Uri Alps

On July 21, 2013 by Tim Neill

Just spent a couple of great weeks based in Andermatt guiding for the Joint Services Alpine Meet, 2013. This annual 2 week trip is an adventurous training exercise for the British military joint services, with opportunities for development and qualification in alpinism. I spent the 2 weeks working with a load of great people from the Joint Services AT centres throughout the UK and Bavaria training and assessing on their Alpine mountain Leader scheme.

From Andermatt we climbed peaks and routes locally like the Galenstock and the famous (Extreme Alpine Rock tick) Grauwand above the Albert Heim hut. And trips further afield to the Saas Valley (classics like the Portengrat from Almageller Hut) and to the Moiry hut (Pointes des Mouti, Dent des Rosses and Aiguilles de Le).

We also snuck in some amazing rock climbing around Grimsel and Furkha, including the amazing Teufelswand….10 pitches of steep Yosemite style granite cracks. Ace.

The 2 weeks were fantastic, lots of energy in the team and an amazing amount of climbing and summits blessed with great weather. Thanks to the team for the organisation of another great event!

 

 

Republique

On July 7, 2013 by Tim Neill

So to finish off my week climbing with Matt and Stu. we hiked up to the Envers Hut on the South side of the Aiguilles. It’s the perfect spot for quick access to an amazing array of Alpine rock routes leading to perfect spire summits big and small. Our main aim was to try a Piola route called Banana Republic which climbs the impressive Aiguille de la Republic. This is one of the pointiest summits in the range and looks unreal when seen from Montenvers or from the Col du Montets.

The hut was charming and lovely with a very different feel to most other mountain huts. First light had us stepping off the glacier and getting stuck into 25 or so pitches of awesome  granite cracks, corners and slabs.. The highlights were a series of stunning corner pitches high up and of course a wild, wild summit!

Some fairly challenging abseils saw us arriving back at the hut for dinner and some well earned wine! Another early start had us back down to Chamonix to all get ready for work (with a happy content smile).

June Ice

On July 2, 2013 by Tim Neill

 

After a few weeks work my good pal Matt joined me for a bit of climbing. We’ve just had 4 great days of varied climbing in the mountains. After some stormy cold weather we climbed Vent du Dragon up on the Midi. This climb has been highlighted in the new coffee table book to climbing in the Mt Blanc range authored by Philippe Batoux….a book in the style of Rebuffat’s 100 classics. So keen to collect some points, James Thacker joined in too! We climbed its neighbour, the Perroux/Profit with Dave Hollinger (so he could acclimatise for some guiding), then lazed around in the afternoon sun, getting some sleep before an early start next morning.

3 o’clock had us making an entertaining approach to the Affanasief/Bodin couloir on the west face of the Tacul. The line is very obvious from Les Houches, as it climbs behind the eye catching Aig du Sassure. It was a really great trip and took us through some breath taking scenery, especially in amongst the chaotic glacier/serac world of the old routes up Mt Blanc.

Stu Mc arrived that evening for his stint out in the Alps this summer. The 3 of us climbed a modern rock route on the Dent du Perrons called Badda Bing. These walls are in a fantastic setting and have easily the best climbing in the Rouges. Highly recommended!

So, a little bit of climbing squeezed into a few days with a little bit of cragging either side with some great friends. Cheers!

Alpine Start

On July 1, 2013 by Tim Neill

So, we got back to the Alps at the start of June. I worked most of the first part of the month with a great bunch of budding Alpinists. They had all managed to get places on courses supported by the Jonathon Conville Memorial Trust. These 3 day courses set you up with the very basics of Alpine skills focussing mainly on glacial travel and moving together on ridges. Over a few weeks we did a few trips to the Mer de Glace to run our “Ecole de Glace”, we rode up the Aig du Midi telepherique and made a few of the varied , short day routes up there. We also traversed the Crochues in the Aig Rouges a few times as well some of the peaks above the Tour glacier from the Albert Premier hut. So all in all, great fun.

