Wednesday 23 February 2011

Spring 2011 Outdoor training courses and guided trips with Kendal Mountaineering Services.

Spring is not far away and we are now looking beyond the winter season to our exciting range of options for outdoor skills training courses, activities and guided trips in 2011.

Kendal Mountaineering Services is offering a two day Mountain Navigation Skills training course over the weekend of April 9th & 10th 2011. There are 8 places at a cost of £75 per person for this non residential navigation skills training course to be run in in the Southern Lake District in the Kentmere area.

The Navigation Skills training course will be run by Iain Gallagher of Kendal Mountaineering Services and will focus on giving you as many skills as possible over the two day course to allow you to confidently venture into the hills with a map and compass in any conditions and be able to navigate around safely. All of our Mountain Navigation skills training courses are run to MLTE standard.

Day one will see us head in to the Skeggles Water/ Green quarter Fell area to begin to put theory in to practise.

Over the course of the day we will look at such techniques as

  1. Orientating the map
  2. Tick off features
  3. Pacing and timing (Naithsmiths rule)
  4. Identifying features from map to ground and vice versa
  5. Attack points
  6. Aiming off
  7. resections
  8. Walking on a bearing/back bearings
  9. following linear features
On Day two of this Mountain Navigation Skills Training Course, we will venture further & higher into the mountains to consolidate everything learned on day one and provide further training if necessary.

We will head on to the Kentmere Horseshoe for this day and whilst we seldom get the entire way around, clients do find this a very worthwhile extension of the skills provided on day one.

On both days, we will meet at 09:00 outside of Wilf's Cafe in Staveley prior to travelling to the day's destination.

Our Mountain Navigation skills training courses tend to be popular therefore we would advise early booking to secure a place and you can book by contacting us here.

In May 2011, we are offering our unique Cuillin Ridge traverse week staying in a super little cottage (from where the sunset shot is taken) near Carbost on Skye.

There are six places available on this trip which, for £375 per person, includes 7 nights in a self catering cottage and a guided traverse of the spectacular Cuillin ridge. The Traverse will be done on our flexible itinery of 3 or 4 days with the possibility of a rest day if the group requires this - or if the weather is bad. We return to the cottage each evening.

The opportunity to undertake a Cuillin Ridge Traverse is not one
which should be taken lightly. The days will be long, and physically & mentally demanding - but the rewards are worth it for the views and the exhilaration you will feel travelling along this - the nearest we have to an Alpine ridge here in the UK.

The prerequisites for joining this trip are as follows - you must be a fit, experienced hillgoer with prior experience of scrambling on ground
up to grade three and you must also have a head for hieghts/exposure.

Previous experience or rock climbing and abseiling is also desirable but not essential. Helmets & harnesses can be provided as part of the course fee and all other technical equipment is also included - but not personal equipment/clothing or footwear.

Please note that we strongly advise against the use of any type of approach shoe for this mountaineering challenge. A good stout pair of leather or fabric boots with a solid and cleated sole (eg Vibram or similar) should be worn for sure footed-ness and is what we recommend.

You will also be expected to work as part of a team with Iain on the ridge to help facilitate a successful Cuillin Ridge traverse for all. We also ask for teamwork back at the cottage too as all participants are asked to provide a communal meal for everyone else during one of the 7 nights - so either cooking or washing up will be called for.

No doubt we will call in to the famous Old Inn at Carbost for our final night meal and probably for an end of day beer on our returns from our daily forays on to the Cuillin Ridge.

This trip is about adventure, challenge, exhilaration and above all fun! If you want to book a place - contact us soon! Pictures from the last Cuillin Ridge traverse trip in May 2010 can be viewed here and the photos from last September here.

Winter skills and winter climbing. Coire An T Sneachda, Cairngorms. 21st & 22nd February 2011.

On Monday, Iain met up with pals Lee & Paul who had grabbed Iain's offer of free winter climbing tuition during their stay in the Aviemore area.

Lee was reportedly a grade II/III winter climber who was regularly seconded by his mate Paul and both wanted to take the opportunity to get on something harder and learn some new skills.

Unfortunately Monday started out somewhat different from the MWIS forecast of high cloud and moderate winds easing as the day progressed. Instead, as can be seen in the first photo, the trio experienced whiteout conditions and a strong steady wind blowing straight at us as we attempted to get into Sneachda making walking difficult and often, we couldn't see a thing!

