Paul James, MIC - - Winter and Rock Climbing Conditions

Monday, 28 March 2011

28-03-11, Applecross, North West Highlands - Rock Climbing

Today, we travelled to Applecross specifically to climb 'The Sword of Gideon' VS,4c (photo). We have seen it a few times from nearby cliff Meall Gorm whilst winter climbing. Overcast day but dry and cold. On Torridonian sandstone this cliff has a few good looking climbs, Sword of Gideon is the classic and a classic it was, very enjoyable clean and gives three pitches. Excellent friction, slopers and jams, very gritstone like, but better because it is over 100m high! I look forward to more rock climbing trips to the North West Coast of Scotland in the future. I am back down to North Wales tomorrow and then off to the Alps for April.

27-05-11, Isle of Skye - Rock Climbing

Red Cuillin from Suidhe Biorach.

Myself and Kathryn have spent the last couple of days rock climbing on the Isle of Skye. No midges this time of year but we did have a fair good old British mix of weather, everything from thick wet rain to glorious warm sunshine! Yesterday the main mountain area was very wet, but the southern peninsula with Suidhe Biorach was glorious. We climbed a few routes on this great 30m sea cliff, Jurassic Quartz Sandstone, very grippy and solid. Photos - Right, 'the Cenotaph Corner of Skye' Jamie Jampot VS, 4c and Below, Hairy Mary. Today we travelled to the west of the island to Neist point. More great Cragging, at the Financial Sector, this time Dolerite. Very good quality climbing and great looking lines, very much like Fairhead in Northern Ireland. More 3 star routes like Bridging Interest (photo below) and Venture Capital. Slightly more drizzle and overcast today, Snow only here in patches high up.
Bridging Interest, HVS 5a. 3 star and well worthy!
Neist Point at sunset.

Friday, 25 March 2011

25-03-11, Reiff and Stac Pollaidh - Rock Climbing

Today I drove North to find some dry rock. First stop Stac Pollaidh - dense drizzle still at 11am so onward to the sea cliffs of Reiff. With the crag drying nicely in the breeze the sun also soon started to shine, I did some climbing about 10 easy routes in the pinnacle area. I really wanted to head back to Stac Pollaidh and seen as the skies were blue and the rain gone, I headed back. The mountain isn't a Munro or a Corbett, but has got to be one of the best Grahams around. It has a striking pinnacle ridge back bone, when seen from the side impressive cliffs doom above, and from the edges a triangular peak - how mountains should look! I did climbed a couple of routes at about VDiff, they were OK but the mountain is good. It is made from Torridonian Sandstone, rough with breaks, cracks and slopers. Definitely a mountain grit crag though plenty of lichen growth in the big cracks that absorbed the mornings wetness!

Monday, 21 March 2011

20-03-11, West Highlands - Winter Climbing

Dorsal Arete, II - Stob Coire nan Lochan.

I have spent the last couple of weeks climbing on the West in Glen Coe and on Ben Nevis. It has been a hectic and stormy couple of weeks preparing for and doing the MIC assessment. Before all the snow arrived Dave, Tom and myself went to Coire na Ciste on the Ben and climbed, Central Gully, Central Gully Right Hand and South Gully - excellent icy lines. Si, Tom and I went to Stob Ban and climbed Gendarme Ridge, IV,4 - a mixed line that follows and stunning narrow pillar for three pitches. Back to the Ben again to look at Moonlight Gully Buttress, Si and I climbed Diagonal, III. Weekend off and the snow arrived in force, a couple of inches down to sea level! For my MIC assessment we climbed mainly in Glencoe, routes such as Dinnertime Buttress, Zig Zags, Curved Ridge and Raeburn's in Lochan. It was a pass for me so very pleased, although couldn't celebrate for too long as I was out working for Gareth (Sea2Summit) the following two days after. I took a team of novice winter climbers onto Dorsal Arete on Friday 18th and then we ascended the East Ridge on the North Buttress on Stob Ban on Saturday 19th. The snow has now started to melt away, and the freezing level has risen well above the summits.

Tom getting stuck into some powder on Gendarme Ridge.

Si leading on Gendarme Ridge.

Tom after steep pitch on Central Gully Right Hand.

Dave belaying Tom on Central Gully.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

05-03-11, Cairngorms - Winter Survival Expedition

Beautiful last day looking across the Cairngorm Plateau.

The last 3 days with the Royal Navy were spent on a the Cairngorm plateau with a 2 night expedition sleeping in snow holes. This was a chance for the team to put all the skills they have learnt together with the added concentration of staying as comfortable as possible and looking after themselves in this harsh environment. Thursday we ascended pt. 1141 over t-Sneachda to Coire Domhain where we dug in to create our home for the next few days. We did some night navigation on the plateau that evening. Friday to the summit of Ben Macdui in white out conditions - hard navigation! Saturday was a brilliant blue sky day - we summited Cairngorm then down. The snow underfoot was hard and icy, but soon softened in the sun. The northern corries were very rocky, but the easy gullies will be in great condition.
Snow Bunting.

Team on the plateau with some blue sky.

Busy on the plateau.

Home sweet home, return on the second day.

Stunning last morning.

Beinn Mheadhoin.

Ben Macdui and Coire Dumhain.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

02-03-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Day 2 with the Royal Navy. We headed to Glen Feshie, up through the impressive Coire Garbhlach (photo above) and on to the summit of Carn Ban Mor. We concentrated on all things navigation. Interpreting contours, taking bearings, timings and distances, pacings and off course slope aspect, which changes quite dramatically several times in the coire. A lot of snow has disappeared however we found some steeper snow slopes to ascend at the top, which gave good value! As to be expected the snow wasn't particularly hard with the recent higher temperature but the winds were not as strong as forecast.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

01-03-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

This week I am working for the Royal Navy on a week long winter skills / mountain survival course. Today was another stunner! blue skies, hard neve and no wind. We looked at boot, axe and crampon skills in Coire Laogh Mor before ascending to pt. 1028 and to Cnap Coire na Spreidhe then down Coire na Ciste. The snow pack is very solid and icy, crampons very necessary. The ski slopes weren't that busy but people were out and the pistes didn't look too icy. The northern Corries were looking black but we were quite far away! Weather forecasts imply the high pressure should stay over us into the weekend so I look forward to more glorious winter days!