Guide Training and a little more…

On January 29, 2016 by Tim Neill

This is a phenomenal way to start a winter seasons guiding in Scotland. For a few seasons now I’ve had the privilege (and pressure) of directing the BMG winter training course and this year kept my run of luck with conditions and weather, allowing us to prepare the candidates for their exam towards the end of the winter. As always the trainee guides were of the highest calibre as well as fantastic and reassuring company over 5 long days in the mountains. Our new association training director, Ade Nelhams (also director of the famous ISM…International School of Mountaineering) joined myself and regular partner Paul Warnock for the course.

Busy Tower Ridge

Busy Tower Ridge

Our small team tallied Green Gully, Central Gully Rhand, Thompson’s Route and Tower Ridge ( up and down! ) on Ben Nevis, Crest Route, Scabbard Chimney, Twisting Grooves in SCNL, and D Gully Buttress, Naithsmith’s Route and North Buttress with lots of laps down Curved ridge in between on the Buachaille too.

The Eastern Traverse

The Eastern Traverse

John Crook scudding up Green Gully in v good conditions

John Crook scudding up Green Gully in v good conditions

 

The well timed finish coincided with a savage period of rain over the summits which decimated the promising conditions for a few days. So conditions are now building again from square one. Apart from scudding up NE Butrress on Ben Nevis this week during a colder, snowy part of the current oscillating storm cycles…summit at 10 30 and a challenging descent off the plateau in the winds that were averaging 90/100mph around midday…my work has involved a Winter ML review and a day with Avalanche forecaster Mark Diggins.

Mid January

On January 29, 2016 by Tim Neill

Weathering out the storms at home in Wales over the holiday period allowed plenty of time to reacquaint with climbing indoors, road biking and learning about mountain biking…and some reading up on some less popular places to climb when I’d head up to Scotland.

As soon as an opportunity arose I met up with Donald King for a few days before we started guiding for the winter as further opportunities looked slim. We had an amazing run of routes, whilst not really off the beaten track, more a little less mainstream.

Donald heading out the top of Directosaur

Donald heading out the top of Directosaur

Firstly a visit to the Lost Valley in Glencoe. The walk in was the sort of thing that only happens on an early season foray by desperate men as we left the car with torrential rain bouncing off the windscreen.  We were joined by Mike Peascod and Guy Buckingham…two men not easily deterred. Fortunately the rain gave way to snow and a plastered and wintry cliff. They romped up Moonlighting leaving us to finish our way up a challenging Directosaur.

Top of Coire Chat crag

Top of Coire Chat crag

The following day saw Guy join us for a yomp to the beautiful Coire Chat on Ben Cruachan. Despite the  3 hr approach our friends Simon, Malcolm and Neil were there too, and we had a sociable start before our lines had us a little more engrossed in goings on. As the guide suggests the climbing is superb and the views on a clear day (as we had) are exceptional…southern highlands, round the compass via Cairngorms, Central highlands to Rhum Cuillins and down to Jura!

We chose the 3 star Goldfinger which gave plenty of tough climbing and comes well recommended! The return yomp was a gift in comparison and we narrowly avoided head torches. I’d consider a mountain bike next time as it may be possible to reduce the chunky walk in considerably by scooting up the reservoir road? And of course the last leg of the return would be great fun.

Heading up to Centre Point buttress

Heading up to Centre Point buttress

Early the following morning we were cycling through the forest below the Grey Corries to reduce the approach to the quartzite cliffs below Stob Coire an Loaigh. Having visited there a long time ago for the classics Tallibalan and Blue Rinse it’d gone out of vogue as a venue as the forestry track had been locked and so the approach considerably increased. But having just done it again it was easy. Some friends just visited too and found the gates open. Well I can’t recommend the cliff enough.

