Sunday, 8 December 2013

Spain (and a little bit of winter)

Will Sim enjoying the classic 8a Bon Vitage on the Bruixes wall at Terradets

For the past few years I have tried to get away on a sports climbing trip to Spain during November. There is usually not much happening climbing wise in Britain at the time of year, while conditions is Spain tend to be quite good. This year, because of the way things worked out, I ended up having two shorter trips rather than one longer one. The first trip was to the Tremp area of Catalunya where I had spent some time last year. I headed out with my Dad, and we met up various friends mainly from North Wales area. I enjoyed climbing with my Dad, especially as he seemed happy to enjoy the sunshine, and give me a belay when required. We spent most of the our time at the Bruixes wall at Terradetes. Already having done having done most of the route routes that I stood a chance of on-sighting, I was in redpoint mode, but got manged to get all the routes that I tried pretty rapidly.

Now for something a little different...... Rich Bently on the 3rd pitch of Archangel.

After that it was back to Britain for a stint of work. I did however, manage to sneak out one day and climbing Archangel on the Ben with Robin Clothier and Rich Bently. Conditions weren't amazing, but climbing as a three, and with lots of people we knew on the hill that day, it was sociable and nice to get out in the winter environment again. Rich wrote a nice wee bit out it, with some more pictures here

Sophie looking colourful with Sectors El Balconcito,  El Algarrobo,  El Oasis, Les Chorerras and Mastes Wall in the background.

After that it was back out to Spain again. This time myself and my friend Sophie Whyte headed to Chulilla. I was well impressed with this area, and am keen to go back at some point. In terms of combination of quality and variety, I though it was probably the best sports climbing areas that I had ever been to. There were crags with numerous three stars routes on all grades grades from F6b+ to F8b+ within a few minutes walk of each other.

Sophie on the Danos Colaterales, a lovely, long, sustained F7b+. 

Having never been there before, and with so many good routes, I spent my time trying to onsight stuff. I didn't quite get an 8a onsight (but that is not really surprising as I didn't try to onsight any), but I did manage to onsight Planeta Namec F7c+, which use to get 8a. Maybe next time.....


Sunday, 3 November 2013

Winter has arrived

Over the past few days winter has arrived in the Highlands. Today I met up with Iain Cameron and Stuart Gordon , both keen observers of Scottish snowpatches to have a look at the snow at the snow.

 The Point Five Gully patch is under he somewhere. Iain digging through new to to try and find old snow.

We headed up Observatory Gully and over to the base of Point Five Gully. There was a good amount of snow here in August (I wrote about this in a previous blog post) and I was hopeful that some of it would remain. Initially there was no sign of any old snow. However, after a bit of probing we found the old snow buried beneath the new. Given amount of fresh snow and the forecast it seems very likely lasting snow for this winter has arrived in this location. Last years snow patch will be incorporated into this years snow pack. This was the first time that snow has survived the summer in this location since 2008 (I think). After a bit investigation we found the old snow patch to be about 10 metres wide and maybe a meter deep, so it was a healthy survival at that.

Iain and Stuart trying to establish the dimensions of the Observatory Gully patch under all the fresh snow. This picture is taken from roughly the same location as the one below for some comparison and to show roughly how much snow has fallen over the past couple of day. 

The Observatory Gully patch on the 28th of September. 

It was then over to the Tower Scoop area. This is where the most permanent snow patch on Ben Nevis is to be found, and there has been snow here constantly since the autumn of 2006. Again last years snow was buried, but after a probing we soon found  the patch to be 10 metres wide and perhaps a bit deeper than the Point Five Patch. Despite the fact this it only started snowing a few days ago, we found there to be two and a half metres (probably more in some locations) of fresh snow snow in the narrows of the gully just above.

It felt nice to be out in the winter environment. Summer is nice, long days, rock climbing in the hills etc However, assuming the crag is dry, rock climbs don't tend to change very much. However the winter environment is very different, it has an ephemeral  transient nature of it. I enjoy watching how the snow and ice conditions evolve over the days/weeks/months. Today felt like the end of the story of last years snow, two patches have survived and become part of this years snowpack on  Ben Nevis, and the start of the story for next years snowpack. Geeky stuff I know, but I think it great.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Wee adventures in the Highlands.

