Final Nevis hits….

On March 20, 2015 by Tim Neill
Blair heading up Riders on the Storm...

Blair heading up Riders on the Storm…

A couple of days of perfect weather after my seasons guiding up north and work starting in Wales Monday  morning…

On Saturday,  Blair, Keith and I enjoyed Riders on the Storm (possibly/probably has the best ice pitch in Scotland….), then an attempt to follow the original line of Nid d’Aigle…however insufficient ice or bottle pushed us up pitch one of Flight of the Condor with a different groove to finish then the final 2two pitches of Nid…. a good route for sure.

THE PITCH.....

THE PITCH…..

Blair at the top of Nid d'Aigle....

Blair at the top of Nid d’Aigle….

Then Keith and I followed the good ice up Psychedelic Wall Direct (3rd time for me…so good though) and finished with Kellet’s Route (Gardyloo Buttress) and the out there ridge finish of the Augean Alley….totally mega climbing all the way!

Keith on Psychedelic Direct variant....

Keith on Psychedelic Direct variant….

Rarely formed Kellet's Route.....a great finish for me to a great icy winter....hope it keeps going for all the locals....

Rarely formed Kellet’s Route…..a great finish for me to a great icy winter….hope it keeps going for all the locals….

All the usual suspects were also up enjoying the great conditions up high on the Ben last weekend…climbing classics old and new…

Down in Wales now…been rock climbing all week for some work and a couple of days out getting the arms and fingers ready for the months ahead….was really low stress and casual starts….

East and West…

On March 20, 2015 by Tim Neill

After a couple of days up in Observatory Gully I hooked up with a mate from North Wales, Liam, for a less travelled option up on the Diamond Buttress of the Bidean in Glencoe…it wasn’t to be for various climatic and hazard reasons, so we opted for an old route called Flake Route next door on Church Door Buttress….no push over at its modest grade..an a wild trip given the epic weather on the day. Thanks Liam for the laughs…

Liam heading towards the Raeburn's Chimney....communal exit pitch for a lot of the old routes here...

Liam heading towards the Raeburn’s Chimney….communal exit pitch for a lot of the old routes here…

Next day I was working in the Cairngorms on the British Mountain Guides test…as well as assessing the candidates for their climbing days I got to climb with a couple of observing guides from the French guide school ENSA in Chamonix…Neil and Jean Seb…total dudes!

Jean Seb cruising up a wee climb Droidless in the Northern Corries..

Jean Seb cruising up a wee climb Droidless in the Northern Corries..

We all enjoyed some great climbing over the following few days and it was awesome and inspiring to see the trainee guides pull out the stops to gain their passes!

J Peg starting up some ice between Gemini and Waterfall Gully..

J Peg starting up some ice between Gemini and Waterfall Gully..

Tom G reveling in the Gemini ice smear...

Tom G reveling in the Gemini ice smear…

A rainy day after the test rested the legs before joining the Mountain Medicine diploma back over on the West coast for a week of winter mountaineering and a little climbing. Always a fun week, nearly always bad weather, but a different week for me…

Keeping ahead of the pack on Dorsal Arete...

Keeping ahead of the pack on Dorsal Arete…

Robert Caspersen…a mountain guide from Norway joined us for the week too. He works with a similar course over there and was checking out what we do. He compared the weather we had to a Norwegian summer…take note. Thanks for the photos Robert…Hopefully we’ll meet up for some great ice climbing somewhere sometime…

Last Scottish winter work this season...

Last Scottish winter work this season…

And so the end of an amazing winters working in the Scottish Highlands…thanks for a safe season and to everyone involved…looking forward to the next one….

Observatory gully weekend…

On March 1, 2015 by Tim Neill

A cool 2 days with Keith up in the Observatory Gully… Friday saw us looking for something icy…we had a few ideas but ended up on the Left Edge…an old classic just by Point Five…we climbed back down the Tower Gully collecting the Direct Start to the Echo Traverse on the way….a brilliant blue ice pillar that always seems to be in..

