Thursday, 30 December 2010

Warmer conditions for Hill Walking above the Sherramore Forest Today.

Today, I was out hill walking with Dave and Scott on Meall na h-Aisre, which sits above Garva Bridge.
The thaw has really taken effect. We had intended to ski tour as this area suits the use of skis so well, but the snow has been pushed right back and the rising temperatures have made the snow pack very soggy, so hence the walking boots instead, it was always a gamble and this time it didn't work for the touring idea, even though you start relatively high up!
The weather was, however better than forecast and we had some fine views over to the Corrieyarrack Pass and Creag Meagaidh, which seems to holding it's snow well and large bosses of ice hang road side still. If it becomes cold again whats left will be very sweet indeed, I live in hope for the New Year!
HPL winter walking, mountaineering and climbing skills courses are on offer for the new year, dates and very reasonable prices are on

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Ice Climbing with Liam today on the slabs of the Glean a Chaolais

I had a fab day out. Looking forward to some Family time and a great Christmas with the kids now.
Liam after pitch two on The Posse Slab.

Liam leading on lovely ice.

A great venue if super cold.

Andy on What's the Story. Thanks to Liam for great pic!

Today I went with Liam, to have a look at the Routes of the Posse, IV and What's the Story III/IV. Both were in quite good condition. We started with the route What's the Story and this gave two great long pitches of climbing at grade IV. The ice was good, with water running behind the main fall, but the turf was not frozen! The upper runnels were very wet. A long Abseil from a good tree took us back to the foot of the route.

Liam was keen to Lead so we headed over to the huge wide expanse of ice which leads up onto the Posse IV. This slab is grade 11/111 ground and ideal for Liam's first Ice lead. The screws went in well and in 50m he was at good sound ice belay. Another two pitches saw us out left on another huge tree belay and a grassy walk off in the dusk of evening!
I think this has been one of the most fun days out I have had in the Scottish mountains. It is always great going some where new for the first time and the climbing was pleasantly challenging.
It has been a fantastic year with some amazing diverse work, with charming clients. Thanks to all. Our Courses start up again in January so until then have a wonderful Festive time and an adventurous New Year, best wishes from the Hebridean Pursuits Ltd team.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Solst-ice Today on Beinn Eunaich.

Ben Cruachan, Beinn Chochuill and Mull in the distance.
Sweet micro Ice falls were followed on the Solst-ice.

Low winter sun, what a start to the winter it's been!

The shortest day of the year is upon us. I headed out to have a look at waterfall I have always wanted to climb. I thought maybe it may just be in condition today, but alas it was to thin! Well to thin for me to solo anyway! Maybe another couple of days of very cold weather will bring it into nice fat condition? But won't get away with going out on Xmas Day!
So, I headed up into the Allt Lairig Lanachain, a huge sweeping Corie between the two fine Munros of Eunaich and Chochuill. I remembered seeing a small waterfall years ago when I first did Beinn Eunaich, 989m. I followed the burns up, crampons on as the slabs were sheet ice. I found a sweet waterfall beautifully formed, only 20 feet but lovely and a little interesting with my ski touring axe and crampons.
The long pull up to the sun on the south ridge was worth it, the low sun had heat in it today. The views from the summit were spectacular, out to the Hebrides, The Ben and over the Ben Cruachan.
The shortest day, but a fine one at that! The Ice I climbed yesterday was soaking today and Lumberjacks Falls is hanging in there, but be quick!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Easy Ice climbing at lunchtime, in the sunshine in Pass of Brander.

Lunch time ice!

Lovely chewy easy ice and in the sun, perfect!
Short Grade 3 sections. I was also trying out my new Black Diamond 'Spinner Leashes' they are fantastic! A leash- less feeling but no stress of dropping your tools, ideal!

Nice grade 3 ice falls. Today I climbed the second from left, I first did this last winter. The thinner smears to the right have not been climbed as far as I am aware, but if you have please let me know.

Last winter I had a great time exploring the grade 1-111 ice runnels and bulges on North side of the Pass of Brander on Loch Aweside. Facing south these routes offer great fun, easy and escapable ice climbing at 'Mere Mortal' grades!
You do need to get there early as they catch the sun early on, which today made for very chewy ice!
I had a wee solo of the Fun Grade 3 ice which forms over the crag at approx grid ref 054283 . The stream beds running up to the right of these offer bulgy easy grade 2 ice for approx 150m plus and were there today.
Today's Lunch time's other jaunt was to have a look at a large slab [grid ref approx 066276] I had spotted a week or so ago whilst doing the Lumberjacks Falls on the opposite side of the Pass. The thaw has had effect and the slabs were running with water behind the ice sheets, but because its not very steep, it was pretty thin but solid enough to climb. The stream beds started freezing at appox the 150m contour and finished at approx 400m contour, following easy runnels of ice and some nice little bulges. Having said that, a slip and it would be a long slide! Great fun and not a sole around!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Follow the white line up White Coomb!

