Friday 27 March 2015

Seven Nights Self Catering accommodation & four days guiding on Skye's spectacular Cuillin ridge for on £450 per person!

We have six places currently available on our Cuillin Ridge Traverse Trip due to run between September 5th & 12th 2015

If you are interested contact us now to book your place.
This is an excellent opportunity to experience the Cuillin Ridge of Skye. Participants often have differing objectives for attending, some may wish to bag the 11 munros on the Cuillin Ridge, others may want to complete a traverse of the Cuillin Ridge. Here, both can be done together.

Our package allows for considerable flexibility. We will have six full days of which four will involve being guided by Iain Gallagher, Mountaineering Instructor, with the ultimate aim of a complete traverse. There are also two rest days allowing us to be flexible and make the best of the weather when choosing our four Cuillin Ridge traverse days.

The price is only £450 per person and is excellent value for what is on offer. This package includes 7 nights self catering accommodation in a comfortable cottage, a guided traverse of the Cuillin Ridge of Skye from end to end done, if possible, over a maximum of 4 days. Please note that we cannot guarantee a complete ridge traverse as it is often weather dependant, but we will do our best!

As the accommodation is not too distant from the Cuillins, we make daily forays into the ridge allowing us to complete the traverse section by section but spending each night in a comfortable bed and getting a good meal at the end of each day - this itinery has been proven to work well. There are a maximum of six places available on these Cuillin Ridge traverse trips and all of these places are allocated on the basis of deposits received. First come, first served!
To achieve success on this trip, you need to be a fit and active hillgoer, able to carry all of your own personal equipment for each day out on the mountains and you will be expected to carry additional climbing equipment such as ropes as well.

Everyone must be equipped with a helmet & harness which can be provided as part of the course fee. You will need plenty of liquid each day and high energy food is advisable.

Interested people also need to be aware this is a committing and sustained 13km alpine style ridge traverse often on scrambling ground of grade one standard but also frequently with sections of grade two & three ground where roping up is essential. There are also sections of rock climbing such as the Thearlaich Dubh Gap (severe) and the Inaccessible Pinnacle (an optional but polished Diff) and a number of abseils to be made. Therefore previous experience of scrambling is a must and some previous experience of ropework, preferential. Ideally, you should have a good head for heights and be comfortable with a degree of exposure.

The Cuilllin Ridge is a challenge, but don't be put off; if you have the pre-requisites listed here, then you should be fine.

The Cuillin Ridge Traverse is definitely the best mountaineering expedition of its type in the UK and Kendal Mountaineering Services have a great track record in guiding on this ridge. We cannot guarantee your success in completing the full traverse, only the weather & your ability will allow us to achieve this, but with his help and your commitment to working together as part of a team, success is a real possibility.

With regards personal equipment for the ridge traverse; people must have good quality foul weather kit and bring plenty of warm clothing plus hats & gloves. On Skye, even in September it can be wet or cold (or both on occasion). On a number of previous occasions, in May - we have even had snow to deal with!

Due to the nature of the terrain, please do not come expecting to traverse the ridge in approach shoes! They are totally inappropriate for this traverse; stout leather or fabric boots with good ankle support, a solid and preferably cleated Vibram sole are the order of the day for this mountaineering journey.

People have ignored Iain's advice in the past and then experienced difficulties on the ridge - slowing down progress for all concerned.

If you would like advice about equipment, additional information about the Cuilllin Ridge or would like to book a place on one of these fantastic opportunities, then please contact us and we will be happy to help.

Photographs from top to bottom are:

Looking South along the Cuillin Ridge From Bruach Na Frithe

The Southernmost part of the Cuillin Ridge from the top of the Great Stone Chute

Reaching the top of the Inaccessible Pinnacle

Loch Coruisk From Sgurr A Ghreadaidh

Sunset over Loch Bracadale and McLeods Tables from our accommodation

Read about our last trip to the Cuillin Ridge of Skye in 2014 on our blog here.

Join in the conversation about this trip on the Facebook Event Page here.

We look forward to working with you and sharing your adventure on Skye in September!

Want to learn to read a map and navigate safely in the Mountains? Book on to one of our courses in 2015!

Two Day Map reading & Navigation Skills Training Courses - for only £80 per person!!

Bookings are getting off to a good start for our 2015 Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Courses in The Lake District.

Our second 2 day weekend course will be running on April 25th & 26th and we already have six confirmed persons attending.