Saturday we climbed The Brass Monkey….this will be a mega classic route when it gets more widely known in the next guidebook….

Mostly well protected, lots of hard climbing and a real strong line…probably best done when icy to lock in the crucial chock stones…it finishes on Tower Ridge, where we sorted a hasty abseil back to our rucksacs in the rapidly deteriorating weather. Get it done everyone!

 

The 6 minute tree was a welcome site on the way home…

Glenfinnan to the ‘Coe…

On March 1, 2015 by Tim Neill
Little Buachaille from Lagangarbh

Little Buachaille from Lagangarbh

From filming with Nick and co I worked with Andy and Donald looking after a really unique group visiting the winter mountains for the first time. Over 3 days we did some climbing in the Cairngorms, a munro above Glenfinnan which involved a boat ride out along Loch Archaig and a final great day in the Coe climbing the Sron a Lairig then posh dinner in a castle.

Every munro should finish like this....

Every munro should finish like this….

Sron a Lairig....

Sron a Lairig….

A pretty cool few days for sure. Thanks Andy for hooking this up…

MIC assessment on the Buachaille....good views

MIC assessment on the Buachaille….good views

Great Tower...

Great Tower…

Straight after I joined an MIC assessment working for PYB….this involved a mountaineering day over the Dragon’s Tooth above Ballachulish, climbing on the Buachaille and Aonach Dubh in Glencoe and finally a good day climbing on the Ben…a good strong week from the candidates in a  tricky week of wild snowy weather…

Hiking off the Ben...

Hiking off the Ben…

A bit of free time coming up next…

Classic Ice, Han Solo and Filming…

On February 17, 2015 by Tim Neill
Classic ice on The Curtain...

Classic ice on The Curtain…

Gemini...

Gemini…

 

So the 5 days of intro climbing at JSMTC Ballachulish was a total blast with Pat and Raj. After our 1st day on White Shark, Aonach Mor we managed the classic Cirrus at Beinn an Dothaidh, Crowberry Gully midweek, then a stonking day on Carn Dearg with The Curtain followed by Gemini (to the top of the ice), then finishing with Deep Cut Chimney back in Glencoe  friday morning…not bad. Conditions were exceptional. Thanks to the guys and all the staff at Ballachulish for making it a great stay.

Nick starting up Storm Trooper to reach the Han Solo ice smear..

Nick starting up Storm Trooper to reach the Han Solo ice smear..

Saturday morning saw me joining Matt and his crew from Coldhouse Collective…. http://coldhousecollective.com/ … The goal was to get some footage for a Scottish winter climbing project on behalf of Mountain Equipment. Rich Bailey from ME had arranged for Nick Bullock and I to try and climb some good looking stuff on camera.

We managed to film a recent spicy addition to the Ben … http://www.scottishwinter.com/?p=5197 … with Nick cruising the first pitch of Storm Trooper and me sketching up a really thin, steep smear of ice called Han Solo. I was fairly relieved at the top of an “only just enough” pitch and Nick led us out via the top pitch of his own line “Avenging Angel” (note to oneself….not a giveaway!!).

Over the next 3 days we reclimbed a section of the climb as well as bombing up a well formed Mega Route X and a very Euro route called “Feeding Frenzy” just to its left.

Matt’s crew were totally ace. Sandy (of Manzeno Ridge fame) kept us all in stitches, but safe! Rich did a great job getting it all sorted and Nick of course was in his element.

Can’t wait to see what it all looked like!

A Great Run…

On February 9, 2015 by Tim Neill
Setting off on Shield Direct..

Setting off on Shield Direct..

After Guiding with Chris, next morning saw myself, John and Paul breaking trail to Carn Dearg and the super classic Shield Direct..we’d read a team had got quite high on the route but not quite finished it earlier in the week…..it’s been on the list for years and didn’t disappoint…for added interest John had to make a quick replacement crampon bail in the CIC hut out of a bit of wire and the aid of a hammer..nothing phases John it would seem!

