Tuesday 24 January 2012

Winter Climbing and scrambling in West Coast Scotland with Kendal Mountaineering Services. January 2012.

Welcome to Kendal Mountaineering services first blog post of the 2012 season. Iain is up in Scotland and will be winter climbing and scrambling most of the time as well as running some winter skills courses for various people and organisations including The Cadets. The weather could be better, but there is snow and winter conditions to be had - here's a run down of what Iain has been up to so far.

The first photo shows Ken Applegate, an MIC Trainee from Fort William on Curved Ridge (III), Buchaille Etive Mor. Iain arrived west coast Scotland on Jan 17th and the next day went out with Ken to scout Curved Ridge near Glen Coe. Two reasons - to scout it out as a winter route for use with clients and a way to get hill fit again!

We had a good day out. The weather was initially mild but as we ascended towards Curved ridge the temperature dropped and snow patches began to appear. Photo one sees Ken on the lower part of Curved Ridge, Easy Gully (right) is full of snow with Rannoch Wall looming above. The snow however, was not hard until we reached the top of Curved Ridge and although we didn't use crampons until descending via Coire Na Tulaich, an axe was handy to help us get get to the summit safely. A pleasant but short day, Iain dropped Ken back at his van in Glen Coe at 2pm!!

Photo two was taken on Thursday by Iain in Coire Nam Beithe and boy - was it windy! Iain had met Ken & his mate Scott with the intention of climbing North Buttress on The Buchaille (IV'4) but as there was virtually no fresh snow on it we decided not to bother.

Iain decided to go for a walk into Coire Nam Beithe and solo Summit Gully (II). The weather was looking changeable with cloud around the summits and a North Westerly wind blowing. This turned into a full gale as Iain topped out on Stob Coire Nam Beithe.

Despite the gale & whiteout conditions, Iain continued around the skyline in the photo over Bidean Nam Bian and descended to the bealach in the left of the photo. Getting back down Coire Nam Beithe was interesting with the wind trying to blow Iain back uphill as well as picking up every bit of loose snow available and seemingly throwing it in his face - ow!

All in all, it was an interesting day out.

Photo three shows Scott & Ken (green helmet) after the three of us had climbed North Buttress (IV'4) on Buchaille Etive Mor on Friday.

Both Guys have booked MIC assessments this winter and wanted to get out and practise winter multi-pitch climbing/guiding two clients. Iain was happy to go along and help as well as be guided up five pitches of mixed climbing - rock and snow but not much ice!

Thee was a fair bit of discussion on stances about managing ropework and Iain hopes it was a useful day for the lads - he certainly enjoyed himself. North Buttress is good at it's grade of IV'4. Some of the pitches certainly felt harder and were steep.

Anyway, good climbing, good conditions and thanks Ken & Scott. Best of luck with those MIC assessments guys.

Saturday 21st January was extremely stormy, indeed, Iain was woken in the night by the wind outside the accommodation. Getting up at 07:00 confirmed that this was not to be a safe hill day so Iain settled in at the Ice Factor to catch up online.

He wasn't in there long before an old mate - Ash St John Claire arrived with two friends in tow and Iain was asked to join them on the ice climbing wall. Photo four shows Iain getting some climbing in on the wall - great fun but flippin hard on the forearms!

Ash had plans on Sunday to get out with the girls on Ben Nevis and asked Iain if he would like to join them. The avalanche forecast was considerable for east facing slopes and Iains concern was the strength of the westerly wind that would be encountered at the top of the proposed route - but!

The weather was good the next day, light wind and a little snow, blue skies & views on occasion - just right for tackling Ledge Route (II) on Ben Nevis.

Photo five shows (left to Right) Ash, Sarah & Emily enjoying some exposure on the arete on Ledge Route. Ledge route is a fantastic introduction to winter mountaineering on Ben Nevis - there being opportunities for teaching multi-pitch climbing in the lower part and short roping further up. The route was well banked out with snow throughout and was a truly pleasant climb. Iain & Ash coached the girls in the techniques of winter multi-pitch climbing and then, as he has his MIC Training coming up soon, Ash decided to practise short roping techniques as seen in this photo. Once at the top it was clear that descending via No4 Gully was not an option as the cornice overhung the gully head by ten feet!! So down via the Red Burn and back. A truly memorable day out.

The final photo in this blog post shows Kate Gilliver
who was out for a day with Iain on The Zig Zags - a fine little grade two winter scramble on the east side of Gearr Aonach in Glen Coe.

Kate has been a client of Iains on a number of occasions - having previously attended two of our Cairngorms based Winter Skills courses and a Navigation and snowholing course again, on The Cairngorms.

We ascended The Zig Zags only encountering snow on the upper half. On the way up we looked at basic scrambling techniques and pitched a few steeper sections. This photo was taken at the first steep step when turning back south from the initial ledge ascent. At the top Kate decided that she wanted to revisit techniques used for an abseil descent and so back down we went. Kate thoroughly enjoyed her day out with Iain from Kendal Mountaineering Services and learned a great deal of new techniques.

The weather was kind to us and Iain looks forward to seeing Kate again in March when a whole crowd of us head over to Knoydart for a weeks holiday.

So that's it for the mo folks. Iain will be back in action again on Thursday with Benn. Probably Coire An Lochan first up for some winter skills. Iain will try to keep all of you interested people updated when he can. Next blog post probably 30th January.