In 2012 I had the pleasure of
reporting from The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc following The
North Face athlete Jez Bragg around the course as he attempted to repeat
his 2010 win. In 2013 I'll be back but to attempt the CCC, a shorter
version of the main event featuring a 100km route from Courmayer to
Chamonix via Champex with 5950m of ascent. I have a new blog detailing my training, preparation, equipment and the event itself.
However by the time they got home on Sunday night a major thaw meant that a water rescue capability was probably more use! Saturday gave us blue skies but a strong wind that was moving plenty of fresh snow around. We spent a considerable amount of time looking at avalanche avoidance and rescue strategies. There was multiple layers of windslab in sheltered locations and we were able to trigger a number of small slides. We were also able to look at winter belays and emeregncy snow shelters
The snow pack was much reduced on Sunday with the temperature having risen above the summits during the night but the remaining snow had refrozen giving us a very fast paced ice axe arrest session. A wee bit of winter navigation and goggles were donned for a trip to the top of Cairngorm in pleasantly full on conditions!
This week I'm working for Adventure Peaks with Sarah & Jenny honing their skills for Everest expeditions in 2013 & 2014. With plenty of snow and gale force winds forecast for Friday we opted to use the last of the good weather to get some mileage under our belts on ground similar to the majority of summit day. An ascent & descent of an icy Ledge Route (II) worked well giving a variety of terrain with plenty of exposure. The focus was on maintaining a steady pace and climbing efficiently whatever the difficulties.
The Forestry Commission track is currently a wee bit icy for two wheel
drive vans so we enjoyed the trudge up from the bottom car park to give a
full day with 1000m plus of ascent. Compared to our swimming efforts on Curved Ridge yesterday there is very little fresh snow on the Ben. Elsewhere on the mountain there were a couple of teams making good progress on Tower Ridge but the rest of the coire was strangely quiet.
Good views across the Great Glen
A lean upper ridge on Ledge Route
Enjoying moving together along the upper ridge
A sunny loch Linne in the distance
A fast moving team of 3 just above the gap on Tower Ridge
Descending back down the North Ridge of Everest AKA Ledge Route
This week I'm working with Sarah & Jenny to help with their final preparations for their Adventure Peaks Everest expedition. With a strong easterly wind still whipping over the tops we opted to stay low and focus on climbing and descending fixed lines. The North side of Everest has around 10,000m of line stretching from just above ABC to the summit so having a simple, efficient and safe system is essential. My preferred method is detailed here. The area below the CIC Cascades offers a number of small grade II steps on rock and ice which are perfect for this sort of training. Throughout the day we were able to ascend and descend over 500m in a maelstrom of spindrift. Above us the main CIC Cascade was complete but thin and hollow. However there was plenty of activity on the ice lines to the right hand side
Ascending the ice apron below the main CIC Cascade
Jenny passing an anchor on an icy step
Sarah ensuring she stays attached while passing an anchor
Jenny sheltering from the spindrift behind the main CIC Cascade
This week I'm working for Adventure Peaks running an expedition prep course. Jenny & Sarah are both heading for the north side of Everest so this is their final opportunity to get comfortable on fixed lines, finalise their systems & personal admin and cover some exposed mixed ground. We headed into a very windy but quiet Ben Nevis with an open mind. An escaped rucksack blown away in the updraft provided a bit of entertainment before we battled our way up and down No 4 Gully. There were a few patches of of very unstable windslab on a soft layer but these were easily avoided. The sastrugi at the base of the Comb were pretty impressive with the soft layer being constantly eroded by the swirling winds but the rest of the corrie was good neve. There were teams on Glovers Chimney, battling an upwards torrent of spindrift and Comb Gully which was somewhat more sheltered. Lower down the easier CIC Cascades and the Gulch saw plenty of activity
The Pony Track on Ben Nevis - Great training for Aconcagua
For the final day of Sebastian's expedition prep course we got the chance to test some his high altitude equipment in anger. He's away to Aconcagua with Adventure Peaks in a few days so we swapped the False Polish Traverse for the Ben's Pony Track and went for a battle with the conditions in a pair of Millet Everest boots. Fair play, if a little foolish, to the two gentlemen who followed us to the summit in their trainers! The wind was gusting 80mph plus across the plateau but we were comfortable without crampons. MacLean's Steep had drifted in with plenty of soft slab which settled with a huge 'whumpf' as we approached. The forecast had predicted -26oC at 900m with windchill so we were glad to pop into the summit shelter for a spot of lunch. We descended via Red Burn which did require crampons before rejoining the Pony Track for the descent to Glen Nevis
Spot the difference - Descending from Camp 2 on Aconcagua
Following the cairns across the summit plateau
Battling against the 80mph winds on the summit
Enjoying lunch in the Ben Nevis summit shelter - sponsored by Millet!
Not quite the blue sky day we were hoping for but pretty spectacular none the less. The high cloud gave some great light and shadows as we tackled the classic Aonach Eagach ridge traverse. At least three teams had broken trail yesterday and there were a couple more ahead of us today which made for easy going. This week I'm climbing with Sebastian in preparation for a major climbing project with Adventure Peaks. The ridge gave us a good long day with lots of exposure, mixed ground, plenty of height gain and even a flypast from a Golden Eagle!
The exposed Pinnacles in the middle of the ridge
Enjoying the ridge after the last of the difficulties
End of a classic traverse - now just the long descent to the road
This week I'm working for Adventure Peaks helping Sebastian prepare for some big climbing plans. After yesterdays success on Ledge Route we upped the challenge slightly with an ascent of Curved Ridge on the Buachaille which gets a grade of III 4 under heavy snow conditions. The sun shone, winds were light and the ridge hadn't been climbed since the last dump of snow giving us a great day out, topping out to a stunning sunset. We descended via Coire Tullich which contained a wee bit of windslab but the worst was easily avoided.
Sebastian getting stuck into the crux corner on Curved Ridge