We’d like to claim the first “All Ulster Guys” ascent….what a great laugh.

Next day Paul and I had a mellower outing to Ben Udlaidh to climb some more ice. We piled up the Croc and Captain Hook…both in stonking nick.

Captain Hook...a little bit of Cogne in Glen Orchy...

Captain Hook…a little bit of Cogne in Glen Orchy…

And then with a open mind I headed back to Carn Dearg with Donald and Guy next morning early…again..

We’d planned something mostly on ice, but as we got closer to the crag it was one of those obvious choices. The raging northerly storm had the crag white and so Donald set his pack down below The Centurion….and so a day not to forget with amazing great mixed climbing up soaring grooves and roofs with perfect drooling ice to finish…

White in every direction on Centurion....

White in every direction on Centurion….

Donald did a great job on the long pitch 2 with our limited rack intended for ice climbing…

Eventually reaching the traverse of the Cold Climbs classic of Route 2..

Eventually reaching the traverse of the Cold Climbs classic of Route 2..

Sunday required a gentleman’s start…and so John, Lee and I set off in the sun up towards Beinn an Dothaidh with our sights on The Screaming…a series of steep mixed grooves and cracks above the ice classic of Cirrus.

John dealing with the rude start on pitch 1...

John dealing with the rude start on pitch 1…

We lead a great pitch each and Lee took the honours on the crux top pitch…his first lead this winter!

Lee dispatching the crux...

Lee dispatching the crux…

A really great route…safe all the way and excellent climbing…the top pitch superb!

The following 5 days I got to enjoy some more classics in the company of the staff of the Joint Services Adventurous Training Centre at Ballachulish. The aim was to prepare for some upcoming MIC assessments. No 6 Gully on Aonach Dubh, Ramshead Buttress and Peter Pan Direct at Beinn Udlaidh, Harrison’sDirect on Carn Dearg, Tower Ridge and North Buttress on the Buachaille provided the outings…great routes, company and weather for the course…good luck with the assessments!

Beautiful Glencoe...

Beautiful Glencoe…

Dan on Harrison's Direct...Shroud to the left..

Dan on Harrison’s Direct…Shroud to the left..

Andy, Rob and me at Tower Gap..

Andy, Rob and me at Tower Gap..

With the weekend off I was back up at Carn Dearg with Lee for the ice I’d thought about the previous Saturday before being side tracked by Centurion…

We climbed a good steep pillar between Gemini and Waterfall Gully as a start to a rarely repeated climb called The Bewildabeast….Pete and Andy were hot on our heels too!

Our first pitch as TB starts up Waterfall Gully a fair bit....

Our first pitch as TB starts up Waterfall Gully a fair bit….

On The Bewildabeast..

On The Bewildabeast..

The route is as it says in the guidebook…”The most out there ice on the Ben”…we all linked pitch 2 and 3 and the top pitch is one of the most exposed ice pitches on the mountain for sure. It got 3 more ascents the next day from Murdoch, Andy, John, Nelly as well as Ben Nevis guru Robin Clothier and partner confirming its quality.

We down climbed Waterfall Gully to the foot of Cubby’s classic True Finish which gave 2 further superb pitches of magic icy corners…

True Finish...

True Finish…

Sunday we visited the NE face of Aonach Beag which is currently in the best conditions I’ve seen there. We climbed one of the original classics there called Camilla which I hadn’t seen complete before and then nipped up a superbly icy Blackout before strolling back over the plateau to a very welcome gondola.

Crux section of Camilla, Aonach Beag...

Crux section of Camilla, Aonach Beag…

Lee nearing top of Camilla...

Lee nearing top of Camilla…

This morning I started work on a Winter Climbing Intro course for Joint Services again…we swung perfect sticks into the classic White Shark at Aonach Mor’s Coire an Lochain…hopefully a good start to the week ahead…..