On eventually arriving at the stretcher box in Sneachda, we could see quite a few parties milling around in the murk. One team set off to climb Terms of Endearment (III) on Aladdins Buttress and re-appeared fairly quickly - having discovered fresh windslab forming rapidly in the vicinity of their intended route.

Nothing could be seen of the cliffs above, although Iain knew that
the SAIS had indicated category 3 for north facing slopes that day and that there would be big cornices at the
head of the slopes. Climbing was off the menu for today!

Instead, Iain discovered that Paul had no experience of snowcraft nor had he tried ice axe braking before so, instead of just canning the day and walking out (it was only midday) he spent the afternoon demonstrating various techniques and the guys had a chance to practise all of them - including ice axe braking as seen in photo 2.

The wind did ease and eventually the cloud did clear so - the walk out was much better. The forecast for Tuesday had also changed from strong winds to a much more settled picture, so Iain decided climbing could be on the cards. Another MIC had recommended a little used buttress between Central Gully & Runnel Route as a useful venue for teaching climbing so Iain decided to check this out as a possbility.

On Tuesday, the avalanche category was still 3, so a buttress route was a safer option than one of the gullies. We were late setting off on this day and arrived into Sneachda to find all of the easier safer routes mobbed - apart from our buttress - so we went for it!

In photo 3 Paul leads off up the route whilst Lee, normally the man in front, belays from the first stance. The guys behind Lee had just returned to the buttress foot having soloed up Runnel Route to the cornices - you can make up your own minds about the wisdom of their actions!

Having moved up the first pitch placing running belays along the way, Paul then constructed a multi-point belay with Iain's help; and dug out a stance for Lee to join him.

Paul then brought Lee up and in this shot - having collected the remainder of the rack from Paul, Lee is now heading off up pitch two. In all, both guys got to lead two pitches each; although after pitch three, as time was getting on, Iain chose to organise anchors for the pair who wanted to be away not too late as they were driving all the way back to Birmingham that evening.

The whole route was buried under a layer of consolidated slab making finding "gear placements"
fairly hard work for all three of us. Still, it was better being on the buttress rather than in either gully. Both had hefty, impassable cornices at their heads and only a fool would have tried to get over them.

In the final photo in this post, Paul tops out on the route belayed by Lee who had enough rope to climb up above the edge, place a deadman and set up a bucket seat belay.

The final pitch was a real snow plod up the r/h side of the buttress but there was no cornice above, so whilst gear placements were poor on this pitch, it was, in reality, very easy, but at about the limit for the guys.

Both were very happy with how the day had gone and felt they had gained a lot of information from Iain which would help them with their future winter climbing aspirations.

We walked out in clearing conditions marvelling at the massive cornices overhanging the top of the slopes around the Jacob's Ladder area as we passed through the area. According to MWIS last night, the temperature was to rise to +6 - 8 degrees C and it would rain making the whole area a high avalanche category (4). Iain was meant to be out climbing again today but what's the point in sticking one's neck on the block! Thwarted by the weather again. The rest of the photographs from Lee & Paul's two days out with Iain can be viewed by clicking here.

Sunday 20 February 2011

Winter climbing on Ben Nevis and a winter mountaineering route in Glen Coe. February 17th & 19th 2011

After a well earned day off, Iain was out again - once more with people from UKClimbing - Terrance Glancy & Dan Pinkney

Terrance (left in photo 1) is Irish and currently staying in Fort William, Dan, however, had travelled from Oxfordshire to take part in the proceedings. Terrance was already known to Iain - having spent two days on the hill with him this winter at the end of January when he joined Iain & Mark Collie for a day on Dorsal Arete as well as a winter skills day in Coire An Lochan. Dan had previously done some summer rock climbing and had ice climbed in France. Both were keen to try something harder and so Iain chose to take them on to Ben Nevis to climb. As can be seen in photo 1, Thursday dawned perfect. It was calm, still and clear - a rare Ben Nevis day!

Having been able to gain access for the Allt A Mhuillin top car park, the team got off to a good start and were at the CIC hut shortly after 9am. We had stunning views all around and there appeared to be very few climbing parties moving up in to Coire Na Ciste so Iain was hopeful that his intended climb - Thompson's Route (IV'4) on No3 Gully Buttress might be free.

