Information and photos of my mountaineering trips in Scotland,England and Wales:
Including hillwalking,scrambling and easy rock climbing.Also via ferrata, skiing and alpine trips in Europe.

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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Hogmany - Post Holing in the Pentlands.

After two weeks of cold turkey, not the edible kind, I went for a bimble around  Caerketton Crags at a lofty 478m. At the very time I decided to drive up to the  Ski Centre, a minor blizzard started, making the road up inpassable (until they cleared it ten minutes later!). So a steady plod from the Steading Inn car park took me up to the slopes below the crags. Although the pea souper that followed the snow made it impossible to see.
And as with conditions further north, the snow was soft and unconsolidated, with only some small areas of harder snow on any windward slopes.

Not much to look at but it provided a few minutes of loose, snowy scrambling.

Always time for a cuppa and a biscuit though!

Looking across Edinburgh to Aurthurs Seat.

And across to Fife.

Plenty of snow at Hillend Ski Centre with people skiing "off piste" between the gorse bushes!
Unless the weather and snow situation improves over the next few days, if we go out at all it looks like ridges are the safest place to be just now.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve Skiing!

Looks like there's plenty of snow around on the hills and on all of the Scottish ski centres. Plus there could be more to come on the hills over the next few days so it's been a great start to the winter (for those of us who like that kind of stuff). Not only that, but even our very own Hillend Ski Centre has been covered in so much snow that you can only just see the matting!
Today, me and Lenny went up to spend a few hours on Christmas Eve messing about in the snow. Strangely it wasn't too busy but the golf course next door was mobbed with sledgers of all ages and varieties and probably will be over the holiday period. Don't know if we'll get further north, depends on the roads of course and reports of a 3 hour wade into Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms doesn't sound too appealing just now!

Looking up a very snowy, christmasy Hillend.


Lenny just about to get onto the chairlift. Video to follow.
Have a Happy Snowy Christmas :)


Monday, 21 December 2009

Guess where?

With the prospect of snow on the A9 to Aviemore and even greater chance of having to wade into Sneachda, we opted for a shorter day somewhere closer to home? Nothing too challenging or technical but in the unlikely chance of a really cold spell and some freeze thaw cycles, this little gully would be great for messing about in!

This final picture should give it away!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Jacobs Ladder, 13th December, 2009

Myself and Lorna, braved the nightmare of the A9 through the fog and frozen windscreen washers for the delights of a stunning day in Coire an t-Sneachda. It was about -5/6 when we drove into Aviemore but it warmed (haha) up a little as we drove up to the Ski Centre Car Park. There was a bit of a cloud inversion going on which may have helped? Just before the Lochans at the base of the coire, we headed for left for the open ground below Jacobs Ladder.

Looking up at Jacobs Ladder with a couple of bods peering over the cornice at the top.
This was Lorna's first time using crampons so we bimbled around on the snow for a while so she could get used to them. We then headed for Jacobs Ladder intending this to be her first roped Grade I winter climb. However at the foot of the gully, despite my reservations about the cornice, she said she was confident enough to solo it!

As we reached the top of the gully I noticed there was an "interesting" cornice to negotiate. Having opted not to rope up we took a look to see if it would be a problem.

Looking up to the double cornice.

As you can see from the above picture, there was this "rip curl" effect, almost another cornice, below the top cornice and my concern was having to put weight on the lower one to get over the top one! However after some squeezing through a channel on the left and placing an axe over the top of the upper cornice, we both managed to safely get through and over the top.


Once we were at the top we headed back along the top of the climbs, stopping for a quick bite, before dropping down from Windy Col into the coire. From the top of the crags we could see climbers in some of the Fiacaill Buttresses along with folks traversing the ridge itself.

We could also see right over to Cairn Toul at 1291m and Sgor an Lochain Uaine at 1258m.


After crossing under the crags back towards Alladins Couloir, we opted not to climb it as it being Lornas's first day on crampons and traversing being uncomfortable at the best of times, we descended to the coire floor and back to the car park (and cafe for a hot chocolate). However from the photo above the couloir appeared in good nick, although there was a fair bit of snow built up on the left (so much that we couldn't see down it from the top) but from the bottom we  saw a few folks topping out on the right hand side.
Also the whole area was buzzing with teams of folks loads of routes on the Trident Gullies area and a few of the more serious routes.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Skiing at Hillend (Mid Lothian Snowsports Centre), Edinburgh, Sunday 15th November 2009

Lorna insisted that she wasn't going walking this weekend, and no one had been in touch to tempt me out, so we decided to spend a few hours at Hillend Ski Centre in Edinburgh. Technically it's correct title is, Mid Lothian Snowsports Centre, but everyone knows it as "Hillend".
We took one of our Grandson's, Lennon, as he had a week's lesson's earlier in the year and was keen to get back up there. We took advantage of the 3 hours for the price of 2, as this gives you time to stop for tea and biscuits halfway through! At £35 for the three of us, it isn't too bad I suppose but if you were to go every week then a season ticket might be a better option.
There is a cafe there, but we packed a flask of hot water to make hot chocolate, and some crisps and sandwiches, and fortuneatley the weather was ok to sit at the side of  the slopes and watch the action.

