Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Shooting in the hills 21/12/11

With the weather forecast turning poor I was thinking that winter would be over before Christmas but it turned out that Greg was hooking up with Ian Parnell for a few days to get some climbing done (hopefully!). I didn't have anything else on and was keen to come along and get some photos so we all headed up to Aviemore and discussed options, it was going to have to be early, accessible and high. With a target in mind we braved the wet snow showers across to Carn Etchachan and eventually arrived at the top and I set up an ab rope for photos that the guys could use to access the upper tier and the start of their route. All went relatively well except for the moments of fear jugging back up a dynamic single rope over some granite edges and I got some shots I was happy with. Unfortunately the weather was getting increasingly more humid and everything was fogging up immediately in between lens wipes, but that's part of the game I guess!

Good to be out anyway and again pretty cool to see Greg doing his thing and of course to climb with another guru! Thursday was super warm so we ended up back at Newtyle where Ian sampled some of the tube routes and we had a laugh.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Sticil Face Attempt 15/12/11

After grabbing a lift with Greg and Will as they went to do Stone Temple I met up with Andy Moles and we decided to go and have a look at Sticil Face as we had heard this classic route was in great condition. After leaving the house in Aviemore at 2:30am so the guys could leave the car park at 3am I went back to sleep for a few hours in the car and met Andy around 6am for the trudge through plenty of fresh snow over to Loch Avon. It took us a long time to get across due to the snow conditions and we should have really noticed this and linked it to the fact that Sticil has a lot of 'easy' ground in it, unfortunately we did not!

After an engaging and awakening first pitch of steep, dodgy snow traversing Andy led up the first pitch of ledgy ice bulges and belayed under the crux corner. I thought this looked very straightforward as it was in exceptional condition, however I was glad I placed some high runners when I was half way up as it turned out to be much steeper than it looked and I haven't climbed any ice this season! After some great moves I was atop the corner and made my way through more deep snow up to below the chimney pitch. Andy then led up this in good style after removing his rucksack and then I came up. The next pitch was a lot of traversing, again on pretty dodgy snow and whilst it was a moderate angle there was not much gear at all. After quite a long time I made it across and belayed Andy across too. When he arrived it was dark and we decided that since this was taking so long and we weren't 100% sure where to go above (and the fact that it looked hard!) we decided to bail.

By now we had traversed most of the way across the upper ledge and I was very reluctant to reverse what we had just climbed so we got the guide out and decided we could ab down The Pin if we could find the equipped stations. Andy set off down the ab and found the first station in good time which was a slight relief as this was starting to get a bit epic! I came down and we re-threaded before Andy set off again. Unfortunately his head torch failed at this point and after a good deal of searching for the anchor he had to just tie himself off onto a nut he couldn't see properly and hope it was good! I came down and managed to find the anchor and all was back on track. We went to pull the ropes and for some reason we failed to check who was taking the knots out of the ends of which ropes and so as I cam to the knot, the rope got stuck. Now we were in a rather precarious position; both on different ledges, Andy with all the gear but no head torch and clipped to a hopefully good wire, with only one 60m rope, potentially more than 30m to the ledge that we were hoping to ab off again to the floor (which was definitely over 30m) and so a big traverse across more dodgy snow. Fortunately the weather was incredibly settled and whilst the moon didn't appear until we were off the crag, the lack of wind was very much appreciated! Thankfully we weren't more than 30m from the ledge and so could retreat to that and then retrieve the rope in order to climb out; 3 full pitches with 3 pieces of decent gear and plenty of snow with a wonderful slabby abyss dragging at our heals later and we were back at the start of the route where we had geared up. We sucked the last of our water and started the long walk back to the car before getting some food and somehow making it back to Edinburgh with only one quick power-nap. I'd been up for 24 hours by the time I got home and had been climbing for 17 hours so slept pretty darn well! A good day though, always good to learn from some mistakes and remind yourself that you have to much more switched on for winter climbing! See Andy's blog for his take on the day.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Winter climbage 06/12/11-10/12/11

Tuesday I headed up to Beinn Dorain with Adam to have a look at Messaih or The Sting, we deliberated for a while whilst watching Greg and Will sprinting up Defenders of the Faith. We decided on The Sting, couldn't find the start as per the description, changed our mind to go and do Messaih, set off up there only to find the turf unfrozen over there so went back to find The
Sting! We set off up what seemed like a more obvious first pitch and then did the second pitch up an obvious right facing corner to a small cave which was a brilliant pitch. Adam then came up and had a look at the next and following (crux) pitch but given it was getting late we decided to bail from the fixed gear at the top of the earlier corner pitch which took us straight back to the bags. We then said goodbye to Adam and headed up to the CIC Hut in some fairly heavy snow.