 Rubha Carrach, not a bad cliff, not a bad setting. There are only two routes in the section of cliff shown in this picture. 

Last weekend reminded me how good adventure climbing in the Highlands can be. It did look that promising early on Saturday morning with heavy drizzle and low cloud around Fort William. Myself, Iain and Tony decided to head out to Rubha Carrach, a sea cliff out near the end of the Ardnamurach Peninsula where we hoped for some better weather. I expected it to be adventurous given the guidebook description "terrain adventure", and the fact that picture in the guide shows Storky (Paul Thorburn) wearing a helmet. I have never seen Storky in life or in photos wear a helmet to go rock climbing.

Iain on Nostromo. The rock was very featured and interesting to climb on, and a quick clean, the rock was generally  solid. Much better than some of the choss found at Gogarth. 

Anyway I was not disappointed. The weather cleared up as we headed West away from the mountains, and the crag turned out to really impressive with some very featured and unusual rock as well as a cave. We did a number of routes, all of which were quite adventurous, with probably the best one being Nostromo (E5 6a) after Iain had given it a quick clean on abseil.
One final route at the end of the day.

After a late finish (got back to the house around midnight), it was up early the next morning to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe where Iain and Tony had a wee project they wanted to finish off.  Their line goes directly up the pillar to the left of the Extreme rock route Scansor. Iain wanted to do a bit more cleaning, so myself and Tony climbed Scansor, with Iain abseiling off after the first pitch to a bit more cleaning.

Iain on the first pitch of Gecko wall. The route climbs the pod and crack to his left, to pull out left before the most prominent overhang. It then pulls back right a little higher up, and climbs direct up the wall and over the top left end of the top overhang. 

After a quick abseil and it was Iain's turn to give his route a go. His pitch was hard and varied with some tricky back and footing up the initial crack/fault, and then after a slightly easier section, further hard thin wall climbing. This led to the Scansor belay. Tony seemed to have no problem seconding, but I was definitely having up huff and puff a bit. A short second pitch directly up the wall above was then then easily dispatched by Tony to complete Gecko Wall E6 6b,6a. If you are wondering where the name comes from, then find out what Scansor means, and you should be able to work it from there.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Snow Patch Survey

Every year, around the 20th of August, a small band of snow geeks take to the hills to seek out and record how much snow remains in the Scottish hills. This year was no exception with various teams out in different areas. Why do people do this? partly for science; the data forms part of a paper on Scottish snowpatches published each year in one of the weather journals, partly as it is an interesting subject which is shown by the popularity of threads about snowpatches threads such as this one,154638 and partly for a nice day on the hills. There is even a Wikipedia page on Scottish snowpatches

Snow is an material that I am very interested in myself, and it is a subject that I have written on before Therefor I was keen to get involved. On Sunday (18th) myself and friend Tony Stone decided to have a wee wander up the Ben to see how the patches were doing. It was a cloudy day, and we could not see how much snow remained up in Coire na Ciste.  We headed round into Observatory Gully where the largest patches tend to be, and were suitably impressed. The scale and depth of the remaining patches is quite evident in the pictures below. I suspect that there has only been one year during the past decade or so when there has been more snow here on the 20th of August, and that was 2008. Survival of these patches to next winters lasting snow seems very likely.
 Myself standing by the patch below Point Five Gully (photo Tony Stone).

 Another view of the point Five Gully Patch (Photo Tony Stone).

Considerable depth in the Observatory Gully patch. This is almost exactly the same location as the picture in the Wikipedia article I linked to near the start of the post. (Photo Tony Stone)

We found all sorts of bit and bobs on the Ben including this Welsh Dragon. I found a single Grivel crampon in Observatory Gully and an almost new single ME glove just down from the CIC hut. Get in touch if they are yours (Photo Tony Stone).

