Welsh Medley

On March 28, 2013 by Tim Neill

Straight after Pointblank with Donald I headed rapidly south for some work in Wales. First off 6 days MIA training with Stu and some great students who did well considering we could’ve done a really nice MIC training at the same time. We cragged at Gogarth, cruising about at Castell Helen and a couple of days at Tremadog with a nip up Vector amongst a load of classics. Our mountaineering was great fun as the weather was setting up for a good late winter storm which transformed the mountains from just snowy to really snowy. Ice built up rapidly, and the Pass was shut until JCBs got a tunnel dug!

This made the following week of rockclimbing work a challenging mix as each day we drove through the snowy hills for a variety of seaside crags which gave sunny dry rock and just bearable temps! Went to a couple of new crags with Caff ( http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/index.html) with some trainee instructors….in between keeping them all busy we spotted a few new things to do in the near future. Hope Caff doesn’t do the easy ones!

It was nearly all work except for an evening climb with Dino. The roadside Grochan was spewing ice and the old classic Central Gully looked promising. Alas, the daytime sun had delaminated the ice so we only made it 1/2 way. Good novelty value. Got tomorrow off and hoping for some action on Lliwedd with Stu and John….

Heading out to the abseil above Wind and Mural after backing off a "House of Cards" on the other side :-(

Heading out to the abseil above Wind and Mural after backing off a “House of Cards” on the other side 🙁

Mental Health Therapy…

On March 17, 2013 by Tim Neill

My last fling this winter was a date with Donald King on the Ben…where else. I pretended there were lots of options, but really there was only one. First climbed by the famous Ben pioneer Mal Duff in the mid 80s, Pointblank has only had 1 repeat ( a couple of years ago by Iain Small of course) as far as I knew. So imagine my surprise to see some people on the first pitch as we headed up Observ gully….perhaps they were doing Left Edge?

On arriving at the first belay they enquired the same…..30 odd years and then all at once. Our fellow suitors were of course Robin Clothier (CIC guardian and Ben Ice guru) and Doug Hawthorn (famous for a tonne of necky Ben testpieces like Urban Spaceman etc) and Doug junior (looks like he’s taking after his dad).

So we chatted about this great season and this and that. Robin told us about his many attempts on this legendary route, and then they were gone. I then set off on what was quite a trip. Confident because we’d just seen it being done,  Pitch 2 was a big step up from any other Ben experiences I’d had before. A hug was neccessary at the belay.

Pitch 3 involved a very commiting traverse on steep snow to a wild situation overlooking Point Five, then some very steep pulls to gain the girdle ledge. Another hug needed. I think compulsion got me up those pitches, and having wanted to do the route for years. The weather had gone from perfect to fairly wild, so the relatively straightforward top half felt taxing all the way to a brew in the summit shelter.

A few weeks ago, I met Iain Small on the summit after we’d both been independantly soloing around on the Ben. He described it as Mental health training or something like that. This saturday was a perfect day after a perfect build up all season…all the days on the Ben culminated in leading those pitches. Also, a perfect end to my stay in Scotland. Time to go.

That was yesterday. Today, I’m back home in Nant Peris. Gotta find some rock shoes for tomorrow…

Donald exiting the awkward chimney on pitch 2....a wild place to be!

Donald exiting the awkward chimney on pitch 2….a wild place to be!

Diploma in Mountain Medecine, Scotland week.

On March 15, 2013 by Tim Neill

My last week in Scotland was working for the DiMM http://medex.org.uk/diploma/about_diploma.php We covered the Scottish winter component of the syllabus and were once again blessed with great conditions and weather. We covered a whole spectrum of skills from first steps in crampons, to climbing as well as a whole host of medical, accident and avalanche training along the way.

Highlights for me were climbing Raeburn’s Route in Stob Coire nan Lochain with 4 of the more experienced course members. The route, often powdery ledge shuffling was an amazing neve romp. I took a funny photo (attached) looking into SC Gully showing a cool stack of rock and some great new route possibilities for next winter.

I finished the week with a trip up to the Ben summit via the Ledge Route. It was totally white on top. We met a chap at the summit who asked to join us for the descent. He had no map, gloves, axe, crampons or ideas…..lucky man.

Ben Esoteria

On March 10, 2013 by Tim Neill

Keith and I faltered on Friday due to the hurricane that was blowing in the morning. A day of rest, coffee, reading etc wasn’t such a bad thing. Unfortunately, Saturday arrived and the wind was still giving it some….

