Sunday, 26 December 2010

More Lowland Continental-Style Ice Routes 26/12/10

I'm trying to make the most of this time when my family are all in the same place at the same time and it's been great. However with an utterly rubbish forecast for the end of today and into next week, with dramatically increased temperatures and warm southernly winds I was pretty keen to get out on an ice line "Moonlight Completion" in Corrie of Balglass near Fintry in the Campsie Fells just north of Glasgow. Last year I did Grey Mare's Tail and it was great so I was keen to get on this line, especially after seeing this awesome picture of it from last year;

So Neil and I set off early this morning and went into the Corrie to see if the line was still climable, we were a bit skeptical on the way in but fortunately it was perfect with amazing plasticy ice. The line looked pretty thin but when we actually got onto it there was no need to worry as it was p-h-fat.
We solo'd up most of the easier entry pitch and belayed on a big column below a platform which signals the pitch proper. I was slightly nervous whilst I was tying in and wasn't sure if it would be better to hand the lead over to Neil, but I thought I would go and have a look at least and after gaining the starting platform and putting in a screw I tried to psyche myself up to go for it. I managed to get psyched and overcome the intimidating start as the climbing looked fantastic and the ice was in brilliant condition. I pulled on and the start was quite steep but there were loads of cheeky features in the ice to use for your feet and I was soon placing my second screw. This theme essentially continued onwards for the rest of the pitch on slightly less steep ice, but continually interesting and greatly fearured. I was pleased to reach the belay ledge at the top and by the time I was at the belay it had made it a 70m pitch. Neil swiftly followed and we walked off back to the bags passing the other line in the corrie, a not fully formed III gully which looked quite fun.

We thought the route probably deserved V,5*** and it was fantastic to climb this brilliant line which doesn't get done that often, perhaps it won't form again this year! A perfect end to a pretty much perfect year, massively looking forward to everything that 2011 will bring! Happy New Year to everyone.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Menage a Trois With Two? 21/12/10

With another fantastic day forecast on the west, we decided to head back up to Beinn an Dothaidh and look at Menage a Trois which people on UKC seem to enjoy more than Pas De Deux. We were up early and managed to catch the lunar eclipse which was impressive in a weird way!

There was an awesome sunrise and the sky was full of pinks and blues as we walked in, again fantastic views in all directions. The line comes into view once you round the coire edge and it is a great line. We split the route into four pitches and Neil block led the first three which meant we were both warm and kept moving as it was pretty chilly around -13C. The second pitch up the first half of the corner was really good fun, the second half just felt awkward but was also fun in a masochistic and mental way! Mixed climbing ay!

I think we both decided that we have now done enough mixed climbing for the season and shall be pursuing more ice routes...on a purely ethical basis of course.

A great two days before winding down for Christmas, hope it's a good one for everyone.

Monday, 20 December 2010

More Than Two on Pas De Deux 20/12/10

Neil and I were psyched to get up to Torridon or Applecross and climb some of the classic ice falls but it didn't look like they would be formed yet due to a dry summer, hopefully they will form up nicely with this snow and forecasted thaw causing some freeze-thaw on the mountains and we will be able to get up there at some point this season.

As an alternative we headed to Beinn an Dothaidh hoping to climb Pas De Deux and get on some crazy mixed climbing. Unfortunately there was a team of three on the route when we arrived at the base and they weren't moving particularly quickly. After having a quick scope around we decided on the line of Cirrus which we thought was the best looking line on the crag. The ice line wasn't fully formed but there was just enough ice to make upward progress possible with some squirming and boldness. Neil made good work on the first pitch which had a fun cave start before moving out onto the semi-hanging icicle. The second pitch was more thin icicle madness and great sport, made all the more exciting by our extensive rack of three screws!