On Tuesday (20th) I was working. Since my last blog post I have manged to get a part time job as a countryside ranger, which has been good. Fortunately my boss allowed me to do a day snowpatch surveying as part of my work which was greatly appreciated (countryside ranger events and information can be found here  This was partly because Mark Stephan going to come along to do a piece for the Out of Doors program and was keen to speak to me. Joining myself, Tony and Mark was another snow geek Iain Cameron, and his wife Claire.

We took the gondola up and went and had a look at the remaining patches on Aonach Mor.  Although not as impressive as those on the Ben, they were also looking pretty healthy. Myself and Tony then made rare summer ascent of Easy Gully (very green), and headed over to see if we could get a view of the Aonach Beag patch. Unfortunately cloud prevented us from seeing anything, so we turned round and rambled back done.

Overall it is currently looking like a promising year for snow patches, especially in Lochaber. Marks program will probably form part of this weeks Out of Doors to be transmitted on Saturday (26th) morning.

On the Protalus Rampart patch. Mark interviews Iain, while I try and look wise. (Photo Tony Stone)

Thursday, 18 July 2013

All the time In the world.

Due to a continuing broken camera, I have not taken any photos for months. This is one of Guys pictures of me enjoying one of my favourite activities, prodding snow, on the way back from a route on Shelterstone crag  on the 13th of July. Photo Guy Steven.

It is usually the case that the more you have of something, the less efficiently you use it. At the moment I have time, lots of it. Despite various attempts and interviews I currently don't have a job (I even missed a trip to Pabbay and Mingulay for an interview for a job in Antarctica, didn't get the job). Although this has given me plenty of time to climb, I don't feel that I have been using this time particularly efficiently.  Don't get me wrong, I have had some great days out, and done some fantastic routes.  Some of the routes that stand out include a traverse of the Cullin Ridge in a day, Stairway to Heaven on Blaven, Cave Route Left at Gordale, Elderado and Repossessed on Aonach Dubh, El Passe at Lochan Dubh crags and  Beastmaster at Ardmair.

However, I do feel that I have lost the focus a bit. Last year I got into a good routine, I would go to work, then go to the wall, or go on my finger board or go running in the evenings,  and would climb every weekend. As I knew what I would be doing a few months ahead I found it easy to organise various trips away. By this time last year I already had had a week in Fairhead, ten days in France and had a trip to Pembroke well planned.

This year I have found it hard to get into any type of routine and despite some great routes, I don't feel like I have been pushing myself to get stronger and better at climbing. As for trips I have had a few days in Yorkshire, and that has been about it. As you have probably noticed this blog has been a bit neglected, as I always have plenty of time the next day to update it, it always seems to get put it off until the next day. My camera which I broke back in April or May is still sitting on the shelf waiting to be packed up and sent away to be fixed.

However, this post might get me back into the habit of updating my blog more regularly, and maybe I will get my camera sorted so have some pictures to put up. In the meantime the forecast is looking good, and the hills are quite dry, time to use all that time I have (in a probably not very efficient manner).

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Ebony Face Beyond Communication

The cold-blooded moon.
The captain waits above the celebration
Sending his thoughts to a beloved maid
Whose ebony face is beyond communication.
The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid.

Projects: aren't they great? What I like about projects is the journey. From what first is often an exploratory peek, a non-committal feel of the holds, through the stages of working out what will actually work. Doing some moves; the realisation, "this might go." Doing some short links; the realisation, "this will go." To the final successful ascent when everything is put together. 

I have just completed a wee bouldering project of mine. 

The Ruthven Stane is on the south side of Loch Ness, about 55 miles from Fort William. It is a nice spot and I have bouldered there on or off for almost ten years. A long time ago my friend Trev had mentioned something about doing a traverse in, then finishing up the classic Font 7a of the Stane; The Big Lebowski. A few years later, after staring from progressively further left, I did this from the big jug at the left hand side of the main face. Project complete, or so I thought at the time. 

Fast forward a few years, I was again pottering about up at the Stane and started wondering about a traverse rightwards from the Big Lebowski. There are a few crimps here and there, and after a bit of brushing I could just about move between a few of them. Another project, another year. Sporadic attempts, half remembered sequences. I finally gave it a bit of conserted effort and got it done. 

