True Scottish Winter (avalanches, broken bones and Rescues)

Jason Mitchell Tackling the first pitch of Green Eyes (IV,4)

Me looking a tad cold

Matt's Rescue

The past two climbing days I've had, the weather has been amazing. So it is only fair that I have some bad weather days to balance things out again.
Leaving the house at 6a.m. this morning and found that it wasn't as cold as I had expected it to be. I was to meet Jason at the 'Green Welly Stop' so we could go and have a look at 'eas annie'. We decided that we would prefer some shelter from the wind and decided to go to Beinn Udlaidh again to try and tick a few more routes off there.
We found ourselves to be the first one's there which meant we had the whole crag to choose from we headed for 'South Gully' (grade IV), at the bottom of the route we were being buried constantly by powder avalanches landing on us. This forced us onto 'Green Eyes' (grade IV) instead.
The route took longer than expected but it was done in true Scottish Winter style due to the constant spin drift and powder avalanches falling on top of us and lots of 'hot aches', this aside it was a great route.
As we were heading back to the bags at the bottom of the corrie we noticed; the wind slab was huge and we were on the lee side of a concave slope. As we decided to take the longer walk back to the bags an avalanche gave way behind us.
As we approached our rucksacks, looking forward to going home, we were stopped by a man who informed us of a climber that had broken his leg in an avalanche. He was going to phone the Mountain Rescue Team, he asked if we would be able to go and make sure the two guys were okay.
We grabbed our bags and did our best to keep Matt warm and comfortable until help came. When I finally got to my car I had 7 messages and 5 missed calls from friends and family hoping that I was okay, I am obviously fine. Unfortunately they had heard the news that two climbers had died on Ben Nevis. My thoughts go out to there friends and family in the same way my friends and family were thinking of me.


Udlaidh Udlaidh Udlaidh Hee Hoo

On Christmas Eve I met up with Jason Mitchell to do some routes on Ben Udlaidh. It was another 5 a.m. start so we could cram as many routes into the day as possible. Unfortunately On arrival Jason informed me that he forgot his helmet. After phoning every number stored on my phone, we bit the bullet and headed back to the Fort to get him a helmet.
We arrived back at the venue, at the more reasonable hour of 8a.m. This however didn't put a dampener on proceedings, we climbed the route and had an excellent day.
Their was a few other groups enjoying the conditions and we watched nervously as someone tried to solo a grade IV, then watched with curiosity as he attempted to escape off the route.

Me on the First Pitch of 'Quartzvien Scoop' (IV,5)

Jason on the Second Pitch

Perfect Weather and Frozen Slings


Monolith Grooves

The walk in at Dawn Nice clear cold weather.
Jamie Bankhead on the second pitch.

After a late night yesterday I had a nice and early rise at 4.10a.m. this morning even though the alarm was set for 5a.m. (bad times).
I was meeting Jamie at Glencoe, then we were heading down to Arrochar to climb 'Monolith Grooves' (IV,5***) on Beinn an Lochain. This is a great mixed route with superb climbing and delicate situations.


Bothy Night

On Monday we had our navigation assessment with college, the assessment was to involve navigating effiectively at night. This meant we had to stay the night in a bothy next to Stob Ban in the Grey Corries.

Walking in to the Bothy

Our bothy with Stob Ban in the background
Night Nav

The approach to Stob Ban was covered in ice The Successful summit team on Stob Ban
Everyone passed


Never Trust Lee

Last night I told work that I wouldn't be able to make it in this morning, this meant I could go and get something done on the Ben. Unfortunately I still had to go in for the evening shift.
Lee, Craig and I walked in together with the idea of splitting up to do separate routes. They were being very indecisive I told them I would take them up North Wall Gully (grade II).
This wasn't our original plan so between the three of us we had; four axes, a 30 metre rope, two harnesses, two slings and two karabiners.
After making good progress up the route we topped out in the best weather I have ever had on the Ben.
We descended down Number 4 gully and I ditched Lee and Craig to join Ben (a random heading for the same route as me) for number two gully (II).
After descending number 4 again it was off to work!

This is what climbers do when they have cold genetals

My Left Variation on North Gully

A couple of...................

Ben climbing Number Two Gully

Ben enjoying the view from the Ben


First Winter Route's of the Season

Jamie Bankhead on Hidden Chimney Direct (IV,5)

Jamie Bankhead on Spiral Gully (II)

Aladdin's and Fluted Buttresses
I finally used the crampons and axes today, ever since the snow arrived I have been looking forward to doing some routes. The decision was made to head over to the Cairngorms. Jamie had his eye on Fluted Buttress Direct, however on arrival at the bottom of the pitch we found the snow wasn't in the best condition. We traversed over and soloed Spiral Gully (II) in search of something better.

