It’s been a beautiful few days, cold nights, frost in the mornings, blue sky days with sunshine and of course there’s snow on them there hills! Working around the Loch Tay area today on a project. Mostly working on the side of the loch, but with lots of longing glances up to the hills and onto Ben Lawers. The Mountains are looking great with an amazing contrast of colours at the moment. Autumnal browns and oranges contrasting vividly with the pristine white of the snow on the tops. Snowline seems to be down to about 700m and it’s looking really beautiful (really wish I had my camera or at least my phone!!). Sign of a good winter or just early season offerings. Inevitably lots of theories and thoughts about what this winter will be like based on a range of things from the number of Rowan berries out, scientific predictions and my personal favourite the friend who bases his winter predictions on his chickens winter plumage (you know who you are!) AS ever, uncertain predictions but what is certain is that I will have my axes sharp and will be out soon…….
If you’re like me you often take what’s on the doorstep for granted. Probably more in that statement that I would like to admit but sufficient to say that in all the time and energy I spend travelling to get to far flung mountains for work and for fun it’s really easy to overlook some brilliant local wanderings. Today was a really productive day all ways around. I left home at 9 after dropping the kids in school, met a good friend and we wandered and talked our way up the Stank Glen and onto Ben Ledi – generally enjoying our time our on the hill and putting the world to rights on the way! Down from the summit and back to the car, with a clear head and lots of clarity on the decisions I need to make at the moment. Into the office for 1 pm without any stress, busy and super productive few hours and home with everything achieved by 4.30 pm. I should do this more often!
Jeremy was back today and after his last adventures with me on wet, cold, slippery schist he was still keen to attempt a multi pitch rock climb in the mountains and maybe to even lead something. Maybe we could get something done before winter really sets in…….Jeremy had been working in Inverness and time for a day out on the Tuesday. After repeated cautions by me of not being able to guarantee the weather at this time of year (or any time of year!) we decided on the Cairngorms and more specifically I decided on Stac an fharidh. We needed something south facing (I have tried climbing in the northern corries this time of year and its often been just too cold and wet, or even verglassed!) and something with as short a walk out as possible so that Jeremy could catch his plane in the evening and get home to London!
We walked in over the summit of cairngorm, up through the wet cloud and then dropped down back out of the cloud to a beautiful autumnal day with great views and sunshine! Warm and mostly dry rock and great climbing.
Whispers (VS 4C) is a great route slab route that gets progressively harder. Pitches of around 4a, 4b and then with the 4c pitch at the top. Lots of time to get used to moving in the rock and the early easier pitches help get you into the groove of climbing with the slabby nature making for quick progress. The crux pitch traverses for about 6m away from the belay and then climbs up through an overlap onto the slab above using some really lovely and thought provoking moves, an interesting series of moves for the feet and predictably hardly anything for the hands. Really interesting climbing and reasonably well protected (even if the in situ peg is from a very early ascent!) Jeremy climbed really well and got to the top with a big smile! Result, multi-pitch climb in a stunning location in the sunshine! I love it when it works out like this.
Not too much time for a big second route because Jeremy had a plane to catch so we made the bold decision to have a quick look at Linden, a 50 meter severe – and to let Jeremy have his first lead. Jeremy climbed Whispers so well that I was really confident that he would do a good job with this and he cruised the first pitch, climbing really well. I took over at the belay and after some adventures flailing up wet and vegetated corners (think it’s fair to say this probably doesn’t get climbed that often) I made it up to the top of the crag.
Up and over the bealach at the top of Coire Raibeirt and then down Coire Chais and through the ski are saw us back at the cars in an hour which was good going. Unfortunately that was about 45 mins later than we needed to be so Jeremy was last seen speeding out of the car park in his small hire car to get to Aberdeen airport in time to get home and see the family – apparently he made it with about 5 mins to spare. Good job!