The obvious challange then was to link the two problems to create a long traverse problem. Again over the next couple of years I tried this on and off, but jobs, weather and moving to Wales all got in the way. The years were ticking by and it wanted to get it done, so this year with little current employment, I decided it was time to put some effort in rather than just dablling with the project.

After numerous trips over this spring, each time with my fitness and knowledge of the sutblties of the moves increasing, I finally managed to get it done.

I think what I particularly enjoyed about this problem was it is essentially a route, except one where you are not (other than the final easy top out) more than a couple of feet off the ground. It is about 20 metres long, quite sustained and contains lots of interesting and varied moves. If it were a sport route, I reckon it would be f8b. It felt harder than Stolen at Steall Hut Crag, which I did a few years ago. Having said that I have been on a couple of f8a's recently which have felt harder than Stolen. Anyway, it is not a sport route, it is a boulder problem, and is perhaps Font 7C. However, I am not really sure, and have not done much at that grade. Perhaps someone who is stronger than me (Dave Mac?) would like to go and give it a go.

I hope someone does go and do it. It climbs from a natural starting jug, to a natural top out. A sitting start could be added, or it would be possible (but hard) to extend it at either end. I will have a closer look at those options next time I am pottering about up that way, perhaps the project is not quite over for me yet.....

However, I think what I climbed is worthy of a name, and have called it Ebony Face Beyond Communication. This is what I have known it as, in my head, for years. There is no particular deep meaning behind this name, just a couple of nice lines from Dylan's song Changing of the Guards.

Note: The photos are old ones, I broke my camera the other day, and have yet to get it fixed. Until I do so however, there might be a lack of nice new pictures on my blog.

Ebony Face Beyond Communication. Font 7C? *** A big long traverse that stays relatively low. All the holds can be reached from the ground. Start on the big jug just right of Barry Manilow, and traverse right to a triangular block, then across and down slightly to the ramp of The Big Lebowski. From the end of this make a long move round the arete to some crimps. Continue along a thin crack to two horizontal cracks. Continue round the corner into an overhung bay, to finally top out via a good crack in the slab on the right. Yeah! 

Start at the big jug (difficult to see) on the very left of the picture. Traverse right past the figure to the right arete.
Continue round the corner, and along parallel cracks and into the overhung scope. Top out via a crack in the slab on the right. If you do all this without falling off it will make you happy and weary. That is certainly the effect it had on me.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Scores on the Doors

Last week I had six days off in a row. Due to the changing rota that we use at work I did not actually know that I would have six consecutive days at the start of that period, but that was the way it turned out. Here is a wee summary of what I got up to, or tried to get up to, and how it turned out.

Day 1. Bouldering. Feeling pretty tired from a long stint at work, so rather than have a hill day, do some jobs and then head up the Glen Nevis for a boulder with Dan. We start by going up to Sky Pilot. It was windy and cold here, but I did manage the slightly more sheltered problem of Tinderbox again. I first did this problem in about 4 years ago after a couple of months of intensive work on it (I was unemployed at the time). Since then I have tried it on and off when I have been up that way, but up until this point never again managed it  After that we headed down and spend a few hours trying various links and combinations the much warmer at Heather Hat boulder. Success score 8/10. Loses a couple of points for being so cold and windy at Sky Pilot where I had hoped to make a bit of progress on Beetle back.

Day 2. Four tops on Skis. Got up early and headed over the Cairngorms where I got the first lift up to the top of the ski area. Met and blethered to school friend who works of the ski patrol over there. Then skinned to top of Cairngorm, over the Ben Macdui, skied down into the Lairig Ghru, up the other side to Braeriach, over to Cairn Toul, back over Braeriach, down Coire Gorm, back across the Lairig Ghru, and past Chalamain gap to Cairngorm car park. The weather was lovely, and I had wanted to do the four tops on skis for a while.  However, the loses half a point as I kept my ski boots too tight on some of the walking sections, and wore a hole in my shin. No more ski touring for me for a couple of weeks. Success score 9.5/10.

 Looking south from the Lairig Ghru to Cairn Toul.

