Tag Archives: Climbing

Putting the miles in.

October seems to have been a month of driving for me for work, play and generally getting things sorted out for next year.  I have actually done quite a bit of kayaking both on the rivers and sea but haven’t managed to take any photos as well as a great days canoyoneering but didnt actually to take any “wet” photos.Gruinardbaypan

Above – the stunning Gruinard bay from our campsite on a work climbing trip to Gairloch and Gruinard Bay.

Below – me belaying at the top of Raven Crag.  For easy multipitch routes this might be best crag I’ve been to in Scotland.  20 mins from the road, great views and good 3 pitch routes.IMG_1204IMG_1189 Sandy called my at the last minute to say he had a day to kill in Aviemore.  We headed to Creag Dubh to climb some of the classics.  Above – Sandy trying not to look scared on the traverse pitch of “Inbred”IMG_1211 There has even been some dry rock around Fort William in the last couple of weeks – Hannah and I nipped out for some fun on her birthday and soloed some classics including (above) the “Gutter”IMG_1224 Another day of work saw me on North Buttress of the Buachille.  More commonly used as a winter route this is a great summer scramble/easy route.  Especially with views like this!IMG_1228 While I was on North Buttress Calum headed to Agags Groove and Jamie to Curved ridge and the Crowberry Tower – Jamie above sisilhouetted on the top of the Crowberry tower.IMG_2803 Grabbing dry rock means getting to new areas.  At the start of the month Hannah and I headed to the East Coast to climb at Pass of Ballater and Logiehead.  Above – Hannah abseiling into the “star wall” area.  Which crack next?IMG_2809We also had Hannahs family come to visit for a weekend at the start of the month.  Hannah and Alice coming down the North face path of Ben Nevis.
IMG_2820 We even managed a quick trip over to Holland to see my sister and family.  We headed out to the island of Texel for a “Glamping” experience!  Above – the stove and kettle inside the “tent” and below – some fun on the go-karts.IMG_2883 IMG_2906Another shot of Gruinard Bay at the end of a days climbing at Jetty CragGolspie CragAnother hard day at work! – photo Calum Muskett

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Good Weather and Bad


Summer has definitely hit Scotland in the last few weeks though as I write this I think that might have changed!  Have had some great adventures here and there – the trouble with living in Fort William is there is just so much good stuff around its hard to go further afield.  It does of course help that Lochaber has had some stunning weather recently.  First up this month I met Tim rather late in the day in Fort William and went for a quick blast up the Ben.
IMG_0687Tim on a rather misty “Observatory Ridge”
IMG_0693Tim on the Crux of Observatory Ridge – this was the first section I recognized from a winter ascent of the ridge a few months ago.
IMG_0713 A week or so later Hannah, Laura, Tim and myself headed to one of my favourite mountains, Garbh Bheinn (Ardgour).  Above – Tim leading the first pitch or “Golden Lance” and Hannah (to the right) leading the second pitch of “Butterknife”
IMG_0720Laura high above the clouds on the third pitch of “Butterknife”
IMG_0723On the summit!  Surprising that Tim and I are smiling after the route proving to be somewhat more difficult than the grade suggested.  I dont know if I’ve ever fallen off every pitch of a route!

The next day we headed to Ardnamurchan chasing the good weather.
IMG_0730Mark on “Star Wars”
IMG_0748Tim on the start of the slabby section of “Return of the Jedi”
IMG_0764Mark fiddling in some rubbish gear on Dome buttress
IMG_0774End of the day – Hannah finishing up “Krackatoa”
IMG_1593The fact that I have been working a lot is not really a bad thing!  An average night on the island enjoying the good weather.
IMG_1600 IMG_1603Tim, Laura and Hannah in the back of the van after a days climbing.
rfsunsetAnother great sunset from just outside my bedroom!

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Winter is Coming

It has felt like winter is coming for the last week of so (as well as being a great geek reference to the books I am reading just now!) but actually yesterday felt like Summer up in the Stob Coire an Lochain with Adrian and Laura.  The big August storms have started to roll in though with high winds and lots of rain making life more interesting.  I actually prefer the wild weather and can even admit to enjoying the days shortening toward winter though I may well tell a different story in a couple of months.  The last few weeks have involved some catching up with friends and family, the odd adventure and a whole lot of working out what happens at the end of the summer which is fast approaching.

