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