Day 3. Job hunting. Had planned to go climbing on the Ben, but my mates car is broken and he has to bail. Instead I spend the day looking for a job of the summer. Fail to find one. At least I have a rest. Success score 1/10.

Day 4. Trad climbing. Head up the North West with Nona. Again the weather is lovely. We go to Ardmair, where I do three routes between E2 and E4. Nona leads her first E1 of the season. However climbing is cut short by approaching darkness. Our plan to stay in the Elphin hut falls through when we discover it is full. Have no bivi or camping kit, but find a bunkhouse near Ullapool to stay in. Success score 8/10. Loses two points due to he dark/cold stopping climbing at the crag, and the accommodation situation.

Day 5. Sports Climbing The weather is a a bit cold and drizzley so we head down to the sheltered venue of Am Fasgadh. Try a few routes there, the grades feel desperate, but we have fun trying. Success up to this point 7/10. 
Drive South, towards the Ling hut. I had meant to fill up with fuel in Ullapool, but due to the faff with accommodation I had forgotten. The petrol station at Dundonnell is closed, as is the one at Laid. Breath a sigh of relief when we see a sign for 24 fuel in Gairloch. Pull into the petrol station, and discover the 24 hours fuel is a slight misnomer. It is now 6.30pm and the garaged closed at 5.30pm. Drive on to Kinlochewe, stop and try and decide what to do. Get a text, Iain and Murdoch have just done a new route on the Ben. I live beside Ben Nevis and yet am sitting in Kinlochewe in the rain with almost no petrol while they have done a new route.. Success for the evening so 0/10. Head to Ling hut.

Day 6 Go Home. Get up early, the plan was for a winter route on Ben Bhan. However, it is snowing and windy, and the psyche is low. Drive to the car park for Ben Bhan, and fall asleep for an hour. Give up on winter climbing and make it to Loch Carron on vapours where we find a open petrol pump. Fill up the car and then head home. After a wee snooze have a good bouldering session down the wall. Success 5/10.

The view from my car (the one with very little fuel) on the morning of day 6. It is not inspiring me to go winter climbing.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Multi Activity Season

Spring in perhaps my favourite time of year due to variety of outdoor activities that you can partake in.

Since returning from Canada I have had some good days on the hill. First up was Kings Ransom VI,6 on Aonach Beag with Nona. Nona was going through a stage of dropping things, so I kept hold of my camera, so no pictures I am afraid. This gave two good long pitches, the first being an icy gully/chimney, and the second a good icy mixed pitch, followed by some mountaineering to the top. After that a nice stroll back over Aonach Mor, we had a tasty cup of tea in the Nevis Range summit ski patrol hut before heading back down.
High up on Astronomy. Good ice, but not much gear. Photo Iain Small
The next day Iain Small joined us to do Astronomy on Ben Nevis. This is a route that I had always been keen to do, partly for the line and style of climbing and partly as my dad had done the first winter ascent. There is a film of the 1st ascentionists re-climbing the route couple years later. They bivi on the face, and Ian Nicholson dropped their breakfast. We didn't bivi on the face, and thus had already eaten our breakfast by the time we got up there. However, in homage to the film Ian Small did drop his belay plate. It is quite a long route and as we were climbing as a three were not super fast. However, it did mean that we toped out to a beautiful sunset.
The summit of the Ben looking not to bad.
After that I was busy with work for a while, but did manage Observatory Buttress on a particularly unpleasant day. The forecast had not been great, but on the walk in it looked like it might clear up so we pushed on. It didn't clear up however, but at least I got another three star route ticked.
Last week I had a few days off.  Nona and I headed up to Torridon for a few days. There we did Salmon Leap (VI,6) on Liathach. I had not been into that area since I had a wee incident with an avalanche in that area twelve years ago. Salmon Leap gave some good steep interesting ice climbing, with generally good weather except when I was on the crux, when a constant stream of spindrift started flowing down the route.

Good ice on Salmon Leap, and as a bonus nothing was dropped.
The next day was pretty driech in Torridon, so had a wee bouldering session at the Ruthven Stane near Inverness. After that it was time to get the skis out, and had a good couple days skiing at Nevis Range.

