Study Break

My intentions were to 'crack on' and finish my reports' for college. However I was admiring the beautiful weather when I received a phone call from Al suggesting that I that a short study break and check out Steall Falls. After grabbing the kit, meeting Al and driving up to the car park in Glen Nevis it was about 2 o'clock.
On arrival we could see that the falls weren't completely frozen, which meant we had a right wet time of it.
Al on the First Pitch

Not quite a frozen water fall
Now back to work:-(

Smoking the White Owl

This was the plan; Early start, climb route, gondola back to car, back for college at 11. Although I was forgetting this is Scottish Winter and it is never that easy.
As soon as we pulled into the Gondola station we found out that it opens only at the weekends and doesn't properly open until the 17th of December.
Once we, Jamie Hageman and I, arrived  and were kitted up at the bottom of the route. Jamie kicked his crampon in and broke the toe bar. This meant he had to watch as I soloed up the route which I had talked myself into not looking that steep. Once I was committed with no protection and a long fall below me it began to look steeper but the ice was in good condition so every axe placement was a happy one, until the top that is.
Smoking the White Owl
Me topping out
Once back down I was only a little late for college.
I should point out that Jamie is a very talented Artist and Photographer, sometimes it can be hard to tell which is which. Check out his web page here and look out for his photo's usually in the Top Ten picture of the week on UKC.


A 999 Text Messaging

I heard about this service recently and I think it is a great idea for outdoor enthusiasts. It means you can contact the emergency services when signal isn't strong enough for a phone call and you can't lose signal halfway through  text message.


The Skraeling

It was a clear and very cold winter morning, Jamie Bankhead and I were mixing it up at Beinn an Dothaidh. The weather was absolutely stunning, with no clouds in the sky and blanket of stars that faded into the gorgeous pastel colours of a December morning. I had left my camera at home, brilliant!
Jamie had his eye on ‘The Skraeling’ (IV,5***) because he had to back off it last year, because he was unsure of the route direction. This time however he was on fine form and managed to climb a very delicate traverse which stopped him the last time. Jamie was also kind enough to give me the crux pitch. This followed a corner that had some pretty good hooks all the way up, however you had to leave the comfort of the corner and climb an icy slab which didn’t feel as nice and wasn’t as positive.
A great wee route with enough interesting situations to warrant its three stars. Also there was a team on 'Ménage a Trois' and a team on ‘Coup de Grace’.
Just can’t wait until I am finished with college for this term to make some real use of the winter season.


What a Guy

After much deliberation and a late start Guy and I finally decided to head up to the Ben. Guy had his eye on 'Gargoyle Wall' but on reaching the CIC hut we got some beta on a route called 'lost the place' (V,5***), a hidden gem that deserves its three stars. The last two pitches bring thhe excitement however the first two are very pleasent. The conditions were much nicer than on Tower Ridge because some of the turf and snow had frozen.
Guy on the first pitch.
The second pitch, before the excitement begins.
Guy made short work on leading the whole route, although since he is just back from climbing the Eiger he should be making short work of most routes.


A Cold Warm Up

Craig and I went up to the Ben today and I was able to bag my first winter route of the season. We headed to see what looked good as a nice warm up route to start the season off, then quickly decided on a wee wonder up Tower Ridge.

Craig McKay on the Eastern Traverse
Craig about to approach Tower Gap
 The route had plenty of snow however not much of the snow has consolidated, therefore making progress difficult. There was one other team on the route and there were a few teams heading up to the Coire na Ciste area.


Hanging Up My Paddle

I have just finished a very cold weekend of paddling as a guinea pig for for a level 5 Assessment. Yesterday I was on the Spean Gorge with Scotty one of the candidates and had a great but cold time. Today I was on the Orchy, with Henry, which was running really low as well which made it quite entertaining and another great and long day on the river. Good luck to both candidates, although I think I am ready to hang up my paddle and buoyancy aid for the year and get my axes out!


Roy Gorge

More new sections of river for me and this time it was the Roy Gorge (Grade 4). The water level was sitting below just under the first quartz band, which can be seen river left upstream of the Roy Bridge. The river has two syphons that are really messy when the river is running low and it is best to portage them. This was a great section of the Roy and now I am looking forward to doing the whole river top to bottom.