That means there are still four places available at only £80 for the two day course! So, grab a bargain, join us on April 25th & 26th and be prepared early to enjoy a great summer hill-walking in the UK in confidence whilst using the navigation skills you've learnt with us!

Our Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Courses in The Lale District represent truly fantastic value. For only £80 per person you get two days of tuition and maps are also provided. All you need to do is to turn up with a compass (we recommend the Silva Type 4 expedition model), everything you would need for two days walking out in the mountains - and plenty of enthusiasm to learn new skills!

Our Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Courses are run in one of the Lake Districts most peaceful, pleasant and yet most accessible places.

Our meeting point is for these courses outside of Wilfs Cafe in Staveley which is very close to the A591 - one of the main roads into the southern part of The Lake District and very close to Kendal, Windermere and Ambleside. Accommodation options are considerable locally and range from reasonably priced hotels & guest houses through to nearby campsites.

Book a Navigation Skills Training Course with us and we will help you find accommodation of your choice in the area!

Each day, we start at 9am and finish back at Staveley by 5pm giving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the hospitality that the area has to offer.

Please note that if you do wish to buy provisions for your days out on the hill with us or would just like to grab a takeaway coffee before starting your course, then Staveley Post Office directly opposite the Entrance to Mill Yard (where Wilfs is located) offers far better value than any other cafe of delicatessen in the locality and is open from 07:00 - even on Sunday! Sandwiches can be made to order and pre-ordered by calling 01539 822339.

Here's why you should book on to one of our fantastic value Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Courses? You'll have a great time in some of the areas most stunning surroundings, learn new skills which will give you the confidence to venture further into the areas mountains and have a great deal of fun.

These courses are suitable for anyone wishing to learn more about Map Reading & Navigation Skills - no matter what you ability might be and are great fun for couples who want to get more out of hill walking and individuals who may be aspiring to undertake Mountain Walking Leader Awards - in which case our courses are excellent as an ML Refresher prior to going for assessment or re-assessment.

We currently have only four places remaining on the April weekend and eight on the May course and the pair already booked to to that weekend will be very happy to have at least another two join them.

We do require a minimum of four persons per weekend course in order for them to run and have a number of these courses on offer throughout 2015. Details of course dates can be found by visiting the website here.

For anyone wishing to book on one of our Map Reading & Navigation Skills Training Courses please contact us here. We look forward to working with you.

Book your Easter Holiday Outdoor Activity Sessions in The lake District with us this Easter in 2015!

The Easter Holidays have begun and you have decided to visit The Lake District with your family. There are a great many different activities you can do here - but where do you start?

The areas is famous for its Hill Walking, Rock Climbing, Lakes and Rivers and with Kendal Mountaineering Services, you and your family can enjoy adventures in all of these places.

Take Hill Walking and scrambling for example - like the people in the photo who are tackling one one the Lake Districts famous scrambles - Sharp Edge en route to the summit of Blencathra which is one of The Lake Districts best known mountains.

We know the best routes up all of the Lake District Mountains so if you fancy being guided up the mountain of your choice such as Scafell Pike, Helvellyn, Skiddaw or Great Gable contact us to arrange your guided hill walking adventure. Prices start at just £75.00 each for two persons with your own Hill Walking guide for a full (eight hour) day out in the mountains.

Fancy trying a wet activity this Easter Holiday? Do you like the thought of seeing the great views from one of the areas many lakes rather than just looking from the shore? Then how about spending a half day or even a full day out with us in a Canadian Canoe or in your very own Kayak?

Canadian Canoeing - pictured right, is great fun for all the family and you can all have just as much much as these children were having seen here in photo two - warmly kitted out in wet suits and buoyancy aids to keep you afloat if you want to jump into the Lake!

In one of our Lake District Kayaking Sessions - you'll get your very own boat to paddle if you don't want to share with someone else, so that you can have that freedom to go where you want - provided you stay in sight & sound our our instructors for safety!

Kayaks are great fun on rivers where they are more manoeuvrable and if you've proved yourself capable of handling one of these on flat water then we'll take you on an easy section of moving water just to gain the experience!

Prices for Kayaking or Open Canoeing sessions in The Lake District start at £45 per person for a four hour half day session. These include the provision of wets suits, buoyancy aids, cagoules, Canoes or Kayaks and paddles.