Photo 2 shows the view towards No3 Gully Buttress from Coire Na Ciste. The buttress is just right of centre and just left of No3 Gully (the obvious slot in sunlight). Two parties were heading for Green Gully and one for No3 although they too were heading for Thompson's, as it turned out.

This was not a worry for Iain as we were in no rush and as it was, the pair ahead climbed the route rapidly and disappeared up above the crux just as Iain set off to lead the first pitch.

The route was reasonably well iced (it is renowned for staying in condition late into the season and being in condition generally due to its high altitude)
although, as usual, was steeper than it looked from below.

Iain led all four pitches and here in shot 3 looks down on Terrance who is climbing ahead of Dan up the crux chimney. Iain employs parallel rope technique when working with two climbers as it allows each independence fron the other so they can climb at their own pace and remove running belays at liesure. It also means that should we need to abseil from the route for any reason that we have 2 x 50 metre ropes to do so with - allowing for a much faster escape than if we climbed in series using only 1 x 50M rope.

The conditions were good and so was the climbing; and we ascended rapidly. One of the problems with parallel rope technique is making sure that ropes don't get tangled and we managed to avoid this problem reasonably well.

In Photo 4, Terrance & Dan belay Iain who is heading up the final short pitch straight up to the plateau.

Both are well organised with the ropes lap coiled over their attachments to a multi-point belay with no tangles in sight anywhere and as with the previous three pitches, both are clear about what is to follow and who will move off first. It all went pretty much like clockwork!

Having reached the plateau we needed to get back down again into Coire Na Ciste. The usual descent is into No 4 Gully which, at its top, generally has a fairly steep but short slope to be negotiated.

Many people choose to solo back climb down this and most do without incident. If one was to "come off" here it is unlikely that you would tumble the length of the gully but of course with crampons on your feet and axes in your hands - injury is still possible, to someone else if not to you!

Because of this, Iain always takes time to dig out a bollard (there is nearly always one at the top of here anyway!) and set up a stacked abseil in which all clients are attached prior to Iain departing the abseil station first. Once at the bottom, he can hold the ends of the "ab" ropes to make sure no-one else falls.

In photo 5 Terrance descends first followed by Dan. We then pulled down the doubled rope and walked down the rest of the gully and out to the CIC Hut before packing up our kit. A grand day out and a great route.

On Friday we were meant to go on to Aonach Mor to climb an easy but long grade 2 route called Golden Oldy. However, on arriving at top of the gondola, we were warned that due to the high windspeeds - it was likely to shut early. This would have meant a long additional descent at the end of the day and the weather was already looking ominous. We decided to quit whilst we were ahead and have a rest day instead.

The final photo here is from Saturday and is taken in the middle of Zig Zag route (GII) on Gearr Aonach in Glen Coe. Whatever it looks like Dan is about to do to Terrance - well, he didn't! At this point we were descending towards distant Glen Coe having short roped up this way, on to Gearr Aonach and all the way up to the summit of Stob Coire An Lochan before about turning and short roping back down. The guys enjoyed the day and have a much better understanding of what short roping is about and that it is not "moving together" but something altogether much safer!

On our way up to the top, we did see four climbers on one 50M rope moving together up beyond Boomerang Gully with apparently not one running belay between them. This technique gets described as "death roping" or as Tom Patey put it "two or more roped climbers simultaneously falling to their deaths". Iain was glad to get out of sight of this and was somewhat relieved later when the party of four appeared on safer gound whilst we were on our descent.

Finally, it was back to the vehicles and then off to the Clachaig for more beer & food before saying goodbye to the lads who were very grateful for their two days of tuition. Today (Sunday) was meant to be a rest day for Iain but as you can see it hasn't been. Three more days of work start tomorrow, then Iain gets another two (shall we say - non climbing days!) before the annual OM Winter Skills course commences. Watch out for the next blog update!

You can view all of the pictures from Terrance & Dan's two days out with Iain here.

Sron Na Lairig, Glen Coe, Tuesday 15th February, 2011

After their success on Dorsal Arete the previous day, Neil, Paul & Dave were keen to attempt another grade two winter route to put their refreshed winter mountaineering skills into practice.

