Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Warm and Dry Rock Climbing in Glen Nevis today.

Spring has sprung in the Glens!
Today we were out working in Glen Nevis with The North Argyll Young Carers Adventure Group from Oban on their regular outdoor education session.
The snow has all but disappeared from the high peaks around Stob Ban and the Mamores. The rock was dry and the birds were singing for spring.
I still feel there will be a dump of March snow to come, after all it's an old fashioned winter!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

George Heriot's School Annual Winter Skills weekend.

The Glencoe Gang.

Heading up the Lost Valley.
Getting to grips with slippy rock.
Speed climber!
Step cutting.
We had the hill to ourselves! Wonder why?

Saturday and Sunday saw Hebridean Pursuits ltd back in Glencoe working for George Heriot's School. This annual event offers their pupils a chance to experience winter walking skills and have some adventures. Based in the dramatic hills of Glencoe the two days really do open up these young peoples eyes to the potential of Scotland's mountains. This year 17 participants gathered to experience winter walking. Winter is a loose term at present!
Over the last few years we have had spectacular weather and fine snow cover, this year has been more of a challenge, as the thaw has pushed the snow line way up the hill.
On Saturday we head up the Ski slopes at Glencoe, walking from 360m was not to bad for the pupils and we soon found some really big patches of continuous snow lines to use for axe and boot practice. We were sheltered from the worst of the strong winds and the rain held off until walking down mid afternoon.
Soggy and tired everyone enjoyed being back in the hostel and re-living their snowy adventures.
After drying off we headed to The Ice Factor for some indoor rock climbing. Most of the pupils had climbed insdide before so it was great to see everyone tying knotts, belaying and climbing really well and finishing with a competition to round the day off.
On Sunday, we headed up into the lost Valley, the forecast was suggesting 70 mph on the hills so we opted for shelter and a dramatic walk into this most amazing environment. The weather was kind and the rain came on just as reached the vans back at the car park.
The wind has now picked up significantly in Oban and the forecast is dreadful until Wednesday. Such is the vagaries of Scotland's weather.
Thanks all the Staff and Pupils from Heriots for making it a fun weekend and providing great food for us. We look forward to meeting up with team in March on your Mountaineering Weekend and course to next years winter walking weekend return.

Friday 24th February. Glencoe Walking Day.

A better day, yet still pretty breezy on the tops.
I was out guiding on the hill in Glencoe and decided to find a different way up Stob Coire Raineach 925m. For a long time I wondered how it would be to ascend it via the north west face approx a kilometre and a half to the left of the main normal path.
We had headed up past some fantastic deep gorges and water courses and arrived on a very wind blown North East ridge, which was still covered in good snow.
The summit was reached after about one kilometre of lovely ridge walking and so down the normal route. This will my way up there from know on, a great shortish day out!
The photos tel the tell of the snow cover, holding in there high up but has been decimated. Its due to get cold again on Friday so fingers crossed we have some left as I am out again next weekend with clients.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Tiree High School, Winter Skills Course.

Our new Rucksacks and Ice axes on route to the North Face of Ben Nevis in challenging conditions.
Scotland above 1000m is an amazing place.

Will step cutting.
Moody Monday on Ben Nevis.
Dan on using front points.
Derek tackling steeper ground.

Four pupils and 3 teachers from the Island of Tiree came over to Glencoe to take part in a Winter Skills Course. The group had been with us before on their annual scrambling long weekend and they had requested another adventure but this time in the winter. Not bad for folk from an island no higher than a few hundred metres!
We have had a mixed couple of days, day one in Glencoe was absolutely amazing with blues skies and clear cold conditions. Day 2, [ today ] was grim, probably for the worst weather I have experienced this season so far! Despite the poor conditions everyone went out and made the most of the situation.
Day one was brilliant as we got loads achieved and bagged a Munro! We spent time concentrating on the skills required to move safely around on steep and firm snow. Crampons, ice axes, boots and associated techniques were employed to good effect.
The pupils and staff really enjoyed the fantastic conditions and perfect neve under foot.
They were really chuffed to reach a summit, for some it was their first Munro.This was was a major achievement for all concerned, they were very happy as allot of other skills courses seemed to remain on one patch of snow all day. Travelling in the mountains is the crucial factor and a deep philosophy for Hebridean Pursuits courses.
Travelling today was somewhat more tricky as the very high winds and driving rain was dominant! We decided to head up to the North Face of Ben Nevis and as only one of the group had ever seen Ben Nevis and never the North Face it seemed appropriate. It was a drenching so just before the CIC hut we turned around and headed back to base for some navigation theory and a review. Four hours was plenty today.
'The Ben' looks sad on days like today and others attempting to reach the snow line looked equally depressed!
The thaw is on again!
We had two very contrasting days and that in a strange way really made it a success. Plans for scrambling in August and next winter were covered over some fabulous Cakes made by one of the pupils.
The group were staying in The Independent Glencoe Hostel, everyone seemed very cosy!
Thanks to Dan Goodwin for working with me and Mike Clifford for his input on Saturday.
We await to see what the week brings weather wise. We have 15 folk booked onto a winter walking weekend this coming weekend so fingers crossed this warm weather blow through!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Coasteering Skills Training Course and SLSGB Coasteering Rescue Award.

