Tuesday, 8 January 2019

A stitch in time...

The Seam 1V 5

Some pics on the 22 December of Mark and Craig climbing The Seam.

We have been trying to get on this for years but conditions and parties in front finally gave way on a marginal day (for the 3hr each way drive) that gave great climbing on both pitches. Dan came along so the belays were a sociable chat fest!

A really great route well worth the wait and worthy of a repeat if winter returns…

Mr Blue Sky...

The Simply Epic Adventure summer Alps trip was a while ago, but I thought I would write up a paragraph or two more as an Aide-aide memoire to Craig and myself for future trips.

Deciding to drive we hired a T6, great, 3hrs each at the wheel and we would be there in no time! All we could manage was 2 hrs each and even at that, I thought it was hard work. Having driven to the Alps before this was a surprise, but then it was in a fast-sporty car and not a van.

We rolled into the cable station in Saas Grund after 20 odd hrs of driving, tired and weary but with incoming rain forecast we packed light and headed up to climb Alpindurst. This is a great route that I had climbed before with G and knew Craig would love it. The climbing is never difficult but the length, exposure and surrounding 4000m peaks makes for an unforgettable experience.

We climbed fast but after 10 pitches knew that we would miss the last bin down. The rain came in true alpine style as we topped out so we quickly packed and headed for the long walk back to the valley.  This took several hrs and our feet felt shredded, but thankfully neither of us had blisters (note for the future, don’t miss the last bin and thick socks work with trainers).

We popped up the roof and slept like dogs till the carpark opened (again) in the morning…

Craig being super keen went to charm the lift staff with the plan we could use yesterday’s “down” tickets to go “up” so we could bike down. He wore them down. But only to the middle station. The middle station was without staff so we carried on up to Hohass leaving Craig again to talk his version of Swiss German to allow us through the gates at the top… he wore them down eventually and we sat on the edge of the glacier having a Cappuccino (2 shot Americano for me, obviously).

Not having mountain biked for 2 years I felt uneasy but there was only one way off the hill and that was down, so off we went, Craig whooping and doing jumps, me howling and holding on. Once back at the van I had to admit it was thrilling and I enjoyed every (other) minute. We loaded the van and headed for Cham and an improving weather picture.

We arrived to flooded drains and gridlock so made our way to Gaillands to live van life for a week.

The weather improved next morning so up we went to suck some thin air, check conditions and climb Cosmic Arête. This is always good fun and we had it to ourselves. I did the usual comedy act when climbing back onto the viewing platform and got a bunch of kids to haul on the rope to bring Craig up. We laughed and posed for pics with the kids and a group of Japanese people - it was very funny.
The weather for the next week was good in the morning but thunder and rain in the afternoon so we climbed high in the morning from the first bin and mountain biked in the afternoon using the various uplifts in the valley.

Having the van and bikes was great as it gave us the flexibility to do something daily when it rains. The drive back to the UK was as bad for me as the drive out. Craig managed better but we both struggled with fatigue, drank too much coffee and ate things we would never eat only to try and keep awake and alert (note, we would do it again).

Some pics of the trip…

Friday, 1 June 2018


19 May 2018

A couple of pics from the Inaccessible Pinnacle, Sgùrr Dearg on the Cuillin a couple of weeks back.  I have the high res version guys if you want them (just laundered your email addresses).

Vitamin D on the Ben...

Saturday 19 May

Craig and I saw the sun and went for Observatory Ridge on Ben Nevis as part of a hopeful plan for the Matterhorn this summer and a good training ground for moving together on steeper ground. Neither has done it before and it was fun 'route finding' on the steepest bits we could find.

It's a wonderful route and well worth a visit but there are some interesting bits which would be more challenging in winter.   That said, it would need a proper alpine start in winter as its a long way with proper route finding challenges no doubt - that's what happens when you don't look at the guide book!

It gives wonderful views over the Minus Face and Orion Face, with a great view of Point Five too - plenty of water running in it!
A very wet Point 5
It's a route that just keeps giving and when you think it's about to level out, another steep wall appears in front to go at.  More challenging than Tower Ridge but just as enjoyable with perhaps a more claustrophobic feel, as TR is not walled in the way OR seems.

Anyway, we enjoyed it immensely and will go back soon to the Ben for training and fun.

Tower Ridge in all its glory
Wintery exit slope :)

Monday, 5 March 2018

Mano Destra Italiana...

3 March 2018

Good couple of weeks climbing with Craig.

Raeburn’s Ordinary Route Hand (IV 4) is far from ordinary and is a favourite of ours, we went left from the second belay to make the route even better.

Curved Ridge (III 3) was in good but powder snow cover.

Shelf Route (IV 6) (bailed) due to the amount of snow and lack of good placements en-route.

Chockstone Gully (II) suited the high winds and avalanche forecast being low down on the Cobbler.

Original Summer (IV 6) in the Cairngorms, Dan came along to make it a rather sociable day out.

McLay’s Crack (III 4) on the Cobbler got another visit on a better than forecast day that happened to be my Birthday so Craig carried the rack in and out!

Crowberry Gully (IV 4) in fat easy conditions with views to America from the top.

Italian Right Hand (IV 4) great but short route on a very windy day.

Original Summer Route
Italian Right Hand

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The DEVIL is in the detail...

Saturday 2 September

With time running out to Linda’s next birthday I 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 we left Glasgow and drove in the dark to Fort William.

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... 

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…
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…