The last pitch was straightforward up to the summit which gave fantastic vistas across Rannoch Moor all the way to Ben Nevis. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the climbing was fantastic, altogether a great day, looking forward to tomorrow's antics!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Back to Beinn Udlaidh 18/12/10

This morning I headed up with Scott, Neil and Sean to the West Coast again. With lots of snow reported we wanted to do something low and north facing, we were slightly worried about how much the thaw would have stripped Beinn Udlaidh but with reports of things being climbed on UKC and a fantastic weather forecast we headed up. There was far less snow than I was expecting, there was a big temperature inversion and it snowed...not exactly what was forecast but it was a great day nonetheless.

Scott and I jumped on Peter Pan Direct which was fantastic, the ice was a perfect toffee consistency and gave first time placements, even for a good old hacker like me! There was a fair bit of water running down the surface of the ice which meant we both got soaked, but both pitches were fully complete and gave some great climbing so we couldn't complain. Neil and Sean headed up South Gully of the Black Wall and did a slightly harder left-hand variation half way up. After walking back to the bags Scott and I jumped on South Gully which also had some fantastic ice.

The season has gotten off to a great start and it looks set to continue for a good while yet. There were lots of teams out enjoying the delights of Scottish ice in December!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Back to Beinn Udlaidh 08/12/10

It seems like yesterday I was up at Beinn Udlaidh but so much has gone on through the summer!

This morning I met up with Sean and Neil and we headed West, again without any real plans. By the time we got across and picked up Greg en-route it was slightly later than hoped and we decided that a long day plodding through deep snow up high wouldn't be much fun, so we opted to take a drive down Glen Orchy and have a look at Beinn Udlaidh. Of course with such low temperatures there was some ice formed, but with the unusually low and sustained temperatures some lines aren't formed at all whilst others are forming in unusual places.

On the walk in Greg and Neil were spying up a hanging ice fringe right of The Grin; which Greg put up last year. Sean and I decided to follow them up to the base of the route and try and get some photos before heading off for a short route round the corner.

The guys made an impressive ascent, check Greg's blog for full details ( whilst Sean and I poked our head round the corner to have a look at Organ Pipe Wall but it wasn't fully formed so we headed up West Gully which had a nice ice pitch which Sean led up and then we simu-climbed to the top.

Another stunning day and I can't wait to get back out in the hills! (photos credit of Sean Bell [])

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Blue Riband 07/12/10

Scotland; better than anywhere else in the world on the right day.

Whilst I haven't been psyched for winter much recently, after speaking to Greg ( and hearing about his mad antics and very impressive new routes my psyche started to build, then I flicked through the winter blogs and I was itching to get back out on the tools! It's crazy how fast psyche can switch from one thing to another!

With a stunning forecast I jumped at the opportunity to climb with Neil and we headed across to Glencoe to climb something. We initially loosely planned to do a mixed route but with heavier than forecasted snowfall and -19 Celsius at valley level we changed plans and decided to do a bit of searching for some obscure ice routes that don't normally form. Unfortunately both the routes we were thinking of weren't in condition but our back up plan was one of the best possible! We knew Blue Riband had been climbed this week and whilst Neil had done it last year he was keen to do it again and it's been one of the iconic routes that I've always wanted to climb.

The route fully lived up to expectations and it turned out to be a fantastic day, one of the best I've ever had. The view was incredible, climbing continually interesting, it's a totally classic route...perfect really. Pictures say a thousand words, so hopefully the video describes how amazing the day was! (photos credit of Neil Carnegie)

Friday, 3 December 2010

Early season shredding 03/12/10

I can't believe it's December already and I can't believe how much snow there is! With this in mind Sam and I tried to get up to Aviemore but were beaten by the Forth Road Bridge being closed. We had a mini descent down Arthur's Seat to keep the dream alive and fortunately made it up the following day. Thursday was fantastic with plenty of snow, unfortunately none of it was as fluffy as last year as the snowpack was quite wind scoured but the beautiful skies made up for this. Friday was a bit more Scottish with 60mph winds and understandably very little soft snow, they closed the mountain around lunchtime but we still had a fun half day being blown about! Considering it is only early December this is a great start to the season, hopefully it will be another great winter!