The original plan - had the weather been good, was to go and ascend Summit Gully on Stob Coire Nam Beithe - however, strong south easterlies were loading all NW facing slopes up to avalanche category 4 making Summit Gully a potentially dangerous proposition and so we decided on Sron Na Lairig - a little further up Glen Coe in the Lairig Eilde and photo 1 shows the ridge - facing us as we started the walk in.

Sron Na Lairig is a popular Grade 2 winter mountaineering route and as well as being a ridge making it safe from avalanches, it is also north facing and protected to a degree from south easterlies, by the E/W ridge on to which it joins.

We missed out the first part of the route and chose to join it slightly higher up where it becomes a ridge proper. As, during the previous day, Dave had spent the entire time being the middle man on the rope, today, he was propelled into the role of lead climber for the entire ridge - with the support and coaching of Iain.

We led up a few pitches anfd then found ourselves on easier ground and so, as in photo 2, Dave got to have a go at short roping Neil & Paul up to the next steep buttress. So far, the weather had been reasonable with clear skies although, as we climbed higher, we began to lose the shelter from the approaching ridge and the wind began to blast us with powder snow.

Photo 3 shows Dave belaying Neil & Paul up to the top of the second buttress - just before the arete.

Having gotten on to the top of here, one descends slightly and then re-ascends on to the narrow arete.

Here, belays were sparse, it had clouded in and the wind had picked up to a degree where communication was becoming difficult. It was clear by now to Iain, that the teaching part of the day was over and that he needed to lead the party over the next bit of ground as quickly as possible.

Photo 4 shows the view from the final belay. Neil and Paul are traversing the final part of the arete which finishes in a snowslope going straight up on to the main ridge.

This area was covered in deep windslab which appeared to be stable and so Iain was able to bring the party up swiftly to the final rock buttress above which loomed the main ridge - only about 20 feet away; and, also, a fair cornice.

Having left the team attached securely to a spike, Iain led up the final slope towards the cornice. The slab got deeper as the cornice reared up and Iain was forced to dig a progressively deeper slot as he climbed up to maintain contact with the neve underlying this snow.

The wind was blowing in an absolute maelstrom as Iain hacked through the cornice - at one point flailing with his adze as he couldn't open his eyes for powder snow. Still, he quickly got up and though and found to his amazement that there was hardly any wind on the main ridge - what was all that about??

Setting up a belay from some nearby rocks, Iain brought up the rest of the party (photo 5) and then after packing up the kit and some food and drink, we made our way down east to a shoulder and dropped
back into the head of the Lairig Eilde. An hour later, we were back at the vehicles. 15 minutes after that, we were tucking into our first pint at the Clachaig (surprise surprise!) followed by some of their excellent food - a great end to two fantastic winter mountaineering days with Kendal Mountaineering Services.

The trio went on two days later to traverse the Aonach Eagach from end to end in under six hours using the skills they had learnt from Iain who has suggested that next time they tackle some steeper ice routes. Green Gully?? Well, we'll see!

All of the photos from Neil, Paul and Dave's two day winter mountaineering course with Iain can be viewed here.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Dorsal Arete, Monday 14th February 2011.

After his unexpected rest day on Sunday, Iain was back at work with three paying clients Neil, Paul and Dave.

These three are part of a bunch of mates who make an annual pilgrimage to Scotland every February from Pontefract to partake in some winter climbing and Iain had worked with them the previous winter. This time, the goals for the guys were to learn techniques to climber harder grades and look at abseiling techniques if needing to "back off" a route and how to negotiate corniced exits.

Iain had decided that Dorsal Arete in Coire An Lochan, Glencoe, would be an ideal teaching venue for the party - interesting - as they tend to climb as a party of three. The weather forecast was not great and the avalanche risk considerable, but, as we discovered on the approach to Dorsal Arete, whilst there was a fair amount of fresh snow, there had been some consolidation overnight and after a few snow tests, Iain concluded that the risk was not so great after all.

Photo one shows the guys in Coire An Lochan with the foot of Dorsal Arete in the middle distance. In photo two, Paul (left) has just brought up Dave (middle) and Neil up to the first belay.

Managing two seconds whilst climbing is a tricky business. First of all you have to build a belay consisting of not less than two anchors and make sure there is enough room to "park" your seconds. Then you have to make sure that you park them in order so that you all leave the stance in that pre-arranged order and that the ropes are correctly "back coiled" and arranged so that they do not get tangled or slide off down the slope.

