Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Grim Day

Sunday 20th January 2008

Andy Clark, Stuart McFarlane & Myself had a fairly grim day on the Ben on Sunday. We had decided on Stringfellow (VI,6) which probably wasn’t the best choice given that we were climbing as a 3 with ruckies on and it’s quite a long route. We made really fast time into the CIC, helped by the new path. We were also up to the route fairly quickly and managed to find it OK in the gloom. Stuart led the first pitch which looked like a fairly easy gully. Andy and I waited and waited – for about 2 hours ! until Stuart was safe.

Andy about an hour into the belay, still looking warm.

We both seconded the pitch together and it became apparent why the Postie had taken so long. Horrible slabby rock devoid of cracks, or turf or ice and not much in the way of protection.

The first (and only!) pitch

At the belay the next pitch looked harder but following a good crack - a very nice looking pitch. The weather had really started to crap out by this point. It was now 1pm and we still had 5 pitches of grade VI climbing and another couple of pitches of III up tower ridge. Our collective wisdom said “bail” or finish in the dark. We didn’t mind finishing up tower ridge in the dark but the crux is on pitch 4 and we didn’t even know if we would get to that pitch. We bailed and got soaked on the walk out – it was chucking it down with rain from the CIC hut down. On the way down the road we pondered on whether the first pitch should really have ice in it – we reckoned it probably should !

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Cracking Day

Wednesday 16th January 2008

Days like yesterday are the reason I’ve decided to take some time off to winter climb. I can’t stand being stuck in an office when it’s blue skies and a crisp cold day outside. You just know that someone will be off having an adventure in a corrie somewhere in the highlands. (Sorry to anyone reading this stuck in an office.) Well yesterday it was Davie Crawford and myself having the adventure.

This was another plan C day. Plan A was something lower down in the southern highlands. An unexpected temperature of 6 degrees at the rendezvous point and the forecast of a sunny day ruled that one out. Plan B was Pas de Deux on Beinn an Dothaidh. The turf was frozen here but the steeper mixed routes are quite bare on the rocky sections. If we had done it, it would have had to have been a “photos looking down” day. Having the pre-placed excuse of being tired from being out the day before, we opted for Clonus - an obvious corner line. Clonus gets IV in the guide but no technical grade so we didn’t quite know what we were getting into – sometimes these are the best days out though.

The first pitch was deceptive – it looked like a easy romp but there was actually a tricky wee icy groove to be overcome. Pitch 2 again looked easy but was quite hard. Not thin it that there was nothing for your feet but awkward in that you were traversing rightwards into a slot and out again. Not much for the tools on quite steep ground. I thought this pitch was definitely technical 6 and the climb was much harder than West Chimney that I did a couple of weeks ago. I’d give it southern highlands IV,6 **. I’m sure it’s easier with more ice – the corrie is however fairly icy, probably the biggest build-up I’ve seen in 12 years of climbing there.

The awkward slot on pitch 2

Davie did the final easier pitch to top out into some st
unning views as the sun was beginning to set. – A cracking day, Colin Proir would have wet his pants!

The view over Loch Tulla - The 2009 Calendar will be available to purchase shortly.

Route 2

Tuesday 15th January 2008

Beinn an Dothaidh today with Lio Moscardini and Davie Crawford. This was to be Lio’s second ever winter route so nothing too hard. We had hoped to try Femme Fatale on the north buttress. Unfortunately it was very black so we didn’t bother. Spring Fever also wasn’t in very good nick despite me trying to climb it. I gave up after getting soaked under a water fall and trying to get my axes into squelchy turf.

We sacked north buttress completely and moved over (and about 50 meters higher) to the west buttress. Here the turf was bomber and we raced up the route Stairway to Heaven. Quite a nice grade III, with an interesting traverse ! Descent back down to the corrie was hampered by very strong winds and crusty snow. (If anyone finds a map of Beinn an Dothaidh it’s Davie’s)

Davie charging up the top pitch

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses .....

Friday 11th January 2008

Well I've had all sorts of excuses for not climbing this week, my first week as a temporary full time climber. Excuses from partners, man flu, sore ankles, fitting bathrooms (2 different partners) etc etc. Then I've had weather excuses, hurricane force winds, trees down, power lines down etc etc ..

On Friday I ran out of excuses and headed out with Ian Dempster to the Coe. We really had no excuse for not getting anything done, or did we ?