Tony showing off his finest disco moves when dropping into Summit Gully. The snow down this gully was lovely. From the base of summit gully a quick 15 minute skin took us up to the top of Stob an Chul Choire, the north face of which gave another lovely run.

Leading the first pitch of Edge of Beyond in less than optimal weather conditions. Photo Iain Small.
Finally a couple of days ago I headed back up the Ben with Iain Small. The weather was not quite as good as we had hoped, but we had a good day doing a route called Edge of Beyond (VI,6). It gave three good long pitches of icy mixed climbing up onto Tower ridge. 

Altogether an enjoyable few weeks pottering about on the hills. Lets hope for more of the same, and perhaps a few rock routes.


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Upside Down Icicle

I recently saw this pretty cool picture that a friend took on an icicle which has grown upwards out of a small pool.  It is no trick, it really has grown upwards. The surface of the pool freezes first. As the rest of the water freezes and expands, the pressure increases within the remaining liquid. This pushes out the liquid up through the weakest point, which will generally be somewhere near the middle of the surface ice layer. As soon as some water gets pushed through that hole it flows out slightly building up a small circular wall. As the pool continues to freeze, more water gets pushed out, building up wall further and so on to finally produce an upsidedown icicle.

However, conditions (in terms of temperature, shape of pool etc) have to be correct for this process to work. I have only ever seen one picture of one of these before, and it was not quite as good as this example.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Canada Part 2

Checking the snowpack on the ridge above the Kootenay Highway. The highway runs up a deep valley below the figure. The best way to get a feel for the snowpack is to get the skis on, skin up the hill and go an have a look. It had been quite a dry cold year, and the snowpack was basically a metre of facets with a bit of slab on top. I imagine it will all start getting quite interesting in the spring when the temperatures rise a bit. 

Today (Friday the 22nd) is my last full day in Canada. Due to a combinations of factors, not least being offered a lift from the door of my accommodation straight to the airport (which is 420km away) I brought my flight home forward a few days. I have spent the past few days in Nelson which is quite close to the border with the USA. Although close to Revelstoke on the map, the drive to Nelson still took me about 4 hours. Some people from the Nelson area told me that for their holidays one year they had driven North for two days, and still didn't make it to the Northern Border of British Columbia.

 Heading back down after snow pack analysis. Go skiing when it is sunny, start avalanches with bombs and Gasex guns when it is snowing. Not a bad job. 

As expected my few days down in Nelson were interesting and enjoyable. On the Tuesday and Thursday I was out with Nelson Highway avalanche control team, and on the Wednesday with the Kootenay Pass avalanche control team.  I found that some aspects of what they did in terms of snowpack analysis and recording very similar to what we do in Scotland. Also they also felt that despite the large amount of real time snowpack data they have access to (a lot of mountain weather stations, and a professional avalanche information sharing network that about 100 companies and organisations post on), the best way was to get out and get a feel for the snow.

However, due to different objectives (to keep the highways safe from avalanches and open as much as possible) and, in the case of Nelson the huge extend of their area, some of what they do is very different to what we do in Scotland. For example at Kootenay Pass they have about 22 Gasex devices. These are large pipe things which are built in the starting zones, and which at the press of a few buttons can produce a blast to release the slope. For a better explanation of Gasex have a look at, or this little You-Tube clip of these devices being tested elsewhere during the summer  The folk at Nelson don't think twice about call for a helicopter to take them to where they want to check stability. They had been planning to fly yesterday, but unfortunately the weather was too poor, so we went skiing instead (which wasn't too bad).

Anyway back to sunny Scotland soon, hopefully the nice weather and good ice will still be there when I return.