Donald on pitch 1

Donald on pitch 1

This time we climbed the superb Centre Point via a variation entry pitch previously climbed by the James’s Edwards and Thacker. In my limited experience of just 3 routes there I’d say treat the grading cautiously…whilst Tallibalan is a good fun romp at the grade (from distant memory) BR and CP are pretty tough outings and considerably more engaging than anything with similar grades on the Ben, in Glencoe, Cairngorms or up NW! I spoke briefly with the main developer of the crag and total legend, Andy Nisbet afterwards and I’m sure he won’t mind me quoting him….” Some like it Hot has a fantastic pitch, as good as any I’ve done.” Looking forward to heading back ASAP. It’s like climbing on Beinn Eighe but without all the easier ground above and below…

Pitch 2 and a good idea of the climbing on the crag

Pitch 2 and a good idea of the climbing on the crag

Our last little foray didn’t get very far as even with fresh guns in the form of the Rudkin, we all retired early for a coffee in Glencoe…return visit required as it was a stunning line with an easy approach! However the route will obviously require bodies and minds operating on full capacity…

To be continued...

To be continued…

And so home to Wales for a few days with a quick reliable classic up in Cwm Cniefion which always seems to have great ice and fast climbing as well as being roadside in comparison to all the cliffs visited up in Scotland.

Pillar Chimney on Clogwyn Du

Pillar Chimney on Clogwyn Du

 

 

Cairngorms

On December 16, 2015 by Tim Neill

4 well timed days in the Cairngorms started after work last Friday with a long drive from Wales to Braemar over a snowy Glenshee. Arriving about 2am we made a coffee and packed the bags and hopped on our mountain bikes for a snowy cycle to the Slugain ruin. Mark Walker and I then broke trail up Glen Quoich to the Sneck and arrived at the foot of the Mitre Ridge on a perfect morning some 5 or so hours later….quite an approach.

Mitre Ridge buttress, Beinn a Bhuird

Mitre Ridge buttress, Beinn a Bhuird

Our chosen climb was the Über Classic Cumming-Crofton line up a series of snowy chimneys and corners to the right of the ridge itself.

Cruxy ramp on P2

Cruxy ramp on P2

Finishing the sloping wall P2...

Finishing the sloping wall P2…

Looking up P3...

Looking up P3…

 

Topping out early afternoon gave us time to retrace our boot track in a couple of hours to reach the bikes by dusk and a sketchy snowy and icey ride back to the car.

Sunrise on the walk in to Lochnagar

Sunrise on the walk in to Lochnagar

 

Next morning we headed into the nearby Lochnagar with heavy legs. We made a rapid ascent of the early season bet of Bell’s Route on Shadow Buttress B. We were treated to an amazing view as far as the Lochaber mountains out west from the top. The climb was superb and has a very exciting section swinging out on a hopefully well glued flake…..this being the short hard crux with enjoyable mountaineering above and below. As ever the walk in and out was enhanced by the wonderful varied scenery and wildlife there.

We met up with Keith and Matt at the end of the day in Aviemore to plan a change of scene to the northern Cairngorms for the next day. With plenty of snow forecast that evening we all headed up to the ski carpark to ensure an early start next morning. With a recent success on Citadel, Matt and Keith were bound for Postern on the Shelterstone. We planned to go to Carn Etchachan. In the morning it was a bit of a pea soup on the plateau and after some reasonably time consuming navigating to the top of the upper tier of the crag we opted instead for a descent of Pinacle gully and something more obvious on the Shelterstone.

Mark's photo looking down on crux pitch of Imposter.

Mark’s photo looking down on crux pitch of Imposter.

We did a rarely climbed route called The Imposter just right of the Clach Dhian chimney…whilst a lot of the route is simple mountaineering it has 2 really superb pitches…well worth seeking out. It’s first ascent was made 30yrs ago by our friend Mark Charlton….which added a certain charm to the route.

Another nice evening walk home...Keith , Matt and Mark chatting away.

Another nice evening walk home…Keith , Matt and Mark chatting away.

Finally with a collapsing forecast (and our legs ) we had a morning climb in the Northern Corries. We opted for an intriguing route on the Fiacaill Buttress called Smokestack Lightnin’. For the corries it’s a nice long route with a good mountaineering feel…and also with a number of desperate well protected sections for the grade!

