Winter is here

Winter is here
Ron Walker's stunning image of Tamsin, Heather & Rosie on Bellehaven, Fiacaill Buttress (to go to his blog, click on the image above)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's all about the colour (and lemons)

I'm not sure that Andy went for his bright gloves for the same reason that I did (pretty colours of course)! I like to think that he chose them to offset his glorious beard
It may be a two hour walk in to Druim Shionnach, but the going was gentle and the morning light & views gave me lots to gawp at all the way
We finally arrived at the shoulder of the coire where we dumped our sacks and strolled down to the base of the crag. There was a small release of the night's snow as we approached the bottom of the route
Mark and I belayed in a cave while Andy led the second pitch, and the views out across to the sisters of Kintail were lovely
This is Andy starting on the crux section. He paused for a moment and placed two pegs before embarking on it

I was suprised by how quickly Andy led this pitch, placing one more peg on the move. At the top of the grove he moved left in a rising traverse on some lovely delicateish ledges (very partial to my knees!)
I'd like to point out the loveliness of my colours here - I've got a new and already much loved new fluffy (ahem, pink trimmed) fleece on. This pitch was brilliant, and i've chosen a picture where I happen not to be grimmacing

Lovely walk in, lovely walk out. The ground was very frozen right the way back to the cars at Cluanie Inn

On Saturday, Mark & I drove up from Glasgow to meet up with Andy Nisbet at the Cluanie Inn, Glen Shiel. I was still a bit tierd after the Ben, but he promised me we'd go slow. Despite the snowy roads we got there on time & armed with all sorts of treats, including generous slabs of lemon, almond & polenta cake. The forecast had been touch & go, but we were lucky.

Not suprisingly the only prints we saw on the walk up to Druim Shionnach were from a hare. Andy did the main two pitches on the route and I did a tinsey plod to the top. The turf was absolutely solid, as were some of the hooks. Not having climbed much at all in this area I was struck by how good the rock was. Seeing Andy slink up the climb reminded me that I could do with placing a few pegs from time to time. The climbing was really enjoyable and it was great to be seconding! So, I think the route is V,6, about 90 metres and currently called Lemon Groove (after the cake, & given 10/10 by the way) and I'd personally give it two stars.

Such a good day and in brilliant company, and it's got me all fired up for going northwest this week. Thanks Andy.

Friday, November 26, 2010

How many hours in the day?

Oh how forshortened she is! The ground was absolutely solid from the car onwards
One of the direct starts taht leads into the 'normal' route up Observatory Ridge
Well, precisely 72 minutes less than everyone else if you use the watch that I had yesterday! I'd wanted to measure what my heart was doing over the day - the monitor actually slipped down after a couple of hours (sure there's a pun there about heart in the mouth or some such...). Fortunately, the consequences were good: all day I thought we were on the brink of dusk and impending weather, resulting in fairly frantic climbing all day and a reasonably early top out. Lou and I headed to the CIC and left for Observatory Ridge at about 8am so that I could get a good oggle of it before we started.

I certainly feel a bit more in touch with winter now. We climbed with 60 metre ropes and I went more than 60 metres for at least half of the eleven pitches. For the final 'few' (four) we scuttled in to Zero. conditions in there were fairly typical early season I guess - axes not holding on that much, a whole lot of digging should you be into that kind of thing and wonderfully quiet. We only saw two other teams - Richard Bentley heading for Number Two (I think) and a team heading for the same area around mid morning. Tower Ridge looked beautiful. 

The first two thirds of the ridge was brilliant - great moves and what a situation. I'd like to return to do the top section when there's a bit less swimming involved. Once the initial steepening of the route eases off and the ridge turns more ridge-like the snow became a little spooky: very deep soft snow with a thick icey crust. During the day we did here several loud 'whomps' but I couldn't spot anything. Despite all the beauty of the route we both felt pretty relieved to see the plateau, and doubly so that the weather was so benign. We were back for a cuppa at the hut by 4 - bliss (thanks Richard! - always good to have a man about for tea advice and the like).

Monday, November 15, 2010

White Magic - the most sociable route?

Everything was wintery - the food (Stollen, slightly frozen), the walk in wasn't even on the path because there was that much snow, the starts of routes were piling up with more and more snow and we all got the hot aches. Lovely!