Perhaps you fancy the idea of Ghyll Scrambling or Canyoning in The Lake District on your visit this Easter? There are loads of fantastic mountain streams that you can get in and walk up whilst being guided by our instructors.

We provide you with wet suits, cagoules, walking boots, helmets & harnesses for your Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning Sessions with us to keep you comfortable as you make your way upstream swimming through pools and climbing up waterfalls - roped if necessary to keep you safe. These sessions are great family fun for children & adults alike and if you fancy something more adventurous and challenging then try one of our canyoning descents where we descend a gorge - abseiling or jumping down waterfalls into the deep pools below.

Our half day (four hour) Ghyll Scrambling & Canyoning Sessions start at £45 per person and are a great way  to spend part of a day during your Easter Holiday visit to The Lake District.

If you fancy trying something different this Easter - then let us take you Caving in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. If you are staying in The Lake District then it's closer than you think - being a mere half hour drive from Kendal or 40 minutes from Windermere.

We will provide you with caving oversuits, wellington boots and helmets with caving lamps - all you need is old clothing, some thick socks and a change of underwear and towels - just in case you get wet!

We will introduce you to the delights of Caving underground in places such as Long Churns with it's famous (or infamous) squeeze called The Cheese Press and Babtistry Crawl with its fantastic Limestone formations. You can try out climbing the waterfall at Doctor Bannister's Washbasin and if you don't like small spaces then there are always bigger passageways around the tight sections.

Prices start at £45 for a half day (4 hour) caving session with us or £75 for a full eight hour day underground.

And finally, The Lake District is famous for its crags making it a great place to get out rock climbing this Easter. Not tried it before? then come along to one of our Introductory Climbing Sessions where you will be kitted up with a helmet & harness and attached to a climbing rope before starting to climb on real rock.

All of these sessions are 100% safe - you cannot fall and our instructors will be on hand to make sure that you are kept safe throughout a climbing session where you will be able to challenge your fear of heights and gain new skills and confidence - great for children & adults alike! Our half day introductory climbing sessions start at a mere £45 per person for a full four hours climbing and with all of our Adventure Activities in The Lake District this Easter, the more of you come, the cheaper it will be.

Contact us at Kendal Mountaineering Services to arrange your Adventure Activities in The Lake District this Easter - we look forward to working with you.

Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme. Silver Training Expedition. Ullswater. March 21st & 22nd 2015.

Last weekend, Iain assisted with the running of a Silver Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme practice expedition for pupils from the Manchester Grammar School.

There were twelve pupils who were all using this training course in order to be able to be able to complete the D of E Silver Award Assessment which they will be undertaking on the River Wye in Herefordshire at some point in July.

Iain was brought in to assist teaching these pupils Canadian Canoeing skills during their weekend here in The Lake District.

Photo one sees Iain's group of six lads all looking at the map trying to work out where we are. Map Reading and Navigation Skills Training was part of the weekend course as the next day, the group was expected to navigation and paddle the entire length of Ullswater from south west to east!

Photo two sees Iain's group some time later. We had spent several hours in the morning practising Canadian Canoeing Skills such as forward paddling, stopping, reversing, turning and moving sideways - just such skills that we will teach you on your own Course when you book on a Canadian Canoeing Session  in The Lake District with us!

Journeying  is always a part of our Canadian Canoeing Sessions too. Here, we had paddled part way up and across the Lake to a peaceful spot known as Silver Bay where the group were required to prepare their own lunch. As you can see it was a nice day, but when that sun went behind a cloud it was chilly - despite the lack of snow visible in these photos there was still plenty high up on the mountains and still a feeling that winter was not quite over!

Photo three sees Iains group rafted up briefly whilst we all decided where to go next. After lunch at Silver Bay, the boys wanted to go and explore the south end of the Lake where there are several islands and we had just visited Norfolk Island which is the largest island on Ullswater.

A great thing about Canadian Canoeing is that they are ideal for going on a journey. Two or three people can get into one - complete with lunch and everything else that will be needed for a day out on the water. They are also easy to manoeuvre and very stable - so ideal for a family with children and great as a way of exploring any of the Lake Districts lakes!

Sometimes however, it all goes wrong when you are canoeing; and people end up falling in the water and getting wet. If you are lucky and haven't tipped your canoe over, with a bit of tuition from one of our instructors - we'll show you have to get back in again.

