Sunday, 27 February 2011

Slate Adventure

This afternoon Jen and I decided to go for a wee adventure in the Dinorwig slate quarries. Now it is important to state at this point that the slate quarries are private owned and Snowdonia Mountaineering in now way condones trespassing.... on a serious note if you are climbing or adventuring in the quarries please be discreet.

We walked through the quarries from Bus Stop to beyond Twll Mawr from where we took an incline up a few level to the top of Twll Mawr. From here a tunnel leads you through the slate to a window 45 meters up the side of the Lost World hole. We abseiled out of here (bolts in place), which is a little bit exciting, to the bottom of the Lost World. Its a well named spot - its very surreal down there. It has its own little lake and ecosystem in there and the walls are streaked with bright red mosses. From there a tunnel leads you into Mordor which is escaped by climbing a series of rickety ladders - all scary stuff! A great little adventure.

On the mountains there is a bit of fresh snow to about 850m and its is forecast to be cold for a few days so take care in them hills!

Jen in the Lost World. Access is via abseil from the hole in the cliff.

Jen abseiling out of the window

Heading down into the Lost World

Jen climbing the ladders to escape from Mordor
ps.. I would also recommend a helmet for this adventure and all mountaineering related activities (Jen's didn't fit over her hat)

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Slateman Traithlon Training

Its about time I put in a few miles for training for the Slateman Triathlon in May. So Jen and I headed down to Beddgelert to do a short run to ease my legs into some running again. Its one of my favourite routes and its was especially beautiful today as we got some nice warm spring sunshine to warm our backs! The route is shown below (click on the map) and I would definately reccomend it to anyone looking for a short run or a nice stroll in the hills. Time for the Rugby now...

Cwm Bychan

Cwm Bychan

Nice gentle run or good walk for family, Also a good option in bad weather aslong as the Glaslyn isn't too high as this can flood the path!

Monday, 21 February 2011

First Rock Climbing course of 2011

Today I took clients Rob and Kat down to Tremadog for their first taste of outdoor climbing. With a pretty poor forecast I hoped that Tremadog would provide its normal Haven from the rain! Driving down the Glaslyn valley the rain stopped and the sky lightened - result. Unfortunately the crag was still very wet from heavy overnight rain but we made the best of conditions. Rob and Kat both managed to climb 2 severes, which is a brilliant effort, especially as they couldn't feel their fingers due to the wet and cold! We also took some time to look at trad gear placements, constructing anchors and building belays. We were unfortunately caught out mid afternoon by a heavy shower so we finished the day by doing some abseiling. It was quite a tough intro to outdoor climbing for Rob and Kat so they are planning a return match in June when it will hopefully be a bit warmer and drier!

Kat lowering off Fallen Block Crack (severe)

Kat and Rob carrying out pre-climb checks

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Cairngorms Northern Corries Ski Tour

I had an amazing day of skiing in the Cairngorms today. I got up early and headed for the Coire Cas car park to try and beat the crowds - it was worth it as I managed to get 4 good runs in before the queues started growing. It was time to head for some peace and quiet. I donned my skins at the Ptarmigan and skinned up to Cnap Coire na Spreidhe then on to Cairngorm. I shared the top with one other skier and an amazing view north to Loch Morlich and beyond. A quick ski down took me to the windy col. From here I headed over the top of Coire an t Sneachda to Carn Lochan 1215m. The great thing about ski touring is going down hill - fast! When walking to the bottom of Lurchers gully it would take at least 90mins, today it took me less than 15 minutes on really good snow! Thats 4km and 600m of descent!

This has really whetted my appetite for more ski touring and the whole of the Cairngorms to the south looked very inviting. Unfortunately its pretty rare to get good skiing conditions combined with good weather so days like today are very precious!

I got back to the van at 12.30 so headed back up the mountain for a few more runs. The Cairngorm ski area was pretty damm good this afternoon especially in Coire na Ciste. Legs are very tired now so I think I'll head out for a steak tonight to get a good protein fix!

Looking North from the top of Coire an t Sneachda
Coire an t Sneacda well covered in snow

Looking west to the Fiacaill Ridge

At the top of Lurchers Gully

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A quick Ski Tour up Lurchers Gully

Freshly deposited windslab cracking and sliding easily!

View from the Summit of Lurchers Crag 1053m
Today I had a nice skin from Coire Cas up Lurchers gullys to the summit of Lurchers crag or Creag an Leth Choin as it probably should be known as. I had hoped that it might have been a good day to make the long tour over to Ben MacDui but as I arrived at the car park I was greeted by 50mph winds and clouds of spindrift (wind blown snow) so changed my plans. As I toured across to Lurchers gully there was lots of fresh wind slab being deposited so not a good day to be on any steep slopes as the avalanche risk would have been very high. The gully was full of pretty soft snow so I was pretty psyched for the descent!
Unfortunately as I came down the visibility got even worse so I had to take it pretty steady! Its always tricky when you can't tell what the snow is going to be like. It is a really good run down - probably about a blue run if it was pisted. I finished the day with a nice cappuccino in The Mountain Cafe (they also do a fantastic all day breakfast!).

