Monday, 5 December 2016

Glen Orchy and Glen Etive

Di: "I'm pretty sure that you have done the Ben Starav loop"

Derek:  "I haven't"

Di: "I'm pretty sure that you have done the Ben Starav loop"

Derek:  "Nope, I haven't"

So, the weekend was planned based around Derek and his Starav loop.

You know what's coming don't you.  We drove down to the bottom of Glen Etive, left the car and starting walking into the hills.

Derek:  "None of this looks familiar"

Di:  "OK" [very happy to have a day in the hills taking in 3 awesome peaks]

And then there was an abrupt halt, followed by that look.

Derek: "Oh, I have done these hills haven't I?"

Di: "Yup" *snigger*

Thankfully, he still had 2 remaining Munro's to do which shared the start so a quick change of plan was required.   Just like the BOGOF offers, today was a climb 2, get 3 free :)

Sunday saw us head down to Bridge of Orchy for another random couple of hills which I knew that he hadn't done.  For 99.9% of the ascent we were in pea soup and then there was that sudden realisation that there was a slim possibility that there might be an actual inversion.

It was only on Stob Ghabhar, the highest of our 2 hills that we were rewarded with one of the best inversions that either of us have seen.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Climbing versus Skiing

We don't have to fit in a box and be either a climber or a skier.  We can be both.

The very good thing about being a climber and a skier is that it normally works well with the conditions and the weather.  Take this afternoon for example.

It is been cold recently with snow fall and light winds.  All the buttresses are plastered and the snow is unconsolidated.  Not idea climbing conditions to be honest: lots of trail breaking, blowing snow out of cracks and off ledges, and desperately looking for anything that you can actually yard up on.  From a climbing perspective, we need a thaw and then a refreeze.

However, having lift fluffy snow is a dream to skin up and ski down.  Good light gives excellent contrast which is essential for enjoyable skiing.

Therefore, during my play days, I let the conditions dictate what we do and this afternoon was certainly a 'whoop' day.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Superficial climbing

We very nearly never went climbing today because we knew that the conditions aren't great to be honest.

As I said to Derek on the route: "it would be a very nice climb if it wasn't for the frost, wearing crampons and tentatively pulling up on nothing with picks".

However, a perfect weather forecast always wins.

It's still early in the season and I think we are incredibly lucky to have such as amazing playground on our doorstep.  I heard a very good quote recently that will be my moto this season:

"The best gift you can give someone is their next adventure".  Unknown 

Friday, 18 November 2016

The penultimate corbett

I would love to say that it was my penultimate corbett but unfortunately not.

On Wednesday afternoon we sat in the truck at the side of the road waiting for the latest deluge of rain to pass and the wind to ease enough to open the door.  To say my motivation was absent would be an understatement.

The weather was atrocious even by our standards, the only saving grace was that we had decided to wear wellies and scabby waterproofs for the bike into the bothy.  A bike into a bothy is normally quite appealing but not on Wednesday.  My trailer, loaded to the brim included 10kg of coal of 4 prime silver birch cloggies was heavy, so heavy that it bent the skewer.  It was chucking down with rain and we had a gale force headwind which made the trailer act like a sail.  When it wasn't raining we were met with thunder and lightening.  Our bike into a bothy was in reality a curse filled walk into a bothy.

So, why did we put ourselves through this?  Well, once upon a time there was a Munro called Beinn a'Chlaidheimh.  Heather & I had both climbed this before when doing our respective round of the Munro's.

A couple of years ago, the Munro Society had the great idea of remeasuring it and decided that it wasn't worthy enough of Munro status so it got demoted to a Corbett.

Now, I had absolutely no intention of climbing it again (sometimes I have no ethics) but Heather felt that she should so here we are.  To be honest, it was a pretty cool day - it's just a shame that it is situated in the back arse of nowhere and beyond.

Our reward this morning was an awesome bike back out to the truck.

Friday, 11 November 2016

First route of the season

Today was all about getting in, getting up and getting out before both the temperature and the winds increased.

As we got blown down the ridge at the end of the day, I worked out that it was 1993 when I led my first real winter climb.  Not wanting to sound like a bore, but back in the days, things were done differently.  There was no avalanche service nor the weather resources that we have now and there certainly was not the good old tinterweb.

You just had to learn the hard way.  I remember becoming fascinated with weather forecasts and drooling over guide books to try and remember as much information as possible.  I remember driving for hours, walking for hours to only discover that the route wasn't actually there and returning back to the car without a route in the bag on more than one occasion.  However, every day in the hill is a school day and without fail it expands the knowledge base.

So today, we done a combination of 3 different routes - 2 of which I have done on numerous occasions but 1 new pitch.  It looked nice so we just climbed it.

More importantly it was -1.5 in the valley this morning when we left and it was 7 degrees when we got back late this afternoon.  All part of that consolidation cycle that is so important in scottish winter climbing.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Out of the starting blocks

 I think my glutes are going to be sore tomorrow.

That's a good thing really because I think my ankles will be sore too judging by how stiff they are now.  If I have sore ankles, that means maybe my glutes won't feel so bad.

I wouldn't say that I am particularly unfit at present but the start of winter always feels different.  It wakes up muscles that have been asleep for some time and this season will be no different.

On a very positive note we didn't forget anything (actually I did forget to put £5 in my jacket for a hot chocolate stop at the Ptarmigan but I will let myself off on that one); drop anything or get lost.  Tomorrow however, is a new day and if I can survive without stabbing myself with sharpies, I'll be happy with that. 