Half Full

Out with Henry and Ali on the River Spean, Again! Although this time it was running higher than I have ever ran the river before(the gauge was sitting at four). The river has a completely different feel when it is this high. All the technical sections are washed out and become big boils and waves.
Before entering the gorge section, which is hard to see because the river isn't distinguishable as a gorge at this level, there is a brilliant standing wave.
I haven't had a lot of experience of surfing waves of this size but I managed to get on the wave and change direction a few times. This felt brilliant because I have never managed to do this before. The smallest achievements in Climbing and Kayaking feel like little Everest's have been conquered. The feeling of accomplishment gives you such a buzz and keeps you going back for more.
The other first for me was that this is the first time I have done the whole river without a portage.
So another great day on the river and a nice big dump of snow on the mountains, just another thing to look forward to.


River Loy

I think it is fair to say that I am getting a lot of new ground under my belt because I was on the Loy with Henry and Ron, which is another new river for me. The Cameron Gauge under the road bridge was reading at 1, which is low but it still runs. You just need to avoid more rocks than usual. However 2, on the camron river gauge, is a really good level to run the river at but getting it at the right level is tricky because it empties very quickly.
A really good thing about today was that Henry taught me how to do a 'Boof' stroke, a technique I have been trying to figure out for a while. It involved a lot of bashing off rocks before I managed to nail it. Now I am just looking forward to using it in anger on some harder rivers.


Back on the Spean

Next week Henry will be sitting his level 5 assessment, therefore we are cramming the kayaking sessions in. Today I was back on the Spean Gorge and really not quite with it, capsized on the fairy steps rolled up in a pretter big stopper then waited until it decided to flush me out.
If you run this River please be sure make sure and not change at the road side. The residents appreciate it if you take the time to change down at the river bank. I think they have seen too many naked paddlers and are fed up of having their view from their front window spoiled.


The End of a Long Week of Paddling

Today was my fifth day in a row of paddling and this time Alan and I were on the Spean Gorge. The River was sitting at a good fun level and wasn't too strenuous. The water is getting pretty cold now and the Winter sounds like it is just about to arrive judging by next weeks forecast.


The Orchy

Another new river to my list and my fourth day in a row of paddling. Henry was doing some coaching with Dave and I, we went over some four star skills and looked at putting our coaching into practise.
The Upper Orchy is a pleasent grade two which was good fun and would be great for begginer paddlers. The Middle runs at grade 3/5(5), this depends on the river level. The river was low today so it was a steady three and good fun.


Upper Spean

Paddling again today and another new river for me. Henry, Ron, Ali and I paddled the Upper Spean which is a very intimadating section of the Spean. The 'get in' is right below the Laggan Dam, from the get go you're faced with constent grade 3 water for a couple two kilometres. Once this is over the river flatens out until you arrive at the gorge section.
Before going into the gorge I was warned that if I am came out of my boat, my only purpose in life was to get out of the water.
Once you pass the first rapid of the gorge your commited and faced with an intimidating steep narrow passage. This is a great section of river that has some easy but scary rapids. Finishing with waves about three to four metres high.
Laggan Dam Releasing
After getting out I found out why I didn't want to take a swim. A hundred and fifty metres after the last rapid there is a miniture version of Niagra Falls, Known as the Inverlair Falls
Inverlair Falls


2 Star Preparation

I  was out with the West Highland College today shadowing Mark McKerral who was preparing the first year students for their Star Awards.
Everyone started off solo paddling and looked at basic skills like forward paddling and turning. Then we went on to looking at tandem paddling and rescues.


Here Comes the Rain Again

Over the past couple weeks the Fort has been washed out with constant rain. Until today I haven't been able to make use of it but Lorenzo was up for getting on his first river.
We went down the Lower Roy which was at a really nice level, due to the ammount of rain we have had. Lorenzo did really well for his first river and we managed to finish just as it was getting dark.
The death strainer is still in the last rapid but can easily be avoided by taking the line far river left as long as the river is in high water.


Pure Ringing!

