It's become a regular and very enjoyable fixture in my diary - road tripping round Scotland climbing stunning and classic lines with Rob & Jude. After last years soggy experience it was great to find some dry rock and get some serious mileage in. This years ticklist included Agags Groove & Grooved Arete on the imposing Rannoch Wall, Archer Ridge & Quiver Rib in Glencoe, Savage Slit in the Cairngorms, the Classic Rock trio of Cicoh Direct, Arrow Route & Integrity on Skye, Tower Ridge on the Ben and a wet adventure up the iconic Clachaig Gully - 9 Classic Rock routes and 27 stars :)
A final few days at the end of my Scottish winter season gave a mixed bag of conditions, weather and routes. After a year off the Irish crew arrived for a quick hit coming away with ascents of the Douglas Boulder SW Ridge (IV 5) and a very snowy swim up Western Rib (III) on the west face of Aonach Mor. With the turbo thaw back in action my final day on Curved Ridge was almost alpine with a leisurely picnic on Crowberry Tower and a cloud inversion on top.
Winter conditions are slowly developing in Scotland. We got a bit of everything this week as a couple of storms blew through but they left a good covering of snow on the hills. I was back out with Rob & Jude who have now amassed plenty of Scottish winter experience but are always up for an adventure.
Sunday saw us having a crack at Summit Buttress Ordinary Route IV 5 in Stob Coire Nan Lochain. Unfortunately the snow was insulating the turf and it wasn't remotely frozen meaning we had to bail. Unfrozen turf seems to be a real problem on the west coast at the moment so we headed east looking for better conditions. An early start saw us battle against the spindrift avalanches on Opening Break IV 5 in the Northern Corries. Topping out on to the plateau in to 80mph winds was an interesting experience and it was a good team effort to get back to the van safely.
Unsurprisingly the bodies and psyche had taken a bit of a battering so Tuesday saw us hiding in the Ice Factor pushing our ice and dry tooling grades and drinking plenty of coffee.
Wednesday was looking like the best day of the week so we broke trail up on to the Aonach Eagach III. We were soon joined by a few other parties on what was a very enjoyable traverse along the snow plastered ridge. Our final day saw us push tired limbs up onto the Ballachulish Dragons Tooth II. A new route for me but one that has become very popular in the last couple of years and had seen plenty of traffic the previous day. A great day out on continually interesting ground and amazing views from the summit to finish the week.
Winter conditions in 2017 have been a wee bit fickle. There's been a reasonable amount of snow but successive thaws have continually stripped the hills meaning that there is no base and lots of loose rock around. Nonetheless with a bit of imagination and lateral thinking there's always an adventure to be had. Regulars Rob & Jude were back for another week on the west coast moving up the grades and climbing classics.
Sunday saw us on a warm and wet Ben Nevis enjoying the delights of No 2 Gully. There was a surprising amount of good ice where needed and the screws were needed. After an atmospheric climb we topped out going from winter to summer in a couple of steps. I think we were the only team to log a route on UKC that day!
We tried heading east one day coming away with an ascent of Hidden Chimney Direct (IV 5) in Sneachda. The route was well verglassed and rime was developing as we started but we narrowly failed to beat the freezing level to the top of the crag as things turned warm again.
Overnight snow gave our final day a proper wintery feel. We broke trail into Stob Coire Nan Lochain and swam up Raeburns Route (IV 4). There were copious amounts of spindrift & grauphal being moved by the wind and we triggered a small slide on the approach but once established on the route things calmed down a bit and we enjoyed a great climb.
Just back from a short trip to the west coast of Scotland. We had ambitious plans but a real mixed bag of weather didn't quiet play ball. The first couple of days were focused on the Glencoe Skyline route looking at race lines and strategies. Curved Ridge and the Aonach Eagach were both bone dry and gave us a couple of brilliant days out in the sunshine. Monday morning saw us heading across the water to Ardumuchan looking for more scrambling on Garbh Beinn's Pinnacle Ridge. Super grippy rock and amazing rock architecture more than made up for a slightly disjointed line.
Heading north to the Isle of Skye the weather turned and we aborted our attempt on the Cuillin and Dubh Ridges entertaining oursleves with a run along the unworldly Trotternish Ridge. With perfect timing the cloud lifted to reveal a glorious sunset as we dropped down towards the Old Man of Stoer.
The final week of my Scottish winter season involved lots of different groups (and weather). Starting out east I had a day winter climbing with Russ for Cairngorm Adventure Guides. Marching up into Coire an t-Sneachda out of the cloud inversion was spectacular and Aladdins gav e a great introduction to the vertical winter world. Topping out into the sunshine the obvious descent was over the top of Cairngorm to delay our inevitable descent back into the cloud for as long as possible.
Next up was a weekend of winter mountaineering with Justin. Once again thick cloud was blanketing Fort William but up on the Ben it was blue skies and zero wind. We popped into the sunlight at the CIC hut and a full days climbing up Ledge Route and around the CMD arete was just about perfect. The next day was nearly as good and we made a quick ascent of Stob Coire Nan Lochan and Bidean nan Bam descending by the Lost Valley. It had taken Justin 4 attempts to tick this Munro but it was worth the wait.
My final couple of days were out with a team of sport scientists from Leeds Beckett University. They're undertaking high altitude research on some willing volunteers from the "British Services Dhaulagiri Medical Research Expedition 2016" We looked at winter and general expedition skills while climbing both the Ben and Buachaille with a couple of hours of heavy rain bringing my season to a traditional close!