It is of course much easier if you are part of a group of canoeists and particularly important if you've fallen out and capsized the canoe too. Getting back into a water filled canoe is not easy as they are very unstable and even with a baling device will take an age to empty. Other group members can, on the other hand, empty the boat out for you; and then help you get back in! This is what is happening in photo four and it is just as well that others in the group were there to help - despite that sunshine it wasn't that warm and the lake was freezing!

Our final photograph from this post about a weekend Canadian Canoeing Skills Training Course is typical of many Canadian Canoeing days out. A peaceful view of one of the Lake District's prettiest lakes! This was taken on Sunday by Iain whose job is was to "shadow" the group of twelve lads as they made their way, unsupported along the length of Ullswater from Glenridding to Pooley Bridge. The day was calm and warmer than the previous day. The views were stunning!

As Iain made his way along an uncongested Ullswater meeting only the occasional Lake Steamer en route, he could only laugh at the steady stream of traffic making it's way along the distant lakeshore road!

This was definitely the place to be today!

Canadian Canoeing is a perfect activity for for families visiting The Lake District over the Easter Weekend; or indeed at any other time. It is a great way of journeying and getting to places you can only dream of otherwise. You can also use the opprtunity to learn skills for paddling a Canadian Canoe to go off and journey along a lake or river on your own!

No-one should venture out on to a lake or river in either a Canadian Canoe or Kayak without learning the skills in how to handle one of these craft first and without a qualified instructor to look after them. Our prices start at £45 per person for a half day (four hour session) for a minimum of two persons. Book your Canadian Canoeing Session with us and enjoy a great experience on any of the Lake District's lakes. We look forward to working with you!

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Scrambling Courses in The Lake District. Sunday 8th March 2015.

It's a little over a week since Iain was last out in the mountains; and that was in The Cairngorms - subject of our last Blog Post.

Iain received a call from Darren Willis last Friday asking if there was any chance of some more Scrambling Skills Training over the weekend. The forecsat was looking good for Sunday, so Iain agreed to meet Darren; and who-ever else came along with him for some more coaching.

In photo one, Darren sets off up the initial pitch of the East Rib of Tarn Crag (grade two). Sammy, who had also come along for the day is belaying as this can be quite a serious pitch for a novice scrambler - not that Darren is a novice anymore - as will become apparent if you read on!

Sammy also works for Darren who had bought her the shiny brand new Trango S Evo Boots she is wearing - so that she had the apropriate footwear for this day. That gets him employer of the year award in our eyes, but apparently, Sammy has earned those boots - that's really nice Darren!

Iain first met Darren at the last Kendal Mountain Festival when the two arranged to discuss his aspirations. Darren runs a successful business in South Lakes and having built it up over a number of years, he now wants to get back to persuing some of the pastimes he enjoys such as Mountaineering & Climbing.

Our first bit of work together was in late last December when Darren turned up with mate Jason to spend some time learning basic Scrambling Skills with Iain one Sunday. You can read about that day out here.

Iain quickly realised that Darren had a natural aptitude for scrambling & climbing; and as he had already done a Winter Skills Course the previous season, Iain invited Darren to join him for our recent Scottish Winter Week that was based in Glen Coe. As well as attending another Winter Skills Course as a refresher, Iain pushed Darren on to the sharp end getting him to look after two others on the Winter Mountaineering Route - The Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach and also the next day, when Darren led throughout on the popular training winter climb of Dorsal Arete in Coire An Lochan.

Darren displayed a high level of competence and good judgement throughout these courses. Good stuff!

Obviously, if a customer gets in touch and says "Can I have some more training please?" we are not going to turn them down! Practice makes perfect as the saying goes!

As we had already spent a day up here on the easier lower toe of Tarn Crag, it was time to look at Darren's capabilities on harder grade stuff. With Iain's coaching, Darren did a great job of climbing The East Rib Safely using appropriate belay and anchor placement techniques where necessary. Photo three sees him using a direct belay to protect Sammy as she moves up a short steep section of scrambling ground.

It felt odd to be scrambling so early in the season - but we are now officially in Spring! Whilst on Tarn crag, we were swept by a cold westerly wind and so it was nice to get up the route and into a shetered grassy bay where we could enjoy some lunch as the sun finally appeared to warm us through.

Iains plan for the afternoon was that we should follow The East Rib with the lake District classic Scrambler's tick - Jack's Rake on Pavey Ark. In photo four Darren can be seen midway up the first section of the route - short roping Sammy.

