Final PYB MIC week….

On March 23, 2014 by Tim Neill
Perfect climbing on Minus 3 Gully

Perfect climbing on Minus 3 Gully

 

My last week working for PYB in Scotland coincided with some great conditions in the mountains. Our intro day in SCNL was met with a falling mercury and rising pressure as we arrived into the corrie. By climbing up Dorsal Arete then back down Very Broad Gully a number of skills were addressed setting us up for the next 4 days.

Looking along the famous Eastern Traverse of Tower Ridge. Orion Face to Gardyloo Buttress behind....all in mint condition!

Looking along the famous Eastern Traverse of Tower Ridge. Orion Face to Gardyloo Buttress behind….all in mint condition!

 

We climbed for the next 3 days on Ben Nevis leaving our equipment up near the NE Buttress to make light packs. By climbing up Green Hollow Route, Ruddy Rocks, Minus 3 and Platform Rib and descending Slingsby’s Chimney a few times ticked more climbing aspects of the syllabus driven course. The mountaineering style rope work was worked out on a perfect Tower Ridge.

Dave Rudkin strapped to the Great Tower

Dave Rudkin strapped to the Great Tower

 

Nice to summit the Ben on the best day of the winter so far!

Good symmetry at the top of Gardyloo Gully. Challenging/impossible exits all round!

Good symmetry at the top of Gardyloo Gully. Challenging/impossible exits all round!

 

The dry air was replaced by humid muggy weather on our final day, and so as is traditional on those types of days we clambered up Curved Ridge on the Buachaille and concluded with some more descent work in Coire na Tulloch. Our week of minimal avalanche hazard was given a little reality check with the huge debris in the gorge at the foot of the corrie.

Glacier or avalanche debris? Impressive scale....

Glacier or avalanche debris? Impressive scale….

 

Good to share the great conditions with such enthusiastic candidates….hope your assessment gives such generous conditions too!

 

 

 

 

Climbing in challenging weather!

On March 8, 2014 by Tim Neill

The last 2 weeks have brought really challenging weather and conditions….weather forecasts and avalanche bulletins have been misleading too. So I feel lucky to have kept climbing successfully with work over the last wee while. Lots of phoning colleagues and guesswork.

A week with the Mountain Medicine Diploma each winter brings a change from National Centre life and a chance to catch up with old friends who also staff the course. As well as climbing and mountaineering skills there are numerous medical and avalanche scenarios to deal with through the week. We used some of the recent huge debris fans below the Lagangarbh corrie to add a little reality!http://saisglencoe.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/coire-na-tulaich-avalanche.html  As well as all the skills training I managed Curved Ridge on the Buachaille and another ascent of Spectre in SCNL.

A surprise view at the end of a day....

A surprise view at the end of a day….

This last week I was climbing with PYB based back in the Coe. Raeburn’s again in SCNL with a few variations to bypass some teams who were savouring the day and possibly the early evening by the look of it. The students cruised  Dorsal Arete in SCNL, SW Ridge of Douglas Boulder and Fawlty Towers nearby as first winter leads. We also grabbed a quick day over in Coire an t-Sneachda nipping up unusually great ice on the Alladins Buttress…climbing Genie and Doctor Janis.

I attempted to climb a few more lines there on a day off in some storm force winds after the course with Keith….and just managing a nice wee route called Prodigal’s Principle before giving up and retiring for coffee. Looking forward to the forecast high pressure drifting in soon for some peace and quiet. The mountains and crags have been earily quiet….I’m sure the sun will bring everyone back out next week. Some of the bigger ice lines on the Ben are ready to climb on the next freeze that’s arriving late tomorrow….

Looking like a giant Christmas cake....some great icy lines waiting for Monday/Tuesday this week!!

Looking like a giant Christmas cake….some great icy lines waiting for Monday/Tuesday this week!!

Steam Train, 1st Platform

On March 8, 2014 by Tim Neill

Sounding like a bit of Trainspotting, it essentially was….collecting some more esoteric experiences climbing on a stormy Ben last Saturday. Walking in with an open agenda and a clearly wrong forecast (again) we surveyed the options which were limited and closing as snow was blowing in hard.

We ended up climbing a very icy rock route first climbed in winter by Dave Macleod via a devious alternative line. It was subsequently repeated by strongmen Guy Robertson and Pete Macpherson who climbed the full direct summer line  (http://www.scottishwinter.com/?p=4003) …. which we did as it seemed the obvious line on the day.