The Borders were stripped of snow during the recent thaw, so ascending White Coomb had a strange feeling about it, as apart from the path it was green, well slightly bleached from the raw cold at Dawn. I was half hoping for a ski tour on these lovely rolling hills but contented myself with a great wee walk with Hamish, past the The Grey Mare's Tail and up into a beautiful morning sunrise. In just over an hour I was looking out over these fine hills from the summit, with their dusting of frost on their highest summits.
The Dash to Yorkshire for meeting then followed! The Dash back to Oban to miss the 'Ice Storm' was very pleasant indeed! It will get colder that's for sure! And it has as I write this the snow is blasting sideways up here above the bay.

Monday, 13 December 2010

A great start to the winter season in the mountains of Scotland, 2010 by...

I have a few days of meetings in Yorkshire with groups who will be coming out to Mull next summer to take part in The Roses Project residentials for young people at Tavool House Outdoor centre, so I will unfortunately be missing the continuing good conditions out there in them hills! But I can't complain I have had some awesome days out already and with some great fun folk! The winter season seems like it will be a long one, can't wait! This wee slide show is a summary of a few very special days out so far this season.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

An Introduction to Snow Gully and Steep Snow Climbing.

Walking in a warm affair!
Johnny in his bucket seat and snow bollard belay at the bottom of Broad Gully.

A two point rock belay and equalised up to a single tie in point.

Today, I was working for a friend who runs 'Adventure First', based in Aberdeen. Lizzie, Phil and Johnny came through to the west coast to spend a day looking at the techniques required to ascend steeper terrain and enter the realms of climbing in winter. We headed for Corie nan Lochan as we needed to get into the snow pack and height is required right now as the snow line has receded so far up to approx 800m. The thaw is wiping allot of the low ice lines out and the higher buttresses are black! A few folk were out climbing Dorsal Arete and Boomerang Gully. One party were on Dorsal direct start, but it looked very wet and not particularly wintry. Some ice hangs in there but we need a drop in temperature very quickly and it looks like it may come just on time! If the cold conditions come back the snow will be fantastic to climb on.

We spent a great day work-shopping, building a variety of snow and rock belays and testing to destruction our snow belays! A fun day and the guy's are heading out tomorrow to look for steep ground to put it all into practice.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Beinn Udlaidh Ice Climbing today.

Early evening light.

Hoar crystals were growing through the day.
The main crag of Beinn Udlaidh. Allot of soft snow to plough through in order to get to these routes.

Myself and Liam a fun if pretty cold day!

Nice, but either melting or shattering grade 3 ice bulges, but sound belays!

Today I was out with Liam for his first trip to this fickle mecca of water ice climbing in Scotland. We had a wander into Beinn Udlaidh near the Bridge of Orchy. We arrived at the car park in extremely cold conditions the car was reading -15 degrees. The trees hung heavy with hoar frost and the low sun was slow to penetrate the Glen. As we gained altitude the temperature rose. By the time we were on our route the ice was some what melting. We found brittle ice, with sheets of re-frozen ice on top of hollow soft crud. Not nice and a little unnerving! The ice screw belays were good today I am pleased to say.
There were two other parties out: one on Quartz Vein Scoop, the others on a desperate looking hanging icicles near The Organ pipe walls, well done to whom ever they were, very brave!
I have a couple of days off coming up and then out again on Saturday working on a mountaineering course. The next few days looks like it will be a different world all together, but time will tell! There is a heavy layer of new hoar frost growing due to the cold nights and gentle or no wind at present. There is a thaw due but if it snows on this layer we will see some very high avalanche risks, so take care.
I can't believe it's only early December!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

How to construct an Abalakov Thread by Andy Spink.

Early this morning I had a gentle explore in Glen Lonan, near Oban. Last year I had found some easy but fun ice runnels at around 250m and a couple of short and steeper waterfalls to play on, so I thought it would be worth having a look again as it has been so so cold and there are many burns and gorges to be explored here. They reckon -17degrees in the Glen last night! On the way I stopped off to practice An Abalakov Thread. These effective and easy to create ice threads are so useful when out on longer more serious routes, for extra protection or for abseiling off if needs be. Ice is incredibly strong, but you do have to be careful where you place these threads and practice is a good thing before you are on the really steep stuff!
As foot note, by the time I was home the diesel in the L200 Pick-up had frozen as had the air filters!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Scottish Winter Courses.

Winter Walking Skills. Ben Cruachan, majestic today! Courses based in Glencoe and Cairngorms.
Winter Climbs. Sunshine Gully. MIC, Mark Evans guiding this fine route in excellent condition.

Ski Touring Skills. Gill ski touring in the Cairngorms last March.

One to One personal guiding offers a chance to do something a little different! I had a fun night out guiding some ice runnels off Loch Awe side, grade 2 for 150m or so, climbing at night is very special in your own little pool of light.

Man flue has struck! So I am reminiscing about last winters fantastic season, whilst looking out to Ben Cruachan!
Here are some photos to wet the appetite for this season's courses that are available:

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Lumberjack's Falls.