I did some instructing rather than boat driving a few weeks ago and headed to the wonderful “Holy Isle” of the Garvellachs on expedition.  Snapped this classic shot of Columba’s Mothers grave above the monastry (one of the oldest in Scotland)

Still waters and a high tide outside the main house.

Lightning show to the east of us while the kids are out on the survival exersize

My parents and grandmother came to stay for a night and we did some exploring with Hannahs dad and relatives as well.  Here on the Summit of Lung.  (including my 86 year old Grandmother and 6 month year old Finn (the dog)!)

I have been planning this shot for a while but not planning enough!  forgot the tripod but still got this.  Looking North over the slate islands from the summit of the island.

Panoramic from the high point of Belnahua – one of the main slate islands.  

Yesterday Adrian and Laura and I climbed “Tilt” in Stob Coire an Lochain in Glen Coe – great fun if slightly damp – Above , Adrian leading the second pitch

Laura and Adrian about to top out of the last pitch

Topping out in the evening light.  Adrian and Laura with the Anoach Eagach behind.

Anoach Eagach.

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East to West

The rain has continued to fall on days off this month so as ever there has been a fair bit of driving to find dry rock or some adventure.  The last days off we had we headed to the Kyle of Lochalsh / Plockton area for a bit of adventuring.  Our friends Magnus and Helen had kindly given us the key to their amazing bothy, tucked off the road a few miles off the main road.  After a quick spring clean we were soon settled in with candles, a fire, some food and a little whisky.

Magnus and Helens Bothy on a damp morning

The next day Adam and I decided to do a wet and wild ascent of the wonderful Coich Nose of Sgurr a Chaorachain.  This was real adventure climbing up a steep nose of sandstone which was surprisingly out of the howling wind.

Adam setting off up the first pitch

Adam high on the third (crux) pitch of the route
We were soon back in the bothy trying to dry kit by the fire.

Susanna, Matt, Adrian, Laura, Adam and Hannah hanging out round the fire as the rain refused to stop.

Then it was back to work for a week and more staring at weather forecasts before deciding to head east for the last couple of days to the Aviemore area.

First up we went to the amazing Creag Dhu.  Picture above of Adam at the second belay of “Inbred” (HVS 5a)

Hannah pulling through the crux of “King Bee” (VS 5a) 

Then today to the very steep Huntlys cave – Laura climbing “Diaganol” (VS 4c)
Adam leading “Petes Wall” E2 5c.

It has now started raining again.  What a surprise.  One more week of work and then Hannah and I have a course off.  Hopefully in time for the rain to stop.

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2000 Miles

As the van rolled up my parents driveway two days ago the final reading on the odometer was just over 2000 miles, my elbows had a deep ache and I was ready not to be driving and (for once) climbing.  Bowden Doors, Back Bowden Doors, Kyloe, Almscliff, Helm Crag, Guillemot Ledge, The Boulder Ruckle, Mother Careys Kitchen, Wen Zawn, Gogarth main wall, Lawrencefield, Millstone, Froggat, Stanage. Heptonstall, Brimham, Limekilns is like a climbers litany of the most iconic British crags to the most esoteric.  For once we had an excuse to drive way south of the border for Clare and Daj’s wedding and decided to add to the excitement with a two week climbing road trip visiting old friends.  The first leg of the trip saw us in Northumberland, Yorkshire and the Lakes catching up with Tom and Kate followed by Pete, Kag and Tony.  I dont have many good photos of this part of the trip as it was incredibly windy and we were just getting started.  I can say that Northumberland climbing grades are all over the place!

From the lakes we headed straight to the beautiful town of Winchester to see Clare (Hannahs mum) and Daj get married

Clare and Daj outside Winchester Cathedral shortly after getting married.

Hannah and David up to some monkey business in the garden of the pub were we finished the wedding day

Straight after the wedding Clare and Daj loaded their car and took us out to climb at Swanage on the South coast.  The climbing here is brilliant in places and loose in others.  Great short adventure routes with a short walk in.

