Saturday 28 January 2012


Well that was an interesting day in Sneachda..............not often is it:

a) Perfectly calm, sunny, and there are routes in conditions



There are this many big lenses being pointed in my direction!

Today was the Lukasz Photography Workshop. Ruth had obviously had a word with someone upstairs and sorted out weather that couldn't have been better for standing around taking photos.
There was quite a lot of banter from other teams on the Mess of Pottage wondering what on earth was going on.........and I'm not surprised looked like the press enclosure at Wimbledon or something!

Thanks to Emma for being belay bunny.

Fingers crossed this weather stays around for a few more days for playtime.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Buchaille Day

Last day out with the Mountain Equipment/Gore Cotswold staff training event today and what a day!
After the total wetness of yesterday we could hardly believe in the weather forecast which said it was going to get cold and snowy overnight - but they were right!! All the rain last night down in the valley had been going down as snow on the hills so we woke up to it looking like winter.
I headed out with team Hillwalking and we went to Buchaille Etive Mor, great day out, up the ridge to the right of Coire na-tuillach. Some proper wintery showers came through during the day for a real taste of Scotland, but as it wasn't too windy a fun day out.
Thanks to everyone this last week or so for being super enthusiastic and making the most of the sometimes trying conditions!

Monday 23 January 2012

East-side dash..

Jen enjoying pitch 1 of Ventricle
With just one day off in between the ME/Cotswold courses, I had signed up to get involved in the BMC International Winter Meet today. The main reason being that my friend Jen Olson is on the meet and it meant we could go climb together. I met Jen a couple of years ago on an American Alpine Club International Meet in Indian Creek and ever since we've been promising to go winter climbing together.
Today was the day!

Jen on Pitch 4 - the off width crack
After an early start in Ballachulish I met Jen at Glenmore Lodge and we headed out with everyone else into the Northern Corries. Jen and I headed for Coire an Lochain, although I wasn't really sure what we were going to get on. Jen is mountain guide and all round wad, but she hasn't climbed in Scotland before, so we thought about getting on something easy as a warm up but in the end we decided that we'd take advantage of awesome mixed conditions and headed for Ventricle VII,8. What a great route it follows a load of grooves and then has a steep little offwidth crack aswell. By total chance Jen got the bolder pitches and dispatched them with style, whilst I felt a bit rusty with the tools but kept the side up!

Continuing up Pitch 4

Elsewhere people were climbing things all over the place, a word of warning though - WATCH OUT FOR UNFROZEN LOOSE BLOCKS! Poor Simon Frost took a rock to his helmet and was still looking a bit dazed this evening.

Nick Bullock decided to get amoungst things and set off up Pic and Mix, only to think it was too easy and continue straight up for a direct finish where everyone else has stepped out right - he described it as "emotional"! Good skills old (grumpy) man - oh and untuck the trousers Bullock!

Back to the grindstone tomorrow - if you can call a few nice days out on the hill with a bunch of keen people the grindstone!

Saturday 21 January 2012

Not so bonnie Scotland!

Today was my second day out with the Mountain Equipment/Gore, Cotswold staff training winter skills teams. Yesterday was a snowy and frozen up high but as the temperature rose during the day it became drizzly as we made our way down off  Buchaille Etive Beag, bit windy on the ridge but generally quite pleasant, and I managed most of the day in my new 2013 Pulsar and G2 pants.

Today was a different day - really windy with the odd gust that was pretty impressive, lifting people off their feet and tumbling them around. I was out on the hill with a Hillwalking group, we set off from the car park at Buchaille Etive Mor,  into some heavy drizzle. We hovered between snow and drizzle, all day having decided to stay low with the winds forecast (120mph on the tops).
After topping out on Stob Mhic Mhartuin we headed down and found some great pockets of drifted snow in stream beds to build some snow shelters.

 Thanks to Andy Green at Mountain Equipment for the pictures - he headed up to Stob Coire nan Lochan today which is where these pics are from.

Elsewhere Stu McAleese and Dave Macleod were also out and about with a hillwalking team. I think we can safely say that everyone has given their Mountain Equipment clothing a good testing today!

Thursday 19 January 2012

Bonnie Scotland....

I arrived in Scotland on Sunday under fabulous blue skies and cold conditions. Not much snow around except for hard old stuff up high. Luckily the forecast for Monday was more of the same and as I was sending Ruth out to work I could head out to play with Blair Fyffe. As buttresses were going to be black, mixed climbing was off the agenda so we decided to head up the Ben for a sociable day out climbing some not too  tricky ice. We headed up a route on the side of Tower Ridge called The Gutter - very pleasant and good ice too. Topped out almost at the top of Tower Ridge - bagged the summit enjoyed the incredible views, and then popped back down and nipped up Central Right-hand to finish off our day.
Other teams were on Smiths Route amongst other things and everyone looked like they were having a great day.

