After an epic drive from Cardiff to Aviemore in a marathon seventeen hours; Joe, Mark, Mickey and Sam got a couple of hours sleep before I was waking them up to head up the hill. There had been about three inches of overnight snow and the weather had got colder again, so it was a much whiter drive up to the ski field today. We waited for the road to open for about half an hour before heading up. The weather was pretty foggy, especially higher up, and with some light snow flurrries. With only the lower tows running we were limited to terrain but still had an awesome day shredding with patches of powder to slash. We left around 3pm and headed back to Aviemore to collect Sarah. After a brilliant dinner and a good bit of catching up that night we headed back up. The weather was much better on Saturday with pockets of sun and much better visibility, more snowfall and almost the whole ski area open. In the morning, without the Funicular running, we spent a lot of time queuing, arguing with grumpy skiers or staff and trying to skip queues, once the train was open though we got loads of riding done; some great rides down the M2 and sweet powder turns on either side, fun runs down Coire Cas in all directions and finishing the day on a fantastic note we followed ski patrol down the West Wall as they opened it and got fresh tracks in some great snow right down to the Ciste car park! A brilliant week in the Cairngorm; no need to be abroad at the moment with all this fantastic ice and snow around!
A very quick video to have a play with some of the footage I collected is below;
Thursday, 28 January 2010
After all the great climbing over the past couple of days I decided to head up into t’Sneachda and tick some of the easier gullies. I had a relaxing start around 10am from the car park and was at the boulder field after forty minutes. There was heavy cloud as forecast as I geared up and started traversing in towards the Trident Gullies trying to get ahead of the crowds. I went up Central Left Hand, down Central Gully, up The Runnel, down Crotched Gully, up Spiral Gully down the Goat Track, up Fiacaill Couloir and back down the Goat Track. The gullies were all in great condition and gave interesting climbing, it was great to get c. 600m of climbing done on easy ground; great practice for something! I was back at the car after only three and a half hours and down in Aviemore in time for much beloved coffee again!
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Today Lee and I had a later start and a much needed lie in (relatively), leaving Aviemore at 9am to head up towards Cairngorm. We had been planning on heading over to do some of the ice routes on Hell’s Lum but the weather had other plans. It was plus six degrees at the car park and drizzling heavily. With most of Loch Morlich having thawed out practically overnight we decided that the ice conditions would be a bit suspect, and there was a high avalanche potential for the slopes above the routes. We sat in the car and deliberated whether or not to head into t’Sneachda again and do some mixed routes, but as the drizzle got heavier and the snow got wetter we decided against it and spent the rest of the day drinking coffee and shopping in Aviemore. A pleasant rest day, hopefully the colder conditions forecast will consolidate the snowpack further and keep on forming more ice!
Monday, 25 January 2010
Today I met up with Lee in Aviemore and we headed into t’Sneachda for some action. I had hoped that being a Monday would mean it would be quiet, but that was not the case! The coire was mobbed with teams everywhere. We headed up towards Patey’s Route but with ropes stretching from top to bottom and three parties already waiting, we headed round the corner to climb Aladdin’s Mirror Direct Start. This was vastly different to the last time I did this route, today the whole entrance gully was literally full of snow and the route gave maybe four or five metres of good ice before we were at the belay. We headed back down towards Patey’s Route, hoping the queues would have cleared. We were being optimistic however as two parties ahead of us were climbing very slowly. We sat at the belay for about thirty minutes and were about to head off to try something else when there was at last movement above. Lee led up the first pitch to belay at the bottom of the corner, being cold I then had incentive to run up the top pitch which was pretty banked out giving easy climbing. The crux moves around the cave were on some very hacked out ice but there was in-situ gear sticking out of every crack and it was quickly despatched. We then romped up the final snow slopes before heading down Aladdin’s Couloir and back to the car. A good easy day on some classic routes, again conditions were helpful making a lot of the climbing easier but fun nonetheless.
Sunday, 24 January 2010
Having now; finished all my exams, turned 21 and got a cool helmet camera (check out this excellent video of some climbing in The Ghost region of Canada which I am hoping to be able to emulate http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uK6oJTyOmo), and with conditions still good, I was pretty psyched to get on some more routes before heading out to France. Neil and I headed to Glencoe after reports of good ice conditions. It seemed plenty of other people had also seen the reports, car parking spots filled up quickly but we got a good spot next to the Clachaig Pub and headed up towards the West Face of Aonach Dubh. We trekked up towards No. 6 Gully but with four teams already on it and another two waiting, we decided to head over towards The Screen. Neil kindly let me get on the sharp end and I headed on up; the initial slopes were pretty mellow but towards the top the route got steeper. The ice was a joy to climb with the warm temperatures, screws spitting out nice cores of ice and before I knew it I was at the top. I brought Neil up swiftly and we abbed off an in-situ Abalakov. After this great ice we were psyched for some more and headed over towards No. 6 Gully where we hoped it would have quietened down. We soloed up to a small bulge and hit the queue. We roped up and waited our turn for the crux pitch of the route. Neil ran up the main pitch and then we decided to traverse off to avoid the endless gully slogging above. The route was melting fast and a lot of the ice had been hacked away but it was still an enjoyable climb up a classic route. We soloed over towards Stob Coire Nam Beith and had a play on some more blue ice near the bottom of Deep Cut Chimney, this was similar to The Screen with an easier angled slope heading up towards a steep bulge at about the same grade. After abbing off we headed back down to the car. A fantastic day out on some quality blue ice with great panoramic views of Glencoe; it certainly turned out better than the start of the day when I forgot to lock the car, and then thought I had left the keys in the ignition!