Brilliant day and all the objectives achieved. Apparently Cairngorm is a significant mountain for Jeremy as it was his first Munro and his first winter Munro. Now he can add on his first multi-pitch rock climb and his first lead onto the list! Brilliant.
One of those days when you realise that you realise again that there is so much more to climbing than climbing. After shelving yesterdays plans because of the rain and forecast Dave and I decided to hang out with the families this morning and then head out for a climb in the afternoon. We decided on a boulder at the Trossachs Boulders. After a good craic on the drive in and the walk in, jumping over bogs and trying to avoid getting wet feet on the wet path we eventually got the boulders and managed to climb about 4m (one problem each) before the heavens opened in a torrential downpour. I have decided that one of the best things about bouldering is that there is usually somewhere to crawl under to shelter from the down pour and Dave and I and Dave’s dog spent a good 20 mins hiding from the rain before we made a retreat that was also full of good craic! Just a reminder that there is so much more to climbing than climbing!
I think my wife deserves a medal. Actually I think she probably deserves lots of them! After a particularly busy period for all of us with Helen being back at work, Rebekah starting school and me being generally busy with lots of things – I decided I need some me time. Fortunately Helen also agreed it would be good for all of us if I hit the hills for a couple of days and so I made a plan……….
The plan involved driving to Dalwhinnie late Thursday night, biking in to Culra bothy Thursday night, running around some hills Friday and then biking north Friday night to meet a friend at Lochan na h-earba below Binnein Shuas and climbing Ardverikie Wall with him on the Saturday for his birthday.
The cycle in to culra went well (I had forgotten what a great cycle this is) and I managed to get to the bothy just before dark. I took the long way around the big land rover track after missing the turn off across the single track in the gloom of the dusk and managed to avoid the temptation to attempt to ride the suspension bridge over the ford with a large and full rucksack! Safely negotiated I arrived at the bothy, had a bit of craic with fellow bothiers and then got my head down for a great night sleep.
Friday I eventually crawled out of the bag at 8.30 am (don’t tell Helen who has probably been up with the kids since around 6.00), had a quick breakfast, packed a light bag and then headed straight up onto Carn Dearg. The plan was to follow the ridge down and get the Munros done down to Beinn Eibhinn and then make a plan for the afternoon. Really good to be burning off some energy and some thinking time, legs working hard straight up the mountain and after a seemingly short time on the summit of…….. complete with cloud and damp. The clouds soon moved away leaving Autumnal blue skies and sunshine, great to be out and I really enjoyed being out and running along. Down to the pass near the bealach dubh for a spot of lunch, hit the good path back to the bothy and then 6 km or so and a bit of time later back at the bothy with clarity of thought, nicely sore legs and generally feeling great about life.
After a bit of time in the bothy over a cuppa and some food, and enough time to think and write some work notes on the back of print out of the map I looked to get going and head further north to meet Dave at Lochan Na Earba below Binnian Shuas. Other comments in the bothy book suggested that this would be a grand plan and so I got the bag packed with the overnight kit (including with the tent and climbing kit I would need for the next day) and then started cycling north, first along a land rover track and then along a single track that needed me to push and carry a bit. A fair bit of exertion and a few rain showers later and I was soon at the bealach below the plateau that leads onto Beinn a Chlachlair.
Looking north looked grim. Wet and dark and as though it was about to start raining and not stop for a few days. Nothing for it but to phone Dave and ask if he had a forecast. He did and it wasn’t a good one for climbing slabs! We binned the staying over and trying to climb Ardverikie Wall part of the plan and I cycled straight out to meet Dave next to the Laggan road. Downhill all the way and a great way down the mountain.
Another brilliant adventure and another adventure of carrying climbing kit that didn’t get used! Never mind, as an old friend used to say “it’s all good training”.
In the middle of the family holiday in Northumberland I managed to get out on the grit with Darrell a good friend who lives just outside of Newcastle. I grew up on the grit over in Yorkshire and had totally forgotten how brilliant it is, how much I like climbing it and how totally and accessible it is! An evening bouldering on the grit after a brilliant day with the family. Superb!
