This weekend I've been working with Ryoko and Anthony, the former who has big plans involving skis on Mt Vinson and Denali. Not sure I can help her much with the skiing! so it was all about giving her the mountaineering and expedition skills to enable her to get up and down the mountains safely and look after herself in an extreme enviroment. Saturday was spent in a wet Stob Coire Nan Lochan focusing on crevasse rescue, ascending and descending fixed lines and avalanche avoidance. A better forecast for sunday tempted us up on to Ben Nevis which has had a surprising amount of new snow. Arguably the best grade II on the mountain is Ledge Route which is similar in technical difficulty to Mt Vinson although it is currently in very easy condition with all the rock steps banked out. Some good navigation practice got us off the back and down into Red Burn for a quick look at cold weather survival skills and emergency snow shelters.
The ice on Ben Nevis this year has been in fantastic condition for the last few weeks so it was great to climb a couple of the classics this last few days. Orion Face Direct (V 5) gave us 9 pitches of amazing climbing under epic amounts of spindrift. The crux traverse was thin and mixed but the rest of the route was all on good ice. Friday saw a slightly shorter day on the steep Two Step Corner (V 5) up on No 3 Gully Buttress. The approach slopes were suspect so we sneaked up the side and were rewarded with 3 good ice pitches and a tricky cornice exit.
Great wee video from Alan Kimber on Green Gully (IV 4) from back on the 10th March. We had the pleasure of following them up the route and sharing their belay on a couple of occasions. Stunning day on the Ben
Not the sheep! but a bunch of enthusiastic doctors undertaking a weeks training in the Lake District with Expedition Medicine. The company provides worldwide medical training courses for medical professionals, wilderness medics and for individuals providing advanced medical coverage in remote areas.
The focus of the day was on the technical skills required to operate safely in the mountains in support of their extensive medical knowledge and closely followed the Summer Mountain Leader syllabus. We headed up onto the slopes and small crags of Bleaberry Fell above Borrowdale to look at the various options available to a leader on steep ground - coaching, spotting, supporting, confidence roping, pitching and abseiling.
Finally navigation focused on relating the map to the ground and the importance of scale as not all the maps they'll be using in the future are as detailed and accurate as Ordanance Survey.
the day concluded with a fascinating lecture by Dr Roger Alcock who has just returned from sierra leon as part of the NHS / UK Med response to the Ebola crisis
A series of short sharp storms interspaced with high pressure provided us with the best and the worst of Scottish winter climbing this week. Rob and Jude made their annual pilgrimage north looking to climb some classics. Warm wet and very windy conditions were the order of the day on Monday. We got a great result making the trek up to Stob Coire Nan Lochan finding thin but good sticky ice in SC Gully (III 4). Sheltered in the gully while climbing we had a good battle getting back down the ridge as the wind speed rapidly rose. Back down at the road it was all a bit epic as my campervan had been moved two meters by a particularly big gust and the Glencoe Ski area reported a maximum of 138mph!
Tuesday was glorious with light winds and sunshine. Glovers Chimney (III 4) on the Ben gave us a bit of everything - ice, spindrift, neve, mixed climbing and an exposed finish to the summit for a spectacular sunset. The exit from Tower Gap provided the crux of the route with unhelpful snow on the ledges. The international team ahead of us had a good battle on this before exiting left up the bypass chimney
The next two days were characterised by reasonable conditions early morning and late evening with the bulk of the day giving us a couple of violent storms. We took the oppurtunity to test our waterproofs and look at the technical skills of mixed climbing, stance management, escaping the system and multi pitch abseils. Thursday we managed to sneak up the Zig Zags to the summit of Grear Aonach in spring like conditions.
It all came together on Friday with one of the best days of the season. Back up on the Ben we climbed Green Gully (IV 4) on hero neve. It was a bit soft for ice screws but climbing in sunglasses and a fleece made it a very pleasant experience. We were also following Alan Kimber who was mentoring a couple of MIC trainees which meant the belaying was very socialable if alittle cramped. A quick solo down No 4 Gully allowed me to retrieve my sunglasses which had been removed from my face by a chunk of ice and we wandered out under a starry sky.
There was a strange buzzing heard from the vicinity of Ledge Route today! Rob Johnson getting some stunning footage with his drone;