Friday, 29 March 2013

Intro Winter Climb course today and some Winter landscapes from courses this season.

It has been the most beautiful winter in Scotland and especially on the west coast. High pressure has dominated and the clarity of the air has been so memorable. The West Coast has been tremendous for all winter adventures. The climbing, walking, skiing conditions have all been brilliant. Although we have not had quiet as much snow as on the east we have had the sunshine. I have only personally worn a water proof jacket twice since October!
Jo and Jordan were out with HPL on day one of their Intro to Winter Lead Climbing Course today with instructor Jamie B. They lead climbed NC Gully in Glencoe. Reports are of great conditions and a progressive and fun day.  Sorry no photos yet of their adventures but here are a few landscapes of Scotland Outside at it's best from the last few weeks.

The Southern Highlands from Stob Ghabhar.

Buachaille Eive Mor, Glencoe.

Beinn a Chaorainn from it's east ridge. 

Ben Nevis from Glencoe Mountain Resort. 

The Black Mount from Rannoch More.

The East Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn today.

Another perfect day of weather and conditions on the hill. I was working with the UHI ATM degree students that I will be accompanying with Matt Groves to the Atlas Mountains in May. We opted for the East Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn, a beautiful grade 1 ridge line which has a little bit of everything that we required for a good old practice before Morocco.

HPL is running an intro to winter climbing leading course over the next few days and by the look of the amount of snow around we can offer courses right into May, contact us for details.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Ski Touring on Stob Ghabhar today.

Today I was working with Richard on his third and final day of a 'winter mountaineering skills for ski touring' course. We headed up onto the Black Mount and skinned up onto the fine SE ridge of the majestic Stob Ghabhar.

A wee sit down at 800 m

Once reached the snow cover  was excellent and safe. However on the lee slopes [N through to SW] there was allot of fresh new snow and slab in evidence. Deep accumulations are to be found in the gullies and a wind crust of about 7 inches is forming on the harder wind scoured bases on the windward side!  

Today's subjects were route choice, navigation, best descent lines and let's have some fun on skis!

A brilliant day covering approx 14k, great weather and in a fantastic location. Enjoy your future tours Richard.

Dash Dash and Dot Dot. Possible new routes?

I went for another wee jaunt into the esoteric Coire Buidhe above Loch Creran on Tuesday and I explored two really fun little ice routes. Found on the right hand side as you walk into the coire, Dash Dash grade II 200 m  and  Dot Dot II / III 100 m had some solid water ice to climb. Both followed iced up water courses, fun yet easily escapable  It is always exciting when exploration around a corner offers some new ice. Seek and you shall find.

Dot Dot...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A very windy weekend for Am Binian Club, Atlas Mountains Expedition team.

Cutting winds and cutting steps.

Lagangarbh, our residence and the Buachaille behind early Sunday morning.

Good old fashioned techniques on ice bulges!

Heading down late afternoon on Saturday under the Dragon's Tooth.

Wind slab formation at 600 m  on a NW aspect slope.

Six members of the Am Binian Club from Kilmarnock are joining a HPL trekking holiday in the Atlas mountains in October and this weekend was a gathering of the team to get out on the hills and plan for their adventures in Morocco. It was a true adventure in Glencoe this weekend and hopefully out of character for Morocco in October. Storm force winds thundered down the glen shifting the lying and freshly falling snow into lee slopes, gullies and stream beds, making walking difficult off the obvious paths and higher wind scoured ground. On Saturday, Stuart, Eva, Heather, Helen, Bobby and I headed up to the really the picturesque path to the sheltered NE Coire of Beinn a Bheithir. We had a good refresher of using ice axes and essential foot work in case we need to cross old snow whilst out in the Atlas. This may be useful high up on Toubkal and other 4000 m peaks. Sunday, started early but wild and improved slowly. A shorter day up on Stob Coire Raineach. Although the salvos of wind and snow still created difficulty in seeing and walking at some stages! The obviously seen ice falls in Glencoe are building nicely but be very careful there is a huge amount of slab building at the tops of gullies and on the lee sides of ridges. Winter is firmly in control in Scotland bring on the sunshine in Morocco!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

George Heriot's School winter mountaineering weekend. More Photos.

Thanks to Ed Watson teacher and wml, for these photos and kind words from last weekend.

What an adventure for the 15 year olds and us big kids!

Tough conditions on Sunday on The Aonach Eagach ridge.

School House Ridge on Saturday.

Thanks again for the trip last weekend. An excellent job as always. The kids loved it and I think we may be oversubscribed next year!

Working in the Glen again today. 'Developing leadership'.

Another dry raw day today outside in Scotland. Today I was working with the first year students off the Adventure Tourism Management Degree course. We were concentrating on leadership styles today. So many role plays and scenarios were acted out on the hill side. We headed to Scimitar Ridge. I have heard much about it but had never been up it before. It proved ideal for a variety situations for discussions. The wind is picking up and the temperatures falling over night. Tomorrow will be a great day for an office day. It will be interesting to see what the conditions are like under foot when back out working over the weekend. I am looking forward to meeting up with and getting out on the hill with the team who are joining HPL in October on an Atlas Mountains expedition.  

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Summer rock sport action today. SPA Training in Glen Nevis.