I think it is fair to say that the rock climbing season is officially over in the Fort, judging by the rain today. I was out with college and we headed into the Mamores.
We went up the North Ridge of Stob Ban then came down via Mullach nan Coirean and finishing at Cobbs for most of the group. The rain did not stop for the whole day and we were getting large gusts of wind on the tops, a real 'quality' day.
Looking up the North Ridge oof Stob Ban


Friction Addiction

Al and I headed over to Ardnamurchan to climb on Meall Fhir Eoin Beag for some long needed cragging. We started off with 'Volcane' (E1 4c,5b), where Al made an impressive lead on the crux pitch. Then I headed 'Up Pompeii' (E2 5b) which is a really nice line up a featureless buttress slab. Then Al lead 'Return of the Jedi' which needs all the force to go for the crux moves. Then I finished with 'Lava Lout' a pleasant  (E1 5b). Can't wait to go back and try some of the harder routes.


More Hills

Another glorious slog today, this time it was Stob Coire Sgriodian and Chno Dearg. The ankle seemed to work but it's not perfect, lets hope it can hold out for the next couple of weeks.
The summer is still hanging on like the winter did however the tree's are showing the Autumn colours now.

Looking south down Loch Treig towards Glen Coe.

Chno Dearg on the left and Stob Coire Sgriodian on the right


Travellin' Man

I thought I would take it easy on my ankle today but it was another gorgeous day in the Fort. So I made plans with Richard to get some climbing done later in the day and went for a walk around Cow hill to work on my nav, in the meantime.
The decision, after meeting up with Rich, was to head up to Gorge crag to see what would be dry. Unfortunately 'Plague of Balzes' was soaking because it doesn't get the sun but 'Travellin' Man' (E2 5b,5c***) wasn't and made for some good climbing.

Richard Parker on the second pitch of Travellin' Man E2 5c*** Gorge Crag


The last of the Mamores and then some

I bagged the last two of the Mamore's I had still to do then did another three. Everything was going well until I was approaching the top of the second Munro, where I slipped and went over on my bad ankle. This made the rest of the walk a little less enjoyable and a lot more painful.
I started with Binnien Beag then walked over to Binnein Mor, where I hurt my ankle. Walked over to Na Gruagaichean then hobbled to Stob Coire a' Chairn then finished with An Gearanach.
I am just hopping that the ankle isn't hurt too badly.
Binnein Beag

Looking back from Na Gruagaichean

Looking to Binnien Beag (the first Munro) from An Gearanach (the last Munro)



The original plan was to get some more hill walking done today but I slept in. Instead I made use of the dry rock and headed up to gorge crag later in the evening. Graham and I climbed 'Conscription' (E1 5b*) which turned out to be harder than the 'walk in the park' I expected but a good route all the same. I will be up hills again tomorrow. 


Spidean Mialach and Gleouriach

On another walk today, I was did two Munro's which I thought would be off the beaten track but I met quite a few people up there. The weather was reasonable so I didn't get completely soaked and  it looks like it will stay dry for the weekend.

Looking up to Gleouriach

Spidean Mialach


The Assessment

This is the last climbing session in the first years climbing block, which meant it was their assessment as well. I was with Big Al today and he was showing me how and what he teaches when he has two novice rock climbers.
I managed to bring all my climbing kit with me as well which was a bonus. The weather held for most of the day so we didn't get too wet however the rock did start to get a bit greasy.


Coming to an End

I was on the Garry which will only be running a total of three more times this month (14th, 21st and 29th of this month) then it will stop for the winter.
I was out with Henry and Dave again, we managed to get a couple of runs in. This time we were focusing on technique. Henry also gave me a few pointers for surfing on the play spot.
Tomorrow will be the last rock climbing session for college so lets hope we get some dry rock.


The Upper Roy

 I was out again with Henry today and this time it was the Upper Roy, which is uncharted territory for me. This time Henry was giving me lots of advice for my four star training and I was putting this into practice on the river.
The river was at really good level as well with lots to mess around on, with some nice spicy bits to finish up on.



I was at the outflow next to Fort William with an aspiring Level 5 Coach who contacted me to see if i would be interested in some free coaching so that he would have guinea pig for his assessment.
We started off by exploring the fundamentals of paddling then incorporated this into a practical use by playing around at the outflow.


Creag Meagaidh

I didn't even bother with the camera today because the whether was bogging. Graham and I topped out on Creag Meagaidh then navigated off the hill.
To add insult to injury Graham wrote off his car on the way home. After a quick visit to the hospital to remove the glass from his neck, all was good.