The best thing was meeting lots of these guys making the most of it after their courses. Tired and sunburnt happy faces having completed lots of classics between them……..North Face of the Tour Ronde and the Contamine/Grisole on Mt Blanc du Tacul being a couple of highlights.

On their recommendations I climbed the Contamine/Grisole, one of the classic snowy mixed climbs on the Tacul, and the great Chapelle de Glieres ridge in the Aig Rouges. This was a weekends guiding work for http://www.jamesthacker-mountaineering.co.uk/. Cheers Avi for a brill weekend up in the mountains!

Currently the mountains here are in great shape for classic ascents and really good snow cover on the glaciers….

Mt Blanc du Tacul from the Midi viewing platform. Looking good!

Mt Blanc du Tacul from the Midi viewing platform. Looking good!

 

North Wales Rocks

On June 1, 2013 by Tim Neill

So, after my kick start with Rob I’ve had a great few weeks rock climbing at home in North Wales. It’s been cold but dry which has meant a lot of climbing out on the coast and only a little in the hills. I’ve been working a lot for Plas y Brenin on a great mix of Rock climbing courses (see above pic of Crackstone Rib) and some other work including some of the training for new British Mountain Guides (a seriously talented bunch).

As well as climbing all the time at work, I’ve managed plenty of cragging with my mates in the evenings and the odd day off. I managed of few repeats of recent new routes that’d been put up by a few friends. A great source of info for all the latest news is  http://news.v12outdoor.com/climbing-news/, a great local website with lots of great links too. Check it out.

My mate Owain was over from Chamonix to visit and we manged some great climbing (like rediscovering an old route of his called  ” The Nantperishable”, photo above, just on the hillside opposite our house). Owain hadn’t trad climbed for a bit, but thoroughly enjoyed Cream at Tremadog in 1 pitch from the floor, and Fingerlicker into Silly arête also in 1 pitch as his warm ups for the season. Looking forward to climbing together some more in the Alps this summer.

As well as some slate and Llanberis Pass action, Gogarth (as always) has been where the best action is. Over the last week I climbed with Dave, Keith and Lee everywhere from North Stack wall to Main cliff. A new route in Easter Island Gully was a nice bonus. Last Saturday Dave and I had a day of climbing a couple of routes put up by our friends Twid and Louise…. Pulling For Two on N Stack wall (pretty gnarly) and Lost In Space down Easter Island Gully. This route in particular was totally fantastic. A must do for devotees of the crag, despite its lack of stature in the guidebook. Sunday had us doing a few mega classics before we checked in for an evening ascent of Alien….this route’s quality transcends the star rating system….wild. The final trip was Eraserhead after work with Keith and Dave. Another brilliant way up the best wall in Wales.

Off to the Alps tomorrow for a total change of scene. It sounds like everyone is still skiing there (the never ending season of 2013!). Looking forward to a good alpine summer season and hoping for plenty of rockclimbing in between the mountains!

Travels with Rob (Pysche machine) Greenwood

On May 8, 2013 by Tim Neill
Our lecture tour poster

Cool BMC poster

 

After a few lectures throughout the winter, the last couple of weeks saw me touring England with Rob Greenwood delivering a lecture about Alpine Climbing for the BMC. Rob was awesome to work with and as the lectures were evening slots, we managed to grab plenty of rockclimbing in between the venues. As I hadn’t climbed for months this was ace and thankfully Rob showed me no mercy. Most of the first week was a bit wet and so we found ourselves at Malham Cove in between Ambleside, Harrogate and Liverpool….a good kick start for me.

The second week had us climbing in Avon on the way to Exeter, Cheddar Gorge on the way to London and finally Wintour’s Leap on the way to Coventry. This often meant E5 before mid morning, then a long drive with heavy arms….not something I’m too familiar with!

So, back up to speed with the cragging. Thanks Rob for the patience.

The lectures went down well I think. Thanks to all the hosts and everyone who came along too. Special thanks to Becky McGovern at the BMC for setting it all up so well.

