Cairngorms Winter Skills and Winter Climbing weekend.

This weekend I have been out working for Martin Moran with a couple of clients who were keen to improve their winter skills and climbing knowledge.

Weather wise we had one good day and one bad, tho with such a keen and enthusiastic pair the bad day didn’t seem to matter much at all!

We began yesterday with a snowy walk up from the firmly shut snow gates at Glenmore headed for Coire na Ciste. Practical topics covered were axe, crampon and general snowcraft skills, along with snow and ice belays.

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The cold and windy weather meant regular movement was key as well as a couple of breaks to warm up in the Aonach shelter up there.

The day was finished off at the Ciste crag looking at gear placements and belay building around the base of the crag before an even snowier descent back to the van.

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Day two and with a much calmer forecast we headed to the Twin Ribs area in Coire an t’Sneachda to look at some more technical climbing and practice some of the skills they had learnt the previous day. We climbed a few pitches on the right most rib before practicing an abseil descent from the crag followed by an abseil from a snow bollard on the approach slopes.

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All in all a great couple of days and well done to Carlos and Paula for all their hard work!

Dave.

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BMG Winter Training and Scottish Winter conditions report 24/01/2016

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So this week has been 6 days of BMG training for myself and the other 4 Trainee Guides that make up the class of 2016. The training comprised of a Scottish avalanche day followed by 5 days of training in general guiding looking at all aspects of safe and efficient guiding in the Scottish mountains during winter time.

As mentioned the first day was a one-day avalanche course focusing on how the unique Scottish maritime climate affects avalanche conditions. The day was based at Aonach Mor and much was discussed and learnt under the watchful eye of Mark Diggins; the SAIS co-ordinator. This day was sponsored by the Chris Walker Memorial Trust so many thanks to the trust.

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Shovel pat-test

The second day was spent in Glen Coe at Stob Coire nan Lochan and was a personal climbing / guiding day looking at many different aspects of guiding on mixed routes. Routes climbed were Scabbard Chimney, Crest Route and Twisting Grooves amongst others.

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Paul Warnock belaying Jon Orr on Scabbard Chimney

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John Crook on Crest Route. Credit: Tim Neil

The next day was spent on Ben Nevis looking at guiding on snowier routes / ice routes along with short roping snd how to safe guard clients during the approach to and descent from routes. Routes climbed were Green Gully, Central Gully left branch and Thompson’s Route. The conditions on the mountain had stabilised from all the recent snow and persistent cold temperatures so along with a good, calm weather forecast the first two days were both enjoyable and very informative.

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John Crook taking the lead on Green Gully

The following day we all went to Buachaille Etive Mor and looked at safe guiding practices on longer routes and with it transitions from short roping to shorter pitches, then on to longer pitches where appropriate. Routes climbed were North Buttress and Naismith’s Route, with myself guiding Adrian Nelhams and Matt Stygall on North Buttress. It was great to have both Adrian and Matt as my ‘clients’ for the day. They are both IFMGA guides and once again a huge amount of knowledge was passed on. All teams then looked at guiding in descent whilst coming down Curved Ridge.

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Buachille Etive Mor. Credit: Tim Neil

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Myself guiding North Buttress. Credit: Tim Neil

The second to last day was spent back up on Ben Nevis with a team ascent of Tower Ridge again looking at all aspects of suitable, safe guiding on a long ridge route like that. The temperature had risen a lot and so the mountain was thawing fast and a wet day on the hill ensued. It is always nice to do Tower Ridge again tho and the conditions up high were good and it was a very suitable objective taking into account our aims for the day and the conditions on the hill.

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Tower Gap. Credit: Tim Neil

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Looking across to the North Face if anybody is wondering how much ice there is left… Credit: Tim Neil

The final day was spent back up on Buachaille Etive Mor bringing everything together by looking at all aspects of snow anchors, movement over varying terrain and suitable rope / guiding systems for different conditions.

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The 6 days have been amazing and have left us all with a very clear picture of what will be expected during the Winter Test in March. A massive thanks to all the training team throughout the week and everybody else who helped bring the week together. Next stop, Winter Test!

Dave.

 

Scottish Winter condition report 17/01/2016 #scotwinter

So over the past week or so I have been out climbing both in the east and over in the west and the general theme has been snow and lots of it!

This winter the focus for myself is on preparing as best as I can for my upcoming BMG Winter test and so with it a heavy onus on getting to know venues like the Northern Corries in the Cairngorms and my way around Ben Nevis very well, and with thought to guiding clients around. Along with becoming familiar with these venues the bulk of my time will be spent practicing the skills needed to become a Guide to put me in the best possible place for my assessment at the end of February.

Earlier in the week I climbed in Coire an t-Sneachda and ended up on a very cold and snowy ‘Pot of Gold’ on the Mess of Pottage. The Cairngorms (like the west) have had considerable snowfall above about 600m on and off throughout the last 10 days. Add to this strong wind of variable direction moving the snow around creating cross-loading on many slopes and the result has been a continually changing avalanche forecast. The persistent cold temperatures are doing nothing to help transform the snow to ice and for climbing conditions to improve a thaw and refreeze is badly needed. The forecasts for next week are at this stage conflicting, however a mid-week thaw looks likely across all mountain areas so we will have to wait and see what happens. Climbing in the Corries was best described as cold, hard work with lots of digging to get into and up routes. That said the skiing has been amazing with a lot of touring happing on the plateau along with descents of many of the couloirs and the same over into the Loch Avon basin and beyond.

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The shot says it all really. Snowy, cold and blowy on Pot of Gold.

Over in the west I guided Green Gully a couple of days ago and found much the same amount of snow up high. It was a fair wade to get about up high, but on the day the conditions felt stable enough to get about. Green Gully is climbable by snow ice as not that much actual ice has formed and gives good sport around grade IV at the moment. I believe Comb Gully is in much the same nic and there were other teams out on Thompsons Route, Tower Ridge and Ledge Route. The ridges will be hard work with all this unconsolidated snow but no doubt there will be a good track up them this weekend.

So all in all very wintery out there but certainly some transformation needed with the snow for climbing. Be wary of avalanche danger with all the fresh snow about and keep a regular eye on SAIS for up to date avalanche forecasts.

Safe Climbing!

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Cold and snowy and without much useable ice.

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Low down on Green Gully.

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Higher up Green Gully.