Kingussie Crag with College

It was the second Rock Climbing session with the West Highland College today. Ross was assigned as my partner and he did a good job of getting into the swing of things.
It was safe to say I was on good form. I turned up to the crag and left my harness in the car and my camera at home, brilliant! However this didn't spoil the day because we had plenty of dry rock to work. Ross and I completed a nice handful of climbs including; The Slab (diff**), Caped Corner (Mild Severe*), Mango Rib (V.Diff) and Left Hand Crack (E1 5b**)


Very High Lower Roy

Just got back from doing the Lower Roy, which was at the highest level I've ever seen it. It was really brilliant fun.
Care must be taken because there is a tree blocking the bottom rapid. The river was high enough that this could be completely avoided by taking the chicken run, river left. Still no camera waterproof camera.
Death Strainer on the last Rapid of the Lower Roy


Beinn a' Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich

I went for a walk today to practice some more navigation techniques. The weather was stunning which meant the views were brilliant.

Looking North from Beinn Eunaich

Beinn a' Chochuill with Ben Cruachan in the Background



Last night I lost the psyche for climbing however I had already made plans and couldn't go back on them. Therefore Mike and I went into Glencoe to find the Buachaille car park overflowing. We headed round to the North Face of Crowberry Ridge and climbed Engineers Crack (E1 5b**). The climb wasn't too difficult but the entire wall was in the shade. I had to back off from the crux the first time because I couldn't feel my fingers and at each rest point it took a long time for me to warm my fingers up. 
Mike Seconding Engineer's Crack
After after that me and Mike wanted some sun so we headed round to Rannoch Wall, which was had loads of people on it due to both Glasgow and Edinburgh University clubs being in the same area.
Since Mike had never been on the Buachaille we decided to go to the top via Agag's Grooves.  
Mike Soloing Agag's Grooves
 On arrival at the summit we came across an unusual sight when three ladies were at the top wearing dresses and high heels. I think it might have been the MCofS calender shoot for 2011.


3 Days, 3 Munro's and Lots of Rain

On Tuesday I left with the first year students and Bill Strachan on a three day expedition. I had a great time picking up a few hints and tips on navigation and learning a bit more on flora and fauna. By the last day everyone was ready to get home and into a nice warm pub.


Stob a'Choire Odhair and Stob Ghabhar

After Thursday's failed attempt for some hill walking. I managed to get out with Graham Stuchbury for a long slog up two Munro's. The weather was overcast for most of the day with a few showers but this didn't stop the weekend crowds.
Graham Stuchbury on the Summit of Stob a'Choire Odhair

Although the weather wasn't ideal for us, the hordes of kayakers in Fort William attending the Wet West Paddle Fest would have appreciated the miserable weather.
I have another day in the rain tomorrow but this time I will be working.


Poll Dubh and the Arkaig

The plan today was for Craig and I to go up a hill. After dragging myself out of bed and forcing myself to get ready for a long walk in the rain. Just as we were leaving I received a phone call from Richard asking if I was coming into College for the rock climbing sessions. I was gutted to miss my walk in the rain but it would have to wait for another day.
I was assisting in the introduction to rock climbing for the first year students. We were joined by Richard Parker and Alan Halewood. We went over top rope systems, placing protection, building belays and a few other things.
Loachaber College First Year Students
After the college Bridget asked if I was up for the Garry (I never read her text properly but she actually meant Arkaig). It was a case of running home and inhaling dinner then heading out again. The river was the biggest I've ever seen it, I've never run it successfully in low water so I wasn't expecting to be up right during the descent. Much to my surprise I made it down successfully and giggled like a school girl after my victory.


Back to College

College started on Monday, which means I don't have as much time to play. As the River Garry runs all day on Thursday, I managed to squeeze in some play time.
It has been months since I have been on this River and I had forgotten how much fun it is. Luckily it's also running on Sunday and I am already excited.

It's Good

Still Good

All good things have to come to an end.

On Friday I will be helping out with the Highland Council Kayak sessions which I am looking forward too. It is a good excuse to go and have more fun.



The plan this morning was to have a look at Unicorn up on Stob Coire Nan Lochan. When Mike and I arrived in Glencoe we weren't able to see the Coire. We consulted the guidebook and decided to head for Trapeze (E1 5b**) on the west face of Aonagh Dubh.

Mike Scott on the third pitch
To get to the route is a bit of a slog but it is well worth it once you have topped out on the first pitch. Then the climbing only gets better apart from the slog back down the hill.
Back to College tomorrow and the weather is to get bad, it usually goes the other way around.