Imagine if your first outside rock climb was Ardverikie Wall, and that you managed to catch it in blue skies and sunshine. I know what you’re thinking, you’d be hooked. You’d be thinking that rock climbing in Scotland was the best thing ever (we know it’s up there right) and you couldn’t wait to get back out on the sun baked dry rock!
Well that’s Dave’s story from today. I have known Dave for over a year through my work for Go Ape at Crathes, just outside Banchory. Dave’s a fit guy, runs marathons and all kinds of other distances for fun and he has been climbing indoors for a while. I knew that he would get on fine climbing something in the mountains and every time I have seen him over the last year we’ve talked climbing outdoors. Today was the day that we finally made it happen.
Blue skies, sunshine, immaculate slab climbing up perfect rock that faces south! Does it get any better than Ardverikie Wall on Beinn Shuas ? Our planned adventure began early. The plan was for me to head north from Stirling and for Dave to head southwards from near Aberdeen and for us to meet at Laggan Bridge complete with bikes. Early adventures took a slight deviation as Dave had to stop in Aviemore to buy rock shoes (long story) and I seemed to get stuck behind every slow moving vehicle heading north on the A9 (note to self it takes longer to drive north on the A9 in summer season than it does in winter at super early doors!)
Anyway we eventually began cycling up the land rover track to Lochan Na Earba and after a few tussles with sandy sections and uphill sections we arrived at the Lochan, left the bikes and began to walk in to the bottom of the climb. It’s really dry up there at the moment and in fact I think it might be the driest I have ever seen it.
Walking in made me realise I had forgotten how much I really like Beinn Shuas. It has some really great routes on it, some of which I have climbed before but I think that the thing I like the most about it is that it ‘feels’ like a big remote and inaccessible mountain that it ‘feels’ like its miles away from anywhere – and it faces south!
So Dave’s first outside rock climb went really well. He climbed well, learnt lots, we had lots of fun and there was the right amount of nice and relaxing moments along with him having a couple of “ oh my goodness, now I’m scared, what am I doing here” moments that he was looking for in a guided experience. Oh and of course we had amazing weather which helped.
Pictures speak louder than words so see below for some piccies from the day.
Jeremy booked with us recently with the desire to go multipitch rock climbing and experience some of Scotland’s fantastic rock scenery and all he got was…………….. the one wet day in the middle of in the middle of weeks of, blue skies and sunshine!
With not too many options available to us of what to do in the rain from the Arrochar are we opted to head for the Cobbler (Ben Arthur) and get moving on the South East Ridge of the mountain. Definitely more of a mountaineering day out in the rain and 30 meter visibility than a multipitch rock climbing day. I have only been over this ridge once before in winter when in contrast it was blue skies and sunshine and too warm to climb anything else! as we shivered up and over the ridge in the wind and the wet I did stop to think about it’s been a while since I have been climbing out in such a miserable weather day and how well Jeremy was doing with it. In the wet all of the rock is treacherous and very slippy so care was taken up and over the ridge. An abseil down to the col found us staring across at the centre peak and contemplating the Arete – a brilliant Diff that is notorious for being polished…….
Soaked and generally fed up of slippy rock with torrents of water flying down it we declined the Arete and left it for another day and made a quick exit from the cold and windy top and down into the corrie beneath the south face of the north peak of the mountain. In a few glimpses of increasing visibility I managed to show Jeremy around some of the tremendous rock scenery and point out some routes for another (sunny) day and then we completed the day with a skills based session looking at anchor selection, placing gear and building belays in an area at the bottom of the crag.
Back to the car fairly wet but generally happy that I feel we got the absolute maximum that we could get out of the day. Hope Jeremy thinks so too! A massive day of contrasts as I fly out to Israel tonight for some other work – temperatures currently in the mid 30′s!