In photo three, we have had a change of leader and Neil is now in charge. Dave chose to be the middle man on this day although he was the lead climber for the whole of Sron Na Lairig the following day. At this point, we were fast approaching the crux section of Dorsal Arete - the knife edge just below the top of the route; and of course - all three of the party wanted to traverse it!

After the previous photo, Neil led one further pitch up to the start of the narrow crux and at this point Iain ceased to solo alongside everyone and put a top rope on Neil for the final two pitches as well as arranging running belays - one cannot expose paying clients to too much risk!

Iain climbed the arete and then brought Neil up to a secure belay just below the top of the route from which he could belay Dave and Paul. In photo four, Dave and paul have climbed the tricky part of the arete and are now stood on its snowy crest - an exposed place indeed and not a place for timid people as once the "runners" have been removed from the crest - there is no way of stopping seconds from taking a swing if they fall off here. So, after this very quick shot, Dave & Paul got across on to the final ramp and up to Neil where they were again, secured.

Finally, Dave and Paul "top out" on Dorsal Arete after Iain had belayed Neil up to the end of the route.

The snowy crux crest of the route can be seen behind they guys and at this point it had clouded in again and there was a bitter wind blowing across the top.

Our original plan had been to descend above the buttresses to the NW and back in to Coire an Lochan to avoid the avalanche risk, but everyone else had been descending Broad Gully without incident, so we decided to do likewise as it is the quickest way back in to the corrie.

After a "bum slide" down Broad Gully followed by a short one down in to the lower corrie, we were well on our way back to the vehicles in Glen Coe. Despite the forecast, the weather and conditions had been kind to us. Another great day out!

The next post will be about Iain's adventure with the team on Sron Na Lairig the following day. This will not be posted until next weekend by which time Iain will have had further adventures with two chaps on The Ben and possibly again in Glen Coe - look out for these! In the meantime, you can view the rest of the pictures taken on Monday and Tuesday here.

Green Gully, Ben Nevis. Saturday 12th February 2011.

Eve Bradley & Matt Haigh from UKCkimbing responded to Iain who was looking for people to go out climbing with. Both had prior experience of winter walking & climbing and wanted to spend their weekend with Iain pushing their grades a bit and Eve wanted to learn a more about winter climbing techniques.

Iain decided that some classic Ben Nevis action was required for the Saturday and chose to guide the pair up Green Gully (IV'3) and we couldn't have had a better day for it. Green Gully is a very popular route - getting a mention in Cold Climbs amongst other well known climbing books. It is usually a very busy route, but on this day, having followed a great procession of climbers up the Allt A Mhuillin, there was only one party of three ahead of us.

In this first shot, Eve and Matt approach Iain at the second stance after climbing the first ice pitch which was in fine condition and not too steep. The whole route was in great condition with fantastic snow ice into which Iains DMM Rebels sank with a resounding "thunk" all the way. Because of this, it felt like fantastic safe ice climbing, the entire route.

Anyway, having started the route sometime shortly after 10am we eventually found ourselves on the final pitch at around 4pm and in shot two Eve and Matt approach Iain who is belaying them from above the cornice at the top of the route.

We climbed green Gully in 5 pitches although the final pitch was only a half rope length from the rocks behind Matt. The belays were adequate although Iain found the thought of leaving his clients attached to a bit of 5 mil tat and two pegs at the top of pitch two a bit much; and so backed it up with an ice screw. A very helpful chap soloed past all of us and gave Iain some hints on what the belays were like up ahead and the day couldn't have gone better.

The weather during the day had been great. Very light winds and sunshine in amongst the cloud. Sometimes we we were in cloud on the route and sometimes we could see as far as the Great Glen.

Every now & then avalanches of spindrift poured down the gully like a waterfall but they were not large in volume. The party ahead were knocking a fair bit of ice debris down on us from time to time but this was not causing too much concern.

We topped out to a fantastic sunset over Loch Linnhe as seen in photo three. A great finale to a great route!

The quickest way to get back down The Ben was to descend No4 Gully and at the top Iain cleared out the obvious snow bollard and set up a stacked abseil from Matt & Eve to follow him down to the easier snow slopes below the banked out part at the top of the route.