Looking down the main slope from the top. Although not horrendously steep, it is steeper than the photo makes out. In the distance is Aurthurs Seat and the Firth of Forth beyond.

Above is a short, uintentional, "you've been framed" style video which was definitely unplanned!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Sprayway Warm Challenger Pant, 10th November 2009

Well after wearing my Sprayway Warm Challenger Pants for the first time on Sunday in Glencoe, I have mixed feelings. The trousers themselves are well cut, come in different lengths and are not too baggy, unlike the now cheaper Berghaus Statis Pants at around £35-£45 which can seem a bit "flappy" unless you're six feet tall.
The Challenger at around £60-£70 has more features than the Statis and is made of Soft Shell with TecWeave Extreme technology apparently, and are lightweight, durable and seem to be quite breathable.
They have mesh lined leg vents at the thigh and vents at the backside too which also act as extra pockets.
They also claim to have an articulated crotch whatever that means!
There are also ankle zips too.

If I had a complaint, it would the perenial one of waist adjustment. Like the Berghaus Statis,well mine anyway, the Challenger wouldn't stay up too well. Although they have velcro waist adjusters, they come undone too easily so I will need to find a suitable belt which may or may not be comfortable if you add a climbing harness and rucsac waiststrap to the equation?
So to be fair, the Sprayway Warm Challenger Pant is better looking, a better fit and almost better designed than the Berghaus Statis Pant, only let down by the lack of decent belt!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Bidean nam Bian via Gear Aonach and SCNL, 8th November 2009

Well the stars must have been in alignment this weekend as Sunday brought light winds and sunshine! We headed for Glencoe with a loose plan to try some scrambling depending on the conditions.
It was also a good chance for Lorna to test out her new Raichle Mountaineering boots, North Face Circadian Paclite Jacket and Mountain Equipment Gloves. I was also interested to see how my new Sprayway Warm Challenger Pant would perform too. (More to follow in my next post).
We parked at the large car park at NN170569, and took the South East path down to the River Coe and over the footbridge, then headed for the Lost Valley (Coire Gabhail).

Looking up at Gear Aonach from the car park. There are two scrambling routes here; the grade I "Zig-Zags" and the grade III "Easy Route". As we walked up the Lost Valley path, we took a right fork that leads up to the nose of the mountain. From here we attempted to follow the Cicerone Guide book to Scrambles in Lochaber to find the start of the route. For the grade III, you take the first of the zig zags and head a little further round after the first bend. As usual these things can be a little vague, but we found a section that looked ok and pitched that.

Lorna at the top of "our" first pitch which turned out to be very mossy and slippy. Just being wet would probably be okay, but the slime and moss didn't make it too enjoyable. So after getting covered in crap, we traversed left back onto the Zig-Zags and made for the summit of Gear Aonach the easy way! Although that was quite wet and greasy too in places. 

Lorna looking down into the Lost Valley as we went up the broad ridge of Gear Aonach.

After Gear Aonach's summit at 692m, there is a slight bealach before you head up to Stob Coire nan Lochan at 1115m, (SCNL).

On the way up to SCNL, we were down to base layers despite the cool temperatures and the occasional snow flurries.

From the summit we could see right down the Ballachulish Bridge, and after a quick bite to eat and some extra layers it was on to the final climb of the day up to Bidean nam Bian at 1150m. Lorna's new North Face Circadian Paclite Jacket seemed to be ideal, with it's lightweight shell and women's specific cut.

Looking across to Bidean from Stob Coire nan Lochan.

A short video taken from Stob Coire nan Lochan across to Bidean.

Sun setting beyond the ridge that leads from Bidean to Stob Coire nam Beith at 1107m.

Plenty of snow on the Carn Mor Dearg Arete and Ben Nevis, beyond the Aonach Eagach Ridge.

On the summit of Bidean nam Bian before heading South East down to the bealach between Bidean and Stob Coire Sgreamach, then down the steep, loose path to the bottom of the Lost Valley and back to the car park.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Raichle All Degree Lite GTX

Once again the forecast for the weekend, more so Sunday, is rain, gales and more rain!
Is it me, or does the weather seem to be crap most weekends, at least this year anyway. Still, there's talk from the mountain guide types of colder weather on it's way and hopefully some snow too.
Looking forward to some "free training" at Glenmore Lodge next February, just after my birthday. Take note anybody that knows me, ahem!
Hopefully I'll get out before then to brush up on some grade II stuff and then with a bit of pursausion, we can get some grade III practice with the MIC trainees at Glenmore.
As for this weekend; well unless I bite the bullet and nip up the Pentlands with Lorna to help try out her new boots, it could be an hour or so skiing at Hillend or a trip to EICA at Ratho.

