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I’ve recently been up north, working for Moran Mountain on a 5 day Skye Mountaineer Course. Despite a week of mixed (wet) weather, here’s how we faired:
Sunday: Completed the brilliant Clach Glas / Bla-bheinn Traverse in very wet conditions.
Monday: Got to within metres of the summit of Am Bastier before the winds picked up and prompted us to retreat into the shelter of Coire a Bhastier.
Tuesday: Made the first ascent of the day of the Inn Pinn before the crowds arrived, in slightly sub-optimal conditions (wet & windy), before continuing over a busy Sgurr na Banachdich and a completely deserted Sgurr a’ Ghreadaidh, by which point the weather had eased considerably. We descended at An Dorus, into clear skies and sunshine.
Wednesday: With the weather on Skye looking rather damp again, we opted to stay on the mainland, and headed to Raven Crag, which lies just south of Loch Gairloch. Although the skies looked threatening a times, it remained dry all day, and we enjoyed the rough, dry rock of Lucy (VDiff), Charlestone (Severe) and Hydro Hek (HS).
Thursday: For the final day of the course, we decided to give Skye a miss, and opted for the Classic Rock Climb, the Cioch Nose on Sgurr A’ Charorachain. Despite the rock being wet, the sandstone still provided plenty of friction (rock shoes recommended!), and we climbed the nose in 5 pitches, before continuing along the 500m+ A’ Chioch Ridge, which includes pitches of up to Severe if tackled directly, and makes for an outstanding mountaineering journey (in the wet or dry!).
For the second half of April, Han and myself joined our friends Harry, Steven & Chris for more ski touring, this time in the Silvretta Alps in Austria. Less than average snowfall this season had led to the early closure of the Heidelberg Hut, so from Galtur, we made the 10km walk (in essentially the footwear that we had brought as hut-wear, so in Han’s case, Crocs!) to the family owned Jamtal Hut. Fortunately, there was more than enough snow above 2100m, and from the Jamtal Hut, we made ascents of the Gemssptiz 3107m and the Sud Augstenberg 3224m before making our way through the Ochsenscharte, to make an ascent of the Dreilanderspitz 3197m before enjoying the descent to the Wiesbadener Hut.
The following day brought with it some murky conditions, but not wanting to miss out, we skinned up the short distance to the Tirolerscharte, from where we made a quick ascent of the Ochsenkopf 3057m. The ski back to the Wiesbadener Hut proved to be much better than expected. With slightly better weather the following morning, we made a dash for the Silvrettahorn, and were treated to some great views over the Silvrettagletscher whilst climbing the south ridge.
Our final couple of days saw us retracing our tracks, back up the Ochsental Gletscher, from where we continued on to one the highest peaks in area, the Piz Puin at 3312m. We then continued into Switzerland and descended into very dense cloud on the Silvrettagletscher and onto the Silvretta Hut, in which we were the final guests of the season. The final day took us up (on foot) and over the Rote Furka, from where we were able to ski most of the way to Bielerhohe, ending a brilliant 8 day tour, which despite being the end of the ski season, still provided us with enjoyable descents, good climbing and quiet mountains.
Han and I have just returned from a fantastic 9 day hut-to-hut (with additional side trips) ski tour in the Jotunheimen National Park in Norway. We went out as a three (and returned as a three!), with Han’s auntie, Mary, who has 40 years of ski touring experience, making up our trio.
We started our tour off under blue skies from the impressive DNT hut at Gjendesheim (accessible by bus from Oslo), and made our way over 26km of undulating terrain to Glitterheim, tucked beneath Norway’s second highest peak, Glittertinden (2465m). Day two saw us making a steady ascent of Glittertinden, I then continued by myself over the subsidiary tops of Glitterrundhoe (2089m) and Ryggjehoe (2142m), before enjoying a reasonable descent back to the hut at 1374m. Meanwhile, Han and Mary decended Glittertinden’s SW flank.
The weather then closed in for day three, with low cloud, low visibility and a fresh wind, but we were still able to make good progress through the valleys to the private hut at Spiterstulen. The following morning, I decided to venture up into the clouds, to make a solo ascent of Norway’s highest peak, Galdhøpiggen (2469m), whilst Han and Mary went out to explore the nearby glacier of Bukkeholsbrean. Having reached the summit in at time near zero vis, I decided to extend the day by making a traverse of the mountain’s 4 surrounding glaciers, which with enough breaks in the cloud, proved to be fantastic day during which I didn’t see another soul. I finished the day off by making a descent down the Tverrabrean glacier, making it back to the hut just in time for dinner.
Day 5 saw us moving on to Leirvassbu Hut, from where we explored the Sandelvbrean glacier, in again, low vis. From Leirvassbu, we moved onto the unmanned, but still very well stocked and maintained Olavsbu Hut, before our final couple of days of skiing onto Fondsbu and then through some brilliant cross country terrain onto Tyinkrysset. Overall, throughout the 9 days of skiing, we covered about 160km, took in Norway’s highest two peaks and ate like kings! Perfect. There is huge potential for ski touring in all its guises, from gentle Nordic terrain to much steeper ski mountaineering, and with the Norwegians’ hugely enthusiastic attitude to the great outdoors, what are you waiting for (apart from next winter!)?
Plenty more photos on our Facebook Page
Today was my final day of work this winter, and for a second year running, the season ended with a climb on Ben Nevis with Mick. The freezing levels have crept above the summits over the past 36hrs or so, which was going to affect the ice climbs, just to what extent was hard to gauge without getting up close. I had a few routes in mind, but on reaching the CIC Hut, it seemed that Orion Direct was complete and looked ok, so we ventured up to the foot of it, and found the snow quite soft underfoot. The ice on the first couple of pitches looked ok, if a bit thin, but with ice falling down and for the temps to rise through the day, we decided that ‘it might be ok’ wasn’t good enough, and so we about turned, and made our way down and onto Observatory Ridge, which was distinctly alpine (a lot of bare rock, with ledges holding snow, of which some of it was quite useful).
The first three pitches contain the meat of the climbing, with a series of rocky steps and slabs, however, even after gaining the snow covered ridge above, the odd rocky step thrown in for good measure still provided some thought provoking moves. On nearing the top, we moved across into Zero Gully, and were able to make the most of gear placements in the exposed rocks on the right (ice screws in the gully would have been useless).
It was a very quiet day on the mountain, with the only other teams we could see enjoying Tower Ridge. There is still plenty of ice on the mountain, but whether it lasts this current thaw is another matter. Point 5 and other deep, ice holding gullies, with snow fields above may make it to the next freeze, whenever that happens, but that’s it for my Scottish winter season, and despite the wild weather and conditions, it’s been a great season, with many fantastic days out across the Highlands.
We’re now off ski touring in Norway and Austria…