Pitch 2 on Smokestack...where the climbing starts.

Pitch 2 on Smokestack…where the climbing starts.

Fiacaill Buttress.

Fiacaill Buttress.

As we regained the corrie floor we were met with the approaching warm spell of weather. With the first  wave of drizzle we simultaneously said ” time to go home”. So after the essential afternoon coffee and cake at Kirsten’s mountain cafe in Aviemore we bailed South. Thanks Mark for a very productive first outing of the season. I’ll be back up mid January after a long trip to Spain….

 

 

Eiger North Face

On November 17, 2015 by Tim Neill

Last Tuesday morning I flew to Switzerland with good pal Lee Roberts to try and climb the classic ’38 route on the Eiger. We had a reasonably efficient day leaving us to Bivi near the foot of the face by dusk. At about dawn next morning (7am in November) we were on our way up the face. It’s pretty rambling to start but then the Difficult Crack is reached and it soon starts to flow from one iconic section to the next.

By late afternoon we were at the Brittle Ledges feeling a bit tired from the altitude and by 5 it was pitch dark again. 14 hrs of boredom later we were on our way up our breakfast pitch of the Brittle Crack, along the Traverse of the Gods and into the White Spider.

By midday we hit a lovely sunny summit….for November the warmth was pretty unusual, but in the shade it had been perfect. The notoriously awkward descent was a simple 90 minutes back to the train station for a beer. We were lucky it all went so smooth.

For me this was my last of the 6 classic North Faces of the Alps and a climb that I’d only thought about seriously quite recently.

It’s everything it’s hyped up to be. It’s a long way too with short November days……

Thanks to Lee for being such a great fun alpine partner….

We were home in Wales for work the next day!

Here are some pics of most of the iconic pitches in order…..

Final weeks in the Alps…

On October 5, 2015 by Tim Neill
Nick loving the Brandler Hasse

Nick loving the Brandler Hasse

Nick and I made a dash to the Dolomites from Chamonix…Nick didn’t know where they were…..

We made a quick recce around to the N Face of the Cima Grande and to scope a fairly damp Brandler Hasse. In the afternoon we climbed 4 pitches of the magnificent Murro Gallo then had an early night.

Next morning we set off up the mega classic BH whooping our way up the wall…even the soaking wet bits that forced the use of some aid.

Both of us fully inspired for some more Dolomite action ASAP.

Brandler Hasse.....where the climbing starts!

Brandler Hasse…..where the climbing starts!

After that I went back to Bregaglia working for Alpine Guides and enjoyed some perfect granite around the Albigna cirque and back up on the Badile.

Topping out on the famous Fiamma, Albigna

Topping out on the famous Fiamma, Albigna

This led straight into a weekend up on the Gran Paradiso. The plan was to climb it via the classic N Face which after the long hot summer looked very doubtful….

At the rimaye it all looked not too bad though we took a line to the left of the normal line through some more mixed terrain towards the scenic NE ridge…..the contrast of climbing on a face with no one else to the scene we met on the summit was hilarious. Literally hundreds of people strung out along the ordinary routes….all having fun though.

 

Summit chaos on the Gran Paradiso

Summit chaos on the Gran Paradiso

From there I sped over to sleepy Arolla for a perfect weather week with the Mountain Medicine Diploma and the fun of working with some good friends from N Wales and Chamonix.

Aig Rouges, Arolla

Aig Rouges, Arolla

It Was cold and crisp everyday just as it should be by mid September. Great and rowdy banter in the huts and pristine views of beautiful mountains from each summit.

Downhill on Mt Blanc du Cheilion and all the way back to N Wales

Downhill on Mt Blanc du Cheilion and all the way back to N Wales

From the final summit of the Cheilion it was downhill via Servoz then all the way back to sunny Wales.

The end of a great sunny summer with heaps of varied climbs and summits.

Swiss big ones

Swiss big ones

Alpine Rock

On August 22, 2015 by Tim Neill
View from Brevent, Aig Rouge

View from Brevent, Aig Rouge

Over a couple of weeks through August a bit of free time allowed a bit of climbing time.

