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Scrambling Skills in Glen Coe

October 17, 2014 at 11:51 pm

Superb day today with Hannah and John in Glen Coe. Hannah and John had booked for an introduction to scrambling skills course and there’s arguably no better place in Scotland to run this kind of course from than Glen Coe – especially when the Coe looks like it did today.  The Coe was at its Autumn best, beautiful brown and orange colours, slightly misty and atmospheric first thing and with the sound of the stags rutting.  Absolutely fantastic.  Early morning rain lifted to give an amazing day with even patches of blue sky and sunshine.

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Hannah and John enjoying Glen Coe at it’s autumn best

 

It was Hannah and John’s first trip into the mountains in Glen Coe. I decided to take them up and into the Lost Valley to teach scrambling skills in a boulder field I know well.  We looked at movement skills, equipment, helmets and harnesses, climbing gear, the use of the rope and lots of discussion around the idea of making ‘situational decisions dependant on experience’.  We continued to look at the use of the rope, gear placements, building belays, direct belays and indirect belays, belays when belay points are in reach and belays when belay points are out of reach. Lots of discussion and great learning all around.

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Hannah and John get to grips with scrambling skills including building belays and belaying

 

In the afternoon we went over onto Gearr Aonach and went up the Zig Zags. Hannah and John took the lead on making the decisions on the ascent and did a great job of putting into practice all the things they had learnt in the morning.  Great job!  Along the ridge towards Stob Coire nan Lochan and then back down the path to the car park with a plenty of review sessions used to capture all the key learning.

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The Zig Zags Gearr Aonach

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Climbing trip to Yorkshire

July 27, 2014 at 2:04 pm

A few snaps of climbing back in Yorkshire. Dave and I headed south for a few days to go climbing.  The criteria for the trip included maximum climbing, minimum driving and generally no faff!  We headed back to Yorkshire for a few days and climbed loads of routes in the few days that we had.  Photos of climbing at Almscliffe, Rhylstone, Eastby.  Great trip and lots of good climbing done.

 

 

 

Stretching the legs on the red Cuillin and slab climbing in Glen Etive

July 18, 2014 at 9:21 pm

Up at a reasonable hour and decided to just walk around the red Cuillin to stretch the legs and enjoy having some time to think – without having to think in too much detail about the route and about climbing anything!  The red cuillin seem small when you look at them up against the black Cuillin, but even the red Cuillin are surprisingly steep and I really enjoyed these hills.  Great to get the legs moving on them, lot of time to think and  enjoy being out.

Looking across to the black Cuillin, Sgurr nan Gillian and Am Basteir

Looking across to the black Cuillin, Sgurr nan Gillian and Am Basteir

Day 5

I met Pete and Tm at the bottom of Glen Etive this morning after a bit of a drive down from Skye.  Pete and Tim had decided to climb Swastika and had offered for me to join them.  By the time we all got there and got organised I realised I wouldn’t have time to climb Swastika, which is a great route that I have climbed before so Tim and Pete offered me the first lead and I lead the first pitch and then got lowered back to the ground.  Plenty of time to enjo the rest of the day and then get home in time to enjoy some time with the kids and in time to get out for dinner with friends.  Great to be bac out on slabs even if only for a pitch!

Solo on the Cuillin Part 3

July 17, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Up at 5 to see the most amazing and beautiful start to the day.  The Sun was well up and everything was bathed in early morning sunlight and looked almost purple and hazy in the really soft light that you get with early morning.  The moon which was almost full was also still out and everything looked absolutely stunning.  I could see out to the western Isles and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – except that looking down below me there was a massive temperature inversion  at sea level and into the glens so I was looking down upon a carpet of cloud through which the ridge and everything above about 600 m stood celar from cloud and with perfect visibility.  Simply stunning – if only I had my camera…..

 Up and away by 5.30 am and onto Bidian Drum na Ra.  Massive exposure immediately from the descent from the western summit and up onto the central summit and I was immediately glad of my decision to stop before this last night.  Facing this exposure first thing in the morning was quite unnerving, facing it last night when I was tired would probably have been mentally exhausting.  AS ai traversed this part of the ridge still on my own and without seeing anyone I got the feeling that this  part of the ridge is somewhat less travelled than other areas.  I began to be even more aware that I was on my own and suddenly had a thought of ‘if you fall off here it’s going to take a long time before someone even finds you……’

A couple of abseils off the back of Bidian Drum na Ra and then over An Casteil with a steep abseil down to the Bealach.  Most of the difficulties behind me and a great walk up and over to Bruch Na Frithe and then over to Am Bastier.  I had decided not to solo the bastier tooth so descended below Am Bastier fairly parched because in the early morning sun it was warm and I had just finished the last of my water on Bruch Na Frithe.  The descent below Am Bastier feels tough because you do have to lose a lot of height but it did turn out to be a great decision because I was able to rehydrate by collecting water from a snow patch that was quickly melting and dripping lots.