We had a target route on the Buachaille which was quite low lying and not often in condition - perfect choice for something at the end of a week of fairly wild weather. Unfortunately the forecasted hard frost and 500 meter freezing level didn't happen. We had walked in as far as the water slide before deciding that it was sub-tropical and there was no way our chosen route would be frozen, so we about turned and hoofed it into Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Crest route was the new target route and we waded up deep snow to the start of the route. The first pitch was mine as Ian had done the route before and he thought i should lead the crux (Pitch 3 - perhaps trying to get over the roof that he and many others had dodged by the "variation"). I accepted the challenge and started up the first pitch. Being easier and ledgyer (is that a word?) it had collected a fair amount of snow. A huge amount of digging brought me up to to the harder final moves onto the belay ledge. I thought this looked good, some proper mixed climbing with torques and other trickery and was enjoying it right up to the point where i had to lock off on my left arm and dig out the foot and a half of snow that covered the ledge. My strength was beginning to fade but i managed to dig out a decent hook for the right and some turf to batter my left tool into. I hauled over onto the ledge, setup a belay and brought Ian up.

Ian took some gear for the next pitch, not all of it because he knew where he was going, and set off.

Ian Sets off on pitch 2

I thought about the wee roof and how i had found the first wee bit quite hard because off all the digging, i though stuff it, I'll give it ago anyway - should be steeper with less snow. I took some photos. Ian shouted down some scouse expletives about it being hard. I got cold, and did 20 arm raises each side. I took some more photos and took in the view that was coming in and out of the clouds.

I can see the pub from 'ere and Jimmy Savile's house .
Now then, now then, who's about to miss the belay on pitch 2 of Crest Route

I got even colder and did 20 leg raises on each side. I though stuff the roof on pitch 3 - I'll be taking the easy option and getting up the pitch as fast as possible. About 2 hours after setting off, Ian shouted down the news that he had Run out of gear and couldn't see the belay. Ian can't remember most routes he has been on so this came as no surprise.

We decided what to do. I had a look at the clock and the fact that it was now 3pm meant it was bail time. One hour till dark even once Ian had got a belay i still had to second the 2nd pitch and we both had to climb pitches 3 (crux) and 4. The decision to bail was easy and I lowered Ian off some in-situ gear and he stripped the pitch. Double 60meter ropes meant we were back on the ground by 3.30 and back at the van by 4.30, just as it was getting properly dark.

I can't remember the last time I bailed out of a Winter route, I also can't remember the last time I was benighted so in retrospect I think we made the right decision. Crest route will still be there, and so will I, albeit a bit earlier than we were this time.

With all this non climbing and working the West Stirlingshire International Bouldering & Drytooling Arena is coming along nicely though.....

Framing for the 35 and 10 Degree wall.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Hallelujah - Winter has arrived!

Sunday 6th January 2008

Erick Baillot and myself decided to skip Sunday school and offer our thanks to the Gods of winter climbing at Church Door Buttress on Bidean.

Let there be light .... and there was light
Let there be hoar ..... and there was hoar
Let there be frozen turf ..... and there was frozen turf

Let there be snowed up rock ...............

Erick Below the first pitch of West Chimney

Church door buttress is in cracking nick just now - we had chosen to climb West Chimney a three star V,6. Erick had decided back in the car that "I 'vill be le mole" which meant that i would get the first pitch. I suspected at the time that this was because if he couldn't find the tunnel on pitch 2 the alternative is VI,6. I didn't get any good photos of the first 3 pitches as spindrift was pouring down the route on pitch one, Erick was in the tunnel and up the second pitch before i had a chance to get my camera out, and pitch 3 wanders all over the place.

Erick leading pitch 4 (Raeburn's Chimney) on West Chimney

We both agreed that the route was quite soft for the grade of V,6 but great fun. I'd recommend it as someones first V,6. Hopefully I'll get out again this week before everything is Back in Black.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Big Dump !

I had arranged to go climbing with Andy Clark today but when i got to his house we decided against it. The roads were in fairly bad shape and we reckoned there was a fair possibility that either Drumochter or the Cairngorm ski road would be shut so we put our plans on hold.

I've since found out through the electronic grapevine that the ski-road was shut, the Braemar road is shut and also an accident has closed the road through Crianlarach. Probably a good call after all.

To make up for it i took the dogs up Dunmore in the Campsies, I had hoped to get a view of the southern highlands but it was too cloudy. You can usually see Ben/ Loch Lomond, the Crianlarach hills and bits of the Arrochar Alps from here.

Yeti Spotted in the Campsies