Blog > Classics

Lucky Friday the 13th.

14/02/15

My first outing in the Cuillin for over a week looked like it wasn’t going to be too wintery as I gazed on Coir’ a’ Bhasteir stripped of its ice. We rationalised down to single axe and single rope with the Tooth as an ambition.

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By the time we reached the gorge a coat of rime was eveident above 600m and we donned crampons pretty soon afterwards on the NE Ridge of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir.

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Still I exxpected a rock scramble up Collie’s Route which, in the full glare of westerly wind, sun & rain must surely have been stripped. No such thing as we descended past the Tooth into Lota Corrie.

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5m of icy rock led into the diagonal break of Collie’s Route which rolled up away into the mist as a continuous white line of neve. We moved together placing runners every now & again but never on moves that were more than grade I.  Traversing a (normally easy) horizontal ledge system proved the scariest with the banked out snow steepening up.

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Dropping into the nick & up onto the Tooth was a simple exercise but all of the abseil tat was buried in King’s Cave Chimney. A sling on a block at the back allowed us to pull the ropes safely though (thank goodness) and we lapped up the scenery on the descent as the clouds cleared.P1050392

 

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Mega Ice on the Ben; too good to resist. 12thFeb

14/02/15

There has been so much stonking ice in evidence on photos from Ben Nevis that I couldn’t resist a quick hit on Thursday. Icky, Lucy, Cat & I arrived late in the CIC and didn’t rise early but still had a clear Curtain to start with.

A gentle angled pitch full of footsteps and hooks gave a good warm up-P1060420

…..before the steep upper half-

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We were heading over to Italian Climb when Mega Route X came into sight just above us. Now I watched Cubby climbing this on video over 20 years ago and even bought one of (a large collection??) the red Cassin axes that he’d used on the ascent; apparently quite a lot of people have also bought the same axes with the same background tale 🙂 I digress, I knew it had been climbed a fair bit recently and it looked like it had plenty of bobbles for footholds. The team gave me the nod of approval and so off we went. IMG_1560

I’ve reverted to using wrist leashes on steep ice and loved them instantly; my arms really do appreciate not having to keep hold of the shafts at all. The ice was of stunning consistency (better than the steep part of Curtain) and the bobbles for feet allowed plenty of stability while placing screws.

Icky romped up behind and, although her arms wouldn’t quite do it, Cat has the pose of the day-

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Icky & Lucy joined me on the belay and we all admired the icicle fringes all around us. The top pitch started steeply but soon relented with a groove on the left and just one short cheeky section of snowy ice before the final steepening.

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A 50m abseil back to the ground was followed by pizza, tea & beer in the hut before the most dangerous part of the day- the drive home. Thank you Big Bad Ben for a glorious day 🙂

 

Summery on the roof of the Tooth

01/12/14

P1040035 (800x600)The Jagged Tooth silouetted as we approach from Sgurr a’ Bhasteir

The unseasonably fine weather continued right through to the weekend in the Highlands and Friday was a peach; it could easily have been June with the warm rock on the south face of Am Basteir.

P1040037 (800x600)Sunny lunch below Sgurr a’ Fionn Choire

P1040038 (600x800)Collie’s Route  (Grade 3 scrambling) up out of Lota Corrie.

P1040046 (800x600)Our shadows cast on Am Basteir

Despite indulging ourselves thoroughly it was still early when we reached Bealach a’ Bhasteir and we couldn’t resist more sun time, continuing up and over Sgurr nan Gillean.

Enjoy the gallery-

Grabbing Gabbro

06/11/14

The 5th of November was a day to remember with clear blue skies and even a frost on the ground. John, Iain & I enjoyed Pinnacle Ridge and the joys of rapid drying gabbro with just the occasional streak of black ice keeping us vigilant.

Pinnacle RidgeShady approach to Pinnacle Ridge

Yet again I was dumfounded to find even the shady northern aspects mostly dry; amazing after so much recent rain.

crux movesJohn & Iain on the crux slab with Marsco prominent behind.

I’ve been scuppered by black ice before so the crampons came along. Adding winter metalwork for the first time always hurts so it was also an opportunity to break myself in gently, especially as its nearly 6 weeks since I was last up on a big hill. Sadly the legs didn’t agree with my definition of “gently”.

steep finishSteep finish

With hardly a breath of wind John even had time to sketch during a relaxed summit lunch while Iain and I took on our quota of vitamin D.

sunning on the summitSummit Sunshine

 With the sun so low in the sky the colours, light and shadows gave us a visual feast all day but my lasting memory will be John extolling the joys of grabbing gabbro; I coudln’t agree more.

Stunning topoutSummit Shadows as we top out

Cioch West 15th July

15/07/14

Simon saw the Cioch on Coast last year and wanted a bit of that action. Closer investigation revealed a serious sense of adventure so I suggested some fast-tracking into a rock climbing career; “if Cioch West doesn’t float your boat nothing will!”

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Classic Misty Isle weather just now and the Cioch loomed out above our heads just to add to Simon’s “experience”.

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Yesterday’s heavy rain left some damp streaks but nothing to worry us and it was good to see Simon’s brain grasp all of the technicalities needed to follow without getting tangled or stuck 🙂

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Out onto Arrow Route was a no-brainer with 200 foot of beautiful dry slab.

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The obligatory Sean Connery-style sword fight (new swords this week, who does take them away?)out on the Cioch rounded off the ascent before my favoured descent down Eastern Gully.