Wednesday dawned and there was lots of snow around, we decided to go up towards Echo Wall as the guys had their eyes on something new, unfortunately it wasn't playing ball so we went up Great Chimney which was home to little ice, some fun old-school climbing, and tonnes of spindrift! Good to get a route done though.

Thursday brought the forecasted hurricane forece winds and we spent half the day sitting in the hut playing cards before noticing some debris being blown around outside. After going out to investigate and realising half the roof had blown off we decided to bail down to Fort Bill. Unfortunately after about half an hour of trying to walk in 100mph+ winds and having only made about 100m of progress in half an hour we went back to the hut to sit it out.

This turned out to be the better decision in the end anyway as Friday came round with no wind whatsoever and even the occasional glimpse of blue sky! We headed off up to Number 3 Gully Buttress and the guys made the second ascent of The Knuckleduster which was home to some pretty thin and bold climbing, sustained as well. We topped out in the clear moonlight and the whole coire was lit up brillitantly which was fantastic! An absolutely awesome day.

After a full on day yesterday and helping Robin Clothier and some other SMC members do a bit of clean up and fixing this morning we headed back down to Fort William and homewards. A brilliant week even if the weather was mental!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

STS on the Ben with Big Tree Campervans 02/12/11-03/12/11

I was up on Ben Nevis this weekend courtesy of STS ( and Big Tree Campervans ( filming their series prize of a weekend in the CIC Hut with some host climbers.

The weekend went well despite the forecast and everyone had a great time.

Check out Greg's blog for his thoughts;

and JDV for some pics;

Thursday, 1 December 2011


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Monday, 28 November 2011

Training for winter 28/11/11

Over the past month or so I have been balancing uni work with trying to get some training in on the axes. Initially this was on Greg's circuit board but after his Glenmore Lecture (great success and very interesting) at the Scottish Tooling Series Competition we all headed to Newtyle Quarry. I was a bit skeptical as the last time I was here a few years ago I could barely do the first moves on the Fast and Furious. I had a few shots and the moves didn't feel too bad in isolation, but I got super tired trying to work out the sequence.

Training on the circuit board continued and we spent a fair bit of time at the cave and I made good progress on the route, getting the clean ascent on my 5th redpoint. I was pretty psyched about this but keen for more training given we were moving the circuit board and building a full on cave - The Stable.

Training has been continuing and I have been working the extension Too Fast Too Furious which is home to some awesome moves but much longer than the original and very pumpy. I have also been working The Torchlite but it looks like winter is arriving soon so I may not be playing on this too much!

I've also been taking loads of photos and videos; watch this space for more info.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Northwards for rock! 27/09/11-29/09/11

Adam and I headed up north to Aviemore hoping to climb up high, unfortunately the wind prevented us from getting up there as it was gusting over 60mph everyday. We had a pretty good plan B though and after cranking out some evening routes at Huntley's Cave we headed to Creag Ghlas in Strathconon for a day of multi-pitch slab climbing.

After a leisurely cycle the path becomes significantly steeper but we eventually made it up to the base of Salamander, our chosen line. The route ended up being 5 excellent pitches, with pitches 1,3,4 all being brilliant. The crux pitch for us was the first as the crack was damp which made it quite interesting!

The corner fourth pitch was excellent and probably the best pitch on the route, very Hammer-esque on the Slabs.

After heading back and climbing on Moy Rock to totally knacker ourselves we headed up early to the Cairngorms but were again thwarted by the wind so headed home via Logiehead and then Creag Death and had fun climbing King Bee which was nails! Another great trip though and Salamander was a brilliant route in a new location which is always nice!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Back to Newtonhill and a boulder 22/09/11-23/09/11

Sean, Mark and I headed back up towards Aberdeen to get back on the steepness of Newtonhill North.

We had a good day in great weather; Mark and Sean had fun ticking off some of the classics and I did two awesome HVS's, both flashed with little beta, which I was psyched about!

Feeling somewhat tired we had a day bouldering at Bowden and doing some of the easy routes there. It was great to get back out on the rock again!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

NW Trip 22/07/11-24/07/11

With a little time left and some good weather before I start 6 weeks of internship I was pretty keen to get out climbing again. Neil, Scott and Sophie were also free so after a few days of mountain biking and wakeboarding we headed up to Reiff for two days followed by a day at Ardmair.