UPDATE; I have now had a chance to edit some of the footage together from today, there is a quick video below:
Monday, 18 January 2010
With the weather forecasted to get worse from today onwards until the weekend, Lee and I decided to brave the walk in to Creag Meagaidh. Luck did not seem to be on our side and we made a rather late start at about 9:45am from the car park after a huge nail decided to come for a ride in the tyre! We made good progress into the climbs though, the path was in great condition and we were at the head of the loch after an hour and forty five minutes. With low level cloud and a strong wind scouring the Inner Coire, we decided to ditch our plans to climb The Pumpkin and headed up towards Easy Gully instead. Last Post looked in fantastic condition and I was keen to get on my first V,5 lead so we headed up towards that. Again the ice was in absolutely fantastic condition and the route isn’t intimidating at all so I jumped straight on. The climbing was never particularly difficult or steep but was sustained and by the time I stretched the ropes to the belay my calves were grateful for the rest! The climbing was very enjoyable and just kept on coming, there was some water dripping down the front of the ice which meant I got quite wet on the outside and by the time Lee came up to the belay I was grateful to get the belay jacket on. Having taken nearly two hours to get up this first pitch we were slightly worried about topping out in the dark and with low cloud potentially making finding the descent gully difficult. But we decided that it would be a shame to not top out as the climbing had been so excellent. It turned out our worries were unnecessary as the climbing above was much easier than the first pitch. We romped up the remaining three pitches stretching the ropes on each pitch to the top. The rest of the route gave good climbing and was a great way to finish after the first pitch of amazing climbing. With a quick descent down Easy Gully we were back at the rucksacks and soon back at the car. An absolutely fantastic route giving loads of interesting climbing throughout its long length, definitely worth the longer walk in!
Saturday, 9 January 2010
After seeing some brilliant photos and hearing great reports of this route I did some last minute texting and met up with Andy for an evening of roadside ice climbing. We left Edinburgh at 2pm and it felt quite strange driving south with the car full of winter gear! After some tricky roads which we were grateful to have 4 wheel drive on, we arrived at the carpark to see two parties walking off, one party finishing the route and another who had just finished. By the time we made the short walk to the base of the route we had the place to ourselves and I set off up the first pitch. This gave some brilliant climbing, particularly through a short steep section which was amazing, on solid water ice taking good screws. At the top of the first pitch I built a solid screw belay and brought Andy up as the light failed, at this point we saw a party of three also walking in to climb the route.
Andy led the second pitch which began steeply but then eased off as we climbed into a pond bay under headtorch and the light of the stars.
This was exited by an easy line on the right, there may be a more direct and steeper finish but there was a lot of running water behind it and everyone else had gone right, into another pond bay. We escaped right after this onto the descent path as the top pitch is apparantly not worthwhile. The route was deservedly popular; absolutely fantastic and very atmospheric under the light of the stars.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
To avoid treacherous snow conditions in the North I headed over to Beinn Udlaidh after Greg was there yesterday and reported fat conditions. We left the house at 5am but there were still 9 people in front of us by the time we arrived at the farm gate around 7:45am! However we pelted it in to the coire and managed to overtake them all to be the first ones at the bottom of the classic Quartzvein Scoop! This provided a great climb with a great first pitch followed by an easier top pitch; I felt somewhat awakward climbing ice again but managed to get into the flow throughout the day. At the top we had a look around and saw a party on Junior's Jaunt which looked amazing and so headed over there. I led up the first pitch which felt very thin, it was pretty hacked up though making for generally easy, but scary, climbing. This was definitely the most mentally demanding winter pitch I have led, and I was pleased to manage to keep my head in the right place and get up it smoothly. Greg led the second pitch which was fatter but also steeper, brilliant fun to second! The route was fanstastic and I felt it deserved at least two stars, if not three with it's contrasting, sustained pitches and great situation. We were going to have a look at the Organ Pipes but with cramping calves and diminishing daylight we decided to leave it for another day. A great start to 2010!