More Ski Tour trips

On April 14, 2013 by Tim Neill

I’ve just finished a great week guiding for Alpine Guides ( http://www.alpine-guides.com/), looking after the Peters family. With a pretty shaky forecast we opted for a flexible itinerary to learn the ins and outs of touring. Our little team of 7 started in Chamonix learning the basic skills of getting ourselves up the ascent bits of a tour as well as coping with any of the hazards along the way (avalanche, glacial terrain etc) and tweaking their already superb downhill technique to deal with the tricky snow that sneaks up on you around the mountain.

Locally we skied up to the Col des Dards above Lac blanc in the Aig Rouge in a blowy snowy day. We skied the classic tour from Grands Montets to Le Tour via the Col du Passon in perfect weather and had a wild, windy day skiing around the Le Tour ski field.

We took a little trip to Arolla in the Swiss Valais making our way up to the Vignettes Hut in a total whiteout. In the morning we decided against Plan A for a descent of the Glacier La Piece in Uber Pow, then over to the Dix Hut via the ladders at the Pas de Chevre. In the afternoon we nipped up La Luette for another great ski back to the hut. Wild weather in the night cleared at dawn to allow us to climb the Pigne d’Arolla arriving above the cloud on the summit. Amazing powder took us all the way to the carpark in Arolla village….very lucky indeed.

Our final day took us to the Aravis range and a beautiful tour around a pretty little peak called the Petit Croisse Baulet. After skinning through the trees we skied a couple of its ridges as the sun swung around the sky transforming the snow to Spring. We skied back down to the pretty little village via beautiful wide turns through the shady woods of the Prise Nouvelle. Thanks to Tom, Fionna, Lissie, Rosie, Jack and James.

Alpine Ski Touring

On April 7, 2013 by Tim Neill

So after leaving Wales as conditions became “once in a lifetime” I settled into the ski touring world out here in Chamonix. With a few friends (Rudders, Tamsin and Owain) we toured quite a few nice classics around the mountains here in mostly fine weather and great snow.

Starting with an obligatory run down one of the many variations into the Vallee Blanche, then an amazing ski down the Glacier Mort variation to the classic Crochues/Berard traverse in the Aig Rouge. We skied up Mont Buet (the ladies Mt Blanc…..felt more like Cho Oyu) for another long descent to the bar at Hotel Buet via the final James Bond bit through the trees. Finally we made a timely tour around the famous 3 Cols (although not the same 3 as it was 15 or so yrs ago when I last did it due to glacial change). A little whiteout for a while stopped us letting rip down the powder at the top of the Tour glacier, but popping out the cloud lower down was fantastic.

So, short days, big climbs and fast descents through beautiful scenery….then a beer!

Lliwedd

On March 30, 2013 by Tim Neill

Snowdonia was transformed on friday  into a paradise. The wind had dropped, the sky was blue and the options were infinite. Coinciding with my last day in Wales for a while was a remarkable stroke of luck. Stu and John came round early and we set off for Lliwedd from the top of the Pass.

It’s fair to say you can’t go climbing here every winter. We headed up the Cribin ridge to arrive near the top right of the face with an intention of following Dai Lampard’s Girdle traverse….. We’d had a briefing as to where it went from the great man himself over a beer in the Vaynol a few evenings before. The description in the guidebook was written many years retrospectively, and the possibilties are endless. Anyway our attempt stopped dead fairly early on, and the retreat was called.

After gaining the foot of the crag, we traversed to some footsteps made by some friends a couple of days before. We roughly followed Shallow Gully with its Direct start. A couple of slow, carefull pitches on steep runout, delicate transformed snow (usually in Wales it transforms straight to water, bypassing neve status) lead to better protected climbing. 7 pitches of sustained, excellent and interesting climbing popped us out a couple of steps from the East summit and eye dazzling views all around. Brick hard unbroken snow slopes lead back to the real world and afternoon coffee at V12 courtesy of Jimmy Big guns ( the finest Barista in Llanberis!).

Off to Chamonix tomorrow for a bit of ski touring and climbing…..