We headed for White Magic but after the first pitch we bumped into two other teams. After quite a lot of chatting with the team in front (Mark from Aberdeen and Tristan from Glasgow) we decided to move elsewhere. This is my third winter outing this season and there have been teams on this climb every time - not bad for a two star route.

Two long pitches took us up Original Summer Route. It's a great route & I'm especially fond of it because it was my first grade 6 all those years ago. Actually, the first pitch gave me a bit of a kicking for being inattentive; fair enough. I enjoyed the 2nd one a lot more.

More hot aches all round and one ab' into Alladin's and we were back down the hill. Turns out that White Magic was very icey - it certainly looked wintered up. Guess what I had after - a fish supper, still not reached my fishy capacity!

 Uh hum, this is the Eagle Pose (after the much sought after head band Im wearing, called 'The Black Eagle' found in a trinket shop on a mountain pass...of course).
 This is the opening pitch of White Magic (and the Genie) - very different to last week's experience.
The first pitch of Summer Orginial Route on Alladin's Buttress, normally lovely delicate but straightforward moves.
 The first tricky bit on the second pitch.
Martin Wiggins, prepared as ever!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Relocating the office

An interesting mixture of pursuits I thought.

Stornoway angler, Gillies Mackenzie, kindly set us up with a rig to catch turbot. Within 10 minutes I'd caught my supper, and I don't think it was even slightly to do with skill. Kingsley pulled in 4 fish on a 3 hooked line. Yum.
I LOVE fish, I'm just slightly crazy for them. They are so perfectly built, beautiful & delicious. I think this is a Flounder; appropriate really.

When Gillies left he gave us four more fish, what a lovely guy.

See (sea?) - perfection!

This little beauty was Another breakfast after a good run & yoga session with Fran (before settling into a big pot of thick coffee, in case I was sounding too saintly there!).

My friend Kingsley was going on a voyage to Lewis for the week & I couldn't think of one reason not to go. I planned to work every day for a few hours and play the rest. Actually we couldn't get the government gifted broadband to work, there was no mobile reception & our landline could only call local numbers. Talking on the phone was challenging. So, for just a few days we made the most of this stunning island - every pair of socks I brought (& I'm generous on the sock issuing) got soggy & sandy, I almost got sick of saying how amazing & beautiful things were, got rediculously excited about fishing & waves, and we tried to get fat on a diet of seafood & tablet.

Could it be magic...?

Thankfully a gentle, crispy walk in.
This is pitch 2 of White Magic, which is also the shared opening of Genie (-the first Scottish winter route I was taken up, rather a lot of years ago, by George Mcewan). Incidently, you can take an alternative line to the bottom of the 3rd pitch of White Magic. Anyway, this is a brilliant pitch, quite tenuous but very well protected.

No, so take that!

Another crack at an early winter climb. Unfortunately we don't seem to be all that tuned into early morning starts yet though, arriving in the coire at about 12.30. It was bitterly cold but certainly more white than not. At the last minute we veered over to the start of White Magic (a team of DMM guys had just ab'ed off after the crux & were eyeing up their next route) and wriggled & teetered up the first two pitches. It was getting gloomy when we headed off, but I'm looking forward to returning, it's certainly a perfect looking line. The entry pitches were tricky but very enjoyable & well protected.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lucky girls!

Ron walker's stunning image

On Monday we managed to bolt up north for a quick fix in the Northern Coires. Heather, Tamsin & I headed for the alluring Fiacaill Buttress - she couldn't have been more beautiful!

Conditions were great - the usual early winter lack of depth, but the turf was frozen & the rock was white. We each led a pitch and Tams did a great & speedy job of the main pitch. The walk off over the plateau was stunning.

I drove away feeling full of very-over-the-top enthusiasm for the winter to come! There were only a few teams in the Coire - Andy Nesbit was attempting a new varient in the Fingers Ridge area & Ron Walker was on the Seam next door to us. Despite great efforts not one of our digital cameras worked, so I resorted to using the one on my phone!

Tams on the brilliant crux pitch. There's a teeny bit of turf on the route and the hoar gave quite a lot of purchase. The climbing is sustained but there are also a fair number of very good rests on the way.