Minus One Direct

You know things are getting desperate when you’re looking in the yellow pages for a climbing partner. During this desperate search, I was unaware that Guy was in the Fort for a few days and luckily for me I received a phone call from him. This meant I had a climbing partner and a plan. So it was back up the Ben to collect another four stars. This time we were heading for North East Buttress to do Minus One Direct (E1 5b****)

Guy's white helmet can just be picked out

Guy leading on minus one
Seconding on the second 5b pitch
The route offers some nice climbing which I felt was low in the grade. It still has some good exposed situations.
Also the Ben Nevis Race was on today but the field marshal's must have been doing a good job because we didn't see any of the runners.



So the forecast was much better for today so I set my sights on Centurion again. So after leaving early doors (as to get back for an evening's kayaking) Craig and I met up with Bridget and headed up the Ben track.
On the approach to Carn Dearg Buttress it seemed to get steeper and steeper as our eyes got wider and wider. Once directly underneath the buttress I could see the line quite clearly as my friends consulted the guidebook for other options.

Craig on the first pitch

The first pitch is a nice fifteen metre crack at 4c, the hard moves are short lived. This sets you up nicely in the sun for the second pitch, which goes at 5a. Once you have left the big sun lounger ledge. You find yourself in the cold shade again with thirty five metres of climbing ahead. The protection is plentiful all the way up the route. However I had to remind myself not to place too much, so I would have enough protection to last the whole pitch. This makes the climbing very exciting. Once the belay was set up Craig and Bridget started climbing and I had a chance to relax until I felt the rope go tight and caught a glimpse of Bridget swinging through the air. Once Craig arrived at the belay he began to get very intimate with a rock on the belay, caressing and holding it ever so gently. By the time Bridget arrived Craig was now rolling a cigarette with one hand as the other was still caressing the rock.

Craig fighting his way up the crux pitch

The next two pitches are graded 4b and are really pleasant. The climbing then gets exciting again with the final 5a pitch. This has some awesome moves that head out through overhangs which lean out over the entire rock face. Craig came prepared to the belay stance with pre-rolled cigarettes, one behind each ear and smoking one on the way up.

Craig after climbing the second 5a pitch

Me on the last pitch

Trying to find the route

The route took a bit longer than expected but it did mean that we were able to enjoy the sunset on the way down to the car. A big thanks to Bridget for taking and getting all these photographs to me.


Plan B

Craig looking out to Ardnamurchan and Ardgour
Craig on Stob Coire Nam Beith

Yesterday Craig and I had our sights set on climbing Centurion, on the Ben. However waking up this morning to find the ground soaked after a shower through the night wasn't what we had planned.
We came up with a quick bad weather plan and headed into Glencoe to do Number 3 Buttress on Stob Coire Nam Beith. This offers exposed hard scrambling, not nice when some of the rock was wet.


Let the Sun Shine

The weather in the Fort was absolutely glorious all day today, the sun didn't stop shinning. I headed down the Glen with a few routes in mind to tick off, while I waited for craig to finish work. So I started at Dundee buttress and solo climbed Promises (HS 4b*). Then I went to Cavalry Crack Buttress and climbed The Old Wall (VS 4b***). Al recently back from his trip to Afghanistan was climbing Storm, on the route next to me.

Me soloing The Old Wall
Once Craig arrived we hit the Long Crack (HVS 5a,4b*). After leading the first pitch I was attacked by midgies at the belay stance. So we decided to exit stage right and get away from them.

Da Aonagh Eagach

Today I was out with my old boss, from the chip shop I used to work in, his son alessio and Dom. They all seemed to enjoy the exposure and situations that the ridge offers. The team approaching the ridge
Only one week before college starts I'm hoping to cram in as much as possible before I start.


Rasberry Ripple

It was Dan and Kat's last day in the Fort. It was suppose to be a bad weather day as well however the weather stayed clear and dry all day. Dan and Kat headed up The Long Reach(E1 5b****) while Bridget and I headed up Rasberry Ripple(HVS 5a*). This was only three pitches long so we managed to get Spartan Slab in as well.

It was supposed to be raining.

Bridget seconding Spartan Slab

Spartan Slab's Crux pitch has changed completely since I last did it. It is way more difficult and much harder than the grade it goes at. After topping out the midgies attacked in full force, not good.