Over the last couple of months I have been working with a local primary school on a pilot to get school kids out of the classrooms and more involved in outdoor learning. Outdoor learning is becoming really popular at the moment and it’s a great way of being able to deliver the learning outcomes and experiences that form the basis of the Curriculum for Excellence. I love it when I get to teach children outside of the classroom and as we all know kids, and adults adults are able to learn, gain experiences and express themselves so differently when they are able to be taken out of their ‘normal’ into other environment -even just being outside!
I have over 15 years of industry experience in delivering outdoor education and experiences and over the last 5 years have been lecturing to students on how to deliver outdoor education on the University of Stirling’s Environmental Science and Outdoor Education degree (BSc). I am really excited about the increasing amount of outdoor learning that is being done in schools and think that there is massive potential here for outdoor educators like me to make themselves useful to schools! In my experience most of the outdoor educators I know are really brilliant educators who are so passionate about their subject area and with a bit of knowledge about what’s in the curriculum for excellence would be able to write and deliver brilliant outdoor lessons for schools.
The local primary school I have been working with is well set to move forwards for regular outdoor learning sessions for its pupils. They have purchased all sorts of pieces of equipment, have secured the use of a small woodland area just off site and are developing an outdoor classroom. All good fun. the work I have been doing with them has been to develop lessons in this environment that tie in with some of the other subjects and topics that they have doing in the classroom and its been a real delight. Hoping that this continues after the summer hols and that I can get some of my students involved in this great project. What do you think of the photos of this outdoor art projects ?
After a busy few weeks with work, family life and general stuff I felt like I needed my fix of the mountains. The only problem is that I have a diary full of work and things that can’t move with the family. One of those times that you wish you could either just press the pause button on life or somehow stretch an extra day out of the week to get things done!
And then the idea came to me, either from a place of madness or a place of desperation to get out in the mountains (you decide, we’ve all been there……) The idea was fairly simple and also fairly stimulating and went something like this ‘if I drive up to Glencoe tonight after work and when the kids have gone to bed, how much would I actually be able to get done tonight and all day tomorrow?’ I decided that the answer was lots and settled on a vague plan to run along the Aonach Eagach in the evening, bivvy on the summit of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and then on Monday leave the bivy kit somewhere near the road before heading up into Stob Coire nam Beith / Bidean area for a climb the next day. Perhaps unsurprisingly I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to come along at short notice so I was planning on just soloing something easy such as Crypt Route on Bidean or Crack climb on Stob Coire nam Beith and then journeying back over the tops to get to the car.
The first part of the plan all went well, kids went to bed at a reasonable time and the drive to Glencoe was fine. Evening sunshine made the glen look absolutely beautiful and I left the car park at 8.30 pm and set off up Am Bodach. I have guided the Aonach Eagach tens of times in all kinds of conditions and so the late evening start didn’t bother me and I enjoyed being out and about on my own. Beautiful evening
I reached the summit of Am Bodach in about an hour (pleased with that especially as I have not been this way for a while and have a few extra things in the bag than normal!) and then it happened…………. the phone call that changed it all. Sometimes things just happen that mean you need to change plans and thi was one of those times. Initially I carried on trying to pretend that I really didn’t need to go and sort some things out in Stirling but by the time I had reached about half way along the ridge I knew I needed to head for home. Quick run along the ridge and up to the summit of Sgorr nam Fiannaidh before it got too dark, head torch on for the tortuous descent straight south to the Coe and then a walk back up along the road because I couldn’t get a hitch I nthe early hours! Back to the car for around 2.15 am and then drove home and back home for around 3.30 am. All in all fairly pleased with that and carting that unused bivy kit and climbing kit must have done me some good right ?
Much hilarity at breakfast this morning. I couldn’t get back in the house last night as no-one was expecting me and the key was in the door etc so I just kipped in the garden I the bivy and was woken by inquisitive children in what seemed to be no time at all! All good adventures