Friday, 26 February 2010

Steall Hut Falls 26/02/10

After some scrounging for route info, Adam and I headed to Steall Hut Falls this morning. We were in for a treat as the falls were frozen almost solidly and the ice was virgin and soft. We zigzaged from left to right to take in the steepest parts of the ice in three pitches before abbing and walking off through the trees. Another classic tick in this awesome winter.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Eas Anie 25/02/10

After all the mental weather, Adam and I decided to stay well away from anywhere high and headed to the easternly facing Eas Anie. We were hoping to be able to drive all the way to the crag but unfortunately the access road is private and we bumped into the farmer who politely turned us around. After about an hour and a half we were at the base of the route and after some scrambling got established on the route proper. Adam led up the right side as the left was quite banked out, this gave some great climbing on featured but plasticy ice. I then ran up to the top and as the wind picked up we descended down the side of the route and headed back to the car. It continued snowing all day and we both got quite wet, but after a few words with the Highway Maintenance guys at the closed snow gate we snuck through and were back in a warm hut in Fort William in no time. No pictures as my memory card wasn't working today, video to follow soon though.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Ben Udlaidh 19/02/10

After France I was psyched to get back out on some ice and so headed back to Ben Udlaidh today. As we left the car park at 7am I was surprised to be the first ones walking in. I was psyched for Peter Pan or The Croc which have seen a lot of ascents over the past week, but having never climbed with Alex before we decided to get on some of the easier lines; we managed to miss most of the queues (there were apparently twenty seven cars in the car park) and climbed South Gully of The Black Wall, Mustang Sally and Green Eyes. All three routes were in relatively easy condition with loads of hacked out ice, and sections of solid neve banking out in between, but it was a great day out getting three good routes done in the glorious sunshine.

Beinn Udlaidh Scottish Winter Ice Climbing from James Dunn on Vimeo.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Last Day 12/02/10

After waking up yesterday and feeling totally debilitated with a bad cold, Sarah kindly looked after me and we all spent the day relaxing and pottering on the internet. To make the most of the great snow conditions and sunshine we got up early again and headed down to Saint Gervais for our last day. Again we had an awesome day riding all over the resort, finding fresh turns here and there and generally having a laugh. We did a couple of runs through the park which had some cool features but after watching a skier knock himself out cold and get helicoptered off, we decided to stick to the piste for the remainder. More Pain au Chocolat avec Aumonde this evening and a bit of packing before having a day shopping in Chamonix on Sunday and then home on Monday. It's been a fantastic trip and I am really not looking forward to going home; these people, mountains, snow and sun are what I live for.

I will try and get a video uploaded as soon as possible as I have some pretty cool shots from the past two weeks activities, so watch this space.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Saint Gervais 11/02/10

Today Greg, Sarah and I headed up to the ski resort of Saint Gervais to find some more fresh lines. It has been snowing consistenlty over the past three days and this meant there was lots of deep fluffy snow to play with. This area has some great terrain that is very accessible and we spent the day searching out freshies in the woods; we found one ridge line where we got five fresh lines each which was awesome. The slopes were quite quiet due to the poor visibility and snow, but the weather cleared higher up as the day progressed and it turned out to be an awesome day. After skiing we headed into Chamonix and I got a really good deal on a set of touring skis and bindings, fingers crossed I can get out on them soon and they will be better than the old nordics for approaches!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Notre Dame de Bellecombe 10/02/10

As a rest day from riding Damien and Greg kindly took me to experience some “proper” ice climbing; two WI6’s on virgin ice! It snowed all day but this didn’t detract from the impressive lines (barring the swim up to the routes.) Damo led up the first route which consisted of a steep pillar to a snow bay, followed by a longer section up to a tree belay. We abbed back down and Greg headed up a line on the right between two pillars to the same ledge and then took a line right of Damien’s to the same tree belay. I found both routes sustained and hard; very pumpy and difficult to get my weight onto my feet, my technique evaporates when I get pumped but practice makes perfect and it was good fun to climb some steep ice. After abbing back to the bags and digging them out we headed back to the apartment for some more fresh bread.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Les Houches 09/02/10

Today we had a more relaxed start and headed up the Tramway Du Mont Blanc at 11am to spend the afternoon in the local area of Les Houches. This area had some good riding and a DC Park, which after some pruning to make the jumps safe in the flat light, provided most of the days entertainment. There were some good rail features and a couple of small jumps which were fun to play on, but the main booter was closed which was a bit disappointing. We spent the day messing around in the park and on the piste which was good fun and a welcome rest from all the powder slaying!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Grand Montets 08/02/10