The third pitch.
The start of Pitch one.

Liam after paddling over.

All the toys for our adventures today.

The second pitch, really nice climbing on interesting ice formations.

Liam approaching the route from the Loch Side.

Today Liam and I went to have a look at Lumberjack's Falls 3, 130m on Loch Awe side. At grade 3 its not the hardest route in the world, but rarely comes into condition as it's so low in altitude.

The climb is a great route for a short day, but also a fun wee adventure, as we open boated across the loch on a mirror like day the light and orange tones in the water was beautiful.

We found brittle steep ice, the ice screw protection was a little hollow at times, but adequate.

3 pitches of really good and delicate climbing was had. Liam's crampon snapped on pitch three, so we finished the route and in two abseils we were back at our packs.

When the conditions are this cold seeking out slightly more esoteric and unusual routes is well worth considering, especially if you want to beat the crowds!

If it stays cold, these falls will be in condition for a good while! Snow is forecast tonight, so change of feel in Oban...

Winter Climbing and Mountaineering Courses

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Oban and surrounding area is free of snow!

Office bound today, but the drive to it was very special this morning.

We currently don't have any snow here, but it is exceptionally cold!

Loch Etive was mirror like and Ben Cruachan has plenty of cover so the back corries and buttresses should have some good climbing in them.

Folk seem to be getting excited about a bumper winter, time will tell but for now I am getting reports of Great ski touring on the East and West is best for climbing. The surf forecast is pretty good and at this time of the year water feels reasonably warm. I saw sea kayakers on loch Awe this morning and Plastic boaters at the Dam car park! We do live in one the finest country's for outdoor adventure in the World.
Karen sent me the photo of the Cullin's on Skye looks in fine condition.

Monday, 29 November 2010

A wee tour through the Southern Highlands today.

Ben Lui.

Ben Cruachan. The fine Corbett, I had a wander up on Sunday is on the left.

Ben Lomond.

The Crianlarich Hills.

This morning I drove from Oban to Luss to meet my family who got stuck in the snow yesterday. The road side was strewn with abandoned vehicles and solitary figures walking along the roads and returning to their cars. The morning was really beautiful, the early sun rising added a little warmth to a bitter landscape.

As far as the hills go they are white! The further inland you go the whiter it gets! But the hills offer some fine ski touring adventures at present and all from roadside. Ben Lomond seems to be covered in a blanket of fresh powder and Ben Lui looked majestic, The Crianlarich hills were plastered and Ben Cruachan as always looked huge in the early morning light.

What ever you get up to, be careful and have fun! More snow is forcast for this evening and plenty of sunshine for the rest of the week.

We have two Winter Skills Courses left to fill . So get in touch if you would like to develope your experince or skills in winter walking or mountaineering. 01631710317.


Sunday, 28 November 2010

Very Cold in the hills today.

Bitter wind chill and snow flouries on the summit.

Won't be long before we will be climbing ice again.

I was due to meet Scott today but he had to turn back before Tarbet, Loch Lomond due to the amount of snow. We had intended to ascend a hill across in Ardgour but the best laid plans and all that; so an alternative hill and change of plan. The Oban area has not had the snow yet but is very cold, creating grey look like Eastern Europe.
I ended up heading up Beinn a Bhuiridh 897m above Loch Aweside, the stream beds and paths were heavily frozen and the water courses are building ice rapidly. On reaching the SW ridge the bitter wind increased and in turn the wind chill, shelter was only found once back down on the lower southern slopes. Fresh falling snow driven by the strong northerly wind made it feel immensely cold. My camera battery ran down very quickly today, guess it was cold out there, if it continues there will be some great water ice to climb.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Ski Touring on Meall a Bhuachaille.

Simon entering the woods.
Ibrahim with Glenmore Forest below from approx 800m

Ibrahim and Hamish Dog in the deep.

Yesterday I was working at a conference at Glenmore Lodge, presenting a workshop on Combined Rock and Water Activities. I arrived to some snow but this morning was so spectacular!
After digging my van out and fitting chains to the wheels, Ibrahim , Georg, Hamish Dog and I, headed up to the ski slopes to gain some height with the intention of going touring on Cairngorm, but the gates were closed so we headed back to the lodge to ascend Meall a Bhuachaille, which sits above Glen More and is a well known ski tour.
We skinned out to Ryovan Bothy and ascended from there. We met Simon and Chris who had the same idea as us so we shared the tour. The going was so hard with up to 3 feet of new snow to trail break through. The summit was covered in thick clag so careful and amusing skiing saw us back at the tree line, which was just loaded with new snow. A frustrating ski, fall and shuffle followed back to the Lodge path. A great day! Winter is here! But please be careful out there as there have been several avalanche accidents already. The avalanche forecast today was considerable and we certainly saw large cracks appearing in the slab on the lee slopes. It is due to get windy and stay cold so this will only create more instability up on the hill for a while yet.