Rehydrated  (and after I had left my bivvy kit here) I slogged back up to the bealach and then onto the ridge, climbed up and onto the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean, retraced my steps and abseiled back down to the bealach and then ran up Am Bastier from the Bealach.  Gentle walk out and back to the Sligachan from about 2.30 pm.  I decided to stay on the campsite so put the tent up, had a nap, went to the pub for an evening meal and then had a great night sleep.

Glad to back down and all showered!

Glad to back down and all showered!

Ready for dinner!

Ready for dinner!

 Lots of lessons learnt and a fantastic trip.  Here are a few observations:

Solo on the Cuillin Part 2

July 16, 2014 at 9:05 pm

The alarm went off at 5 am but I poked my head outside, saw the thick cloud and decided to head back to bed for a few hours.  Eventually surfaced around 9, reckoned that the cloud was of the dry ish, thinish might eventually burn off type and so took a chance and decided to get up high onto the ridge.  Walked up and through the cloud until eventually got onto the ridge and then things started to clear and I started to feel happy…. 

Up and onto Sgurr Dubh an Da Bheinn and the cloud began to thin out and to give better visibility.  I decided against the TD gap solo and cut beneath it to gain the summit of Sgurr Alistair via the chimney on the south west side.

Summiting Sgurr Alisdair and the sun begins to properly appear

Summiting Sgurr Alisdair and the sun begins to properly appear

Up and onto Sgurr Thealaich and avoided the abseil to bealach Mhic Chonnich by scrambling down dry but reasonably exposed slabs on the Coire Lagan side.  Sat in the Bealach in the sunshine looking up at Kings Chimney and decided that I wasn’t brave enough to solo it

Cut along harts ledge, back up to the summit of Sgurr Mhic Conniach and then back down down, down to the next Bealach, up the side of An Stac and then up to the inaccessible pinnacle on its summit.  Going well and feeling strong and the I phone battery died around here somewhere.  Too many videos!

This was the only place on the entire ridge that I saw people and there was a bit of a wait while I waited for people to get up and get down again.  I probably spent about an hour and half waiting here but I had already decided that I wanted to camp high on the ridge that eveneing because I had the time to  do it that way, so sitting around in the sunshine wasn’t too much of a hassle!  One of the local guides even gave me his water so I didn’t have to come off down from the ridge to resupply  – very grateful for that.

I’ve climbed the in pin many times and have guided it with many clients – effectively soling it every time.  But, properly soloing it felt slightly different and I did get sweaty palms and was more aware of the massive void down to Loch Curuisk than I think I have ever been aware of before!  Great fun and glad I waited to do this.

In the afternoon I journeyed over Sgurr nan Bannadich, Ghreadaidh and onto Mhadaidh.  Blue skies and sunshine and aazing to be up there in those conditions.  Lack of photos because I forgot the camera and the battery on the phone died and lack of sunglasses (left them in the car) left me squinting lots.   This part of the ridge is very committing, constant scrambling, constant exposure to big drops and constant interest.  Moving well and enjoying being out immensely but also becoming very aware that I am my own, and that no-one (not even Helen) really knows where I am.  Don’t make any silly mistakes here Cluett!  Up and over Mhadaidh where the ridge does a right angle, turn to the east, followed by a steep exposed moderate pitch of climbing in an exposed position and then a further 25 m or so pitch of diff climbing, again in an exposed position.  Up and over and down to the bealch before bidian Drum na Ra and decided to camp at this bealach.  Camping up high with absolutely plenty of time to spend enjoying the view and the evening sunshine.  Stopped about 5.30 pm, sat around for a great time and in bed by 8pm.  Brilliant evening in the sunshine with fantastic views everywhere – down to loch Corusik and across to Mull, over to the mainland, along the ridge and even across to the outer Hebrides.  Pretty special evening.

After a bit of general laying around in the evening sun and enjoying the view, sleep came fairly quickly and I had a great night sleep – again with the feet in the rucksack and the waterproofs acting like some kind of extra blanket.