Clare and Hannah relaxing in the sun after the first route at Guillemot ledge

Back at the bottom of the cliff again.  Hannah and I about to start up “Ledgend Direct” (HVS 5a)

That night we were joined by Justin, Sara, Molly, Rupert (their two ridiculous dogs) and Rosie the campervan.  Above – Rosie upstaging the Yellow Heiffer.

Next up we headed to Pembroke

St Govans chapel tucked into the cliffs. (fisheye shot)

Van living – cooking dinner in the back of the Heiffer.  (Purists might note that even though this is deepest darkest wales I am still drinking tennents!)

We were mainly camped in the van for this trip with the odd stay at someones house and the odd shower here and there.  In Pembroke we had decided to try and climb a route called “Preposterous Tales” which is given a grade of HVS-E2 depending on what you read and is described as “This route is a wild, crazy trip into the bowels of the earth.  Traverses into the low sea cave to the right, thereafter firing up through a massive blowhole system, to arrive at the top blowhole exit.. Big, big adventure!”  Unfortunately we were woken up by a man from the Army at 5am and asked to move as they were about to  start using the firing range we were parked on.  Oh well – one to go back from

We did some great routes in Mother Careys Kitchen and then hit the road again to go and see the Caithness Family in Brecon.  We had a lovely evening at Magnus and Helens house (almost convinces me that the future is to become a house parent at a boarding school!) and stared at some rather dismal looking weather forecasts.  We couldnt resist stopping to get a photo of Ali’s Cafe on the drive to North Wales.

Hannah Setting out on the final traverse pitch of one of the UK’s most famous routes “A Dream of White Horses” (HVS)

At first it looked like were going to struggle to find dry rock in North Wales till we drove out to Anglesey and the rain cleared.

Hannah almost there on the long final traverse pitch of Dream of..  While this route is HVS the actual climbing on it is fairly straightforward and easier than most guidebooks suggest if you keep thinking about it while you climb.

We then decided to abseil back in for another route before the sun set.

Hannah leading the first pitch of “Wen” (HVS 5a)

Hannah on the final traverse of Wen as the sun sets.  Next day we headed to Gogarth Main Wall to climb the original route of the cliff “Gogarth” (E1 5b) which turned out to be everthing I’d hoped in terms of adventure climbing – no photos though as I decided the camera would be too much of a faff.

Next up it was off to the peak district.

Millstone below Froggat Edge, Valkyrie Buttress – another day another classic route.  We climbed Valkyrie (HVS 5a) late in the day on our first day in the peak – strange short multipitch grit route which was a good test of different climbing techniques.

Me leading “Chequers Buttress” (HVS 5a) Photo courtesy of Ed Luke our peak district tour guide.  Ed and Tom and Kate met up with us at various points in the peak to give advise on top routes. places to go, places to eat.  Tom and Kate win “best place to park a van” with their suggestion of Grindleford train station – best cafe ever right next to a very secluded parking spot.

Me trying to get some gear in before topping out of “Chequers Buttress” (HVS 5a) as the wind tried to rip me off.  (this might explain why no-one was queueing for this classic!)  Photo courtesy – Ed Luke

Ed about to set off up the balancy climbing on “Motorcade” (E1 5a) Froggat Edge

Ed on the final move of Motorcade

Finally it was off back to Yorkshire to see Wee Ben and Mary with a quick visit to weird world of Brimham rocks.  This area has the weirdest rock formations ever! – brilliant single pitch and bouldering (so i’m told!)

Hannah and I soloing “Dancing Bear” (Hard Very Difficult) on Dancing Bear buttress.

A lovely final evening was had with Wee Ben and Mary at Bens cottage eating more good food and finishing his sloe gin.  Then it was off back to Scotland with a quick stop at Limekilns.

It might reassure some of you (and my bank account) that I will actually be busy working for the next month with only the odd day off.  The good news is that “work” is driving boats around some of the most beautiful islands ever and having a laugh with all the groups of crazy children we get to hang out with.  Coming soon – more photos of Rua fiola, West Coast Climbing, River boating and Sea Kayaking.