Keith climbing the pitch done by Guy and Pete....very good climbing!

Keith climbing the pitch done by Guy and Pete….very good climbing!

Conditions were great on the steep sections but very cruddy elsewhere which gave some exciting “untechnical” crux pulls. We descended back to the sacs via Slingsbys Chimney due to the NE Buttress approach being dangerously loaded with windslab….as expected, the chimney avalanched in a spectacular fashion when probed from the safety of an abseil rope.

Adam spreading the weight and faith on some scary crud stuff....

Adam spreading the weight and faith on some scary crud stuff….

As advertised in the link above the route/crag is a great choice on cold stormy days as the approach is flattish and the descents can be managed by rappel…useful with the snowy windy weather we’ve had.

Stormy Obervatory Ridge

On February 22, 2014 by Tim Neill
From THE book

From THE book

 

Yesterday morning (Feb 21st) I climbed up this with my friend Simon. As the day before had been so grim we were keen to see what damage had been done and we had a list of possibles given the fierce forecast….

The avalanche forecast was clearly well out (by 2 solid bands) within 1o mins from the car. The lowest ice had gone (first pitches on Carn Dearg) and the forecast freezing level out by possibly 4oom too.

We geared up in an unlocked CIC hut, thinking of a consolation on the icy Douglas Boulder or below NE Buttress but mostly scoured snow allowed us to approach the Observatory Ridge from directly below…aware of the avalanche track down the big gully to the right. 2 fast long pitches had us finding the summit shelter by trailing our rope between us and snagging it (not in the text book), then re validating our Winter MLs navigating off the plateau. A good reminder of the challenge of heavy snow and gale/storm force winds.

Anyway, lovely climbing up a pristine alpine snow crest after a bit of interesting climbing low down…but no photos due to the epic weather.

Low down on the Orion Face looks promising as does the Minus Face. Some of the lower routes on the West Face of Observ Ridge will be good too….but high up you are climbing on bottomless rime. N Face routes of Castle Ridge will be a good punt as well?! Stacks of blue ice at mid height in the Ciste. Shroud still massive too. After the current thaw a refreeze will bring some more good options for Ben Ice enthusiasts.

Intro Snow and Ice

On February 22, 2014 by Tim Neill

This past week, working alongside Rudders, we ran an intro winter climbing course for Plas Y Brenin up here in Scotland. The weather started perfect and went on a sliding scale so we opted to make the most while we could…

Day 1 on the Curtain in primo conditions

Day 1 on the Curtain in primo conditions

We started with a Cold Climbs classic, the Curtain and its neighbour Curtain Rail. Day 2 saw us in Stob Coire nan Lochan to climb Twisting Grooves. With all the wild storms and whiteout on the day we kept the rope on to descend the ridge back to the coire floor because of multiple cornices and flat light. Dave climbed Raeburn’s Route. We took a short walk to the 1st platform below the NE Buttress on the Ben and climbed a rarely formed Newbigging’s Far Right route on soft ice while Dave climbed on the Douglas Boulder. We had similar conditions next day on the sure bet of N Buttress on the Buachaille in the ‘Coe….soft ice but still holding together and fun albeit with damp gloves.

Climbing to the 1st Platform on NE Buttress, Ben Nevis

Climbing to the 1st Platform on NE Buttress, Ben Nevis

Day 5 arrived with rain to the tops, tired legs and massive avalanches….we visited the indoor ice wall at Kinlochleven and got pumped. Thanks to Dave for the great input and Colin, Richard, Phil and Colin for being super keen!

Weird view of Newbigging's route...Carn Dearg behind

Weird view of Newbigging’s route…Carn Dearg behind

 

Carn Dearg snippets….The Shadow etc

On February 19, 2014 by Tim Neill

Had a couple of days climbing with Mr Stygal in between our respective weeks of climbing work….just in case we forget what to do.

We opted for Carn Dearg Buttress as Matt had been there recently cruising up the rarely white Centurion. We went for a look at the Shield or to try a recently climbed variation which actually climbs the summer version of the Shield…..http://alpinestyle.ca/2014/02/12/the_bmc_winter_meet_and_scottish_mixed_madness

The pictures of the line are at the end…what a week though…inspiring. On the day we opted for another rare route…The Shadow….taking a parallel line to the Cold Climbs classic, Route 2. It was very good, especially as it was in “give away” nick.

