsberg Column tomorrow.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Change of mind set

After getting back from my January stint on ETAP i was hoping to find some good winter conditions, but after a walk into Sneachda on a warm and drizzly Thursday morning it was evident that i was too late, at least for the cairngorms to be in condition.

And that leads me to my next issue. Folks are away to spain for 2 weeks so i am charge of the fort which pretty much rules out overnight trips and long days. Just aswell it mild!

So in the mean time i have joined the Elgin cycling club runs on a sunday, generally 10 members go on an average 65mile ride. Good for fitness and maybe another hobby to do when climbing isn't possible.

To change my mind set from winter to summer climbing takes quite a while and has, in the past, been determined by the seasons. But seeing as the 'seasons' have a mind of their own just now i have had to be flexible with switching between winter and summer and thinking about all the possibilities for trad, winter, bouldering and sport. I find that i only have psyche for the current season, so just now its winter and i have a heap of routes in my head that i would like to try. And consequently nothing for summer, yet.

So the last week has been mild, some climbing on high up on the ben but seeing as im house bound its too far for a day trip both for me and the dogs! So i went to logie head with Sean and aimed for a day of training, trying to get some finger strength and stamina going again. The plan was to lead a route and then ab down the line, pull the ropes and lead it a few more times with the gear in-situ. So doing laps on a single route whilst still clipping the gear to put a pause in the climb proved to be good. We did this on Sea-urchin, spread the donkey, sunnyside up and a single run up a direct finish to sunnyside up.

Second trad day out was at cummingston and only one route each before some drizzly rubbish ruined the psyche. However the route i did was on the stack called Captain Birdseye. Guide book says a pokey lead possibly worth E3. Hmm lets give it a go anyway!

Got on the climb and the first 5m are unprotectable up to a niche but is easy climbing. Next from the niche you have 2 small wires one of which is a bomber micro and the other a dodgy #1. A long reach and blind placement gives you a third wire which gave me the confidence to give the 5b crux a go. Two long reaches finds you standing in a fairly comfortable position to compose yourself enough to climb up the loose flakes and so to the top of the stack. A fine E2 5b to kick of the season early.

Usain Birdseye

The day then developed into a bouldering session and exploration in the cave, and i also eyed up my next potential climb, but i will need to purchase some micro cams before said route will be ticked. 

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Aonoch More

Bike. Check      Sleeping Bag. Check     Climbing Kit. Check

All set for a couple of days away mountain biking and climbing. My life in a van, near enough! First stop was a day at Laggan Wolftrax, a superb mountain biking track that i had never been to before. Bikes at the ready and we set off, during the drive down there was alot of flooding visible so i was guessing the track would be in a bit of a state. I wasnt wrong but for the climb up to the top of the hill it was ok due to the forestry commission track. We headed down the lower red track first, the first section is sort of slow on a short suspension pure xc bike as it contains alot of big blocks that you have to let the bike 'soak' the bumps up. Not wanting to wreck the bike i took it easy and tried to keep the front wheel light over the big blocks. Next is Airs Rock, a daunting slab given black run status. Pat flew down it and before i knew it i was half way down hoping it went ok, just! The rest of the run is really fast natural single track flying through the forest with a good 300m of board walk. The last section joins the freestyle track with big jumps and burn turns.

One last climb up the hill and we decided to head for the black run. My bike really did suffer on this extremely technical and wet track. I ended up going over the handle bars at one pint when the front wheel disappeared into a massive puddle whilst dropping off a block. After watching Pat coming to a similar fate a few more times trying to get down the same section we eventually got back to the hill that takes you up. From here we decided to head down the lower red run once more and call it a day. Amazing track, will be back!

Next day we headed to Aonach Mor for a spot of climbing. Having failed to climb in the cairngorms during to the thaw we thought that heading higher would be the best option. After a good night's sleep in the van we caught the climbers gondala at 8am and then the quad chair. From here another 30min walk takes us to the summit ridge of Aonach mor. Our aim was to climb a couple of routes, the first being Jet Stream Direct. A 3 star IV 5 ice route taking a nice line up a gully.