We hiked up to the CIC hut in some fairly hefty gusts. We’d already gone from Plan A to somewhere halfway down the alphabet by now. The shambles of people sheltering by the hut didn’t help the process either. We could see a few folk below the Minus Face who didn’t appear to be crawling….unlike everyone else. Coire na Ciste looked like the retreat from Stalingrad!

We headed up onto the Orion Face and finished via a relatively new route called Space Invaders. Getting rave reviews in the Perroux guidebook it turned out to be excellent, steep in places but with a few good runners and belays. It was totally sheltered, and we shared the face with two lads from Glasgow bombing up Orion with the Direct start. Another great day on the big face!

We finished with a quick climb on No3 Gully buttress called Winter Chimney….made infamous in the film “Onsight”. It was in great icy condition and although just one big pitch, had excellent technical ice climbing at the grade. Then headed back down the glen for maybe the last time this winter….maybe.


Classics Galore

On March 7, 2013 by Tim Neill

Just finished an amazing 5 days climbing with a PYB Performance Winter Climbing course. Working with Matt again, a relaxed but psyched atmosphere ensued. Our students were awesome for marching into the Ben for 4 days, then a rest day in Stob Coire nan Lochan!! Conditions were excellent throughout, with the only tricky decisions being which great route to do next…..

I was lucky enough to  shake hands with these old friends….. Comb Gully, Tower Ridge, Minus 2 Gully, Italian R Hand and Vanishing Gully on Ben Nevis over the first 4 days, then Twisting Gully and Twisting R Hand on a windy and white Stob Coire on our last day. We were all very lucky to enjoy such a great week. Thanks Adam, James, Julie and of course Matt…cheers.

Splitter Couloir….Scottish style

On March 2, 2013 by Tim Neill

I woke up to drizzle early this morning. After yesterdays amazing conditions I rolled back over to sleep!  I woke again mid morning to a hint of blue sky through the window. An 11 oclock start for the Ben isn’t normal……

I headed up into the cloud on the start of Orion Direct and finished by the eye catching “splitter couloir” of the Epsilon chimney. It’s the original finish of Orion Face and can only be seen from high on other routes to its right. You can touch both sides all the way up if you have a decent arm span …… a very good stretch of climbing. My little bubble popped on arriving at the “Mantrap” high on NE Buttress. It was living up to its name and trapping quite a few people, so I nipped out onto the top part of the Orion headwall to the summit.

No views today, so made coffee in town just before 4!

Up the Epsilon chimney on Orion Face.

Up the Epsilon chimney on Orion Face.

View down Epsilon Chimney to Orion Basin

View down Epsilon Chimney to Orion Basin

Longer Long Climb

On March 1, 2013 by Tim Neill

Out with Rudders again today up on the Ben. With a gloopy thaw yesterday and a rapid cooling down through last night conditions were unbelievable. A few routes we’d missed the boat on, but The Long Climb Finish to Orion Face caught our eye. We managed to make it longer by climbing between Slav route and the Directissma to arrive at the foot of the eye catching groove you can always see from early on during the walk in (if you know where to look). Lots of pitches that were continuously interesting and another sunny summit.

Looks like it’s lasting for a while yet! 🙂

Dave Tappy, Tapping up some awesome ice on Longer Long Climb

Dave Tappy Tapping up some awesome ice on Longer Long Climb


On February 26, 2013 by Tim Neill
Always an inspiring view!

Always an inspiring view!

So, back to being responsible for some other folk today. Matt and I took our PYB mountaineers up Carn Mor Dearg via its beautiful East ridge. All day the views were beautiful and arriving at the top delivered the best so far. We sat for a while watching climbers doing all the classics, but met only two others on our chosen route. Back down in the glen it felt like an early spring. Magic.

Bit of Soloing

On February 25, 2013 by Tim Neill
Early on a quiet summit

Early on a quiet summit

Grinning my way up the point

Grinning my way up the Point

Orion Exit Chimney, Colin Haley stylee pic

Orion Exit Chimney, Colin Haley stylee pic

Monday was a day I’d waited for a long time for. Perfect weather, conditions and no commitments.  I linked up a few  total classics on the Ben, profiting from the totally bomber conditions and lack of loose snow waiting on top of any steep ground, today was the day to try and move quick around the mountain. Starting with Zero Gully, then Observatory Buttress and Indicator Wall, Orion Face Direct and finally Point 5. All done by early afternoon….perfect.

Really I’d wanted to do something like this since I first started winter climbing on the Ben, but something had always been a bit too random. To finish with the Point was ace….it was my first ever V about 20 yrs ago. It was unbelievably good ice and a total blast. This day might be hard to beat….ever!