As the weather has been so hot through July, the sensible things to climb in the mountains were ridge routes or solid rock that didn’t rely on frost holding it together.

Cool in the shade on the Peigne....

Cool in the shade on the Peigne….

I climbed a couple of v good routes on the Brevent with Lou….Fin de Babylon and Poema Lou…both on great rock and generous with their grading.

In search of shade for a longer route with Ian we climbed the old classic Rebuffat on the upper NW face of the  Peigne from the Plan de l’Aiguille…..really great cracks with one particularly fine splitter. It’s becoming quite a lot more popular due to its inclusion in the MB Supercracks guidebook.

Rebuffat splitter....

Rebuffat splitter….

Versant Satanique….a well recommended crack route on the Minaret above the Argentiere hut. With Aspirant guide Miles Perkins we managed it in a quick dash from Grandes Montets as a day trip…catching the lift from Lognan on the way back. This is a super area to base a few days perfect granite climbing either camping or based in the Argentiere hut….lots of sun and immaculate granite.

Mega cracks on Versant Satanique, Minaret....

Mega cracks on Versant Satanique, Minaret….

Intermittent rainy bi I behind the Cengalo and the Badile....

Intermittent rainy bivi behind the Cengalo and the Badile….

And finally an annual excursion somewhere with Nick and Keith….last year we ice climbed around the Mt Blanc range….this year we headed to Bregaglia to climb on the famous Badile.

We left Chamonix first thing and by early evening were bivied just above the Giannetti hut on the S side of the mountain…

By head torch we picked our way to the Cengalo col and descended some of the worst terrain ever to the foot of a very wet British Route on the Badile’s NE face….and so elected to try the People’s Direct just to its left. Our friend John McCune had sung its praises a couple of weeks before..

Crux pitch of People's Direct, Badile NE Face.....raining hard!

Crux pitch of People’s Direct, Badile NE Face…..raining hard!

The climbing got better after a fairly shaky start and gave a good tough fight towards the top as the grades ramped up to 7a+…..not helped by the fairly damp cracks and, by then, persistent rain. Luckily the jams and locks were very positive and took us to a fairly bleak summit and a slightly improvised version of the descent back to camp..

A rainy night was endured, but a sunny dawn dried us out before a return hike to the valley for Pizza etc.

One remaining day of good weather had us drive around to the North side of the mountain for a few hours sleep…then after a false start due to heavy rain we left the car at 2am and by dawn were stuck into the famous Cassin route on the same face as the day before.

Totally different in character to the previous route we enjoyed intricate route finding low down, perfect rock and really classic granite pitches up high. Definitely a route of the highest calibre!

 

 

 

In the chimneys at the top of the Cassin, Badile

In the chimneys at the top of the Cassin, Badile

We made our way back down the N ridge…..it took a couple of hours, contradicting all the guidebook advice….and after a drink at the Sasc Fura hut staggered back to the van by 6!

The Badile as seen from N Ridge...one of the best lines in the Alps

The Badile as seen from N Ridge…one of the best lines in the Alps

California Dreams....ironic!

California Dreams….ironic!

After this the weather didn’t allow anything too spectacular….we gave up after 6 pitches on the Envers Classic of California Dream due to constant drizzle/sleet and numb hands…one to go back for though.

We climbed on the tricky walls of Balme where the grades are the living end and finished with a super route on the Tours d’Areu…highly recommended limestone towers in the Aravis. After a numb fingered bungle of another line Nick and I climbed a Piola belter called Xcream Limit…go there…great place, awesome views, great wildlife and beautiful refuge just below the climbing.

 

XScream Limit......Tours d'Areu

XScream Limit……Tours d’Areu

 

 

CH for July

On August 21, 2015 by Tim Neill
Salbit....Granite paradise

Salbit….Granite paradise

Early July I headed over to Andermatt to work on this years Joint Services Alpine Meet…an

Adventurous Training exercise that I’ve been involved with for 6 or so years now.