The first section of Jack's Rake looks easy enough from below to a novice. However, when you get to he foot of the route it rears up at an altogether much steeper angle and as you climb it - it get steeper! Not only that but whilst you start off scrambling upwards enclosed in what seems like a friendly groove, eventually this groove ends leaving some steep and exposed scrambling with a drop to the left which is several hundred feet high!

Just below that point, Darren wisely chose to change his plan from short roping to pitching - that is to say he left Sammy securely attached to a rock spike and then soloed up the steep upper section to safe ground above where he set up a direct belay to safeguard Sammy's ascent of that section.

Had there been a real chance of a slip on this sction turning into something more serious, Darren would have asked Sammy to put him on belay (as in the first photo of this post) whilst he climbed and protected himself by placing running belays (runners) along the way. However, having seen Darren perform on harder routes in Scotland, Iain did think that the latter plan was unnecessary.

Photo five sees Darren & Sammy above all real difficulties and almost at the end of Jack's Rake. It was worth getting to here just to enjoy that view behind!

Iain would like to remind readers of this post that Jack's Rake is no place for hill walkers. It is serious - particularly at the top of the first section and is undergraded at grade one in his view. There have been a number of deaths on here in recent years and no wonder given some of the people you'll see on the route in Summer! It is not a place for people in T shirts, shorts and training shoes without helmets or stout walking boots with cleated soles! Today, just such a pair started to follow us up the lower part of the route before wisely turning back. However, we were overtaken by an idiot who brought his Border Collie with him and then proceeded to haul it up the bad step at Crescent Climb's juncture with Jack's Rake - pulling it up by the lead/neck collar the animal was wearing!!

Had the lead or collar snapped, then the dog would have plummeted back down the step and in all probability continued to fall down the top of Crescent Climb all the way to the foot of the cliffs several hundred feet below! Had there been any scramblers or climbers in the way.....well, one can only guess at the outcome!

We finished off Jack's Rake climbing a series of short steps and leftwards traverses. Eventually, we arrived at the top - just beyond the prominent pinnacle, next to the wall that marks the end of the route.

Here, we found ourselves back in the wind which had moved to a more northerly direction (we had been beautifally sheltered on Jack's Rake) and now, it was quite chilly. The views in every direction were absolutely fantastic! We descended the North Rake of Pavey Ark to find a short secion banked out with the remains of the winter snows (photo six). Sammy got a chance to practice some Winter Skills here - maybe she will join us on one of next Winter Courses to learn more!

At the foot of the North Rake, one arrives at Bright Beck - quite a large stream running out of the valley between Pavey Ark and Sergeant Man - a fantastic place for Summer wild camping!

We enjoyed a great walk back out to Stickle Tarn and then down steeply to the New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and the Sticklebarn Car Park.

It had been another perfect day in the mountains with Sammy & Darren getting to the top by one of the best means of doing so.

Our Scrambling Courses in The Lake District cost between £60 & £80 per person per day and this includes the provison of helmets, harnesses, ropes, scrambling rack and tuition by an experienced local Mountaineering Instructor. Book a course with us and learn the skills to go off and enjoy this great pastime safely for yourselves! Contact us here for details, we look forward to working with you.

Monday 9 March 2015

Scottish Winter Adventures continued. February 20th - 27th 2015.

By Iain, in his own words.

After the fantastic day out on Tower Face of the Comb (the last Blog Report), I was invited out the next day to join the lads for another hard climb. Bearing in mind we had just had a day that for me started at 04:15 and finished at 22:30, I declined the offer to join Dave, John & John Orr at 06:00 the following day; and a wise move it was for me. I've got to accept I'm no spring chicken anymore!

Saturday dawned good and Dave, John and John went off to Route One on Carn Dearg Buttress and enjoyed another good climbing day. We met up that evening in Fort William to enjoy a good curry and discuss plans for the next few days. Sunday was looking rubbish but Monday was looking better so Minus Two Gully V'5 was suggested for then. Being a "Ben classic", I told the lads I was certainly up for this. It was agreed to take Sunday off and check the MWIS forecast for Monday making plans that evening for the morrow.

As it was, the MWIS forecast for the Western Highlands changed in the intervening 24 hours and The Ben was now due to be blasted by a southerly wind gusting up to 80mph. Topping out on the NE Buttress in that would have been serious - not to mention the consequent spindrift avalanches that would have been cascading down the route. By Sunday afternoon, that plan had been wisely cancelled - as disappointing as it was!

