Saturday, 1 March 2014

New blog to go with the new website...

I've just launched my new website 'MountainZ' (offering Expedition & Mountain Training and Mountain Safety Consultancy). Alongside this I now have a new blog detailing my adventures and mountain work. Please redirect your browsers to the following link and thanks for following. Blue skies.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Seam IV 5

Chris topping out on the Seam IV 5. Team in the background on Invernookie III 4

'Sam' at the base of Fiacaill Couloir having fallen 80m from just below the obvious col. Self rescued with help from the other team in shot and walked out with a broken wrist.

 Photo from Adam (Hughes Mountaineering) of myself just past the crux on the Seam IV 5

Returning the compliment - Adam and his team plus a couple of soloists in Fiacaill Couloir II/III

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Alpine day on Creagan Cho Na

  Checking out the abseil options

Huge cornices over Recovery Gully

Abseiling in to the left of Anvil Gully

Chris on the top groove of Anvil Gully IV 4

Carrie topping out on Anvil Gully IV 4

Chris descending Recovery Gully to check out some other work options

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Back on North Buttress IV 4

Approaching the base of the route on good snow

 Climbing in parallel on the top pitch

 Abseiling back in to Glencoe

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Zig Zagging through the MIC

Carrie enjoying Zig Zag Direct III

This week I'm working with Chris who's making his final preparations for his MIC reassessment. The forecast was terrible with a challenging avalanche forecast so we kicked off on Zig Zag Direct (III) on Grear Aonach before descending via the Zig Zags (II). In the event conditions were fairly benign and even pleasant at times and we had a great climb despite the soggy snow.

The view east through Glencoe as far as Schallion

Topping out on Grear Aonach

Looking west to Loch Leven

Friday, 14 February 2014

ITACE 2014 Antarctic training

 Testing Terra Nova's new Polar Storm tent

I've just run five days of Scottish based training for the Imperial Trans Antarctic Centenary Expedition which aims to make a complete crossing of the continent later in the year. They'll also be attempting a crossing of the Greenland icecap in May as part of their training.

The week focused on the technical as well as the physical and mental skills required to operate safely in these enviroments.

We were joined by photographer John Pickles who took these stunning black and white images. More of his work can be seen on his website at

 Summit of Cairngorm

 Big loads and long days on the Cairngorm plateau

 A spot of snow holing to work on the personal admin

 Testing the expeditions Jottnar kit

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Breaking Davina!!

Today the Comic Relief Challenge for 2014 rolled in to the Lake District. We were running mountain safety for Davina McCall and a BBC film crew on her Beyond Breaking Point challenge with a planned mountain walk from Seathwaite to Langdale via the summit of Scafell Pike. Fresh from a 130 mile cycle from Edinburgh, which had taken her 15 plus hours in horrendous conditions, Davina cycled into Seathwaite Farm and the delights of the camping barn in which to prepare for the hill. We'd made the decision to shorten the route due to full winter conditions on the hill. Seven hours later we arrived in Langdale with a very bedraggled looking film crew but Davina was in a far better state than when we first met her!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Laughing chicken** seen on North Buttress!

 The Buachaille - North Buttress IV 4 takes the line of shallow chimneys on the left of the crag

There have been a spate of blogs reporting great conditions on the Buachaille's North Buttress, a classic IV 4 which will go in most conditions and is a good option when avalanches threaten. It wasn't looking good as we left the car in tropical temperatures and postholed through knee deep sugar snow up to the foot of the route. However it all changed as soon as we swung the first axe into the snow ice that plastered the initial groove. The climbing was easy and gear easy to come by. However a few minutes later we were in full blizzard conditions and getting pummeled by a constant stream of spindrift. Rob and Barry seemed to be enjoying the experience so we continued. Our initial plan had been to abseil off after the difficulties to rest the legs after three big days but a glimpse of sunshine and views over Rannoch Mor tempted us on upwards towards the summit. Deep snow slowed our progress on the easy final slopes but a couple of bus loads of Plas Y Brenin students had visited the summit via the safe ridge so we had a huge trail to follow on the way down.

**Rob & Barry have renamed Ptarmingan Laughing Chickens! Don't ask me why but it's been a very surreal week!
 Impressive avalanche debris

Approaching the climb above Glencoe and the A82

Blizzard conditions and spindrift on North Buttress

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

SW Ridge (Douglas Boulder)

The CIC Hut with attendant snow drifts

A reasonable forecast tempted us up on to a very snowy Ben Nevis. The South West Ridge of the Douglas Boulder gave us 4 pitches of brilliant climbing at around grade III finishing on a very insecure fin of snow. Most of the snow was helpful with only the occasional patch of crud, the gear was good and the sun even came out as we topped out. Two abseils took us to the bottom of East Gully before a quick scoot down the lower reaches of Observatory Gully.

Crossing steep snow slopes on the approach to the SW Ridge

 Exposed climbing along a fin of soft snow

 Abseiling into the Douglas Gap

 Abseiling into East Gully at the Douglas Gap

 A snowy view up into Observatory Gully

Monday, 3 February 2014

Eastern Slant (SCNL)

 Face of concentration! Rob on Eastern Slant (III 4)

This week I'm working on an Introduction to Winter Climbing course for Adventure Peaks. Rob and Barry were up for pushing their limits and have plenty of general mountaineering experience so we jumped straight on to Eastern Slant (III 4) on the east face of Aonach Dubh. With gusts of 90mph forecast for the summits this proved to be a good option topping out on to the floor of the coire. The snow was pretty unhelpful but the route provided a good introduction to hooking, torqing and general mixed shenanigans.
There's a lot of wet snow in Coire Nan Lochan at the moment and we post holed back down through thigh deep drifts. The main crags were looking very wintery but the approach apron was a wee bit spooky. We saw teams heading for Dorsal Arete, Spectra and even NC Gully!!! - the latter not to be recommended with the current high avalanche risk!

Eastern Slant (III 4) takes the obvious corner to half height before a rising traverse left

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Recceing camera positions...

Soft wet snow by Sprinkling Tarn

Today I've been out above the snow line in the Lake District recceing camera positions for a forthcoming BBC spectacular. Watch this space....
There's plenty of soft snow on the tops with knee deep drifts above 550m however we didn't need ice axes or crampons. Underneath the turf isn't frozen so suspect there's no winter climbing to be had at present. Great End was well covered and a good freeze will produce some great conditions in the gullys

Great End with a good covering of soft snow

Monday, 27 January 2014

A spot of Munro bagging in the white room

Using the stalkers track from Glen Feshie

The summit of Mullach Clach a' Bhlair!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Getting a Cairngorm work over!

Battling the wind on the ascent of Meall a Bhuachaille

Jude about to face plant into the heather after a big gust!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A swim up Invernookie

Heavy going on Invernookie III 4

 The final traverse before popping out on Fiacaill Ridge

The Coire Cas cornice which caught out 3-7 climbers today depending on which report you read!