The impact zone, great fun even in February!
Security on steep ground.
Open water swimming and rescues.
Fun traversing.
The Dolphin House go Coasteering!
I have been down in South Aryshire over the last three days running a BRAWA Coasteering Skills Training Course and a SLSGB Coasteering Safety and Rescue Award. I have been working with the staff from the Dolphin House, South Aryshire's Outdoor Centre.
Based at the majestic Culzean Castle the centre sits on the coast and is well positioned to offer it's primary school pupils a chance to experience coasteering.
We visited a variety of venues along the coastline. The weather conditions were kind, warm westerly winds blew and the sea is still reasonably warm!
Both courses offer all levels of experience a chance to understand and develop skills and gain certificated rescue award in the process.
I am currently one of only two providers who can run the Safety and Rescue Award for SLSGB in Scotland. If you are coasteering for work, it is a nationally recognised Certificate and essential if working in this demanding environment.
For more details of both courses please contact us at Hebridean Pursuits on 01631 720002. We will be offering open courses in the Autumn or I can come to your location and train your staff.

The Black Mount.

Some shots from The Black Mount. A great range of hills above Victoria Bridge. I was working in this fantastic range of hills on Monday. Glorious weather and good snow cover combined to make a grand day out for everyone.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Inside and Outside today.

Today I was observing the students from West Highland College lead groups of school children in an indoor climbing session and a short walk in the Mamores. It was the culmination of their hill walking / mountaineering module that I have worked on since October last year. It's been fascinating to have seen how well they have progressed. We have had some great days out as well!
A warmer day out there, damp moist air flow hung in the glens and the snow line had receded some what by the end of the day. The ice factor was busy perhaps reflecting the conditions.
A warming up is not what we need, however with a Coasteering Skills course to run next week it may warm the sea a little [wishful thinking].

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Feb 4th and 5th. Winter Skills Course for Manchester University Mountaineering Club.

The Hebridean Pursuits Ltd team were out again with Manchester University Mountaineering Club for their annual Winter Skills weekend. We have been working with the club for the last seven years and it is always a great weekend for all concerned.
Saturday was a really tough day for all to work and learn in. Severe gales, high avalanche warnings, drifting snow and poor visibility made life hard going. But we still managed to cover a variety of skills. Survival being the most discussed!
Sunday dawned colder , dry and iwith no wind! A brilliant day for all manner of winter walking skills from crampon use to digging snow profiles and shelter building. From ascent techniques to descending steep ground and step cutting.
What a difference a day can make! The weekend is booked again for next year and we look forward to seeing everyone again and meeting some new students and introducing them to the wonders of the Scottish winter.

Feb 3rd. Intro Winter Climbing. Cairngorms.

Amazing Blue Horizons. Looking towards Braeriach.
Bart and Mike on the last pitch.
Mike Belaying Bart and Liam.
Friday was a near perfect day in the Cairngorms.
Blue skies, warm sunshine and good conditions for teaching the basics of winter climbing to students from Manchester University Mountaineering Club. Liam, Mike and Bart were keen to brush up and learn about stance management, leading through and constructing simple and effective belays. We spent the day on the Twim Ribs, in the Northern Corries practicing, all manner of systems and anchors on both rock and Snow. The guys headed out to climb on Saturday but the dreadful conditions forced a sensible retreat. On Sunday they climbed routes such as Pigmy Ridge and Central Gully, putting it all into practice and returning with big grins!

Feb 2nd. School House Ridge. Glencoe.

Thursday was a lovely day in Glencoe. Myself and Ben guided the students from UHI West Highland College up the sharp and interesting School House Ridge, Grade 1. Being their last day of the mountaineering module it was a stunning and challenging finish to a great few months of working with a really pleasant and keen group of young people. They now go onto their work placements and the beginnings of their careers in the outdoor industry. The best job in the world!