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)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Social Meet extravaganza 7-10th January 2011

The Chicks Unleashed annual Winter Social Meet, which is being held near Glenmore in the Cairngorm National Park, still has a few places left.

The big idea with our Meets is to have a good time and provide a network for women with a shared passion for the mountains, and to do this early enough in the season to help people to find adventuring pals and to polish up, or be introduced to, the very essential winter skills of understanding avalanche forecasts & informations & how to apply this, how to navigate in winter conditions, and how to use crampons and axes (especially to stop yourself in the event of a slip). We lay on a series of 'clinics' that cover these areas, and offer these at just £45!

Many of the women who come along will simply come along for the social and go out in the hills in the daytime to do their own thing; and many great adventuring partnerships have been formed at these weekends. It'll be a great weekend. If you want to read more please visit our Chicks Unleashed winter 2011 Social Meet page. We charge just £62, which covers 3 nights accommodation in one of the lovely Badaguish Lodges. There's lots more information about lift sharing and how the whole thing works at our site.

Come and join us! 

A modest outing & BBC Scotland's 'Blind Summit'

To say that my feet are itchey would be an understatement - that's 14 days since my last outing, and a week of commuting between Glasgow & Edinburgh felt more arduous than any trip I've had this season! Despite grand plans of all sorts of unspeakable climbing routes Natalie and I settled for a very lovely stroll up Ben Vrackie near Pitlochary.

As a total aside, here's a little piece I was involved in for Radio Scotland, I thought they did a great job in the variety of voices & perspectives. I've had the pleasure of working with a group of visually impaired people every year and we go climbing, walking and canoeing (amongst other things). It's always an amazing week and I'm always exhausted by the end of it because the organiser, Norma Davidson makes me play & work (more of the former though, if I'm honest) FAR too hard. It seems that opportunities for those who have come to the course are really sparse, finding themselves excluded from many activities (and not because of their own limitations), clubs and courses. If you would like to know anything about next year's Visually Impaired MountainCraft course please me by email.

So, here it is, a 30 minute programme presented by the well-known Lindsay Cannon - 'Blind Summit' which is only available until the 20th of December.

Yup, that golden afternoon glow is a golden afternoon light - we set off a little after 2pm! All set to go and you can tell we're off for a walk because of our rather dressy hats, m-mmmm!
Beautiful views all the way, especially after gaining the shoulder. Needless to say the day was absolutely bitter and the ground frozen solid. It was actually very nice not to be in the shade on the northern side of something, clutching a frozen rope and a pitch apart.
Oh, I love, I love, I love this hat. Just bought myself a crochet needle (that must have a technical name...?) thanks to a mini crash course from Jule and am hoping that I might be able to whittle out an almost exact replica. My hopes are high but the likelihood is very, very low...
 Very pretty, very icey views a few minutes from the summit. Brrrrr.

Friday, December 3, 2010

An afternoon in the office

Them crystals is a growing. Just one hour to the bottom of Number Six Gully, where once again there was another team just ahead.
Second pitch of the route. I led the first, which was brittle & slim for the first few minutes & turned all toffee pretty soon after.
Mark on the third pitch.
The team ahead, Olly & pal on the pitch beneath the main section of ice. Unfortunately i had to make a dash for Perth at this point.

Below: good view of Elliot's Downfall & the surrounding routes. There was some pretty meaty ice forming.

Having oggled Number Six Gully on the East face of Aonach Dubh I went back up yesterday with Mark and Iain. I led the first pitch, which it looks like others have been avoiding. It was a good, narrow pitch, with a few ice screws able to be placed full depth. Mark & Iain led the other pitches - 2 for Mark & 3 for Iain before descending into Stob Coire nam Beith. 

Unfortuantely I needed to be in Perth for a meeting early in the evening, so started scuttling after the 3rd pitch. I rediscovered how much more difficult it is to climb ice in rounded, mixed crampons! The ice was excellent though, and it must have been several degrees warmer given the dripping ice. The ice was thick enough to be placing plenty of ice screws too. Felt like stropping about having to drive away, but the stunning views all the way to Crainlarich appeased me pretty well.

Bears on Tour

Oh yes, full of the mirth after a very, very long walk in! How we laughed. The views weren't to be sniffed at (it was far too cold for sniffing anyway, my nostrils were sticking) and kept me pretty content all the way up.
Church Door Buttress with her winter layers on. The Arch is the prominant feature, left of centre, and provides an impressive, if gappy, belay ledge atop pitch 3. The route starts about 40 metres right from the toe of the buttress. Two climbers (Jim & Rob?) can be spotted at the toe, heading for our route!
Looking down at Natalie before turning the corner on the first pitch. Lovely opening pitch with a nifty move out onto the 'Damacolean' chockstone. Found out later what that meant, but happily, not by experience!

Below: Nataliecompleting the first pitch. The neve was five star for the whole route - such a joy to climb; could've done with exporting a bit of it to Observatory the other day!
This is on the brilliant 3rd pitch, which passes several more chockstones & boulders and then takes an unlikely line across the top of the Arch. The first ascentionists must've felt pretty pleased with this discovery.

 Looking back to Natalie after the crux section on pitch 4. The gear is good and the hooks are superb, with a delicious chunk of neve to sink a pick into at the top. There's a peg offering a veneer of protection across the initial traverse too (I do wonder what it'd be like without the snow we had). It was 3pm when I left this anchor and the light was breath taking.
I took a rediculous number of pictures over Aonach Eagach, and I think I was remarkably restrained to only post these!

After a particularly parky stay at Laggangarbh Natalie Feather and I took the long walk up to Bidean nam Bian's Church Door Buttress. Luckily, Natalie had fed us with incredible amounts of classy food the night before, including the best chowder I've ever had. I've been wanting to do West Gully for awhile (maybe it was the name that attracted me to it) and've never done a winter route in the coire before. 

The route was cracking - it takes a brilliant line, the pitches are really varied & exciting, every belay is wonderfully situated, and the views out across Stob Coire nan lochain, Aonach Eagach, the Ben & over to Skye kept me gawping all the way. I was relieved to find the climbing quite straight forward and well protected when I wanted it. 

It was Natalie's first route of the season, and first route of that grade, and she battled an annoyingly high rucsack and a lingering cold valiently! Thanks NBs. I will certainly be back to explore the other routes up there soon.

For more pictures from the day, visit the Chicks Unleashed Facebook page.