Friday, 30 December 2011

Three wise men ?

29 December 2011

Craig, Bill and I head to Fort William to “camp” on the stormiest night of Christmas for an early assault on the Ben. 5am saw us leave the Bank Street bunk house and head to the North Face car park. With the new path and Bill setting pace (32mins to the top car park) we were walking up the Allt a’ Mhuilinn heading for the hut. The dark, the snow and the familiarity meant we veered right after crossing the burn and by “happy” accident arrived at the foot of number 5 gully. We re-assessed the plan and decided that Ledge Route was the only option (new snow over neve and the in-coming gale-force winds). I have climbed this route a couple of times and always enjoy it as it feels quite the wind was coming in gusts and the snow felt unstable in places. The general conditions felt wintery but there is no deep frost to freeze the turf and bond the rocks (I hooked a huge block and had an “interesting” moment as it detached itself and made a new home 20’ below). Before we topped out we made ready map and compass as negotiating the top of No 5 Gully can be tricky. We took the full 70mph wind and hail on the chin and by combined tactics paced 270º for 200m, 180º for 450m then 270º to the red burn, phew, soup, gear off, trudge past the half way lochan and back to the car. Coffee, cake and home for 6pm (24hrs later).

Another simply epic day ...

No 5 Gully and new snow over old avalanche debris

Plastered ...
Craig comes up for breath
Me before I meet the "block"

Craig and Bill
Bill, Craig and me out of the wind at last

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Alps ...

18 December 2011
Sunday, -3 overnight – game on ... Where ? Cobbler (short day 6.30am – 4pm), route ? MacLay's Crack 111* This is a route we eyed last year but deep snow and high winds put us off.

Craig, Bill and I walked up the track in the dark to be greeted by the Arrochar Alps at day break. We over took the other early parties and ended up making the holes in rather avalanche prone slopes. A quick snow pit revealed 2 weak layers, we cut right and started gearing up at the foot of a rather plastered looking crag. The first pitch was unconsolidated and required much digging to find gear and something to plant your axe into. I led past the belay and instead excavated a cave before a rather tricky looking corner as a more suitable first stance. The lads arrived at the belay but it was obvious that Craig’s back problem was limiting his movements so we ran the ropes through and I (eagerly) led off. This is a fantastic airy pitch with a great open book corner that in the right condition would be fantastic but in today’s soft powder and un frozen turf felt tricky... Up and over I looked for a suitable belay, nothing, so I battered a nut into a shallow crack and kept climbing. This is often the best plan as moving even 12" can (hopefully) reveal something bomber. It did and I threaded a nut before the last tricky move. Up came the boys bringing with them snow and the forecast change in weather. Two pitches later we stood on the summit. A great climb regardless of the conditions but worth repeating when it is 'bomber' More great pics on Craig’s blog here <>

Alpine glow

Huge slab avalanche debris
Our route is the crack on the left

Bill, looking sharp
Craig in a cave
Another Simply Epic day ...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The likely lads...

The ‘boys’ on the hill without me tonight due to a chiropractor appointment (heavy climbing sac and old age combo).

And this is climbers sign language for, "we miss you 2..."

Monday, 12 December 2011

The X Factor was missing ...


With "The Rest and be Thankful" closed and Fort William cut off for the weekend due to a landslide, Craig and I decided an Alpine start was required to beat the ‘crowds’ in the Coe. The walk into Stob Coire nan Lochan is tortuous especially in the dark, and with a heavy bag, but in strange perverse way I love it. We arrived at the Lochins in thigh deep snow, high temperatures' and snow falling. Gullies all out of condition had us opt for Boomerang Arête on Central Buttress. Dan and I had climbed it a couple of years ago so I knew it was open to much interpretation and would go. It did, but only just. Deep unconsolidated snow, turf not frozen and being drowned in graupel had us seek the easier line, and finally move together to the summit to be battered by icy spindrift. Goggles on and light fading we headed off the hill by the East ridge. A great day and VG for the hill fitness.

Meall Dearg

 Craig Following pitch 1
Looking across to Central and South Buttresses of SCNL
Climbers sign language...“This is nuts lets get out of here”
“Agree, LGTF ASAP ...”

Lost Axe

Lost my walking axe on the hill on Wednesday night doing some winter navigation.  I haven't lost anything on the hill for a long time but can only assume that it came off my bag as we stored the gear back at Craig’s car. Saturday morning I  retraced our steps , but with new overnight snow there was little hope of finding it...however it was a nice morning and the legs got a stretch.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Winters back ...

Sunday 4th December
With the forecast for snow Craig and I headed to the Coe. We found deep snow, in fact the A82 was tricky. With the thick blanket of snow and short daylight hours we headed up to Curved Ridge, this is a favourite route and is great early season (to get your eye in) as its mixed and does not rely on anything frozen. It didn’t disappoint. We pitched the first and open book corner , the tricky move before , and moved together on the rest. One word, fantastic! 
We waded through knee and sometimes thigh deep snow to the summit to be met by very high winds and icy spindrift. Snow was being deposited all over the place and it felt  like a full on winter day. Rope off we headed to Coire na Tulaich. This is a very avalanche prone spot and had deep accumulations so we carefully managed ourway down.  
Back at the car it was getting dark and the A82 didn’t show much improvement. More on Craig’s blog here

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Pass ...

Well done to Craig, all the hard work paid off and he passed his ML summer award. More here on Craig's blog here <>

On assessment doing what he has been doing all summer, pacing, timing and contour interpretation.     

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Rock slope failure and a pig !


Clear forecast, early start, handsome ewes. A fast game of "follow my leader " with me trying to upset Craig’s timings, pacing's and general mind set. Security on steep ground, abseiling, rope anchors, lowers, knots, soup, sarnie, random warm based glacier chat ! Deer baths, another lost compass and a nosey pig.

MLA, bring it on ...

Winter boots are on it must be summer ML

Craig's last night nav tonight before his assessment. It was dark and the CLAG was in, so with 0 visibility we headed up the hill. The bracken made for some hard going at times, but we fought our way uphill and contoured round finding various indistinct and invisible features. Timing and pacing bang on and more hand railing had us on the summit for soup at 10.30pm.

Craig was surprised that his gloves, compass and map blew off the car roof on the trip back to Glasgow.

Monday, 17 October 2011



I apologise for the alpines, the rock types, the last ice age, the how old?, the “did you know” and the random weather chat I gave on the lead up to sitting my ML last year... I am now getting it back in spades...

Good day on Glen Kinglas in really poor visibility with double soup and rope tricks.

Cold, wet and windy
Mr Frog sneaking a look at Craig's pacing chart
Lunch (tomato soup) in a cave ...



Another wild night and we nearly sack it before we left the car.3 hrs later as we arrived back the sky was clear and the stars were out; crazy weather we have on the West coast. We were greeted by a friendly MOD Police officer as we marched back to the car. Fortunately he kept his "dugs" in his pick-up.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Boil in a bag...

(No not Susan or uncle Ben’s) this is how I felt as we headed up the hill in full winter kit ... As the South basked in 29º, we in the North had heavy rain as a warm occluded front hovered above Scotland for 48hrs. Still, mustn't grumble, as this gave Craig more opportunity to navigate around the base and handrail his way to the summit of Ben Donich. This is a great Corbett with lots of fantastic fissures and interesting rock features. The tomato soup was, as ever, magic, as we sat in the mist looking at a lone sheep, “keeping the edgy” ...