Matt setting off on pitch 1 of Shadow

Matt setting off on pitch 1 of Shadow

The routes on the main slabs rarely have this much snow ice on them as at present, although with a little thaw and re freeze it will be better…as is forecast.

Plastered in "sending snow"

Plastered in “sending snow”

Next day we opted for the Direct Start to Route 1 and a climb called Sod’s Law….again all on ice. This was particularly good as the poor forecast materialised as an almost perfect morning.

Sod's Law crux....traverse across the upper chimney of Route 1 to the ice drools beyond

Sod’s Law crux….traverse across the upper chimney of Route 1 to the ice drools beyond

 

 

 

 

 

MIC action

On February 19, 2014 by Tim Neill

Last week Rudders and I joined 4 keen young instructors for 5 days winter mountaineering instructor training. The theme for the week was wild and windy wintry weather…which I suppose is what it’s all about. We visited Glencoe mostly, mountaineering around Buachaille Etive Beag and Stob Coire nan Lochan and its 3 sisters. An attempt to climb on the West side of Aonach Mor was blown out literally a few minutes from the base of the routes….none of us wanting to become a statistic for the sake of a syllabus!

The candidates were awesome…I hope they learnt a few things through all the wind and spindrift. Thanks for a great week.

Never has walking back down a  flat Glen been so exciting....or tiring!

Never has walking back down a flat Glen been so exciting….or tiring!

Post Script on Bruised Violet

On February 19, 2014 by Tim Neill

So it would appear that between us we can’t follow a route description….at least we started in the right spot! Needless to say either the new line or Ian’s original route will be a great climb for anyone else to do.

Nick still on route! Setting off on pitch 2

Nick still on route! Setting off on pitch 2

 

Nick as ever was totally impressive….most people only forge onwards on that kind of terrain when someone else has been up there first…well I suppose that’s what we thought?

 

Off route, new routing

Off route, new routing

 

Some nice words by Nick…..http://nickbullock-climber.co.uk/2014/02/10/northerlies-creme-de-violette-fa-and-umbrella-falls/

and some awful mugshots….http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=68713

 

 

Bruised Violet, Beinn Eighe

On February 8, 2014 by Tim Neill

Straight after work in Glencoe a bunch of us headed to Torridon for a days climbing on the mighty Beinn Eighe. The forecast held true and we all had an amazing climb. I was climbing with Nick Bullock and the drive North flew by as we caught up on stuff. The very early start was pretty rude and I wish the walk to the top of the mountain had been as easy. We split company from Rudders and Keith who were heading to climb the classic Sundance and joined a few others heading down to the West Central Gully wall as it got light enough to switch off head torches. The wild abseils landed us in a mixed and ice paradise with more brilliant routes than you know what to do with.

Dawn on the top of Ben Eighe.....ridiculous behaviour!

Dawn on the top of Beinn Eighe…..ridiculous behaviour!

 

Lee on BSFT, the West Central Gully wall essential

Lee on BSFT, the West Central Gully wall essential

 

Murdoch and Lee quested up the classic Blood, Sweat and Frozen Tears. Duncan and Andy made short work of the mythical Fowler route West Central Gully and Nick and I shuffled rightwards to the foot of a monumental towering groove called Bruised Violet. It was a pretty impressive sight to say the least. I set off up the first pitch of a summer E1 called Chop Suey which gave great mixed climbing all the way. Then Nick made steady progress whooping his way up the next 2 (very meaty!) pitches. They delivered some of the best sustained mixed either of us had climbed…and Nick filed the route in his top 5 Scottish routes. High praise indeed. It was all the better as the route had its first ascent from some friends of ours…Ian Parnell and Andy Turner a few seasons ago. It deserves lots of attention as it is totally wild. Some of Ian’s photos….http://ianparnellphotography.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/aaaaaaahhhh-yes.html

Nick giving the route the "Stare"....top of Pitch 1

Nick giving the route the “Stare”….top of Pitch 1

 

A beefy roof high up

A beefy roof high up

 

 

We met Dave Evans and Dave Hollinger on the top of the crag…they’d just enjoyed the classic Central Buttress. The light was gorgeous and the views of the Torridon peaks magnificent. We all made it back in the daylight…bonus!

Very happy Nick at the top of West Central gully wall

Very happy Nick at the top of West Central gully wall