Monday, 14 February 2011

Cairngorm Ski Action

Views from the summit of Cairngorm
The snow on Saturday on Cairngorm was probably better than anywhere in the Alps on Saturday! Given the high avalanche risk I decided to go for a bit of a ski - probably a good decision as a fair few people were avalanched in the Northern Corries in the morning, thankfully no one was seriously hurt. After spending the morning on the pistes I put my skins on and hiked up to Cairngorm summit and enjoyed good views across the mountains. After a quick picnic in the sun I pointed my skis down hill and 3 minutes later I was in the car park.

I've been out for a quick ski this morning but flat light combined with variable snow meant I took a bit of a tumble! Resting up now in preparation for a tour across the plateau to Ben MacDui tomorrow.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Scottish Mountaineering Action

I've had two great days out in the Scottish Mountains this week. Weather and conditions have been mixed but I managed to make the best of the week getting out on Tuesday to Beinn a Chaorainn and on Thursday to Ben Nevis.

Ben a Chaorainn is a fairly unremarkable mountain from the west but its east side is home to some high corries and fine ridges. Bryn, T and myself decided that with a high avalanche risk an ascent of the east ridge would be a good option. A tactical slow approach through deep snow allowed us to be overtaken and relieved of trail breaking duties!. Once on the ridge we enjoyed good weather and interesting scrambling right to the summit of the mountain. I would definitely recommend this as a fine mountaineering day out.

Bryn at T at the start of the East Ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn

A tricky step on the ridge

Yesterday I got up really early and drove over to Fort William to meet Bryn for a day on The Ben. It was forecast to be a beautiful day and as we made the long walk in the early morning cloud disappeared to reveal blue sky. We headed for the Douglas Boulder and climbed a short route called Faulty Towers that went at about grade 3. Conditions were a little thin and some of the ice was rotten after the recent thaw. We had a relaxed lunch then abseiled off into Douglas Gully. We really wanted to get on a route were we could enjoy the sunshine so a traverse across Coire na Ciste lead us on to ledge route. This is another great mountaineering route that takes you all the way to the plateau with sustained interest. The route was in great nick and we quickly soloed up into the sunshine. On the summit plateau we stopped to soak up the sun for awhile before making the long descent back to the valley. When you get days like this Scotland is a very special place - often though you have to put up with bad weather and many frustrating days to get a really good one... it was worth the wait!

Ledge Route climbs up to and follows the sunny ridge to the summit

Bryn on the approach up no. 5 gully

Bryn on the ridge leading to the summit

A rare perfect day on top of The Ben

Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Storm Arrives!!

With yet another windy forecast I decided not to head up onto the tops today. I took a nice stroll through the snowy forests of the Rothiemurcus Estate then up into the start of the Lairig Ghru. This is an amazing geological feature - a deep valley that separates the Cairngorm plateau from Braeriach and Carn Toul. Here I 'rescued' a slightly lost but well equipped Polish chap. I persuaded Vorturyk that this wasn't the day to try and climb Braeriach so he joined me for the rest of the day. With the approaching storm quickly moving up the Lairig Ghru I decided to bail through the Chalamain Gap. This was tricky enough with the wind gusting to 60 mph and the boulder strewn gap partially covered with fresh snow. Once through the wind increased to the point where I could hardly stand and the next couple of miles to get down into the woods was hard going! Then the snow arrived and I was glad not to be up high - hopefully enough will have settled in the woods to allow some x-country skiing tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Windy in the Northern Corries!

The forecast for today was not too bad apart from the wind - gusts up to 80mph were predicted. So when I woke to pouring rain it was a struggle to get out of bed. In fact if it wasn't that Bryn was heading over from Fort William I probably would have stayed put! Thankfully as we drove up to the ski area car park the wet weather cleared through and blue sky appeared (well some small patches). We strolled into the corrie in worsening wind and decided to try a route on the Mess of Pottage (don't now why this cliff was given this name!).

As we cramponned up to the base of the buttress we were buffeted by some big gusts. At times I had to get down on my knees and dig my axe in for support! It did make going uphill easy but there were a few times when I felt like I might actually be blown up the cliff! Because of the wind we decided to do Jacobs Ladder a nice short grade 1, which we climbed quickly on good neve. Once onto the plateau the wind didn't seem as bad and the visibility was good giving views over to Ben Macdui. With more wet weather on its way we scurried down the ridge back to the car park. We arrived just as the snow storm hit and by 1.30 we were tucking into an all day breakfast in the Mountain Cafe.
The forecast for the rest of the week gets worse - freezing level is up and down and the wind is forecast to get stronger - up to 100mph by Thursday and Friday!