Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc

 Running the TMB in 2012

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.

Climbing out of Courmayer in a rain storm

Mont Blanc from Italy

Clachaig Winter Safety Lectures

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Advanced winter skills captured on film!

Some more footage from the team at GCUMC and their Advanced Winter Skills course in January.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Mountain Rescue Training

 Stunning conditions in the Cairngorms

This weekend I've been running some winter training for members of Langdale & Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team. They braved the journey north to the Cairngorms leaving behind a very snowy Lake District!
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
Saturday evening was the Association of Mountaineering Instructors AGM at Glenmore Lodge which proved very successful with 100% support for a number of measures to increase our professionalism.
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!

Working an avalanche probe line

 Plenty of snow being moved around

Your stereotypical Mountain Rescuer!!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Fixed Lines on Zig Zags

 Jenny ready for the north ridge of Everest

 Practicing passing other climbers on the fixed lines

The scar from the recent large rock fall on the Zig Zags

Another view of the Zig Zags rock fall

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Laps on Ledge Route

An icy first 'zig' on Ledge Route

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

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Powder day on Curved Ridge

Approaching Curved Ridge in alpine conditions

 A plastered Buchaille under a blue sky
 Climbing the initial ice fall into Crowberry Basin

Swimming up Crowberry Basin

Sarah enjoying the mixed climbing

 Tricky mixed climbing to regain the ridge

Crowberry Gap in a developing white out

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

North Face of Ben Nevis without O2!

Sarah descending an icy step

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

 Sarah approaching the CIC Cascade

Monday, 21 January 2013

Conditions on a very quiet Ben Nevis

A thin looking Curtain IV 5

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

Topping out in No 4 Gully

The main CIC Cascade coming into condition

A well rimed No 3 Gully Buttress

Advanced Winter Skills with GCUMC

Friday, 18 January 2013

Looking for Aconcagua on the Ben...

 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!

Stunning conditions on the descent via Red Burn

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Following the trail on the Aonach Eagach

 Digging for holds on the Aonach Eagach

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

 The Aonach Eagach Ridge

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Breaking Trail on Curved Ridge

 Sunshine & snow :)

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

Both axes blow - about now!!!

 Guy Buckingham topping out on Agag's Groove (VI 7)

 Stunning views across Rannoch Mor

 The exit slopes to below Crowberry Tower

 Sebastian leading up towards Crowberry Tower

 The final few meters to the summit of the Buachaille

Buachaille sunset...