Mocha...a contender for the best 6a on Granite?

Mocha…a contender for the best 6a on Granite?

It’s a busy 2 weeks….and involves everything from introducing alpinism to beginners as well as training and examine potential leaders within the JSAT scheme.

Allalinhorn summit vista.....

Allalinhorn summit vista…..

In 2 weeks I found my way up all sorts of great granite ridges and spurs mostly around Andermatt from the classic Salbit to all sorts of other unpronounceable places…as the weather was superb there was no need to travel too far.

 

Somewhere above Grimsel pass....

Somewhere above Grimsel pass….

As well as that we climbed some great mountains like the Monch via the Nollen Spur, traversing the Trugberg, Nadelhorn (blizzard….the only one this summer so far), the Allalinhorn via the short NE ridge and some lovely peaks in and around the Uri Alps too.

Nollen Spur, Monch

Nollen Spur, Monch

 

A Scottish Nadelhorn....

A Scottish Nadelhorn….

NE Ridge, Allalinhorn....

NE Ridge, Allalinhorn….

As ever all the staff and students I got to climb with were great company….thanks all for a great time and look forward to next year already.

 

The second half of July, I headed over to Evolene in the Swiss Valais to work for an old friend Graham Frost and his wife Janine. They’ve recently taken over a guiding business from the famous Martin Moran and kindly offered a great sounding couple of weeks guiding.

http://www.frostguiding.co.uk

Michabel chain...

Michabel chain…

 

 

With Sam and David who’d been well apprenticed over many seasons by Martin, we set about climbing as many good objectives as our legs and 12 days would allow….

A short AD ridge on the Jegihorn, the S Ridge of the Lagginhorn, a traverse of the Obergabelhorn via the Arbengrat and descending via the Wellenkuppe and finishing with the W ridge of the Dent de Tsalion, the normal route on the Aig de la Tsa and the Pte de Tsalion concluded the first 6 days….

West ridge of the Tsalion....the best AD rock ridge I've done in the Alps....

West ridge of the Tsalion….the best AD rock ridge I’ve done in the Alps….

Pointe de Tsalion and the mornings summits to the right....

Pointe de Tsalion and the mornings summits to the right….

Currently aspirant guide Mark Chadwick joined us for the next 6…. We traversed the Dents du Perrons above Emosson, scaled the mighty E Ridge of the Weisshorn, the Rotgrat of the Alphubel and after a night in the Michabeljoch bivi hut finished our trip with the les travelled Taschorn….an iconic Swis peak that defies structural integrity…..

A little rest on the Weisshorn....

A little rest on the Weisshorn….

Rotgrat.....a very underrated climb up onto the Alphubel

Rotgrat…..a very underrated climb up onto the Alphubel

Last summit on the Taschorn.....the cross allowing a prayer for the descent....up and down in 4hrs for these racing snakes!

Last summit on the Taschorn…..the cross allowing a prayer for the descent….up and down in 4hrs for these racing snakes!

Thanks to Sam, Dave and Mark for an amazing time up high in the mountains.

 

Early Summer Alpine

On June 28, 2015 by Tim Neill
Dropping out of the burl towards the Charpoua Hut...

Dropping out of the burl towards the Charpoua Hut…

I arrived back in the Alps early June for a couple of weeks work with the Jonathan Conville Trust courses based in the Chamonix valley….a great start to the summer working with a varied bunch of fellow Guides and a rapid turnover of students on the busy little 3 day courses…also a great way to get some mountain legs back and re enforce the lung capacity for being up high…

This was followed by an action packed week of climbing with regular alpine and winter partner Matt…

We kicked off on the first day by walking up from Montenvers and climbing the lower buttress of the Brown/Patey route on the Aig Sans Nom to a bivi below the median ice field. Then in the morning racing the weather up the Marsigny/Mohr couloir to the Breche Sans Nom…the full Scottish weather dictated a rapid and challenging descent to the Charpoua glacier…Home for tea..

