Indicator Wall

I have a full week of work lined up tomorrow so I was desperate to get one more day of climbing in. So I was heading up the Ben with Dave Buckett at 6 in the morning hoping to get to the routes before many others. On appraoch to the CIC we watched the crowds leave on force towards the crags. By the time we arrived and kitted ourselves up a few teams were at the bottom of Point 5 and one team at the bottom of Orions Direct (our choice for the day). Once we were moving up to the route the team hadn't made any progress yet so we decided to change plan and head for indicator wall (V,4***).
We topped by noon then back to the car by 2, didn't feel like a full day on the Ben.

Topping out
Dave seconding up the second pitch
Teams on Tower Ridge
Plenty of teams still heading up after we were walking off


Staghorn Gully

After a couple of big days I was looking to do something a little more chilled out so Craig and I headed up to Staghorn Gully (III***, cold climbs classic) on Creag Meagaidh. After the early start eventually every man and their dog was in the Coire, due to the fact that the conditions are great and loads of great routes are in fantastic condition.
Staghorn starts off as a big long grade II snow plod but thankfully this was well stepped out and meant we had a staircase all the way up. After looking at the North Pipe (III) we decided to do North Pipe Direct (IV,4) and meant that Craig could do his first lead at this grade.

Craig on South Pipe Direct

Climbing out the cave on the second pitch

Inside the cave on the second pitch

Walking in


Back on the Ben

The weather was still looking as great as ever when Jamie and I were walking into the route this morning but once we passed the CIC hut we were in the cloud for good. We headed up to observatory buttress and climbed Original Route (V,5***). It was another long route with the difficulty at beginning. The cloud didn't lift until we reached number four gully on the way back down. 
Jamie on the first pitch


Cost and Worth

Topping out today made me feel absolutely brilliant, there wasn't a breath of wind or a cloud in the sky. From the Ben the view stretched to the the Isle of Skye, Rum and way over Rannoch Moor to Schiehallion. Taking in the scenery and the sense of accomplishment after some hard graft on a perfect day felt great.
Although this morning I was up at 5.20am to be ready for 6. To realise that I needed to go back to the house and wasn't able to start the walk in until nearer 7. After the walk in Craig and I were standing at the bottom of Hadrian's Wall Direct (V,5***), a 300m metre climb that starts with a fifty metres of sustained vertical ice. The difficulty in the first pitch however travelling all the way up the face of the Ben makes the route feel like an adventurous day out. After topping out into most beautiful views Scotland has to offer it makes all the bad days worth every bit of misery.
Plenty of teams on the point with Hadrians on the left

On the third pitch
On the final pitch
After climbing the route I broke it down by the numbers. I have four good ice screws and one that was given to me which doesn't place that well and I rarely use unless I am in a very comfortable position to place it. Craig added 4 more good ones 3 of which he borrowed, this gave us a grand total of 9. The guide description told me that I could minus 2 for the belay at the top and one poor screw for the first belay left me with 5 good screws for fifty metres of climbing. That left me with an average of one screw every ten metres which meant that if I fell at the wrong time I would be falling a minimum of 20 metres if the screws held (the right time to fall would be right after I placed a screw). 
If had more protection and I took the time to place more protection. Would that increase the risk of me getting tired and actually falling? Having been successful on the ascent this shouldn't matter however could not being able to afford the £50 for an ice screw make a person take unnecessary risk?
I suppose this is taken into account before attempting the route but the increasing cost of clothing makes me think what I'm actually getting for my money, after forking out over £700 for a set of Haglofs salopettes, gloves and a jacket which hasn't lasted a  full season. My boots which I got for a steal over six years ago, never really fitted properly, but to replace them will cost £420. Furthermore my ropes which I probably should retire soon look like they will cost over another £200, if I'm lucky. That doesn't include all the other pieces of equipment I have gathered over the years makes me think what it is really worth?


Last Minute

This morning I woke up with the intention of going for a walk in Glen Etive. After getting in touch with Johann late in the day I was able to get some plans together to go climbing. Because it was so late we headed up to Aonnach Mor.
After looking at the cornice on easy gully we abseiled down Morwind (III,4). It was looking quite thin but climbable, so I had a bash and found it an enjoyable route. Although the second pitch had lost a lot of snow and probably wasn't in great condition to be climbed but we still had finish off the route.

Abbing down the route

Stunning views


Vanishing Gully and The Curtain

 Ben and I had a late start on the Ben today, not leaving the car park until 9am. We intended to do some of the routes lower down so we didn't have to worry about starting so late. Ben was keen to do Vanishing Gully (V,5), a route i had already done, however I didn't share the same enthusiasm for it. Due to the late start there was a lack of options and no one else on our route so decided to go for it. While on it we were watching team after team on The Curtain.
So after climbing down 1934 route we headed over and climbed The Curtain. Both routes were in great condition and were a true pleasure to climb.

Ben Cooling on the 2nd pitch of Vanishing Gully

Ben on the first pitch of the Curtain


Carn Mor Dearg

A lack of a climbing partner meant I was heading out for a walk today. On our way up the hill we were spotting all the routes getting climbed on the Ben ,which was very busy and looked in great condition. We didn't have a lot of time because Jess, Anna and Chris had to be back over east by five and after a late start it was apparent that we weren't going to get much else done. So After getting blown off the top of Carn Mor Dearg we headed back off the hill.

The North Face looking really good

Chris on CMD

On the summit with the NE ridge in the background


Route 1

I was up the Ben with Rich and Jamie again however this time Rich had a specific route on his mind. We raced up to Carn Dearg Buttress to try and beat the many weekend warriors heading up to that area. We managed to get the route to ourselves, then Rich got stuck in.
The Route 1 (VI,6***) follows a series of chimneys which eventually get narrow enough to not fit a person through them comfortably. Rich did some fantastic climbing on not very well protected verglassed rock. Five metres from the top out Rich had to call it quits because of the lack of protection and the fact that the verglass wasn't giving him any options we had to back off. We still had a great experience but I don't know if I will be in a rush to try it again though.  

Rich on the first pitch.
This wasn't the narrow chimney
Rich tackling the second pitch
The Ben looking in really good nick. That might change tomorrow

We are on the bottom left.
Photo Courtesy of Max Hunter


The Message

After not much success in the west yesterday Jamie and I decided to go east this time and meet up with Ben in the Norries (Northern Corries). There was plenty of snow over in the Cairngorms and by the time we arrived climbers and skiers had already assembled in force.
We headed in to the Mess of Pattage to have a look at The Message (IV,6). One team got there before us, which is expected on a Saturday,  but they didn't hang around for long.
Great route with three quality pitches.

Jamie on the crux pitch
Ben seconding the crux

Ben on the last pitch