It was a dry but very cold day in Glen Nevis today. Snow continues to envelope the mountains and ice can still be seen low down in seepage lines. I was working with three young men from UHI whom have their SPA assessments coming up. They were keen to refresh their skills. So they top and bottom roped climbs, abseiled,  created anchors and lead some routes. Snow fell or should I say was blown through the glen but luckily the rock remained very dry. Ben Nevis has a very good covering of snow, as do the hills along Loch Leven and  in Glencoe. Winter is still with us and looks as though it will be for a wee while to come.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

George Heriot's School Winter Climbing Weekend.

On the summit of Stob Bhan 947m.

The beautiful Stob Bhan and School House Ridge on the left. 

Relaxed in the sun!

Looking back into Glencoe. 

Morven's first ever use of crampons and winter climb!

This weekend I have been out working in the mountains guiding staff and pupils from George Heriot's School on winter mountaineering and climbing routes. This weekend is a progression from their winter skills weekend earlier in the year. The school are keen to progress the pupils and give them as much adventure as possible. So on Saturday we headed up the beautiful School House Ridge on Stob Bhan, at grade II it was in perfect condition, snow covered form low down some clearing was needed to ascend the steep steps and considerable wading near the top.  On Sunday, a totally different feel was experienced, white out for a large part of the day, large cornices and fine sharp snow aretes were encountered on The other Aonach Eagach  Ridge on Stob Ghabhar in The Black Mount. A surprisingly fun and adventurous day was had by all. Fresh snow has has been falling now since Saturday afternoon and the moderate wind has started to created some large slab at the tops of gullies and cornices have formed making interesting work on the lee slopes and aretes. Be careful out there, it is due to stay cold and therefore the snow will not consolidate for a while. Thanks to Instructors, Jamie Bankhead and Rich Parker for their professional approach and guiding skills this weekend. Great to work with you guys. Sunday's photo's to follow.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Single Pitch Climbing Award skills training today.

A great class room! 

A 'Y Hang'. Ben hoping Dan remembers  it correctly!

Dan equalizing his anchors.

The real Quarry- men. A tougher job than mine!

Today was another really sunny and warm day on the West Coast. I headed to Ballachulish Quarry with three very keen second year students from the Degree Course in Adventure Tourism. Based at Fort William's UHI, West Highland College, Dan, Jordan and Ben are about to take their SPA assessments so it was a second day of  being quizzed on all things SPA. What if's? the how too's and most importantly, Keeping it simple, all loomed high on the agenda. The sun shone all day and out of the wind it felt like a summers cragging day. New snow is liberally sprinkled on the hills of Glencoe and up on the Ben. Reports are of good conditions continue in the gullies. But! If we get some new snow in these areas we will have to be very careful indeed as there will be two distinct layers in the snow pack and then the ridges and buttresses will be a safer bet. I say if we get snow as it is not certain just what will come our way over the next few days. Watch this space as HPL has plenty of winter courses still to run over the next few weeks. Scotland Outside is the place to be!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Snow Holing on Creag Meagaidh.

Over the last two days I have been out on expedition with the ATM third year degree students form UHI, School of Adventure Studies snow holing on Creag Meagaidh. I was working with three other instructors, Scott, Gillian, Julie and 16 students. Conditions it is fare to say were full on winter conditions. The imposing cliffs of Meagaidh still have ice on many of the classic lines and last nights freeze certainly will have improved things no end. We saw two parties climbing Stag Horn Direct today and a couple walking in very late!  We found some great snow holes to use last night and after some re shaping, extending and patching we had great little homes for the long night. A cold breezy night followed and we woke early to a near white out. It was the first experience of snow holing for all the students. I guess they were lucky as the rain stopped early on the first day and the colder conditions contributed to a stable snow pack. It didn't help that I split my pan of hot water all over my sleeping bag and ended up sleeping in cold puddle all night! Such is life....great fun, great work  and a great bunch of students.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Coaching Process, soft skills and fine beanies today.

Inside today, yet fine outside! But inside was more appropriate for the specific aims of the day. I was working with the second year Adventure Tourism Management degree students form UHI, West Highland College today. The aims of the day were very focused. How do we coach the specific skills of climbing? It was a cerebral day with much analysis  reviewing and discussion of each of the students sessions. I think everyone went away perhaps with more questions and certainly their open minds and sponge like brains were filling up with a variety of ways of running sessions. It was excellent to coach rather than instruct today. A raw day outside and getting colder. Better wrap up as tomorrow I am working on an over night snow holing expedition!  

Friday, 1 March 2013

Summits, ridges, rock, snow, sun and more sun in Glencoe.

I was back out with The Degree Students from the UHI ATM course today. I was working alongside Max Hunter in Glencoe. We headed up the NE East ridge of Stob Coire nan Lochan 1115m and descended Broad Gully. The aim was to concentrate on group management on steep broken ground, practice descending steep snow and continue looking at the wider picture of navigation. The sun shone all day yet the snow pack remained really bullet hard. A few folk were out climbing on Twisting Gully, SC Gully and Dorsal Arete. I now have this weekend off. After 11,000 m of ascent in eleven days my knees are asking for a brief rest. It has been one of the best periods of weather and conditions I can remember in 24 years of working in the mountains.