Next day we walked up to a cool bivi just beyond the Albert Premier hut after the weather had died down…a starlit night heralded the start of a big high pressure system…we set off early to the Aig Chardonnet and started with a fairly modern route just right of the North Couloir, but some steep loose blocks made us pull right into the Gabarou ’79 route via the crux pitch of the Escarra line…so a cool long and  interesting mixed line straight to the summit and a great birthday summit for me…

Stellar birthday treat from Chardonnet summit breakfast ...

Stellar birthday treat from Chardonnet summit breakfast …

The final hit was to be the Diable Ridge on Mt Blanc du Tacul…a classic of both the Rebuffat and Batoux 100 classic volumes….

We caught the last lift up to the Midi and took a space in the modest Abri Perroux, just below the Cosmiques hut…

Early on between Pte Chaubert and the cool Median....

Early on between Pte Chaubert and the cool Median….

Alarms rang at midnight and shortly after we set off on a long walk round to Cirque Maudit (still familiar from the winter visits with Nick…but sadly without skis)…we climbed easily up to the col and some easy mixed scrambling took us to the first of the Diable pinnacles….dawn arrived on top of Pte Chaubert and the next 2 pinnacles were good fun climbing as the sun warmed the rock…we skipped the Pte Isolee due to a fair bit of time consuming ice as well as being route climbers rather than summit baggers … weak I know…and sped onwards to the summit of the Tacul by 10 30 am and so Chamonix by early afternoon…glad to not be toiling down in the increasing heat…

Standard shady big boot climbing up high...

Standard shady big boot climbing up high…

As alpine ridges in the classic style go this is right up there in terms of quality, commitment, variety and just the right length so as not to go on too long…

Classic alpinism...Matt near the end of the Diable Ridge....

Classic alpinism…Matt near the end of the Diable Ridge….

Next day I was back in Wales for a short home visit before the next big alpine stint…

 

Not enough time on the Rock….

On June 28, 2015 by Tim Neill
Climbing at Trinity House Walls, S Stack.....a great route of my friend Owain's called Friend or Anenome....

Climbing at Trinity House Walls, S Stack…..a great route of my friend Owain’s called Friend or Anenome….

Its been a varied Spring and early summer occasionally climbing on the high crags but mostly on the lower sheltered options in and around the edges of Snowdonia for me…..often exploring new to me crags and trying as best I can to do routes I haven’t managed before….

Knee barring into the obscure Gogarth slot of Horse Above Water...

Knee barring into the obscure Gogarth slot of Horse Above Water…

Work has been a great mix of techy rock climbing themes (including 4 weekends of Big Wall Training) and a fair bit of Alpine Prep as well as a bunch of MIA related work….so all really engaging and thinky…

Big Wall classics at Tremadog on a damp day... A1+

Big Wall classics at Tremadog on a damp day… A1+

Teaching multi pitch Leading at the Main Cliff, Gogarth...

Teaching multi pitch Leading at the Main Cliff, Gogarth…

Occasionally I’ve been away to the Peak and further afield and had a great trip just before the alps mopping up a load of classics from Extreme Rock with Lee Dog…

Circe, Stoney Middleton, Peak...Extreme Rock blinder...

Our Father, Stoney Middleton, Peak…Extreme Rock blinder…

And a few tricky classics at home that I hadn’t got around to so far….

Team ascent of Spider Pants on the Slate....E6...trickynness..Rudders styling...

Team ascent of Spider Pants on the Slate….E6…trickyness..Rudders styling…

Jon sending the brill Nimitz out on the sunny bit of the Little Orme....quality E5 stuff

Jon sending the brill Nimitz out on the sunny bit of the Little Orme….quality E5 stuff

Will enjoying the wild Agrippa on Craig yr Ysfa...one of the best, least known E1s in the mountains here..

Will enjoying the wild Agrippa on Craig yr Ysfa…one of the best, least known E1s in the mountains here..

And so a couple of months flew by….stacks of rock climbed…a few highlights and regaining previous bests….then it was early June and sights were set on the Alps….

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