The decision was made to head east to The Cairngorms; and by 18:30 that evening, I was on my way - in lashing rain & sleet. As I climbed higher in the Mondeo on the A86, the wet stuff became whiter and by the time I reached Aberader I had been driving on an inch of snow for six miles on dipped headlights at 40mph. The situation was to remain thus pretty much all the way to Aviemore - but I got there!

Dave & John arrived about an hour later and we met up at The Winking Owl for a beer and a chat about the next days plans. Climbing it was to be - provided we could get into the Northern Corries. Over here, the weather was predicted to be a little better!

Photo one gives you a pretty good idea of what the weather was like the next day! This was in Aviemore - mid morning, after we had gotten up early, driven out to the snow gate which was closed and sat for an hour before being told it would remain shut all day. We hatched a plan instead to go "navving" in the afternoon as the lads map reading & navigation skills would be assessed during the guides winter induction.

Photo two sees John & Dave in the afternoon out in the wilds of Strath Nethy beyond Ryvoan Pass after we had walked in from the back of Glenmore Lodge. I spent the afternoon setting the lads the challenge of finding grid references where one knew where he had to go and the other had to follow - typical ML standard stuff then! I had been here almost exactly the same time last year with my own clients - in almost exactly the same weather!

We had a great afternoon during which it blew like mad and eventually turned into a blizzard. Whichever way we looked at it - it wasn't a day to try to battle into The Gorms to do a route. No doubt some nutters would have tried though!

Tuesday was looking a worse forecast than Monday - severe upland gales! All three of us agreed to take the day off; and for me, it was an opportunity to visit friends living locally and meet up for coffee & cake with a past client. We weren't getting a lot of climbing done!

Wednesday was a much better forecast and we left  the Cas car park early on our walk in to Coire An Lochain. Blue skies and no wind - unbelievable really!

An hour later we were making our way across the head of the corrie under No1 Buttress with the intention of heading across to No 3 (Ewen Buttress) only to find that yesterday's wind had loaded the whole slope with unstable slab. No 1 Buttress was just above and so the lads decided to have a go at a VII'8 - The Ventricle. This is graded E1 as a summer climb.

Now, I have to say right from the outset - I had considerable reservations about this - climbing V'4 on a good day! This route looked well beyond my capabilities. 15 minutes after this photo was taken, Dave was at the foot of a ramp which offered neither pick nor gear placements and he wasn't happy. Shortly afterwards, he decided to "rap" (abseil) off. Personally, I wasn't too disappointed.

We exited via the gully seen in photo three (The Vent II/III). Today it was definitely a good III not being particularly banked out and containing a couple of short, steep ice pitches.

John headed off ahead to find the abseil point from the top of Ewen Buttress in order to get down to the start of the next route the lads had in mind leaving Dave to belay me up the ice pitches in The Vent.

Photo four was taken looking down on Dave who is just above the narrow and most technical section of The Vent. Loch Morlich and Stathspey can be seen in the distance.

Five minutes later, Dave joined me at the top and we went off to find John who was preparing an abseil above an abyss dropping into Y Gully. It looked a long way down!
It is suprising how far two 60m ropes will get you on an abseil though - 60m is almost 200 feet of rope and as it was - it was more than enough to allow us all to touch down on the snow slope under the vertical west side of Ewen Buttress. The route the lads wanted to climb was just up around the corner - Overseer Direct V'6 (photo five) In this photo John is busy dealing with the crux - a steep book corner whilst Dave belays from just below.

We waited for over an hour whilst John led on up the route - thats the thing with these hard mixed climbs as I discovered this week. Lots of hanging around and a belay jacket is definitely required - and I don't own one! Fortunately for me, Dave had recently bought a new belay jacket so I was able to use his old Patagonia DAS Parka - if I decide to do more of this sort of stuff then this will be the jacket to get!

Eventually, John made it to the top of The Overseer; and Dave set off with me following a respectable distance. Once he was over the crux, I attempted to follow. Out of balance, without a high pick placement and generally wondering how the hell the lads had gotten up this steep corner, a pick suddenly ripped and I was off!

For me that was it. I'd felt truly out of my depth for most of the day so I shouted up to John to lower me down. Disappointing - yes, but at the same time, a certain sense of relief as I untied and then soloed across the deep steep snow in Y Gully Left Branch and made my way up what had looked like an easy way out of the right branch. Things always look easier from below, but as I headed up towards the cornice, the snow got steeper and crappier and it was definitely not the place to slip. Take your time! a voice in my head said; shortly afterwards, I topped out safely.