Oh, and yes winter has finally arrived.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Be Prepared

I get envious of people who have probably indexed and catalogued their photos into various albums. However, when you have 33,826 photos the thought fears me with dread so I choose to ignore and live in the world of unorganised photos.  

The same can be said for preparing for winter.  If it was a simple case of digging out the winter boots and crampons it would be a simple job.  Now I don't have 33, 826 items of winter equipment but today it has felt that I did.  I kicked myself of the opportunity to play today when I realised that I haven't made the change into winter mode so instead I have been a proper boy scout and got my sh*t together.

What does that actually mean?

First up was getting the Scottish skis ready to rock n roll.  I have learnt over the years that you really do need to look after the planks but it does take some time for a mere moral to get them ready for action.  After removing their summer wax coat you spend the next 30 minutes trying to get all the wax off yourself before dragging it all through the house.  Every day is a school day.

Mountain bike rucksacks have been replaced with ski touring rucksacks; crampons have been adjusted to normal winter boots and not 8000m boots; rock shoes have been replaced by Phantoms (well nearly, there is still the rock wall); bike helmets have been replaced by ski helmets; the summer rock rack has been replaced with a scottish mixed rack; the gps has been dragged out of storage and updated; batteries replaced on everything that needs them; avalanche transceivers have been sent away for a diagnostic test and to make sure the magic still works and all my winter woolies have replaced the summer thermals.

The crampon and ski repair kits have been refreshed and all my maps have been refreshed with ones that I can actually read.

Sad I know, but it's a big world out there and I for one needs to be prepared for everything she throws at me.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Autumn days

The summer work is officially over for me now.  I can honestly say that I don't ever remember such a memorable Autumn in Scotland before.

The primary reason for this, in my eyes anyway, is that we still actually have not had the first big autumnal storms.  As a result the trees are holding onto their leaves and are displaying natures finest technicolour dream coat.  The deer grass too has changed colour and displays the most amazing carpet to walk on.

The low sun is casting fantastic shadows and the sound of the roaring Stags can still be heard.

The rock climbing days are limited for me now since I really don't enjoy climbing with numb feet and cold fingers.  It's time to enjoy the last few weeks with a light rucksack, before autumn turns to winter.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Scrambling in Glencoe

The nights are drawing in and the early morning frost is a common sight.  However, the weather remains settled and it was great to be in Glencoe with Mountaineering Scotland.

Mountaineering Scotland (formerly the Mountaineering Council of Scotland) offer some unbelievably good value courses and this weekend was no different.  Their new website will be launched soon so stay posted.

It was great working with 4 students who were keen, desperate to learn and a good giggle.

2 scrambles, 1 corbett and 1 munro wasn't a bad outcome for the guys.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Deep into the Cairngorms

Every now and then I meet somebody completely inspirational.

It's not polite to ask a women her age, and all I will say is that Jean is just ever so slightly younger than my Grandfather.

Yesterday, Jean travelled over 35km and climbed over 1616m in ascent and bagged 3 rather remote Cairngorm Munro's.  Jean got blown over once in the wind - promptly got back up, dusted herself off and continued - and fell off her bike once - once again, got back up, dusted herself off and continued without a word of complaint.

Next time, anybody who uses the 'age' excuse needs to meet a very special lady.  Jean Dougall, you really are a Beast and I salute you :)

Friday, 23 September 2016

Stone Valley

I have climbed more this last fortnight than I have all summer and it's been great.  I love climbing in the Autumn - the crisp skies, the rock still holding onto any summer warmth and the breeze keeping the midgies at arms length.  Yesterday, we headed up to Stone Valley and never saw a soul all day.  The wind certainly kept any biting things away and when the sun disappeared we were grateful of down jackets and multiple layers.

I was sad to see that the Poca Buidhe Bothy is now closed to all visitors.  How many people actually know what the Bothy Code is?  Actually, thinking about it how many people know what the Countryside Code is?  Yes, we could probably take a pretty good educated guess but ....

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The little adventures

Sometimes I think that there is too much emphasis on the big adventures.  Realistically if I can do one big adventure every year I am happy with that, so the question is what do you do the rest of the time?

Little adventures.   Lots of little adventures.  Preferably lots of little adventures with lots of variety.

As the summer starts to draw to a close (oh yes, it will nearly be that time of year to get uber excited again) it's all about cramming it in.

We done lots on our latest little adventure, but the one that will stick in the mind is the Breamish Behemoth.

For me, it was simply about getting to go riding over some amazing terrain without having to look at maps, decide where to go and tapping into local knowledge.  It was awesome.  What was more awesome was stopping half way around for the best cake that I have ever had - and from me that is a very big statement.

I haven't done much riding in Englandshire before but it comes highly rated and recommended :)

Friday, 2 September 2016

To the Alps and back

Oh my goodness, I have discovered that Alpine Mountaineering is now predominately a rich persons game.

We had lots of plans for our mini break but with the conversation rate as it is, we embraced Alpine Mountaineering as it should be.  Long walk ins, cold bivi's and good old student food. 

Now it's not that I'm adverse to spending money, but let's keep it real.  We managed to survive a week in Switzerland before finally bailing back to good old France where we didn't actually mind buying bread, cheese and wine.

As much as I love the Alps, it is very very good to be back home.  The garden has been completely neglected - actually this isn't entirely true since Derek has been very productive in the vegetable patch (more strawberry wine on the go, carrots coming along perfectly and courgettes the size of marrows) but the piece de resistance is without doubt the tree lilies whose aroma are filling the whole of the village.