Thursday, 26 February 2009

Winter is returning soon!

The Etive Slabs with Ben Starav in the background, Andy on the classic Spartan Slab. No midge, no rain just perfection on warm sun washed rock, no need to rush this one. pic D.King.
Surf kayaking offers a challenging combination of surf boarding skills and kayaking skills. We have some of the best surf breaks in Europe and a couple are world class! We will back out very soon as the water is warming up and its still really quiet [ never gets busy]...

Coasteering has become very popular on our coastline, the combination of climbing, jumping and swimming is a mix of adrenalin and adventure!

Donald King exploring Mulls fine granite bouldering, have mat will travel and the late winter is ideal for this sport, warm sunshine and gentle breezes offer the perfect combination for some epic sessions.

Dave Eaton, high up in the hills, back packing over Munro's at this time of year has an Alpine feel to it, old snow, new grass appearing and the animals returning to high pasture give a heady mix of atmosphere.

We are being promised a return to cold and wintry weather this week coming. This brief warm spell is not uncommon, and folk are still finding interesting climbs and mountaineering routes high up. March and April are often the best months to explore the highlands. Longer days, warmer sunshine and diverse wildlife to spot all add up to two of the best months of the year up here.

Here are some photos of late winter, early Spring in Scotland, both on land and sea. We have some of the best surf, most challenging sea kayaking, breath taking mountain walking and esoteric bouldering that rivals anywhere in the world!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Leave No Trace!

' Wood Gas' stove, very efficient little stove, all you need are twigs!
Leave no trace, by using a fire mound and ground cloth, simple ideas are the best!

Miles demonstrating the fire mound and ground cloth.

Yesterday i attended a 'Leave no trace' course, headed up by Miles Farnbank. I was not sure what to expect for a whole day of 'how to poo in the woods' and 'not burn them down', but i am glad to say it was really excellent and very informative. The basics of respecting and using the environment were covered well and the practical session on environmentally respectful fire making was really useful, however i have come away wanting to buy new toys!

We covered the access code in relation to Leaving no trace, pooing in a variety of geographic locations and responsible camping practice.
After twenty years of working in the outdoor industry and trying to act responsibly in our fragile environment it was good to realise that most of what we have been teaching / demonstrating has Been not too harmful.

We all have a huge responsibility as outdoor professional to 'leave no trace', these courses are a welcome starting point to achieving better practice.

Monday, 23 February 2009

A weekend in Roy Bridge.

Ben, My son practicing coiling his short rope, he is doing well for one years old!

Graeme in a break in the clag, on his way to the first of the 'Deargs'.

The weather continues to be a little warmer than we would like! Freezing levels never fell below the summits this weekend.
Graeme and Andy were concentrating hard on micro navigation whilst bagging Corbetts above Glen Roy this weekend, in between breaks in the 'clag' we had amazing views over to the Black looking Ben and the east towards the Fersit hills.
The mist hung heavy all day, so we spent allot of time following bearings, we saw no one and this seemed to add to the remoteness of this beautiful glen.
The hills both called Carn Dearg were not pushovers, steep river beds and twisting gorges were followed onto the broad rolling summits, all quite tough on the ankles.
The Corbetts round is a challenge, not the romp it is made out to be by those whom have not finished their Munros, it is the perfect excuse to explore more remote Glens and gain more knowledge of Scotland's hill ranges.
Ben, was keen to get to grips with his rope work so for quite a while i was trying to explain and demonstrate this art, he seemed to be very natural! Roll on alpine holidays!
On Sunday we swapped boots for cycling shoes and took the babies out for an adventure along the Caledonia Canal from Gairlochy. We glimpsed our summits from the day before, it always feels good to look at somewhere you have been.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Winter in Scotland, just the best!

Back country Glencoe, 'powder' days like these are rare but when they happen, there is no where like the west coast.
Donald King on Central Gully, Sgorr Bhan above Ballachulish. A fine route and so quiet! We first did it not really knowing what was up there and we found a gem!

Andy in Central gully, a great place to be high above the road. [photo d king]

Spring time on Ben Nevis is often the best time for winter climbing. Andy looking back after doing Observatory ridge.

Andy guiding on Tower Ridge, tower gap in great condition.

Heading out across the Cairngorm plateaux for a classic tour.

High up in the Mamores 'bagging' Munros.

Ben More on the island of Mull in January. On the horizon you can see Coll and Tiree.