 One thing I notice was how popular OR kit is in Canada. I found the Outdoor Research trailer in the carpark at WhiteWater ski area, and stopped in for a quick chat with Maddy the OR rep. It was lovely inside with a  small wood burning stove keeping it well toasty. Probably a bit more suited to the Canadian climate than a Scottish one, I am not sure how long it would last parked in the Cairngorm carpark.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


For the past ten days or so I have been in Canada on a tour of avalanche operations. I have been based at the town of Revelstoke in British Columbia. Revelstoke is about a 40 minute drive away from the infamous Rodgers Pass. Rodgers Pass is the route that the Trans-Canada highway and main railway line takes through the Columbia mountains. The top of the pass is 1330 m above sea level, which is almost the same height as Ben Nevis. The peaks that surround the pass are 2000-3000 meters high, and many large avalanche paths run down across the road and railway.

The railway opened through the pass in 1890, but from the beginning they had problems with avalanches blocking the tracks. The worst accident came in 1910 when sixty two railway workers were killed. They were digging out the railway from a large avalanche, when another huge avalanche swept down from the other side of the pass and buried them. 

 Snow build up at the Fidelity research station at Rogers Pass at 1900m. It has not been nearly as snowy as last year, but doesn't look too bad to me.

These days the railway goes through a tunnel long tunnel, and the road through a series of avalanche sheds. As well as this the authorities have an program of aggressive control. This basically involves  shelling the start zones to knock the snow off before it builds up to dangerous levels. Last winter they fired about 1000 shells. This year however conditions have been much more stable, so the highway closures, and the amount of shelling they have had to do is minimal.

Unfortunately the don't let Scottish Avalanche forecasters fire howitzers. However, I have managed some very interesting days out shadowing at Rogers Pass and elsewhere. When not doing avalanche stuff I have been out ski touring for myself, again mainly around Rogers Pass. However, tomorrow the plan is to head down to around the Nelson area, which is about three hours to the south of here, for some more shadowing with avalanche control people down there.

 Ski touring on Mount MacPherson, the base of which is about 10 minutes drive from Revelstoke town centre.  By this point we had already done about 1500 m of ascent and I was feeling pretty warm in the sunshine. It was another 300m or so to the top, followed by an epic 1800m descent.

 Ski Touring above Rogers pass. The road, where we had started that day, is below the biggest area of trees in the background. The terrain and avalanche paths in the background are very similar to those which threaten the road and railway.

 Heading up the Asulkan Glacier with Castor peak on the right and Youngs peak off to the left. The descent from here was superb,  I see why people people buy really fat skis.

 Doing some research with ASACR (Applied Snow and Avalanche Research) students at above Rogers pass. In this case investigating the February the 12th surface hoar layer weak layer.

Saturday, 19 January 2013


The view from the base of the route. Not too bad. 

On Tuesday myself, Matt Stygal and Adam Hughes took a wee wander up into Coire an Lochan and climbed the route Scrabble.
Scrabble climbs the first 10 or so meters of the classic Central Grooves, then breaks out up a series of grooves and chimneys to the left. It was put up by Mike "Twid" Turner and Louise Thomas back in 2000 or there abouts. Although I have heard of a couple of teams who have tried to repeat it, they all seem to have been put off by the lack of runners and holds in the section between leaving Central Grooves and the first belay.

Adam on the crux. 

Adam made an impressive lead of the crux first pitch. The the guidebook says that the section after leaving Central Grooves has "adequate gear". Adam didn't seem to convinced by this, in fact he took exception to that description, and suggested that Twid should be punched in the face for using the phrase "adequate gear" when in fact "nae gear" might be a better description. To be fair I suspect I might be rather vocal and concerned about my own personal safety should I be where Adam was.
Anyway Adam made it to the belay, and then suggested that Twid was a climbing monster, and it was a "F***ing good effort with leashes and dual point crampons". Something that I felt I agreed with after seconding the pitch.
I led the second pitch. It felt more like what Stob Coire climbing is all about; steep and sustained but with positive hooks and good gear.  Matt led a steep and exposed, but highly amenable chimney crack  and then a final long easier pitch to the top.
All in all it was a pleasant day out. I think Adam forgave Twid for his description, but if you are going to do it, I would take the phrase "adequate gear" with a pinch of salt.

 Seconding the crux. Some thin and tenuous climbing. At least I didn't have to worry about taking any runners out on this section. Matt behind can be seen on the section that is common with Central Grooves.

 Me leading the second pitch. Matt seems unconvinced by such a venture.