Friday, 30 January 2015

A Wild Day on Pen-y-Ghent

     I have been working for Jonathan at Rough Edges for the last three days delivering phase two of a Prince's Trust programme to young people from Oldham. It has been a busy week, based out of Ingleton, battling wild weather and difficult conditions with yesterday being no exception. We decided to head for a mountain day on Pen-Y-Ghent, with a chilly North-Westerly wind and a risk of snow showers forecast. 

     I think Pen-Y-Ghent is the most interesting of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, providing rocky steps, interest on route and brilliant views of Ribblesdale and across to the other peaks of Ingleborough and Whernside. We weren't expecting to see many other people on the hill, but were quickly caught up by a couple of military gurkha groups. The young people had a great day and really valued their experience and the sense of achievement in difficult conditions. Here are a few pictures from the day:

Looking back down into Ribblesdale
Pen-y-ghent is up there somewhere
A hoard up drystone wall
The top rocky step was very icy on Pen-y-ghent
The Pen-y-ghent highway to the summit 
The summit drystone wall
Pen-y-ghent summit
Heading off the summit and the snow came in.
Wild and windy on the Western flank

Monday, 12 January 2015

A Day of Rain and Tooling at The Ice Factor

     Sitting in front of the fire at the King's House Hotel, we trawled through the forecasts, it wasn't looking good. The following 24 hours were bringing 100mph winds and a lot of rain. We came to the decision of a lie in and assess things in the morning, but we both knew that we weren't going to be going into the mountains. 
Traversing at The Ice Factor
     As promised the rain came, good and proper, waking us in the van. We hoped it was similar to a tent, when often it isn't actually as heavy once you get outside. This definitely wasn't the case. Everything looked stripped of snow with the warm temperatures and rain as we drove down Glen Coe, all the mountain burns and waterfalls were on show. We were going to The Ice Factor in Kinlochleven.
James moving onto the steeper board
     With our winter mindset, we settled on some indoor tooling. I had never climbed indoors with tools before and had only had a couple of drytooling sessions at The Works in the Lakes. I still consider mixed climbing to be a weakness in my winter climbing, despite concentrating on it a couple of years ago. Good hooks in cracks are fine, however picks on edges and holding a torque still feel insecure and I'm sure it shows when I climb. We climbed in rock shoes today which made using our feet a lot easier. We began traversing across easier walls, keeping low on our axes to produce a positive downwards force through the holds. This really got us working on our body positioning and weight transfer as we matched holds and axes, swapping hands to make our traverse. 

     We moved onto the steeper boards, making it harder to maintain good form whilst trying to stay low on our tools. We made several little circuits, each with bigger and more awkward moves, making each more physical than the last. It is incredibly physical, much more so than many climbers make it look it pictures and videos. It is still an area to build on and I hope to make more trips to The Works in the Lakes to build up some more physical strength in this rapidly growing discipline. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

The word for a week of Scottish Winter: Optimism

     Driving up through the Southern Uplands, we keep our eyes peeled for any sign of snow. A week of wild weather and fluctuating temperatures hadn't done much for the snow cover. Our aim was to explore some of the quieter mountains in the North West. 
Looking down to Glen Etive on the NE spur of Ben Starav
     We had made no plans on our drive up from Yorkshire, other than to wait till we arrive and assess the snow situation. We arrived in Glen Etive and drove right down to Loch Etive deciding to climb Ben Starav the following day.
James heading off the East ridge of Ben Starav
     The lack of snow cover made the approach a reet mission. Babies heads, bogs and heather were in large supply. We reached the burn to cross and it was stonking, we looked up and down for a crossing. Why does Scotland always seem to make everything hard won? We eventually crossed after much deliberation as to our crossing point and many failed attempts. Dry boots still, luckily. We began climbing the spur above which narrowed into a ridge as we reached the snow line at about 700m. There had be a dusting from the previous night but it was purely cosmetic, meaning we made ground quickly. From here the wind picked up and was belting us as we reached the higher ground, throwing in some hailstones for good measure.
A break in the cloud looking across to Glas Bheinn Mhor
     We reached the summit of Ben Starav in the clag, which meant it was navigation time as there are lots of ridges off the top. Our timings were spot on as we descended the South East ridge before heading on to climb Glas Bheinn Mhor with the wind on our backs. On reaching the col below we made sure we kept the burn on our left as we didn't fancy crossing it again. As we hit the snow line, James spotted an actual path which meant our descent was pretty swift compared to heather bashing our way off the hill. With 80mph wind forecast and heavy rain forecast for the following day we retired to the King's House Hotel to discuss our options. 
James remembering what hot aches are.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Major Thaw in the Cairngorms

     So after fighting our way through the powder the last two days, we awoke on New Year's Eve in Newtonmore looking up to cloud and very damp hillsides. The plan to head into the mountains above the village completely backfired as the temperature has risen considerably. We were now on a mission to find snow and assess the thaw in the mountains. 
Coire an Lochain, Cairngorms 31/12/14
     The only logical place to head was up to the ski centre and into the Northern corries. We walked into Coire an Lochain and headed up the ridge on the right side. The crags were black and the windward slopes were completely scoured and free from any snow. The leeward slopes were holding onto some.  Looking across to Cairngorm summit from the top of Lochain, the slopes were holding very little snow. 
Looking across to Cairngorm summit   
Looking back to the main section of Fiacaill Ridge, Cairngorms
     We descended down Fiacaill Ridge and watched a team finish up Fiacaill Couloir. The ridge was incredibly busy with every style of climbing going. Teams pitching, short roping, soloing, crampons and axes, no crampons. We descended with no metal work, there was definitely no need for it on that day. A team had come up Invernookie and commented it was just completely wet snow and teams were climbing up the slopes from the corrie to reach the lower sections of the ridge. Hopefully a good freeze will help consolidate any snow that survived and that there will be more cold weather on its way.