Whilst we wait for the temperature to drop again, here are a few images of Scotland in winter from last year. The variety of environments and conditions are what makes the whole experience just so unique! I am sitting in the office looking out over the Sound of Mull today, these memories make the low cloud and drizzle seem not to bad!

Monday, 16 February 2009

So much snow in the Cairngorms! Feb 14th and 15th 09.

On Saturday Andy and Scott went back country riding, after skinning up Cairngorm and traversing over the northern corries, we skied and rode the full length of Lurchers Gully, almost back to the car park! The snow was heavy going, thawing and deep stream beds opening up. Scott had bought some new snow shoes for this trip, the MSR shoes worked really well in the deep snow pack, we saw other parties out on Snow shoe also, a rare site for Scotland. The skiing and boarding was not elegant, but what a blast! I have never seen so many folk queuing for shuttle buses for the piste, we Had the whole area to ourselves, long live touring! It is perhaps lucky that Lurchers never opened up as another pisted area, these rare adventures are what Scotland is all about.

On Sunday Gill and Dave ascended Cairngorm by ski from the Ciste carpark and had the whole hill to them selves, the snow pack was even wetter on their return, burning thigh muscles was the result!

Driving home to the west the clag was down and the temperature had risen to 12 degrees, perhaps we are returning to a more normal winter for a while, which would be a shame the Norwegian -esk conditions have been wonderful.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Spring like conditions on the Island of Kerrera.

Tuesday saw Andy on the fine Island of Kerrera just off Oban, Hebridean Pursuits have been working with Oban Hi school on a variety of projects. Today Andy was with three lads from the 2nd year exploring the small but beautifully formed Hills of Kerrera. The lads have been, coasteering, climbing, kayaking, sea kayaking, mountain biking, orienteering and to the Ice Factor during there Outdoor education with HPL over the last year . The sun was out from start to finish today, a light shower came in just as we stepped off the ferry on our way home!
The hills around Oban remain covered in snow and the Oban feels more Norwegian than west coast Scotland at present.

Monday, 9 February 2009

New route in Glen Lonan

After guiding pupils from Oban Hi up Ben Glas, i went for a wee explore and found a 100m burn really well frozen up. Following the burn up from the road i found 100m of grade 2 of water ice, small steep steps and very easy to escape, but really great fun and i guess not often in condition! grid ref approx 94270 sheet 49. Name 'wee steal'.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Winter skills course for St.Margarets School.

Up in the White Cories on a glorious day.

On Etive Beag with Glen Etive in the background

Andy and Richard had two great days with the fourth year pupils from St.Margaret's School. Based out of the Glencoe Youth Hostel we introduced the art of winter mountain craft to the very lively and enthusiastic girls.

On Saturday we took them up to the ridge at approx .748m on Creag Dubh to search out some 'interesting' snow terrain. We found it in bucket loads. We concentrated on snow pack analysis, triggered some lovely little controlled slab avalanches and demonstrated Rutsch block cutting, step cutting and self arrest. The northerly wind was harsh on the ridge but out of it we basked in alpine like sunshine!

On Sunday we ascended Buachaille Etive Beag, in amazing conditions the wind switched to the se and we were sheltered all the way to the Bealach. Going was reasonably tough in varying snow conditions, the 15 girls deserve massive respect for this ascent, it was huge challenge for them! well done girls and teachers!

On the descent with looked at crampon use and shelter building as the snow packed lent itself to both tasks just perfectly.

As I left Glencoe the weather was changing as high cloud seemed to be setting in from the south, we had been so lucky with the conditions, there is no landscape finer than Scotland when the conditions are so settled!
Thanks to everyone for a lovely weekend, it was a pleasure to work with you all.

Friday 6th Febuary 2009

Before meeting my clients for the weekend i had an explore in Stob Coire nan Lochan. Having an early start paid off because by lunch time the weather had turned 'nasty!' Drifitng snow filled the deep track up into the corrie making ascent and descent really tricky and awkward, if only folk would consider how they create steps on walk in'S it would make life so much easier!

The corie was pretty claggy ,which made the whole environment a little spooky, combined with 'iffy' snow pack careful decisions on route choice were needed, which is a little amusing because i went up Forked Gully grade 2, maybe against my better judgment i topped out with added concern of which way to descend. Obviously the ridge back into the corrie provided the best option.
Back down for lunch time and just before the new snow fall and increasing drifting, a fun morning! I caught glimpses of various parties out on routes such as Ordinary and Inclination and the Dorsal Grat all having a great time in this improving winter.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Previous posts from late 2008 early 2009.

