March 25th, 2015
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Both Han and I were out enjoying an alpine Glencoe today. Han was out with good friend, John, and they climbed the Cold Climb: Crowberry Gully, on Buachaille Etive Mor and reported the route to be in easy condition, with the crux getting a bit thin with all the recent traffic.
Meanwhile, on Stob Coire Nan Lochan, I was out again with Fransisca. Having climbed Ledge Route on Ben Nevis yesterday, it was time to up the ante a bit, and go for something a bit steeper, and Dorsal Arete fitted the bill perfectly. Fransisca took to the steeper climbing, and having to front point like a duck to water, although I think I saw her wings flapping a couple of times as she tackled the steep crux moves on the arete itself. Still, she managed the moves well, and enjoyed the exposure on the sharp ridge above. Not bad for day two in crampons!
We descended Broad Gully, giving Fransisca further experience of descending steeper snow, which again, she had no problems with and is therefore progressing very well in her bid to gain the skills required to tackle some of the world’s higher peaks.
I think we were all lulled into a false sense that Spring was arriving after the great weather and conditions of last week. Cue overnight snow down to 300m! So that’s what greeted Fransisca and I as we made our way up the Allt a’ Mhuilinn. Fransisca has Mounts Elbrus and Vinson on the cards for later this year, and felt that a few days up in Scotland would be good preparation, and with a wintery forecast for the rest of the week, I’d agree.
We made our way up Ledge Route, which with the fresh snow, meant blazing a trail, which I think adds to the quality of the day. With a bit of coaching, Fransisca quickly got to grips with using crampons and an ice axe, and gained plenty of confidence as we approached the summit of Carn Dearg. We then continued to the summit of Ben Nevis, before making a descent, largely by way of a brilliant bumslide down No.4 Gully and Coire na Ciste, made all the more better by the fresh snow. Watch out for the man-eating glide cracks at the top of No.4 Gully! Hadrians, Indicator RH, Point 5, Italian RH, Orion Direct and 2 Step Corner all reported to be in great nick.
Both Han and I were back out again working, and we both opted to head to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe. I was back out with Barry, and following yesterday’s huge day consisting of Tower Ridge and the CMD Arete, we decided to have a slightly easier day and climb SC Gully, a classic grade III icy gully. The route was in reasonable condition, with nice chewy ice, and gave a nice and sustained middle pitch of about 40m. This was Barry’s first proper taste of steeper ice, which he thoroughly enjoyed. One further, long pitch on steep snow brought us out on the summit ridge, just in time to meet Hannah & Marco, who had in the meantime been making an ascent of Stob Coire Nan Lochan’s East Ridge, and were just descending the NW Ridge as we popped out of the gully.
They also had a productive day, and whilst journeying, spent plenty of time refreshing Marco’s winter skills toolbox.
The weather turned out to be much nicer than some of the forecasts were suggesting, with next to no rain, clear spells, and lots of funky clouds dotted about the sky. Options in Coire Nan Lochan are a bit limited at the moment, with the lower grade gullies (inc. Twisting & SC) being the only routes in condition, however, with winter returning this coming week, things will only improve!
Both Ken and I (Hannah) have been out today enjoying the stunning weather. Ken was out with Barry who’s climbed with Ken before but hadn’t yet climbed Tower Ridge and today was the perfect day to tackle the classic route. After an enjoyable time on Tower Ridge and some time out on the summit Barry confessed that he was also keen to go along the CMD Arete so along they went! A big and satisfying day for Barry ticking off 2 routes on his wish list!
Setting off at the same time, Marco from Guatemala and I went to walk the CMD Arete in reverse taking in Ben Nevis summit first. Marco is over studying for a year and wants to make the most of his time here in Europe by visiting as many of our mountain ranges as he can. He is part of a walking group in Guatemala and regularly guides for the group so unsurprisingly we made a pretty quick ascent of the Ben and then moved onto the CMD Arete, he was blown away by the views and said the CMD was great fun and a great way to finish the day.
Ken saw many teams out today all enjoying the high ice routes in Observatory Gully -there’s still plenty of ice to go at and with the freezing level dropping significantly next week winter is definitely still here for the foreseeable future!
Over the weekend, things took on a slightly different pace, for I was working alongside Di, Heather and Guy delivering two days of mountaineering skills to Aberdeen Mountain Rescue Team in the Southern Cairngorms, a beautiful and wild area that I really haven’t spent enough time in.
Day one was spent focusing on micro navigation in the hills just east of Braemar. The small team of 4 that I was with were very competent mountaineers, so the day was more of an MOT. To mix things up a bit, we used orienteering maps which had a scale of 1:10 000 and 1:15 000, which were stripped down to 5m contour lines and showed only a few features such as the density of vegetation and key linear features such as fences and paths. This took all of us a bit of adjustment, but soon the team had zoned in on the unfamiliar maps, and we were picking off the tiniest of features with no trouble.
That night was spent at one of the team’s bases, in Derry Lodge, a well-stocked bothy situated on the Mar Lodge Estate, in the heart of the Southern Cairngorms.
The following day, the team split in two, with half going off to look at rescues on the crag with Di & Guy, whilst Heather and I had the pleasure of basking in brilliant sunshine on the NE flanks of Sgor Dubh, with the focus being on snow anchors, both in personal and in rescue situations. For most, the highlight of the day was probably lunch on the summit, with undisturbed vistas of the Northern Cairngorms. As soon as the NE flank lost the sunshine, it noticeably cooled down, making it all feel rather alpine. We wrapped up the day with arranging a stretcher raise and lower off equalised snow bollards.
It was a great weekend, and a hugely useful opportunity for me to gain a better insight into how rescue teams work and the invaluable commitment and dedication put in by the volunteers, so a huge thanks to all members of Aberdeen MRT & Di for the opportunity and for the bottle of single malt!