Solo on the Cuillin Part 1

July 15, 2014 at 9:04 pm

With a bit off from work and in between jobs my amazing wife suggested I get out and have some play time in the mountains.  Helen’s amazing for lots of reasons but the idea of me going away for a working week to have some fun and leaving her at home with our 4 small young children for a ‘different’ kind of fun is really amazing and I am massively appreciative.  Probably like most outdoor people time in wilderness environments is perfect to reset a few things and revitalise and I am the kind of person that really does enjoy some time on my own in these environments.  Here is a report from the trip in the middle June.

With a working weeks worth of time before me feeling almost like an eternity of me time where to go?  for me it’s always got to be north and west if at all possible and without too much thought I came up with the idea of getting to Skye and trying to get the Cuillin ridge done on my own. I have spent a fair amount of time on the Cuillin and have worked all over it, in all kinds of weather, guiding all kind of people and had all kinds of adventures.  It can be a confusing, challenging place to be and to work and so many people seek to be guided around these challenging mountains.  In all the years I have worked on the Cuillin and in all the things I have done I had never actually completed an entire ridge traverse in a single outing and the idea of getting it done, and doing it solo was massively appealing.

The forecast was for warm, hardly any wind but also for cloud down to sea level and extremely poor visibility.  Two out of three didn’t seem too bad and I’ve worked enough on Skye to know that sometimes you’ve just go to get out there and have a look and with the synoptics showing loads of high pressure I was reasonably confident that at least there was a chance of sunshine and clear skies.

I left home around 1 pm and trundled up the road to Fort William, got stuck in various holiday traffic and eventually made a pit stop in Fort William for some food and some other essentials like boot laces!  Onwards and across to Skye

Aarived at the Sligachan for around 6 pm, in warm summer evening sunshine and with some views of the mountains.  Still optimistic!  I hadn’t really got as far as making a plan about how exactly I wanted to do the ridge except that I wanted to do it and wanted to do it on my own.  On the drive to the Slig I came up with the plan of walking from the Sligachan down Glen Sligachan and down to Loch Coruisk that evening and staying overnight somewhere before starting the ridge in the next day or two and then completing it back to the Slig.  Tuesdays forecast wasn’t great so I thought I might have to sit it out next to Loch Coruisk for a day and then head up and onto the ridge on Wednesday.  No matter I have lots of time and there are definitely worse places to spend a day than Loch Coruisk.

I walked in down Glen Sligachan in the evening sunshine, leaving the car around 7 pm.  Really excited about the next few days and the walk in was really beautiful, fairly easy and good to get legs working and the blood pumping after the drive.  Also good to begin to get my head used to being on my own, alone in wilderness country.  Good times.   I walked in and over to Loch Coruisk, had a good look at the yachts moored around there and then headed up and onto the mountains.

Must try and stay in this climbing hut sometime at loch Coruisk

Must try and stay in this climbing hut sometime at loch Coruisk

The cloud was down to around 700 meters so I decided to camp just below the could level and see what would happen tomorrow.  Because the forecast was poor I had decided on taking the fly sheet of my light weight tent, with silk liner and a spare light weight belay jacket in case I needed to spend all the next day avoiding the rain!  Pitched the tent and got into bed around 10.30, still light and no wind, not really too many midges and all good.   A bit cold in the middle of the night even wearing all my clothes, so the waterproof jacket went over the top of me and my feet went into the empty rucksack and then all was good.

Evening sun light campsite number 1

Evening sun light campsite number 1

 

Scout leaders at Benny Beg

July 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Working at Benny Beg today with Scout Leaders and assessing them for the Scouting Climbing (single pitch) and Abseiling leadership permits. Great weather and great performances by the candidates on assessment led to reccomendations that permits be granted, some with restictions.  Some photos of the dayIMG_3770 IMG_3778

FUNdamentals in Glasgow, the climbing academy

July 8, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Fun day out in Glasgow on Saturday on the FUNdamentals climbing workshop run by the MC of S and delivered by Alan Halewood http://alanhalewood.blogspot.co.uk/ The Fundamentals courses are a series of one-day workshops for those coaching climbing in Scotland and are appropriate for anyone working with children or novice adults and I was keen to be on this course to learn a bit more.

