Paul James, MIC - - Winter and Rock Climbing Conditions

Thursday, 31 January 2013

31-01-13, Carn Etchachan, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Gaz, sending pitch 3 Red Guard.
The calm after the storm... nearly! Gaz, Chris and I had a look over the back in Loch Avon basin. Open minds, icy on Hell's Lum but Carn Etchachan or Shelterstone were the order. No ice on Sticil Face, plenty of snow about and crags looked very wintry. We climbed Red Guard, some good pitches, turf was well frozen but could have had some more useful neve snow instead of sugar bashing!
Pitch 2, tricky verglassed chimney shenanigans.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

26-01-13, Creagan Coire Cha-no, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Bynack Mor from Creagan Coire Cha-no.
2 days private guiding for Mountain-Expertise this weekend. I was out with Kevin, lives in California, has been ice climbing in Colarado but has recently been physched for Scottish Mixed climbing by a talk give by Ines Papert. The weather and conditions were great on Saturday, we went to Cha-no crag, and climbed many pitches, about grade IV, Anvil Gully was nice. Sunday Kevin got to experience some Scottish gnarl, very windy and whiteout on Coire an t-Sneachda as we topped out from climbing on Fiaciall Buttress and along the ridge. Generally a bit warmer, much rime dissapearing, slopes still fairly loaded, no one appeared to be chancing it in Coire an Lochain

Top pitch of Anvil Gully, Creagan Coire Cha-no.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

24-01-13, Coire an t-Sneachda - Winter Mountaineering

Starting Fiaciall Coire an t-Sneachda.
More mountaineering today. Crisp, cold southerly breeze, frozen ground rime ice and solid neve on East facing slopes and on the plateau  We ascended the Fiaciall Coire an t-Sneachda, some solo some roped pitches, there were plenty of other teams on the buttress below. Approaches to Mess of Pottage looked very loaded but there were many scoured areas  beneath Aladdin and Fluted Buttress.
Mess of Pottage, Aladdin's Buttress and Fluted Buttress.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

23-01-13, Creag Meagaidh - Winter Walking

I am back at Glenmore lodge this week, doing some more mountaineering. It has been very stormy and plenty of snow has fallen in the Cairngorms. Went to Creag Meagaidh today for some different scenery, up the window very scored and hard neve then back over Stob Poite Coire Adair. The cliffs are plastered with neve high up, the ice routes are starting to look promising. A lot of ice at the bottom of Last Post and South Post Direct (middle pitch looked good as well). Looked like an Ice sheet forming on The Wand, but couldn't tell how thick, The Pumpkin is no where near. Plenty of slab looking snow in Easy and Raeburns Gully - as to be expected!
Coire Adair.
Last Post, South Post Direct forming nicely.
Hills looking West from the window.
Heading up the window.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

20-01-13, Hell's Lum, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

The last couple of days have been wild! Extremely windy, with some fresh snow. With a lull (only 50-60mph) today, Matt, Simon and I for some reason walked over the back to Hell's Lum from pt1141 down Coire Domhain. The south facing slopes of Domhain are well scoured and there is ice on Hell's Lum. The easy ice routes and mini gully lines on the right hand side will give good sport, the main ice sheets up the centre of the crag are too thin though at the moment. We climbed Deep-Cut Chimney in the arctic conditions, some slight respite from the wind as we entered the chimney itself, but a crazy blustery very cold day!
Start of the chimney, Deep-Cut Chimney.
Nobody's Fault.
From inside the Deep.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

17-01-13, Cairngorms - Winter Mountaineering

Coire an t-Sneachda, from pt1141.
This week I have been working on a Winter Mountaineering Skills course at Glenmore Lodge. We have looked at movement, winter skills, basic rope work, snow anchors, rock anchors, navigation, avalanche awareness traversed Fiaciall coire an t-Sneachda today which was superb today, climbed the East ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn yesterday. More powdery snow towards the west, plenty of wind slab on the east, high winds forcast but freezing level staying low.
Fiaciall Buttress.
Meall a Bhuachaille from Coire Laogh Mor.
Mountaineering on Fiaciall.
Carn Etchachan

Sunday, 13 January 2013

13-01-13, Coire an Lochain, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Pitch 2 of Central Crack Route.
It is winter again in the northern corries. Rime forming all over the Lochain, a fresh dusting of new snow last night is drifting in places. Plenty of people out today some teams on Savage Slit, The Crack and The Couloir.  Matt and I climbed Central Crack Route - good steep cheeky first pitch, then more steps on the second pitch. Conditions are good for mixed climbing, the great slab had plenty of patches of old snow to weave up to the base of the routes, but if more snow arrives it will be all buried and probably dangerous. We noticed plenty of wind slab forming in the hollows.

