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)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

once, twice, three times....a maybe

Okay, that's a really bad title, but in a last ditch attempt to get this posted.

Went for a little stroll into Sneachda at lunchtime. There was quite a soggy snow shower leaving the carpark. The plan was to check Carn Etchechan in the hope of doing it tomorrow, and get a bit of calf burn going.

Alladins Buttress looking quite black but the Ice on Direct was very good and Patey's was in fine, if lean, condition.
Alladins Mirror Direct
A fantastic view across to Shelter Stone and Carn Etchechan when the clouds cleared.
Hells Lum looked pretty uninspiring, although Deep Cut was climbed today.
A quick climb up Hells Lum, ice was very very good but the threat of The Chancer breaking off in the thawing temps didn't induce me to hang around for long and enjoy it!
Steep and quite worrying soft snow on the exit below the cornice; this will be in much better condition after tonights freeze.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

West was best

 An extremely murky day on Curved Ridge. Straight helmet (main criteria for the 3 days), cool headband & cheesey grin intact
Gillian Culshaw looking steady on the second set of cruxs on Curved Ridge
Amazing ice feathers growing, it felt a bit like we were climbing underneath a very shaggy sheep!
We were meant to be climbing on Saturday, but with the Cairngorm ski road closed and all of us keen for more we decided to meet over West on the Sunday. Thankfully I'm quite practised in finding the bottom of Curved Ridge, because it was extremely murky all day. Actually, we had just one glimpse into Glen Etive much later in the day, which looked pretty mysterious. So, an unusually snowy ascent of the ridge - we were able to place axes indiscriminately in snow most of the way up the usually rocky ridge!

After still more murk, we dug a ruschblock and then descened the main coire, with both Isla and Suzi doing excellenlty in down climbing safely and steadily right the way down unaided.

Here's to future adventures with and by them (although Isla does look a bit uncertain about this is Suzi's picture above!), what a lovely few days.

Cairngorms climbing trio

Suzi's very beautiful image. Spot the folks on The Seam.
Isla looking cool on the second pitch of Invernookie (grade III,4)
Isla starting up the top crux pitch of Invernookie, with Suzi warming up / cooling down in the background
 Suzi's fancy photography turning me funny colours at the top
Invernookie was apparently not enough for them, so I lowered them into The Seam (grade IV) to cool them down a bit. Judging by the number of crystal pictures I took, I think they found it challenging...fair enough since it is 2 grades harder than Suzi ad ever climbed before!

13th Feb: a good Scottish day!

Izzie getting it right, depsite the compass hiccups
oh yeah, loving the blizzard conditions, it really is this much fun!

The two days could not have been more contrasting - breathtakingly perfect the day before, and just breath taking today, which also happened to be perfect for what Izzie wanted: to practise her navigation in winter conditions. It was a proper souper and she even needed to do a search (angular spiral) in order to find the summit of Cairngorm! Not that we'll mention my needing to relocate myself to find the Ptarmigan restrauant, which incidently, had closed long before due to the conditions!

12th Feb: a very active day with Izzie

After seeing the aftermath of two very large areas in Sneachda, Northern Cairngorms Izzie and I tentaively ventured up to the Alladin's area. Izzie wanted to practise lots of movement skills and did an excellent job going up steep ground with an awful lot of concentration and care, and descended Fiacaill Ridge, which was particularly busy, and not surprisingly given that it was such a glorious day. On our descent we were lucky enough to spot Greg Boswell giving The Hurting a go. Unfortunately we weren't really wrapped for the occassion and eventually shuffled our way out the Coire. I only wished we watched him do the full ascent soon after.
The significantly large crown wall put in to perspective by this curious mountaineer. The blocks of slab at the bottom of the Coire were nearly the height of my axe.

27-2 February, Rjukan ketchup

Well, this is inexcusable late, but in the interest of sharing some images and updating the storie, here goes...