I didn’t get into climbing through any designated coaching pathway, or even from climbing at a climbing wall but I started climbing back in the day through a mix of just getting out there, having adventures, staying alive and learning a few things on the grit stone and when I started climbing the idea of coaching climbing wasn’t that prevalent.  Over the last 15 -20 years or so climbing, and particularly indoor climbing has increased massively in the UK and climbing walls are continuing to pop up all over the place. With this increase has also come an increased focus on the need to coach climbing, including climbing movement and courses like this FUNdamentals climbing workshop are increasing as the climbing community continues to learn and understand the role of coaching in climbing movement.

I have been fairly keen to develop my coaching and was really looking forward to this course.  it didn’t disappoint and covered all kinds of basic movement, its importance and perhaps more importantly for me how to coach it.  Warm ups, ABC’s (ability, balance, co-ordination), lots of work on understanding the importance of the  centre of mass (gravity) in movement, other movement skills and ideas, use of footholds in precise and accurate ways and the use of handholds.  Lots of great learning all wrapped up in Fun, banter with other course participants and dynamic learning.

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Moving and being aware of centre of mass using plumb lines

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Workshops practicing precise and accurate footwork

Guinness and Special Brew in the rain in Glen Clova

July 7, 2014 at 9:23 am

Climbing with Tim today and with the forecast showing rain and more rain due from around mid-morning or lunch time depending where you were in the country we decided to head as far east as we could in the off chance we’d get some climbing done and avoid the rain.  I had never been into Glen Clova before and was fairly keen to give it a look and be somewhere I hadn’t been before and so we went in with the initial thought of seeing what would happen and trying to get something climbed.

Tim has climbed in Glen Clova before and seemed to know his way around and so at his suggestion, under very grey clouds and heavy skies we made our way to the base of Guinness to climb the ‘classic of the crag’ a great line at E1.  Tim’s climbed the route before and as a true climbing friend he suggested that I take the first pitch which works its way up a steepening slab up to a good belay ledge and according to Tim was really ‘interesting’.  We’ve all been there right, a vague feeling that your friend may be being generous in offering you the lead, but also that he may be about to sandbag you with ‘something interesting’.  My experience is it often tends to be both at the same time and so it proved here.

Looking back down onto the awkward step, pitch one of Guinness

Fairly easy slab climbing up nice rock leads to a break, good gear in the break and then eventually a standing position in the break which feels kind of out of balance and as though its pushing you out the way.  There’s a really awkward move to get out of the break and onto the top part of the slab, I’ll not tell you how to do it but just to say that there was a few head scratching moments and a sudden awareness that as you step up the gear that you placed by your feet gets a bit further away.  Not necessarily a hard move but an awkward one for 5a and one that definitely makes you think.

We climbed the right hand finish after the belay ledge and we both agreed that this was brilliant and should get stars  – go and do it if you’ve not done it before.  We abbed off from the top of the crag, had a snack and then set off up the next route ‘Special Brew’ right next to Guinness.  Up the first pitch and then it began to rain, and I mean properly rain.  Not sure these photos will do it justice but it was properly wet and we were soaked by the time we got back to the car – the grey blobs on the photos are rain drops being blown around in the wind.

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Tim grinning manically in the approaching wind and rain

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and still ginning as he sets off to climb the crux

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Tim undeterred gets on with it in the rain

Tim was undeterred by the weather and was fairly keen to top out on another route so I gallantly handed him the lead for the crux and eventually did my best to follow him up and over it with rain getting in everywhere and water running down the sleeves of the coat.   All good fun and we did laugh smile that we weren’t on mica schist today.  Safe down and safe home and good adventures all around.

FUNdamentals 1

July 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm

FUNdamentals course 1 today over at The Climbing Academy Glasgow run by Alan Halewood. The MCof S bill these courses as The MCofS FUNdamentals of Climbing workshops are a series of one-day workshops for those coaching climbing in Scotland. The Workshops are suitable for anyone working with children (or novice adults) including full-time coaches, CWA and SPA, MIA/MIC Award holders, Teachers, Youth Workers, Active School Coordinators, Climbing Wall staff Voluntary Body staff, Duke of Edinburgh volunteers, Scouts’ & Guides’ volunteers, Parents and Club Members, etc see more at http://www.mcofs.org.uk/fundas.asp

Great fun had by all as we began to look at long term coaching pathways and long term participant development and aspects of coaching including coaching key warm up skills and movement skills of Agility, Balance and Co-ordination.

 

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Practicing that co-ordination at FUNdamentals 1