When the Highlands are like this there is genuinely nowhere better!

 

Ben Nevis, Glen Coe and other snippets….

On January 28, 2015 by Tim Neill
Twisted, Stob Coire nan Lochan....Swaily cruising

Twisted, Stob Coire nan Lochan….Swaily cruising

So, I’ve just finished my first week or so up North this winter. It’s got to be said it’s pretty good and getting better…I hooked up with trainee Guide Paul Swail for a great weekend…we did a recently recommended route on the Douglas Boulder (the short approach suited me after a 13.5 hr drive from Wales due to heavy snow…so I needed a lie in) called Turf War finishing up Down to the Wire giving a good way up the front face. Next day we waded into the currently very icy cliffs of Stob Coire nan Lochan and made an early repeat of a recent line called Twisted….great icy mixed up the wall between Moonshadow and Chimney Route….very good.

 

Stu on the chimney of Point Five..

Stu on the chimney of Point Five..

The next day I hooked up with Stu and Paul for a perfect Ben day….we were working together for the following week on a Mountain Guide winter training course, so it was cool to have a fun day out and decide on whether we’d use stopper knots and which was the best colour of rope for short roping etc for the week ahead…

Paul loving the famous Rogue pitch of the Point...

Paul loving the famous Rogue pitch of the Point…

The Point was looking perfect and blue so we had a blast up that then down early to meet the trainees….it was one of those blue bird days with every mountain in the Highlands on view.

Our course was very lucky as the conditions were ideal for all the tasks we needed…we bagged plenty of classics over the 5 days from grade 1 to V…Golden Oldie on Aonach Mor, Point Five, Hadrians Wall, Tower Ridge, Ledge Route, The Great Chimney, Vanishing Gully on Ben Nevis, Scabbard Chimney, Spectre, Innuendo and Raeburn’s Route in SCNL, and the East Ridge of Beinn a’ Chaorainn. Not too shabby…

JPeg on Hadrian's Wall...

JPeg on Hadrian’s Wall…

Tamsin lapping up the Great Chimney on Tower Ridge....

Tamsin lapping up the Great Chimney on Tower Ridge….

Our busy little week will hopefully set up the trainees for their exam in early March….best of luck with that!

I then had 3 days guiding with Chris who is new to climbing in the winter…. we cruised up Twisting Gully and Langsam in SCNL on day 1, a fun ascent of the Invernooky in the ‘Gorms and finished with a stormy and super snowy ascent of Gearr Aonach via the Zig Zags.

Chris on top of SCNL after Twisting Gully and Langsam...

Chris on top of SCNL after Twisting Gully and Langsam…

So, here ’til mid March and currently it’s building up for a vintage season with plenty of rare classics ripe for attempts….

Pre de Bar and Androsace Spur…

On January 11, 2015 by Tim Neill
Moonlight on the Verte and Droites from Argentiere hut...

Moonlight on the Verte and Droites from Argentiere hut…

Shortly after the cascade spree a few days of high pressure arrived and the prospect of some more climbing up high. Hooking up with James Thacker we skied into the Argentiere hut with the prospect of climbing one of the classics at the far end of the cirque the following day. Conditions throughout the glacier looked phenomenal…

Early doors we started the 2 hr approach by moonlight and were making the final little climb to below the Pre de Bar as the light got good. Thankfully the shape of the rimaye and the approach apron allowed a quick and safe route into the communal couloir shared by the 2 classics of this peak. The Charlet Ghilini and Madness Tres Mince soon split and we followed the latter….especially as it was generously iced compared to it normal reputation.

In the Madness....

In the Madness….

The climbing was classic Chamonix stuff with continuously good and sustained narrow goulottes…and after just enough climbing the top arrived signalling turning the ropes around for the equipped abseil descent.

James on the last few metres....

James on the last few metres….

Back at the skis the return journey was a hell of a lot easier than the approach…there was even some ace powder for a while….