Day Two: Cocker doodle doodle

Sara and Lisa get used to seconding together on one rope; no easy task when also learning all the other stuff
Top of the first section, with plenty more to go. Sara's crampon was about to fall off for the first time. How entertaining. Luckily, they made a good duo at fixing the problem. At one point Sara's uncramponed boot was given footholds by the careful placement of Lisa's axe!
 Reaching the top of the last pitch.
This is the second dark descent I've ever had on a Rjukan route. Oh joy. Fortunately things worked out okay, although my good intentions to fetch the car for Lisa & Sara proved to be a bit unhelpful in the end - yup, there is an alternative descent route, and it ends up in a very fenced off, no go area! Apparently, climbing fences all kitted up is good for technique.

Today we headed for Fabrikfossen. Despite an earlish start we made a descent in the dark. Still, the ropes pulled fine on every abseil and to team relief we only had to use one abolakov. The route was in superb condition and unusually quiet - just one team of two (Finnish I think and over for a long weekend). This proved to be the pattern for the week - very few Brits at all, and not many climbers all togther. The routes that were there were in excellent condition.

Sara and Lisa did excellently, learning to manage two to a rope and climbing pitch after pitch of fairly calf burning angle, and then a long descent. Great ice though, with things really warming up after the previous chilly one.

Day Three:
There's nothing like feeling it: constructing and whittling down abolokovs allowed Lisa & Sara to see how amazingly strong they are when built in good ice. Ours ended up about the diametre of my little finger. Lisa and Sara proved rediculously good at building these - fast and adept. It boded well for Lisa's happiness and our future descents!

The next day we went to the lovely Ozzimosis which are situated on the way up to the ski area. Once again, the ice was fat, very very fat. It was a great venue for the day as we were sheltered from the considerable winds that day. They both got to practise placing icescrews on steep ice and building abolakovs, and a lovely bit of steep climbing to finish off the muscles for the day.

Day Four: Yabber dabber doodle

Sara on the chockstone that was unthreadable at the time - which meant some great dry tooling moves on the outside.

Today we did the classic & beautiful route of Rjukanfossen, which is one of my favorite here. It's varied and spectacularly located at the very head of the valley in a huge bowl. It's worth checking out the waterfall on Youtube! Each pitch has a quite different feel to it and the view only improves as you go. Excellent angle on Lipton too, although only the first two fangs were out at the time.

Day Five:

Today, Sara and Lisa put together all their skills and each led a pitch up the vast fall to the left of the hair pins up to Gaustablikk. Both led very steadily and competently. I've never seen this fall looking in such good condition - it usually has sizeable holes. Once again, we had it to ourselves.
  Lisa looking mega pro at the top of her pitch.
With a mere umpteen pitches to go we opted for reaffirming their escaping skills. In moments Sara (her image above too) had constructed the perfect V thread, and we were off (down, not 'off'!) and Lisa repeated the process.

Day Six: Ode to the Doodle

Sara's image: of Lisa disappearing up the first pitch. We chose the steepest and smoothest line all the way!
Sara's image: the very pretty upper reaches of the route
I couldn't resist a belay in the ice cave, although I think I might have been more excited by it than my companions were!
We decided to climb the stunning floodlit icfall above the centre of town. After the worst Rjukan walk in ever (my fault, ahem...I'd like to say I was missing Scottish walk ins, but that'd be a plain lie) we happily tottered up this 4 pitch WI4, tackling the steepest & smoothest line throughout.

Due to awesome abolakov construction, team ace & a desire to get home to Lisa's heavenly fish pie promises we got down rediculosuly swiftly. Four abs with three people in about an hour is not bad!

Day Seven: Doodledum & Doodledee

Sara nearing the top of the very steep pitch.

I was delighted to get a last shot at the ice which was in superb nick.

Before a rather whirlwind drying of kit, eating of more fish pie, packing and scuttling back to the airport, we had a last hack at the ice. Once again, in brilliant condition. There was more ice on Vermorkbrufoss Vest than I have ever seen, while her sister fall on the other side of the bridge was barely formed. Perhaps something to do with the reported water releases that have been recently reported by other climbers.

We weren't alone, and found a Nato team had rigged 3 bottom ropes across the fall, with all sorts of strangeness in the setups. Still, it didn't stop us climbing and there was certainly room for all of us. Sara did excellently given how consistent the steepness of this route is and that it was her first WI5. Always go to warm down huh!