Thursday, 11 March 2010

Winter climbing, Cairngorms, Thursday March 4th.

Iain was back at Twin Ribs again on the Thursday knowing for definite that JMU were not going to be there, although he did have a sinking feeling at one point as there was a rather large group on our tail which thankfully disappeared up the Faicaille Ridge.

Iain had the venue to himself that day along with two returning clients - Chris Upton & Maria Norris, who were both keen to have a go at winter multi-pitch "trad" climbing.
Both were coming from good starting points. Both had been on the previous OM winter skills course and both had attended learning to lead scrambling courses with Iain, so they had experience of placing gear, ropework and the skills necessary to move on snow but not of building multi-attachment point belays.

In this photo, Chris belays Maria having followed Iain up the first pitch on a top rope - Iain having gone ahead and pre-placed running belays and given significant coaching on building belays at the bottom & top of this first pleasant little pitch on the right hand rib.

Further coaching on building belays followed. In the previous post, there is a photo of Phil attaching himself to multiple anchors using the rope and, as was discussed in that post, this photograph shows the method of using a dyneema sling to bring both anchors to a central attachment point.

Here the sling is clove hitched into each anchor and then brought to a central attachment point using an overhand knot. The belayer would then clip an HMS karabiner into this and use a clove hitch to attach their rope into this karabiner allowing for easy adjustment to get comfortable on the stance, prior to belaying the second climber.

Here, Maria tackles the second pitch
whilst belayed from below by Chris, but still top
roped by Iain - for additional safety.

Maria is placing running belays on this pitch
and is experiencing what it feels like to be on the
sharp end of leading a winter pitch - in doing so having to dig out iced & snowed up cracks in order to find a suitable anchor for a running belay - and remain in balance and avoid falling off whilst doing this!

Maria led the pitch in fine style and Iain was pleased with her progress. On reaching Iain's stance, Maria clipped in to a large sling around a block that Iain had prepared for her and then proceeded to belay Chris as he climbed up towards her.

Around this time, the weather began to deteriorate with snow clouds moving in over the Spey Valley.
Shortly after that, it clouded in at our location and began to snow, also the windspeed increased markedly and it grew significantly colder.


Chris led off up the next easier section of ground to the foot of the third pitch which Maria then climbed and here, she belays Chris who has just reached the top of that pitch.
By this time, both clients were feeling the effects of the drop in temperature so it was decided that we would look at the skills of retreating from a route.
Chris & Maria were very satisfied with what they had both learnt and achieved on this route and were happy to look at the skills of descending and then call it a day, although we only finished slightly earlier than the previous day.








Having discussed the various methods of retreating without leaving any equipment behind and what to leave if necessary, we all retreated by abseiling down a doubled rope from a piece of "abseil tat" arranged through a thread.
Maria abseils here using her belay plate backed up from below with a French prussik attached to her leg loop. Another method is to extend the belay plate away from the harness abseil loop with a short extender and then attach the prussik karabiner to the abseil loop. Either way, should Maria let go of the dead rope the prussik would automatically tighten around the dead rope - locking off the rope at the belay plate which would be holding Maria's weight.
For the next abseil we arranged a snow bollard (see last post, final picture) and having abseiled from that, we walked the remaining easy ground to the foot of the rib, packed up and returned to Coire Cas Car park in the sunlight and blue sky that had now returned.
This was the last day of work for Iain in this particular block of winter work and during that time he had seen a number of people further develop their skills and grow in their confidence to venture into the Scottish winter mountains.
We had some new clients and saw the return of existing clients to further their skills development with us. Both Maria & Phil had attended all three courses - winter skills, navigation & snowholing on the Cairngorm Plateau and winter climbing days; and could be said to have had a true winter mountaineering experience in every sense of the word!
We thank you for working with us and look forward to seeing you again.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Fantastic stuff and a great day out in the hills for all by the looks of it !