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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!
It’s been a stunning weekend up here in Lochaber everyone including myself (Hannah) have been walking around with a spring in our steps, enjoying the weather. I spent the weekend working for Maximum Adventure with Rick, Paul and Kevin. Day one was spent introducing the 3 chaps to efficient ice axe and crampon use up on Aonach Mor and once we all felt comfortable, we took a pretty steep and exciting line up onto the Nid Ridge to enjoy the views.
For day 2 we had a really enjoyable ascent of Ben Nevis. The walk up to the Red burn crossing felt positively spring like! Crampons went on at about 1000m and although the sun was out it was pretty bitter on the summit. The views however were superb today and the 3 couldn’t have picked a better weekend to be in Scotland!
Today was my final day with Gareth, and with his bid to climb Mount Everest looming, we decided to go big, and with the weather looking perfect, Tower Ridge made complete sense, one of the UK’s longest climbs, throwing in a variety of climbing and situations, and today, some rather useless snow.
I thought that with the forecast looking so promising that it would be a busy day on the ridge, but surprisingly, there were only two other teams and one chap soloing. The Eastern Traverse wasn’t the nice trench it sometimes is, but a front pointing affair on slightly cruddy snow, but Gareth kept his cool, and managed to hang onto it for the airy traverse into Tower Gap.
So a great way to end a very enjoyable and productive week despite the challenging weather, with lots covered, much of which will help to stand him in good stead for the world’s highest mountain in a month’s time. Bon Chance! We saw numerous teams enjoying many of the classic ice routes in Observatory Gully, and some of the more obscure exits and variations around Comb Gully Buttress looked fantastic. It’s going to be a busy weekend!
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