P1000756 (600x800)Simon floating downhill on his Cioch experience

Let the good times rock….. new climb, Kilt & Girdle Traverse

14/07/14

A great few days of rock climbing recently with my good friend Lucy back again to add any keenness I may be lacking!

Thursday started with a sunny walk up into Coire Lagan with the students of Landmark College.

P1040067 (800x600) (2)Coire Lagan

After cooling the feet back in Loch Brittle we set back off up and one of the hottest walk-ins that I can ever remember. The target was a direct finish to Techno Snob– that Malcy & I climbed in 2012.

LlINED HEART BUTTRESS (800x600)Heart Buttress

All the effort was worthwhile as we were rewarded with an evening of climbing on glorious clean hot rock. The Oldest Raver on Skye finish was even good enough to be considerably easier (E1 5b) than the parent route with the crux being the stiff rockover move off the ground. A word of warning to aspirants is that the best gear on this move is very high, too high for me, so Lucy stood on my shoulders to place it!

P1040080 (800x600)Oldest Raver???

On Friday three Mikes and a Lucy headed to Kilt rock and a race to climb as much as possible before the rain arrived. Clandestine (VS) and Secret Service (HVS) were topped off with ascents of the uber classic Grey Panther. With a full ropelength of superb climbing on  a plumb vertical fault this is a strong contender for the best E1 in the UK.

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Saturday was as wet as predicted but Sunday was forecast as wall to wall sunshine. The 2 Mikes had been reading up on the Girdle Traverse of Sron na Ciche in the guidebook and Lucy and I agreed it would make a great team climb. 3 years ago we’d taken 5 hours in perfect conditions but JEB Wright, a guide back in the 1920’s recorded climbing it with parties of 4, 5 and 6 in all sorts of conditions and never in more than 6 hours.

P1040191 (800x600)Starting out in the mist

The clear tops sank back into the mist as we arrived and a cold wind nipped at the fingers as we geared up. 2nd time around and with a quality team we made good progress to the Serpentine Chimney. Lucy & I felt we had cheated last time by abseiling the downclimbs but our attempt to mirror them failed at the first hurdle with a long damp move at the foot of the climb.

P1040197 (800x600)Eastern Gully delicate pitch

Things warmed up after Eastern Gully as we sped past a continuous series of old classic routes; the Cioch, down to the Terrace and Doom Walls, another abseil, over the Hexagon Block and across Amphitheatre Arete. Gaining entry to Trap Face Route once again proved awkward and needed a few runners to keep us safe before following the trap right out to overlook Western Gully and some welcome sunshine and lunch.

P1040226 (600x800)In the Trap Dyke

We’d made it in under 4 hours this time and Mr JEB Wright now seems a little less superhuman. His first effort took only 2.5 hours though so we’ve a way to go to still!

P1040233 (800x576)My first ever Cuillin fawn

 

 

Filming on the Cioch for Travel App, 13th May

15/05/14

Cioch theatreClimbers laying it on for the cameras

Had a fun & exciting day out with Elaine & Kerrin in the sun on Tuesday. They’re making high quality travel apps which is a hightec Lonely Planet using videos for those struggling to suss what that means. See this link to Humanity TV  for a fantastic trailer featuring Iceland. Scotland was high on their list to cover in the next issue and I was recommended to them by the Skye based artist Julie Brook

The guys were a pleasure to work with, filming didn’t interfere with the climbing, the weather was perfect, eagles came out to play and both Elaine & Kerrin had monstrous grins as they revelled in the excitement of climbing the Cioch. Good luck with the enterprise!

Dubhs Done 12th May

15/05/14

P1020554 (800x600)Ulrich on his way to start the Traverse and Paul aiming to do the Dubhs

Paul & I shared a boat with Francis and Ulrich as they started their Traverse before heading for our own classic outing on the Dubh Slabs.P1020581 (584x800)Delicate work on the edge

I never use the same route twice and we found some delightful clean ribs well to the left hand side as we approached the abseil from Dubh Beag.

Great excitement for me was finding a huge cave feature that I’d never even spotted. Somebody has even smoothed out the base to make it comfy enough to lie down in.

P1020592 (600x800)Looking out from the new cave.

Paul climbed very well and we even had time for a look into the TD Gap which was horribly cold and greasy.

The final part of the plan was meeting Ian and Jon and take their car back out of Glen Brittle. They started their Traverse by heading up to spend the night in Coire a’ Ghrunnda before a long & successful day next day.

Francis & Ulrich were also successful. A seasoned alpinist Ulrich came round to visit me the next day. He had very kind words about Francis being amongst the best guides he has ever used. He was equally complimentary about the Traverse. It was far, far bigger than he expected and bigger than most alpine outings. For reference the timings for this Traverse, in good conditions, were 2 hours ascent, 17 hours of climbing from one end to the other (with a bivouac as well) and 3 hours to descend; a total of 35 hours from start to finish.

IMG_3171Landscape (800x600)Morning glory after the bivouac

 

IMG_3207Landscape (800x600)Victory smiles on Gillean

 

Special Effects. 10 & 11th May

15/05/14

Overnight mists are taking a while to clear through the days recently but gving some wonderful effects.

Gail & I held faith with the forecast & climbed Pinnacle RidgeClearing mistsClearing mists in Coire a’ Bhasteir

pin4Nearing the top of the first pinnacle

 BasteirbestAm Basteir

Tourist RouteBusy day on the Tourist route.

Next day the mists were slower to clear but we still stayed largely dry as Stuart, Sheena & Lorrimer completed their Skye Munros on Mhadaidh & Ghreadaidh. Antje and Ian just weren’t taking things seriously….

Captions pleaseCaptions please 🙂