Rubbish Pana 8.30am on Aonach Mor

I led the first crux pitch which was thin with only 2 good ice screws being placed during the whole 45m pitch. It felt weird and insecure being on ice again. Last time i climbed ice was on the Triangle Du Tacul on Mont Blanc in August. And i cant remember ever leading a IV 5 pitch on ice before (Sticil Face was buts thats it!)???? Im used to the techniques of mixed climbing and am relatively confident with my feet and axe placements, but found that i wasnt confident on the ice and was tense during the crux section. Canada in march will definitely sort this out! I faffed around trying to find a decent belay and by the time i had the climb was starting to melt and fall down. Time for Pat to second!!! He got up fine and continued to climb up through the cornice and belay on the plateau on an alpine conditions day!

Quick bite to eat a kit sort out and we were climbing down climbers col again to climb our second climb Foosyerneeps. A 50m mixed buttress climb going at IV 6. I felt back at home again on mixed ground and led the superb single pitch quickly. The climb has good gear all the way and contains several technical steps up which culminates in a last hard section and 10m of easy III climbing leads you to the belay. Excellent.

Pat topping out on Fossyerneeps

Cornice Cappers

Sunday Night and im off down to Ballater for the second time this time home. I suggested climbing Eagle ridge but having never climbed a hard VI yet Pat suggested i get on some short hard stuff before pushing my grade on long hard routes. Fair point but i think im ready. Eagle ridge is my main focus for this season, and will get it done if conditions allow in February (in the mean time im going to try some VI's in lochain and sneachda to get some consolidation of the grade)


Anyway, we decided to try Moonshadow V 5on shadow butress. It turns out that conditions were not really any good. But the turf was solid and enough snow to justify an ascent. I led off up one of the crux corners with a blunder of dropping Pat's #5 nut. Bastardo! I led up to the belay and watched Pat lead the second hard wall. There is a little roof after this that i took direct, turned out to be a pretty hard one move wonder. The climb then ascends a steep intersting slab before the climb turns into a scramble buttress route. We topped out on the 200m route at 3.15pm and started the long walk back, recollecting the nice climbing up the route and planning our next aventure.

One more outing on Saturday before i go back to work. Lochain for fallout corner or similar. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Lochnagar winter special

Well not quite. But it was a new place for me to climb in winter and it did have mental strong winds to deal with. So a bit special.....

I set off from the house at 5 to arrive at the Glen Muick car-park for 6.30. Having only ever climbed at Lochnagar once, eagle ridge in summer, its still an unfamiliar cliff and area. Although 2.5hr the walk in seems to be all too familiar already!! The walk up to the col was relatively wind free but as we arrived there the winds were nearly taking us off of our feet. We passed one team who had turned back due to the winds but we were keen to at least have a look.

Struggling against the winds

We got to the corrie and decided that it would be worth the punt to go up to The Cathedral where our intended route was, Sepulchre. The route is relatively short at 100m and takes a clean groove/corner system up to a ledge where a final chimney leads to the summit.

I lead off on the first crux pitch going at a steady tech 6 on steep turf, some nice moves lead up to a ledge where i decided to belay as its a short route and i decided Simon would enjoy the next pitch.  The guide book says to go right up the wall and then gain the groove again. Simon decided that the second pitch of the parallel route would be in better condition. It turned out to be a really fun and interesting pitch and well protected. Last but not least came the interesting last pitch

Where Simon had belayed was a few different harder direct finishes that i was thinking about trying but decided to take the original finish up the cool chimney feature. (turns out Guy Robertson had climbed a new route yesterday up the exact line i looked at, damn) Anyway the chimney pitch looked easy but then half way up i got some gear in and tried to fit up it, the chimney wasn't filled up enough with consolidated snow and i kept getting stuck. So i down-climbed 3m and tried the harder looking right crack system. After a bit of a struggle and much snow clearing i got up the what felt like the third V 6 pitch and belayed Simon up the pitch finish.

The walk out was mental and i got blown over twice, the river crossing in the dark was a leap of faith aswell, literally!

Tuesday and i've just come back from the Gorms and absolutely nothing was in, more to the point there was no snow! A walk over the back to hells lum saw us walking out the long way for an early retreat. Ah well, cant win them all. Going to try the ben/Aonach Mor this weekend. (Top tip -  dont start your winter climbing career during the best two winters in ages in case you have the warmest since records begun!!!!!!! what is going on???)

January on Etchachan