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Pre road trip

There seems to be some concern that I dont actually work.  I have been a little concerned about this myself recently and actually did a bit of work last week.  This was right before Hannah and I set off on a climbing road trip down to her mums wedding and back.  Today we are in pembroke waiting for the rain to stop so thought I would squeeze in a quick blog from the weeks leading up to our road trip.  Again, I should have taken photos of the bad stuff like laying concrete in the rain with Bob or paddling round a quarry with some 10years olds from Renfrewshire but I just forgot to get my camera out.  Lots of climbing photos from around the UK to follow but for now…..

I left Ardachy house early one morning – had to stop as I drove out of the driveway to take this.  The always changing view to Jura
I headed off to meet Ruaridh and the one and only Sandy Norval for some routes on the South Wall of Garbh Bheinn in Ardgour.  Sandy had been back in the uk  from india for about 26hours at this point – seen here seconding “Scimitar” (VS 4c)

Sandy and Ruaridh then came back to mull to hang out at Ardachy house at the end of the epic house warming.  Scoor beach (the next beach over from Ardalanish)

A few days later Hannah and I drove to Glasgow and managed to get a quick route in on the amazing etive slabs, Hannah belaying here on “Vein Rouge” (HVS5a) – its been a while since i climbed on the slabs and had a bit of a “moment” 30feet above my gear on the last pitch!

The guidebooks stacking up in the van ready for the road trip

Hannah leading the middle pitch of “Vein rouge”

One of the last days at Ardachy, fetching bunkbeds across the ferry from Iona

The one and only Fingal Francis let loose on the beach at Scoor
Tony, Clare, Iona, Hannah and Finn on the beach at Scoor.

So far the road trip has been brilliant, getting sandbagged off routes in Northumberland, blown off crags in Yorkshire and visiting old haunts in the Lakes.  Then a wonderful couple of days with Clare and Daj watching them get married and climbing in Swanage with them and now on the road….  lots more fun and climbing to be had till we are both back at work in just less than 2 weeks.

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Warming the House

The house warming at Ardachy continues but I thought that I should get a quick post in before more people arrive and more exciting things happen.  There have been hoards of people at Ardachy enjoying Tony Francis’s hospitality on Mull and getting up to some amazing adventures.  People have come from all over and it has been amazing to be with friends old and new in such a spectacular place.

Just before the house warming Hannah and I went to see my family who were staying at Duntroon.  We went for a walk and got some unique views back across the sound of Luing (where we work in the summer) towards the Ross of Mull

The latest member of the Francis Clan – Fingal (Finn) attacking Hannah

First day of the house warming – Main Wall at Erraid, brilliant single pitch climbing on immaculate pink granite above the sea.  Climbers on “Oliver” (VS 4c) and “Walls without balls” (E1 5b)

It might be sunny but its still not too warm – Ruaridh happy in his down jacket.

Jo on “One Dead Puffin” (HVS 5a) at Erraid – the route on the front of Scottish Rock guidebook (probably had more ascents than the rest of Erraid put together because of this!)

The main evening of the house warming with music and whisky in full flow in the Yurt

View from the top of the Yurt

Charlie and Matt in full swing

The next morning was a bit hazy but Ruaridh and I went and climbed “White Shite ” (VS 4c), one of the only multipitches around.  Great fun and better (and harder) than the name (and grade) suggest.  – Climbing purists might be able to spot my quality gear hanging on the rope, this is not a route to get your gear wrong on!

Ruaridh on one of the cruxes of White Shite

Steven scaring us as he goes for it up the upper flake of “Troglodyte” (HVS 5a) at Scoor, Dune Wall (for the climbers – his last gear is underneath the overlap!)

The beautiful Dune wall in the late afternoon sun

Next up Robin, Clare, Bob and baby Anna showed up with a few sea kayaks….

Hannah, Tony and I headed around Iona for the day.  Above – the boats pulled up on the beach at our lunch break (you can just sea snow on Ben More)

Yesterday Bob, Robin and I paddled out to Staffa to check out Fingals cave.  Above – Bob and Robin in the mouth

of the cave

Bob “This is so good I never need to go sea kayaking again” Taylor looking happy – you can just sea robin coming through the small sea arch behind him

Its a long way home!