Raichle All Degree Lite GTX's, a bargain at £80 from Peglars! :)
However, they are on older, ie last years model and difficult to find, especially as Marmot has now taken over the company. On the plus side, some Raichle named models of boots are still available from outdoor stores such as Tiso.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Holiday home to rent in Bulgaria

Just a quick post to show you a good friend of ours, holiday home for rent in Bansko, Bulgaria.
Why not enjoy a week in this beautifully restored village house situated only 15 km (approx 15mins drive) from the resort of Bansko. There are numerous local shops in the village for all your basic supplies which are all in walking distance or a supermarket in Bansko which covers most things you'll require. There are a few local Mehanas (restaurants/tavernas) situated in the village, plus there are over 100 in Bansko itself, which all offer an excellent range of food. Winter or summer Eleshnitsa is an excellent base for seeing the local places of interest. The rescue centre for Dancing bears, through the village of Belitza (approx 10km) has spectacular views of the Pirin mountains, and is great to see how the bears are adapting to their natural habitat. Walking, skiing, snowboarding,swimming,white water rafting,horse riding,paragliding,mountain biking, whatever you decide to do the whole area will give you a stress free break.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Meall Garbh, An Stuc and Ben Lawers (with special guest appearances?), 11th October 2009

With a half decent forecast, and the chance of the strong winds easing (ha ha), we headed for the Lawers Hotel on the NW side of Loch Tay. We parked the car and set off for Machuim Farm and the track that leads NW up towards Lochan nan Cat via the Lawers Burn. Once at the dam works on the burn, we struck off N-NW to the bealach between Meall Greigh and Meall Garbh, and into the wind! It was here that Lorna decided she'd had enough and turned back whilst I battled with the wind up to Meall Garbh at 1118m.
After a couple of near horizontal moments at the summit, I managed to get this pic of the North side of Ben Lawers, with (half of) An Stuc on the right - it was windy!

At the foot of An Stuc (above), soon realised it wasn't the "beast" it has been made out to be. Of course winter or maybe heavy rain would make the scrambly path more interesting, but today it was just a scrambly path!

At the summit of An Stuc, 1118m, the wind eased (a little) and the cloud finally cleared. Just after this photo, I got talking to three Dutch guys, here on holiday - Munro bagging. One had just ticked off 50 on Lawers summit, that's more than I've done and he lives in Holland!

And then five minutes later, I bumped into two old (as in time not age, ahem) friends as they were on their way up to An Stuc. Stuart and Sheena are two of the Kilimanjaro crew from 2006, just proving what a small world we live in. It was great to see them, and no doubt we will catch up with them again on a distant hill somewhere...

After that pleasant surprise and a quick photo of Lochan nan Cat to my left, it was head down for the final windy slog up the North side of Ben Lawers to it's summit at 1214m, followed by a quick sandwich and a cup of tea, before descending the East ridge and cross country for about 4km to get back to the Lawers Burn and out of the wind. I didn't take anymore photos as keeping upright on the rocky descent took up all my concentration, and looking back West for some good shots of my route was a waste of time as my eyeballs were almost blown out of their sockets. It was a relief to finally find shelter in the lower slopes, and form there back to the Lawers Hotel for a well earned pint!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

What we didn't do on Mallorca, September 19th - 26th 2009

Saw this on Mallorca, between Porto Pollensa and Cala St Vincenc.

The Cavall Bernat Ridge; makes the CMD look like a walk in the park!

From the Cala St Vincenc side, where the cliffs plunge 400m vertically down to the sea.
Information is hard to find on the net, although it is the Cicerone guide to walking in Mallorca. Having said that, I've read people's personal accounts, ranging from a scrambly walk, to requiring a rope!!!
So we will just have to do it ourselves next year :)

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Curved Ridge, Sunday 13th September 2009

I finally managed to persuade Lorna back out having not done any walking/scrambling since our week in Coniston earlier in the year. Taking advantage of the forecast good weather, we drove up to Glencoe and Buchaille etive Mor with no real plans as to what we would do. With a boot full of climbing gear, we opted for a lighter day and headed for an old favourite, the grade 2/3 (?) Curved Ridge. The Rannoch Wall in the centre of the picture with Curved Ridge rising right to left just below it. Lorna making her way up the ridge, with the Rannoch Wall on the right and Crowberry Tower just visible through the mist at the top. The only "slightly" tricky section up the corner about two thirds of the way up. Looking back down the ridge with climbers just visible gearing up at the foot of Agags Croove, (V-Diff) on the Rannoch Wall. Looking up at Crowberry Tower from the end of the ridge.

View from the top of the ridge over Rannoch Moor.

The short climb up to Crowberry Tower was a bit greasy in the slightly sheltered corner of the tower.
The last time we climbed the North Buttress, we got speaking to a guy who recommended an alternative descent to Coire na Tulaich. He spoke of going down to the western ridge if the corrie, and then slightly North East to drop down a wide grassy gully to rejoin the path back to Laggangarbh.
En route we discovered someones handy work on a seemingly not well used path (what path?).
Personally, although it may be useful in winter if you can find the route, in summer we didn't find it any easier or quicker than the normal path in the corrie.