With another cloudless day we headed towards the Grand Montets area early after organising transceivers in Chamonix. We rode the whole mountain in glorious sunshine and managed to find a couple of fresh turns here and there. It was again incredible to be up in the mountains and see the Droites and the Dru up close. I had a small shot on Greg’s skis for half a run which was good fun. With such a massive vertical descent we were pretty tired by the end of the day but finished down a good little gully giving demanding riding, again we tried to make the most of the glorious weather and great snow.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Valee Blanche 07/02/10

After some bus and train journeying I arrived in Le Fayet last night, closely followed by Sarah, and we headed to the apartment to meet Greg and Damien. As a light introduction to off-piste proper we headed down the Valee Blanche, the snow was deep and fresh, and with cloudless skies we had to take advantage of this illusive combination. It was incredible to get up into the mountains and see some of the famous routes up close, and to ride a famous trail; especially in full touring style with harness and ice screws for any crevasse encounters! The riding was good but there was a lot of traversing and flatter sections which aren’t great fun on a snowboard, a definite must do though and we did it in the best possible weather so were very lucky. After this we headed down the “James Bond Trail” to finish the day and went to get some fresh French groceries to fill hungry bellies.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Italy, Courmeyeur 06/02/10

I have been out skiing with my parents and friends in Courmeyeur for the past two days. Driving through the Alps was incredible and I can’t wait to get some climbing done out here, it’s just so inspiring! We stayed in a nice little hotel Pillar d’Angle just outside Courmeyeir in Enteres and were about five minutes from the bottom of the cable car. Yesterday it had been snowing all night and continued to snow throughout the day, the snow was very fine which meant that it was super fluffy and incredible to ride on. It must have snowed almost forty centimetres on top of an already soft base. There were fresh tracks to be had down the pistes to begin the day, and after some entertainment down a steep gully underneath the chairlift with some small snow slides I headed for a longer and gnarlier trail. This started as a gladed area before turning into some awesome chutes with sections of denser trees and sections of wide open gully, the snow was literally waist deep in some sections and was some of the best riding I have ever done; super deep snow, steep terrain and lots of features. After a good bit of socialising last night we headed up the slopes again this morning early as it was bluebird; what more could you ever ask for! First things first I headed straight back to this area and did four fresh lines down the surrounding chutes and gullies, the only thing that topped yesterday’s riding was the cloudless sky. After an absolutely incredible morning I found some soft courdeyour to give my legs a rest before having a good Calzone for lunch and headed back down to the hotel to get my stuff ready to head through to Chamonix, as I write this we have just left the Mont Blanc tunnel and it has gone from cloudless to cloud-full! Hopefully it will brighten up tomorrow and we can find some more amazing terrain. What a couple of days as an introduction to Italian snow! Video to come shortly.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

CIC Ice at Ben Nevis 03/02/10

With a very early alarm at 3:30am it would have been very easy to sleep in, but by the time I got to the North Face car park of Ben Nevis at 7am I was very glad I had hauled myself out of bed in Edinburgh! I had been planning on climbing with Adam ( and Matt at Creag Meagaidh again, but with recent snowfall we decided to have a shorter day on the ice cascades above the CIC Hut instead. After a leisurely walk in and a stunning sunrise we were awarded further with an awesome looking pillar of ice. There was a team ahead of us, but with the sun shining and very little wind we were happy to wait. The route looked just as good up close, and had lots of features which looked like you could hook and step on; giving the impression it would be relatively easy, this was not the case (for me at least)! Adam led up the pitch in great style and Matt and I followed. The ice was pretty poor; in the sense that screws weren’t great below and through the crux, and it was very “dinner-platey.” This gave for quite insecure climbing as hooking hacked out holes definitely isn’t as inspiring as a solid thunk as your axe sinks into plastic ice; as per my last couple of routes! Coupled with sustained steepness and some awkward moves up the crux and across the small traverse above the crux, we were provided with much entertainment. The route was awesome and I would love to get on it on lead when its less hacked out, and the ice is more plastic. This definitely felt more like what I was expecting for V,5 ground. Absolutely brilliant fun though and a really cool looking route. After this I led up the shallow pitch of ice on the right of the rocks, giving about 50m of interesting grade III climbing to finish the day. A great way to end my recent climbing burst before heading out to France for a week snowboarding., more footage below again.