We found Hidden Chimney Direct (IV,5) which wasn't in the best of nick either but at least it was climbable.


The 6 D's!

I was out with Big Al and Bill today with college. We were going over navigation skills and techniques. I used to think these skills were a black art until I was told the answer through the 6 D's. These are
  • Destination -Where you are going
  • Description - This is your 'tick features' or 'collecting features', a way of mapping the terrain in your head.
  • Duration - How long you will take to get to the Destination
  • Distance - How far you are from the Destination
  • Direction - Compass bearing towards the Destination
  • DOH! - This is an obvious point you will hit if you have gone past your destination.

Not all 6 D's have to be used at the same time, although if you decide to miss some out then this must be done with justification.

As well as the 6 D's we were told not to forget two golden rules. Which are

A CONTOUR is a line matching equal points of equal height and NEVER put your mind where your body hasn't already been.

The only successful bit of nav was through Morrisons car park.
Looking pretty lost

Lower Nevis

After finishing my exam today, I was desperate to go and do something useful with my time before I had to go to work. Lee was kind enough to give me a lift to the Lower Nevis Falls, so I could paddle home. I contemplated doing the lower falls but unfortunately I didn't have Ross with me to test the water. So I decided to leave them until next time.

Snow on the Mamores.
I am going to play in the snow on wednesday cannie wait!
Me finishing at Loch Linhe


3 Star Open Boat Assessment

Today was definitely not a day to be out on a river, I am still trying to warm my hands up.
For the assessment we had to be efficient with skills like poling, sailing and canoeing. I still don't know how I passed. Going over our paddle strokes
Callum with his characteristic smile


Sea Kayak 3 Star Assessment

I passed my Sea Kayak 3 star award today, I was really glad since it was only my second time in a sea kayak. The weather was better than forecast but still very cold, luckily we didn't have to spend too much time in the water.
For the assessment we had to show that we were competent with 3 star skills like; towing, rescuing and rolling.

Kitting up out of the cold.
The group with Fort William in the background.

Gerry giving me a tow.


No Canoes!

Today I was at the bottom of the River Arkaig with the college. The aim was to practise more three star skills with the canoes for our assessment next Tuesday. It was fun to play around in some faster water.
Quote of the day came from Callum, 'It wasn't a capsize, it was a self rescue'.

Matt showing off his mad skills

Nice day to be out on the River


More 3 star practice

On Loch Eil again today but I was in a canoe this time. Stuart was going over more skills for our 3 star assessment. Everything went well until we started practising low braces. Coaching tip of the day 'If you try a low brace and end up in the water, you did it wrong'.

Cold crisp morning.

Me disturbing the water

No idea who that is or where that is


Sea Kayaking

Getting kitted up
Good views of the Ben

Craig was the only one man enough to take a swim. Everyone else thought it was too cold for that.

Out with college today, preparation, for our 3 star sea kayak assessment. This is the first time I have spent a lot of time in a sea kayak, adapting to the differences was tricky but good fun. I am looking forward to spending more time in this type of craft.



John (Snowgoose Mountain Centre) was preparing Dougie for his level 2 assessment today, so I invited myself along for a day's paddling. John was showing us so many different paddle strokes that even the seals were popping up to have a look. That or they were laughing at my paddling technique. Weather coming in

Weather in
Weather away

It was great to be out on the open boats again, I can't remember the last time I was in one. Unfortunately its back to work again tonight.


River Oich

I finally had a day off work and college today (well not college). So my mate Jamie and I were looking for a pleasent grade 2 river to go and play on. John at the snowgoose mountain centre suggested the River Oich which fitted our needs perfectly.

We missed all the bad weather in Fort William

Jamie practicing his ferry gliding.


Glenmore Lodge and College

Lochaber College

Lee Climbing

Jamie Murray

Yesterday I was visiting Glenmore Lodge with college. We were being shown how the Lodge runs and the ethos of the company by Bob Kinaird and Nigel Williams. After the lectures we had free use of the rolling pool and climbing wall.
The next day we were met by Matt, Gillian, Bob and Al. Al (who had a bad case of food poisoning) started off the day by emptying his stomach contents at the side of the road.
Jamie and I did a few easy routes and went over some climbing situations with Gillean.


A gentle day in Glen Nevis

Anne with Steal Falls in the background
Anne in Glen Nevis

Today my girlfriend Anne and I went for a nice walk up in Glen Nevis. The weather finally brightened up today so we were able to see the snow on the Ben. Hopefully the ankle is better before the winter arrives.