Winter is back! Rime up high, frozen ground everywhere.

Number 4 buttress.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

12-01-13, Liatach, Torridon - Winter Mountaineering

Below Am Fasarinen on the Liatach Traverse.
Today I have been out working with Garry in the Torridon. We took a bunch of friends along Liatach. A tremendous day which the team enjoy despite the thought of having the one and a half hour drive from Aviemore! Conditions underfoot were slightly wintry - a little old snow with a dusting of snow on top, some ice on steps, frozen turf at 700m. It was a lovely high pressure day with some great views of the other Torridonian mountains - Ace!

Heading upto Spidean a'Choire Leith.
Mullach an Rathain and Beinn Alligan.
Spidean a'Choire Leith with Beinn Eighe in the background.

Friday, 11 January 2013

10-01-13, Ben Nevis - Winter Climbing

Garry fighting on pitch 6 Observatory Ridge.
I have been in Scotland for the last week. I have been walking in the slushy remains of grade 1 gullies, rock climbing and dry tooling. The winter conditions haven't been good but it has started to change as of today. Four of us headed to Ben Nevis. I was surprised by the amount of snow left high up in the Ciste and Observatory gully. Tower, 2,3,4,5 gullies were all full of bomber neve. We saw many teams heading onto Tower Ridge, a lot of rock with enough snow on the eastern traverse, a team headed up to Good Friday Climb. We decided to give Observatory Ridge a go, the first half was clearly rock! However it was very verglassed! VD or grade IV, it went at a combo maybe a little harder. We had to wear crampons for the entirety, gloves and 1 axe then 2 axes for some of it. after pitch 3 it turned very wintry  The start was fairly time consuming and the day was long, we topped out at dusk, the joys of winter climbing at the start of January!
Pitch 6 Observatory Ridge
Carn Dearg, looks like it was a fine day on the summit - not that we saw any daylight when we topped out!
Looking down Zero Gully, plenty of great neve in the top half.
Matt, about to move fast in the last daylight minutes!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

December 2012, Mount Kenya and Safari - Eastern Africa

Mount Kenya, Neilion Peak.
We have been in Kenya for a month. Enjoying all things Kenyan. It was a great trip, we got loads done and it was a fantastic adventure all the way. The weather was glorious as are the Kenyan people. We flew to Nairobi then headed to the coast to get hot! Indian Ocean was nice as was Lamu Island, Kilifi Estuary and town had a great feel to them. We managed to stick in a few days of safari, Tsavo East and Taita Hills. This was probably the highlight for me. Lets face it there are mountains everywhere and you can climb some great classic rock all over the world but you can't see Lions, Zebra, Elephant, Cheetah, Leopard, Buffalo, Eagle, Impala, Baboons, Ostrich many more birds and antelope doing their thing in the wild, anywhere! Mount Kenya was next so off to Nanyuki town to get porters and food sorted. We spent 8 days in the park. Walked in the Sirimon route and camped by the 3 huts on the way in, walked over Lenana peak on day 4 and based ourselves at Austrian camp for the next 3 nights. A recce day to check out the glacier and boulder field approach and first third of the route. Second day up early and straight up to the summit and back before 3pm. The Shipton rock route is good, excellent rock all the way, most pitches were good, mainly hard scrambling, diff rock climbing with a couple of Severe / Hard Severe pitches. It is high 5188m, the summit tin hut that could fit 4 was in good condition, but I am glad we didn't have to! We walked out down the vertical bog Naromoro route not a great path! We finished at Lake Navaisha which is well worth a few days of attention. Lots of Flamingos, Hippos and Monkeys, also Hell's Gate which  allows you to walk or cycle around, plenty of Zebra, Warthog and Giraffe.

Excellent Jam crack one third up.
Tsava East, Giraffes and Zebra.
Elephants enjoying the water pool.

Secretary Bird.
Lion cubs waiting for tea.
Hart Beast.