Of course these lovely conditions were never going to last, yesterday was warm and only a little bit damp and I was working, headed up to Stob Coire nan Lochan with the Derby Uni students for a lap of Dorsal Arete, stayed dry until almost at the bottom of Broad Gully on the descent - so pretty good. No snow being put down up there and not much up there in the first place - not sure I've been up there when it's that lean before. Today we had an easy day for the legs with an Ice Factor and dry tooling day. Right now it's lashing with rain, but rumour has it it's going to start snowing soon!!

Not sure what I'm doing tomorrow and then I'm into my stint of Mountain Equipment - Cotswold Staff training - so some snow would be good!

Saturday 14 January 2012

Like Christmas again....

I popped into Mountain Equipment yesterday to collect my new batch of kit........ lucky me!
Ooooo, I like the look of this and with a cool hood and neck gaiter arrangement - super cosy.

It was a bit like christmas morning back at home, without the wrapping paper. Most of the kit is samples for next winters season - always good to get a sneak preview of what's going to be around.
Colour theme - definitely blue and green or at least in the selection I got.
Pulsar jacket on, hat on, now what else can I put on?
Loving the base/mid layer stuff (Vizion (?) Hooded and non hooded Zip Tee) I suspect I'll be wearing it almost constantly for the next few months. Fits really well and looks like it'll be perfect for climbing. I'll let you know. Perfect new hat too! All matching and everything.

Also, some great softshell - new Pulsar and a brilliant new primaloft/active shell jacket. I can't believe how far the softshell range has come, I remember getting a G2 jacket about 5 years ago and it felt a bit like cardboard, now everything is so much lighter and more supple it's become an irreplaceable part of my kit. I have particularly loved the Arrow Zip Tee over the summer - although I've had a hooded version as oppose to the currently available one - it's amazing.

This new box of goodies is the best thing about heading north - actually psyched to get it out on the hill.
Looks like there is a bit of ice building up in Scotland so I'm hopeful. Not looking good for mixed climbing though...........come on weather gods do your thing!

I apologise to ME if I've got names wrong for the new stuff - I think I lit the fire with the tags!! And you know what my memory is like!

What else would you wear to light the fire??  Doesn't everyone wear brand new kit!

Thursday 12 January 2012

Preparing to migrate

The time has nearly come to head north of the border. I will be packing a huge bag or too stuffed full of all those lovely M.E. things that keep me warm and dry, yes the green suit will be out and probably the new blue one too! The pointy sharp things will also be going in........really hoping to get some routes done.
Conditions are looking pretty rubbish, doesn't seem like winter is really happening at the moment but fingers crossed it'll be back with a vengeance before my "holiday" time is over.
Firstly I've got a bit of work to deal with, University of Derby students next week and then Cotswold staff on Mountain Equipment winter skills courses. Should all be good so long as the total wet ming weather stays away!
A couple of days on the BMC International Meet squeezed in between and then it's Lukasz's Photography Workshop - still a couple of places left book here.

Meanwhile in between helping my parents rip their new house apart I've been getting down to Manchester Climbing Centre and Awesome Walls Stockport for some training sessions mostly with Jonny G the BMC/MLTE Training Officer who appeared with a little present this week......

A good way to keep track of exactly what I've been doing in all those sessions, and hopefully when everything works really well this year I'll be able to look back and see exactly what I did and then improve for next year.
Thanks Jon.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Long Hope hitting London at Royal Geographical Society

Seems a long time now since I was suspended above the abyss on St John's Head up on Hoy, but it was certainly a memorable expedition climbing The Long Hope Direct with Dave Macleod back in June 2011.

Is it over?? Thanks to Dave Macleod for this photo.

On February 8th Dave and I are headed to the RGS to present an evening of tales and film from our adventure on the big cliff. Dave will be talking about being a complete wad and being able to climb incredibly hard things whilst dodging Fulmar vomit and me, I'll be hoping to give everyone a taste of what it's like to have to follow these things when you aren't a wad!

Should be an entertaining evening and there will also be plenty of time in the bar to chat and get yourself some signed copies of The Long Hope film made by Paul Diffley at Hotaches.

Tickets are on sale on Dave's website and they are selling fast so get over there and get yours!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

All about the training

Surface pressure chart
With hurricane force winds, rain and generally foul weather seemingly having being set in for weeks on end, my winter season has yet to really get going. A brief weekend of climbing over in North Wales was great and I could feel a bit of winter psyche returning, now it has definitely disappeared again!
Another disappointment was the cancellation of a trip to the Ecrin for the ice festival, conditions out there are pretty poor, loads of snow now but October/November were really dry so the ice just isn't forming very well. Plenty of snow for skiing............ but that isn't much help.

On the positive side I have embarked upon an actual training plan - instead of my usual climb as much as possible with very little system approach. It will be really interesting to see the effect this has on my winter over the next couple of months and my rock climbing come the spring. I'm hoping that the short term gains will do me some favours when I head out to Canada in about 5 weeks time - I'm gonna be needing some guns to keep up with Gordon McArthur - my host for the trip. He's been putting in some time on the tools and developing a crag near his home in Cranbrook, British Columbia - he's promised to keep some lines for me, now I just have to hope I can climb them! Gordon if you are reading this - the easy lines are the ones for me!!