In the late autumn we finished the busy summer season out on Mull at Tavool House our fine outdoor centre. Groups from all over the UK stay with us and enjoy the 'The Roses Project' experience. Tavool House is open all year round to groups, families and parties, great for new year! Check out Tavool House and the Roses Project on
Hebridean Pursuits Ltd is twenty years old this October, it is hard to believe!

Ian paddling off Oban during his 3 star sea kayak assessment. Day one saw us off Eriska in near perfect conditions and day two found us off Kererra in force 6, surfing back with wave and wind to Oban bay, a real adventure, and of course he passed!

Andy was out with Lorenzo who works at the 'Ice Factor' before his summer mountain leader assessment, we had very early snow conditions on Ben Cruachan and its neighbours. We refreshed navigation in particular pacing over rough terrain. I am pleased to say that Lorenzo passed!

Scott and Matt in very early winter conditions on Meall na Fearna 809m with Ben Vorlich. This area has shapely peaks which are not easily seen from the road. Corbett bagging has become the new ticking quest and its proving every bit of a challenge as the Munros! and they are quiet too.

Between Christmas and New Year Andy was out with Andy and Graeme on Ben Tee. This is a fine positioned and interesting Corbette above Loch Lochy. We had a great day above the inversion which hung in the glen all day walking on fine neve which barley melted in the alpine sunshine. Corbettes rule!

Grab it while you can!
I took the morning to fulfill a long standing ambition to ski tour on Ben Cruachan range. I ascended to the snow line at 200m via patchy snow and skinned on perfect new snow to 918m on Meall Cuanail. I skied back down the same way as the two foot of fresh snow was slabbing under my tracks. Back for lunch time and a complete contrast of the warm sea front in Oban.

This was posted on is a great site for checking out conditions at the ski centres and what folk are up to on ski Ronde.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

What's been happening!

Hebridean Pursuits took the 'Excite' pupils from Oban Hi School to the 'Ice Factor' for a days wall climbing as an introduction before further adventures outside in the spring. Everyone really challenged themselves on the wall and we are now looking forward to real cragging.

Andy , Dr Niel, Donald and Dr Mark had a long two and a half hour walk in to find shelter and 200m of fantastic grade 3 ice. They climbed Loch Dubh Waterslide which is next to Wee Team Gully [not in ]. This fine and remote venue offers much potential of ice and snow routes. There is wee shed to shelter in at the lochside, which is always a bonus!

Mark and Andy found reasonable conditions in West Gully, Grade 3 just after New Year. Parties were walking out complaining nothing was in condition, we had to check and it paid off! Ice screws were used all the way on the fine fluted formations of the left hand finish. Its a fine stepped route, often snow covered when its a grade easier, however if snow lies in corrie floor it is likely to to be in! Search and you will find!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Introduction to winter climbing.

Andy and Matt were in Aladdins Couloir in the warm and misty Cairngorms on Friday. We looked at steep ground techniques. Matt is working towards his winter Mountain leader Award and was keen to brush up on a variety of skills and gain more experience on graded ground. We found wet heavy snow, but the slowly falling freezing levels would improve things no end by Saturday.

Winter skills course.

Howard and Andy were working with Manchester University Mountaineering Club, this weekend in the very cold and windy Cairngorms.
The students concentrated on walking and mountaineering skills on day one and introductory climbing skills, such as belaying on day two. Conditions were great for the course, we found excellent snow conditions in the Ciste and high on the Fiacail Ridge. Thanks to the club for a fun weekend.

Welcome to inspiring scottish outdoors, i look forward to hearing of your adventures and tales from where ever you have been hill walking and mountaineering recently.

The winter has started well and we have been out a fair bit, working, exploring and enjoying the amazing conditions we have had up here in the Highlands, it is turning into a real winter!

I hope to be able to post reasonably regular reports of conditions and outdoor adventures when time allows between working for and adventuring with Gill my wife and Ben, my very active one year old. Reports will include, adventure activity and development courses for young people, sea kayaking, surfing, coasteering and ski touring, as they play a big part in my personal and professional life all as part of the inspirational Scottish outdoors.