We visited a number of the crags which was good and did lots of climbing. The weather was stunning and after cranking out a number of easier routes we finished the day climbing the classic Black Gold.

After another morning waking up by the sea (a theme this year!) we headed back to Reiff and had some more fun on a whole bunch of routes. I was psyched to get another E1 onsight and it was another brilliant day, what more could you want!

We finished the trip with much fun at Ardmair again cranking up some brilliant routes! More excellent weather. North-west is best!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Newtonhill North 25/06/11

A slight let down climbing on the mainland after Pabbay and Mingulay but a good day out nontheless on some quality wee routes with much entertainment for their seemingly short appearance! I had a good day and was pretty psyched to flash Acapulco which is a steep little E1 in the middle of the face with some great moves. Steepness was the order of the day!

On the way home the sunset was absolutely incredible; the whole sky was lit up bright pink/purple, I got set up just in time and managed to catch the last rays. It really was crazy ten minutes before I took this shot!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Pabbay and Mingulay 08/06/11-18/06/11

After hauling all our gear out the car, onto the train, off the train, onto another train, off the train, across a car-park to the boat, meeting up with everyone and hugely increasing the kit pile, heaving it all onto the boat, heaving it off the boat, struggling to lift it onto a last boat, off the last boat and up the beach we had finally arrived in Pabbay!

After setting up camp and getting everything sorted, aka laying out all my tinned peaches, we settled in and got to know everyone a bit better as I only knew 4 people on the trip before going. After a good night's sleep and waking up to the sounds of crashing waves and birds we headed across the island to Poop Deck having a look at The Priest/Prophet on the way. This pretty much set the scene for the rest of the trip - steep juggy climbing, blue skies (apart from the brief hail shower!), and seas. It was pretty incredible! Everyone had a good day getting stuck into some routes with Greg, Adam, Ed and Swail crushing (again another theme to continue for most of the trip!) I was feeling a bit tired but managed to tick off the first routes from my ticklist which was great!

We had been planning on going to Pink Walls but with the weather being super windy we decided to head to the more sheltered Bay Area. This was a cool area and again we could see Basking Sharks and Minke Wales floating around close to the shore! Ed, Swail and Adam got on the amazing looking "Herbrudean" but I was feeling tired from yesterday and had a pretty rubbish day getting scared above dodgy gear on an E1 further right!

Whilst we were climbing yesterday Donald the boatman advised that the weather was changing and so he would come and pick us up a day earlier to change islands. With this in mind we headed to Pink Walls where Adam was super keen to try "In Profundum Lacu". I was knackered (no one told me how much walking there was!) so was happy to belay and take photos. The position was totally incredible and it is definitely one of the most impressive places and especially cliffs I have ever been.

We were presented with another incredible sunset on the way back to the campsite. What an incredible place!

After transferring Islands we were all a bit knackered but Eddie and I headed across the Island for a mostly unsuccessful trip in terms of climbing but it was a great experience being attacked by the fleet of Bonxies and again just incredible being in this amazing and untouched situation in the middle of nowhere!

Today we headed to Guarsay Mor, The Boulevard and had a great day climbing a whole bunch of routes. Adam was busting out more moves to earn his nickname "shoulders"! It was a scorcher and almost everyone got burnt!

Dun Mingulay today and Sula with Ed, an amazing route with a totally epic second pitch! Slightly loose on the top pitch as Latham and Liam found out when I dropped a shoe-box sized piece of rock from the top of the last pitch nearly 100m abo
ve them! And there were some other strange items falling from the top of the cliff courtesy of Swail and Adam!

Resting today as totally knackered but we managed to see some incredible wildlife up close and get some beautiful fish as well!

There were plenty of Puffins around to keep us entertained in the evening too!

Today Adam and I walked across to Guarsay Mor again but after sitting in rain showers and very high winds we decided to call it a day and head back to camp to finish off any remaining provisions. The Puffins were back too!

Back home via a series of trains and lifts. What an incredible trip, and what Islands! It really did live up to the huge hype that surrounded it! WOW!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Training 02/06/11

After I finished my exams I got a last minute invite to fill a spot on a trip to Pabbay and Mingulay and I didn't hang about to grab this opportunity to go to one of the places I've always wanted to visit since I started climbing!

As well as some training at Ratho I've been trying to get out and about as much as possible and get some mileage in; Bowden, Clova, Cambusbarron was a good week followed by some more training.

Then Galloway (disappointing) and up to the complete opposite end of the country at Rosehearty the following day capped off with a short day at Hawkcraig to continue the sea theme before a bit of rest and heading off to Pabbay and Mingulay! Super psyched!