And of course stopping every now and again to look at all the famous routes that line the walls here. The fun stopped on hitting the icy Pierre a Ric…this is the iciest ski home run ever down to Argentiere…ironic that the riskiest part of the trip is a (non) groomed run!

Brilliant route in a great and inspiring place….no one around up there!

PdB centre, Mt Dolent up left and P Domino to the right...Charlet Ghilini is the pencil thin couloir left of centre...

PdB centre, Mt Dolent up left and P Domino to the right…Charlet Ghilini is the pencil thin couloir left of centre…

Next day I headed out with Nick….back into Cirque Maudit again…for a quick one day climb. Nick wasn’t having much luck with hooking up with climbing partners….so even though he was on a promise for the next day and my legs a little cooked, we skinned from Torino to the Androsace Spur just beside the Fanatasia route we climbed before Christmas…

The steepest pulls were through the rimaye, then a great narrow goulotte lead away on perfect snow ice. Our chosen route was called “Surcouf”…first climbed by a large cast of all stars…named after an historic French submarine that had a grim demise…

The route…allegedly quite classic, though neither of us had heard of it…. was great with a cool narrow chimney leading to an abrupt finish.

Surcouf...pitch 1...not bad!

Surcouf…pitch 1…not bad!

Nick

Nick

The route was easy to abseil back to our skis…and with a bit of effort we made the last lift with plenty of time to spare.

Towards the top of our route and Cirque Maudit beyond

Towards the top of our route and Cirque Maudit beyond

And so the end of a great little trip to Chamonix…lots of climbing and some skiing… and my little girl has got the buzz for skiing!

New Year’s Ski and Ice

On January 11, 2015 by Tim Neill
Summit vista towards Trient Peaks...

Summit vista towards Trient Peaks…

On the last day of 2014 Dave, Lee, John and I went for a nice tour just over in Switzerland. 2 of these guys have an upcoming guides ski exam….so we had to turn a blind eye to all the amazing climbing conditions and look for a fun tour without too many rocks or crevasses…and a good view from the top to make it worthwhile…..

It gave us a good workout with 1400m of skinning to a nice peak just beyond the Pointe Rond peak and its route via a series of good snow holding bowls.

Heading up through the little bowls on the Voie des Combes...

Heading up through the little bowls on the Voie des Combes…

The reverse was great skiing to the treeline, then a bit more early season lumps, bumps and tree stumps back to Col de Forclaz.

Dave dropping through the trees...

Dave dropping through the trees…

Things always look nicer through goggles...

Things always look nicer through goggles…

Patri Droite...New Years day

Patri Droite…New Years day

2015 started with an early drive through to Cogne with another friend Ian. As suspected for the morning after party night it was relatively quiet and we hiked into the Valnontey in search of the classic Patri climbs. Good conditions had built in the previous week and we climbed some cruisey intro pitches to a little bowl where 2 finishing options arrive…left and right…we did both with the easy abseil options available. The righthand climb was great, steepish and featured ice on an eye catching pillar. A nice coffee from Bar Licone finished a classic Cogne ice visit…

These routes (and of course many others here) had their first ascent at the picks of Gian Carlo Grassi….if you’ve ever read  guides for cascades and mountain ice on the south side of Mt Blanc then it’s clear he was an amazing Ghiaccatore!

 

Nick following his nose....

Nick following his nose….

Next day Nick and I set off to the less popular Right Side of the Argentiere glacier. The approach was fairly lengthy and not without hazard, but the climbing was, as always, well worth it. Without a guidebook Nick fired up a great looking pillar on the left side of the Icelander wall and we finished via Desesperados….the line turned out to be possibly unclimbed according to the guidebook author and local ice guru, Francois Damilano….so we proposed it as “Out of Fashion” WI5+….

The return journey back to the valley was a character building experience…..wet snow, balling skis (!!!!), trees, boulders, rain, dark, etc…..type 2 fun….

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