By the time I got back to the head of Ewen Buttress, the weather had changed and a gale was threatening to lift up the rucksacks was had anchored with a great stone on a col at the top of the buttress.

The lads soon joined me and we packed up and headed west past No 4 Buttress- intending to navigate around to the ridge beyond Twin Burns. It was a good chance for them to practice pacing & walking on a bearing in whiteout conditions and after an hour or so, we were walking across the foot of Coire An Lochain (photo six) noting the rising temperature. Overnight, the temperature was forecast to rise briefly from minus 5 to plus 4 degrees centigrade - bizzare or what!

Thursday found Dave & I heading in to Coire An Sneachda at the somewhat later time of 8am. This was to be that last day of climbing before Dave & John had a rest day on Friday before meeting the guides team prior to the start of their "Winter Induction" on Saturday.

John had already set off with another BMG candidate - Gareth. Dave & I walked in to find the pair already approaching The Seam IV'5 on Fiacaille Buttress which had been our intended start for the day. Not to worry - Dave was quite happy just to get mileage in and he set off up Invernookie III'4 - a fine little route at the grade. Last time I was here was in 2011 guiding up one of my own clients in preparation for my MIC Assessment. The chap being guided on that occasion went on to summit Everest the following summer!

Photo seven sees Dave above the crux on Invernookie - about to head up into the corner before exiting right across the slab into the snowed up groove which was trickier than it looked. The top of the groove is the top of the route!

About another 20 minutes later and we were both "rapping" back in with Dave's 60 metre ropes demonstrating their true worth once again. (photo eight) John & Gareth can be seen below Dave just under the crux on Invernookie - up which they had followed us after completing The Seam.

Dave's two 60m ropes were sufficient for us to reach the foot of The Seam where he rigged a bottom anchor. Once I had I joined him and clipped on with a cowstail, we set about pulling down the ropes and then tying back on and flaking out the ropes so that they would run ok.

Somehow it looked like a bit of a tangle but we were pretty sure, after some further untying/retying, that all was fine; and so it proved to be as Dave climbed steadily up the route and the rope followed without a problem.

After abour 45 minutes of so of steady climbing, Dave was up and eventually after pulling the ropes tight, shouted for me to follow.

The Seam is IV'technical 5 which makes it a sustained route for the grade but in actual fact it is a really pleasant route. One starts up easy frozen turf and rock before reaching some fixed tat at the start of the buttress proper. An icy groove is followed upwards which deepens into a chimney with an overhang above and the route exiting to the left of this up a steep narrow chimney.

There was plenty of ice in the back of the route and lots of hooks and cracks for torqueing if needed - and also lots of small horizontal ledges for standing on. There were also lots of great gear placements - really handy for a leader! It felt like fine safe climbing, with everything there that you needed - just when you needed it. I'd not climbed The Seam before but I do look forward to leading it the next time. In photo nine I am looking up to Dave from just above the crux with easier climbing ahead.

The time was around 14:30 when I topped out. John & Gareth had finished Invernookie some time earlier and had rapped back in to have a go at a route that another pair had been on earlier - Rampant IV'5.

I felt that it was getting a bit late to start another route and told Dave I happy to call it a day if he was - and he agreed. With a strong westerly wind blasting the back of the Fiacaille Ridge, we had chosen the most sheltered location that we could have to climb and had enjoyed good conditions. However, getting from the buttress along the ridge to the col leading back in to Sneachda (photo ten) meant wrapping up well and donning ski googles in order to see. Once we dropped below the col into Coire an't Sneachda, we were magically sheltered again.

The final photograph sees Dave walking out back towards the car park at Coire Cas as the sun came out. It had been a good day and I'm glad that I stuck around to spend an extra day out with these two very talented mountaineers who are about to embark on a career where they will be passing on their enthusiasm for all things mountaineering to others. Although  I only got to climb with them on three days out of seven, I climbed on harder routes than I normally would and that has certainly improved my confidence for the future. I also got to know a number of climbing areas better than previously which can only benefit my own clients in the future.

I suspect that could be the end of my winter climbing season until the next one, but I'd like to thank Dave & John for a great time and also extend this to the clients with whom I shared some great adventures in the weeks prior to this one. Becoming  a Mountaineering Instructor is one of the best things I've ever done!