In photo four Eve abseils down to us with a party of onlookers above - many of whom soloed down the steep part.

We very quickly put the rest of No 4 behind us and arrived down by the CIC Hut by 5:30 pm.

The final photo is one last view up to Coire Na Ciste at 5:30 pm as we packed up our axes & crampons in preparation for the long walk back to the North Face car park.

The sky was clear although the wind had picked up and the edge of the plateau was a maelstrom of whirling snow - as can be seen in No3 Gully. This would no doubt lead to increased loading of windslab and avalanche risk for climbers the following day.

On Sunday we were intending to climb on Dorsal Arete (II) in Glen Coe. The weather was poor and Eve was tired and wisely chose to admit it, so, we sacked the day - bad news for Matt but good news for Iain who found himself with another personal admin day and a chance to have a rest before starting his next block of work the following day.

Matt & Eve thoroughly enjoyed climbing this Ben Nevis Classic; and you can enjoy all of the photos Iain took by visiting our Recent Photos page.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

A Cairngorms winter mountaineering day. Feb 8th 2011

After the previous day's aborted attempt to get into Lochain, Tuesday
saw much better weather - we had a view for a start!

However, due to the previous day's snowfall and strong overnight westerlies, SAIS had predicted cat 4 (high avalanche risk) on all slopes from NE through to SE.

Iain still fancied a crack at Astroturfer although he thought it safer to walk in via the Faicaille A Coire An T Sneachda and descend into the route from above - if possible. The first photo shows the Faicaille Buttress and the Lochain crags from the Faicaille A Coire An T Sneachda. On our way along here, we experienced very strong westerlies and between the rock bits - bullet hard neve/ice. Both Iain & Sean found it somewhat demoralising - even if the views were good!

On arriving at the summit of Cairn Lochain, a quick wander over revealed that the cornice above Astroturfer was large. It was vertical for at least 5 foot and although frozen, Sean was not keen (neither was Iain). So, we elected to descend in to Coire An T sneachda if the Goat Track slope was safe which it was - hard snow, although no ice.

Sean was happy to be lowered by Iain as he back climbed down as seen in photo two. Iain did three different lowers overall - a scottish stomper, followed by a boot/axe belay and finally a stomper to get us both on to safer ground.

Snow conditions didn't seem to be so bad, but thereagain, we hadn't ventured on to any east facing slopes although Iain expected cross loading on north facing gullies.

Having arrived at the foot of the Goat Track slope at only 12:30 it seemed a travesty not to get a climb in. Iain offered to take Sean up Fingers Ridge - a pleasant IV'4 close to hand, then the face started to cloud in and it looked as though the weather was about to take a turn for the worse.

As Sean had not climbed Goat Track Gully, a fine little grade two route, Iain offered to guide him up this. Goat Track Gully had been almost totally stripped of its snow almost a week before and was still somewhat bare although the ice had survived making it a top end two if not in reality on the occasion, grade three! Certainly there were two steep ice pitches to contend with low down and then bullet hard ice and turf above.

Sean can be seen approaching the belay stance at the top of pitch three and thoroughly enjoyed the route considering it to be the hardest thing he had climbed to date. Previous routes he has seconded are the Vent (II/III) in Lochain and Red Gully (II/III) in Sneachda.

We topped out on the route at about 4pm and the wind died - four hours later than forecast to do so.

The sky was a leaden grey colour but visibility was fantastic. One could see over the whole plateau in all directions and as far south as Lochnagar. North and West Sutherland could be seen across the Moray Firth and Ben Wyvis could be seen beyond Inverness.

The fourth photo looks in that direction with Glen More far distance, Coire An T Sneachda middle and then Fingers Ridge and the top of Red Gully (left) in the foreground.

The plateau had been stripped of its covering of fresh snow by the wind, although deposits of slab were evident on lee slopes and quite deep in places. Otherwise the cover up there is bullet hard neve and ice and Iain was surprised to see many rock outcrops in evidence on the plateau indicating that whatever the cover - it is thin for the time of year.

Finally, Iain doesn't get many shots of himself doing stuff but here is one. At this point he was lowering Sean on a stomper belay towards the corrie floor. Goat track Gulley takes a line up through the crags just to Iain's left.