On the way home with Staffa behind

An HDR shot of my new sea kayak on the beach at Staffa

Today has been a bit more restful with some good food and playing on the beach – Hannah trying to control Bob and Clares Powerkite..Under control.  You can make out the paps of Jura above Hannah.

Now theres a few more people to show up to make sure the house is properly warm and then I should really do some work next week!

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Time Flies

I have just been literally blown out of the Torridon hills after aborted attempts on both the “Fisherfield 6” and “An Teallach”.  Not to worry, there was lots of time to take photos and wander around a beautiful area.  I have been on the road a lot in the last couple of weeks and have managed the odd days climbing and walking.  The problem with blogs is that they promote the idea that all the blog keeper is up to is exciting wonderful things.  This is not actually the case (or not for me anyway), there are plenty of days doing not very much or just trying to make money.  I say this as a couple of friends have recently commented on both the blog and the wonderful places I get to – so if its any consolation –  The last couple of weeks have seen me planting trees in the sleet, spreading fertiliser in the wind and rain, going through some driver training, sitting my minibus driving test, painting shelves, dog proofing a fence, sitting my Level  2 coach exam (for Canoeing) and a whole lot of driving place to place.  I may in fact try and write a post one of these days with only pictures of the less glamorous places I get to (the inside of the truckstop in Livingstone where I ate lunch two days last week comes to mind).  But for now here are the photos of the glamorous places I have been in the last couple of weeks….


I was driving away from Mull a few weeks ago and suddenly realised that I had time to stop and explore.  This turned into a long day of running and climbing first of all into Garbh Bheinn to solo the Great Ridge (diff) then up glen gour to check out Indian Slab Crag (an underated destination).  I took this as I ran down the ridge from Garbh Bheinn looking over Argour
The next day I climbed North East Buttress of Ben Nevis with Ruaridh.  In this photo Ruaridh is moving up the easy ground at the base of the ridge.  It was very warm making for some exciting sections with the sound of ice falling being fairly constant during the day.  We managed to climb quickly taking the “tough brown variant” (also IV, 4) rather than the “mantrap” and were on the summit in around 5 hours.

Unfortunately the day was very damp and we were trying to move quickly so I didnt get the camera out much!

After a weeks work doing some forestry stuff it was off to the lakes for my coaching assessment and then a days climbing.  It was too cold to hang around so Hannah and I opted for the soloing easy routes option.  Above – Hannah after the traverse pitch of “Little Chamonix” (Vdiff)

Hannah soloing the final moves of Little Chamonix.  She kindly agreed to down climb and reclimb the last moves so that I could get a photo!  We then went on to climb “Jackdaw Ridge” (Diff) and “Donkeys Ears” (Sev)


An inquisitive robin at the base of the crag

Then it was back to Mull.  On the drive home from Craignure we decided to check out Loch buie and the standing stones.  Above – me standing on standing stones

A busy day at Ben More post office

We headed to Eilean a Ghearrainn for a short days cragging.  Above – Hannah leading “Lee Vining” (Sev).  Anyone familiar with Gaelic will notice that this is an island.  It is not meant to get fully cut off from the mainland at high tide (always being wadeable) but unfortunately this is not what we found.  This turned our short day into a long one with a long wait (till 830pm) till it went out enough that we could wade back to the land drover.

Early on in the long wait!  Hannah all bundled up waiting for the tide to go down.  At least the stars were amazing and there was lots of things to “I spy” (like – rock, sea, buckle…..)

Not the best effort as my fingers were frozen… Heather burning under the stars on the way home from the benightment.
Couldnt resist stopping for this one!

Lastly I headed up to Torridon for the last couple of days.  Above – Shenavall bothy by moonlight shortly after my arrival at about 11pm

Salubrious accommodation.  Emergency shelter at the base of Beinn Dearg Mor

Shenavall Bothy with Beinn Dearg Mor and the Fisher field 6 behind.  The weather looks fantastic but actually it was incredibly windy!

An Teallach from the South.

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