As the forecast for Wednesday was for the freezing level to rise above the Cairngorm summits leading to thaw conditions, avalanche category 4 again and blanket cloud/rain for the area, both decided to sack off going out on this day. Maybe they should have with Iain's MIC assessment coming up, but with this being 4 days on the trot for Iain he thinks it's a good excuse to have an extra day off and do some personal admin instead!

All of the pictures from this day out can be viewed here. Iain is next out with clients in the Fort William area for a week starting on Saturday. Regular blog posts are unlikely if he is busy, but you should find updates of what he has been doing posted at the link to the Kendal Mountaineering Services recent photos page above.

Monday 7 February 2011

West Coast Capers and Cairngorms foulness. Feb 5th - 7th, 2010

During last weekend, Iain had been invited by Fort William Based MIC Richard Bentley to observe and co-instruct on one of Richard's intro to Winter Mountaineering Courses.

Mike & Simon, two climbing buddies from London had travelled up and spent the Friday with Richard on Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis looking at the skills of short roping before the storm of that evening which saw the whole of the north beset by storm force winds, heavy rain and a rapid thaw.

Richard believed that climbing conditions in Coire An Lochan, Glen Coe, would, on the Saturday, be favourable for the pair to learn the techniques of winter climbing and that Dorsal Arete would be an ideal location - and it was, in every respect, perfect.

In the first photo, Richard (right) coaches Mike & Simon in the techniques of stance management. At first there were only us & one other party on the ridge and then suddenly a hord of guides and clients started to climb behind us and eventually caught us up.

There were people everywhere, ropes everywhere and instructors and clients climbing past each other. Fortunately our party managed to remain ahead of the throng and then two climbers soloed through the middle of everyone and proceeded on to the crux of the route (the sharp crest behind the climber in the blue jacket) and decided once there that they needed to put the rope on - in the most exposed position possible. Ludicrous tactics on a winter climb - putting themselves and everyone else at risk!

Fortunately, nothing happened ands the pair (now roped up in photo two) made it to the top without incident. Also, in photo two, Mike climbs up to the right of one of these chaps. The photo is taken from the top of Dorsal Arete.

Once at the top, we all grabbed a bite to eat and then Richard showed the pair a Stomper Belay before we all descended Broad Gully back in to Coire An Lochan and walked out. A significant amount of learning was achieved by Mike & Simon during this excellent intro to winter climbing day.

Richard decided that the most appropriate follow on to this day for the lads was a "coached" winter ascent of Ledge Route on Ben Nevis. At Grade two - the best mountaineering route on The Ben if not anywhere. Richard suggested that Iain might get more involved with coaching the lads on this day - something Iain was happy to do.

Initially the "guys pitched" two ropelengths up the route to easier ground where we changed to "short roping" for the rest of the ridge. At this point we were overhauled by legendary IFMGA guide and MIC Alan Kimber and his client. In photo three, Richard (left) and Alan stop for a natter. There will be no people who know Ben Nevis better than this pair - Alan was responsible for putting up a number of new winter climbs on Ben Nevis, starting more than 30 years ago and the previous day had just turned 65. And still guiding! Way to go Alan!

Shot four shows Simon (left) and Mike on Ledge Route at the famous "perched block". How much longer this feature will remain here is anyone's guess, but you won't want to be below when it goes!!

The pair rapidly ascended the rest of the route with Iain's coaching and we were all on the summit of Carn Dearg North by 1pm. Richard's plan for his clients was a descent of No Four Gully starting with a stomper belay and finishing with a short roping descent back in to Coire Na Ciste. However, we had already seen the remains of a massive avalanche that had come out of No Five Gully on our ascent to Ledge Route and at No Four, we discovered a massive overhanging cornice that had not collapsed. It was clearly a no go zone, so instead, we left the mountain via Red Burn and were back at the car by 3pm - ideal for the lads as they then had to drive to Glasgow to catch a train back to the big smoke.

It was a thoroughly excellent weekend and Iain is extremely grateful to Richard Bentley for allowing him to come along, observe; and work on this excellent intro to winter mountaineering course.

Iain was straight back out today - this time with Sean Watt who he had met via UKClimbing.

The plan was to head into Coire An Lochain in the Cairngorms although the weather was not what the MWIS forecast had predicted - at least the snow was not meant to reach east of
the A9. However, it had and clearly it had been snowing for some time already! We discovered vast accumulations of fresh snow lying over icy neve on our approach to Coire
An Lochain - in fact it was looking distinctly dodgy.

The dodgy-ness was borne out when on starting to traverse under Number One Buttress Iain released a 30M wide section of windslab which went plummeting into the gloom, so, no climbing (we had intended Astroturfer on No Two Buttress) but an about turn and get the hell out of here!

Sean, it turned out, had little experience of ice axe braking, so, on safer ground Iain spent a couple of hours coaching him in this skill in readiness for our day out tomorrow. Yet another day lost to poor winter conditions this year - making probably about 7 so far!

Pictures from the weekend can be viewed here and pictures from today here.

For information about the range of winter courses Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services can offer you please check out our website.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Winter fun in Scotland with Kendal Mountaineering Services.

Well, its been quite a while since Iain's last blog post as he has been busy. This photo - taken last Saturday shows Iain demonstrating ice axe braking during a five day winter skills and climbing programme he had arranged for a couple of clients in the Cairngorms.

Since January 10th, Iain has been in all sorts of places in Scotlands winter mountains. The weather wasn't too good for the first week and that was when the last blog post of Iain's excursion up Ben Nevis was posted. Thankfully, since then, it's largely been colder and conditions have been better - at least until this week!

Iain spent a day out with Ed Chard from Jagged Globe on Jan 16th during one of their introduction to Winter mountaineering courses. Ed is also the Development Officer for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors. Iain also had a fantastic day out on Creag Meagaidh solo and saw lots of people climbing winter routes such as North & South posts, Missed the Post and The Wand all in good nick at the time!

The second photo is also from Iain's last winter skills & climbing course and shows a client setting up a hoist for crevasse rescue. Obviously, there haven't been crevasses in the Cairngorms now for over 200 years but at Kendal Mountaineering Services - we pride ourselves on giving you what you want! All of our winter mountaineering climbing and winter skills courses are bespoke packages and these clients asked for such specialist techniques as abseiling past the knot and crevasse rescue skills - and Iain made sure they got it!

Photo three is one taken from Iain's day out and shows two climbers (Theo & Owen Samuels) climbing Missed The Post in Easy Gully on Creag Meagaidh. On this day, Iain ascended Easy Gully and then headed over to the summit of Creag Meagaidh before continuing around all of the tops to the west of Coire Adair.

Photo four shows Mark Hendry short roping up easy ground on to Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis the following weekend. The Association of Mountaineering Instructors had arranged a weekend workshop entitled working on The Ben & Aonach Mor.

This was run IFMGA guide Alan Kimber along with Mike Pescod and Richard Bentley and was aimed at giving an insight for MIC'S and MIC Trainees of where one could take
clients on both mountains when the popular routes are busy or when the weather is bad.This was a most useful workshop for all of us who attended.

The last photo shows two chaps from UKClimbing who had contacted Iain about a two day winter skills & climbing course. Terrance - on the left had moved to Scotland to climb for the winter and had had some epic experiences with one climber who was clearly less competent than he had let on so Terrance was clearly happy to take up the offer of tuition from an experienced Mountaineering Instructor and learn skills to be able to take over and lead on should he find himself in a similar situation again.

Mark (in blue) wanted to revisit winter skills and was quite happy to be a belay bunny when, on day two, Iain coached the pair in winter climbing techniques on Dorsal Arete in Glen Coe. On the day when this photo was taken, Iain had done a one day winter skills refresher in Coire An Lochan in Glen Coe. Over the two days, the pair picked a great deal of new skills from Iain and were very happy to have had the benefit of his experience.

So what now? Well, after a five day winter skills and climbing course here in the Cairngorms, Iain has two days off and an opportunity to catch up - hence the blog post. However - he is so busy that it may be a while before you get another. He will be spending the next 6 weeks going back & forth between the west coast and the Cirangorms. If you want to catch up with what Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services is getting up to here in Scotland - regular photographs and comments are being posted here - it's much quicker than putting up a blog post! We are now starting to receive bookings for the spring so have a look at our website for things you could be doing outdoors or if you want Iain to arrange a guided winter climb for you, a winter skills course or if you want to learn the techniques of winter climbing for yourselves - you can contact Iain here. See you soon.