Tag Archives: Garbh Bheinn Climbing

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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Making good descisions

I climbed a lot with one friend a couple of years ago and still hear his mantra ringing through my head a lot of the time.  Not the coolest of Mantras but “make good decisions” is certainly not a bad thing to hear as you leave a belay on a climb.  Nowhere is this more true than in avalanche terrain.  Making good decisions in Avalanche terrain has been on my mind a lot recently – high risk in the Scottish mountains,  a lot of media attention on Avalanches and  the memories of some of the best people I knew lost to the mountains.  Success for me when the risks are high equates to coming home again and still being friends with the person you went out there with.  I feel in some ways that the last few weeks have not seen much “standing on the top of things celebrating” types of success but I have still had a lot of fun.



Definitely a good descision – two of the funniest people you could ever go into the mountains with.  Alfie “who needs crampons or a jacket” Tipler and Miles “legs of a horse, body of a child” McConville.  Great day on the Ballachullish Horseshoe with the Schoolhouse ridge start.


Coming round the first technical section of Schoolhouse ridge.  This is a great grade 1-2 ridge and easily escapeable.  Great news as Alfie didnt have his crampons!IMG_0016

Coming onto the first summit.IMG_0051 Stunning conditions on the main ridge.IMG_0056 Always a good day when you finish with a good glissade!IMG_0058 Except when you hit the only tree on the slope!IMG_0062 Next up I headed to Buachille Etive Mor with Scott.  Theres lots of good ridges on the Buachille but some of the approaches are a bit avalanche prone.  Above – Looking at Buachille Etive Beag on the Walk in.IMG_0068 Avalanche debris below Great Gully.  This had got as far as the main path in!IMG_0070Scott leading off up the first pitch of West Route, North Buttress.  A great choice when the avalanche danger is high.

Scott looking pleased after the main difficulties.  Just a long uphill and even longer downhill to get off.  Great day!IMG_0085Photo from Scott – me sitting in my garden after a good day on the hill – The first sunshine I’ve seen since buying the house!
IMG_0098 Definitely a good descision.  Scott and I got pretty excited about making Haggis Chinese Dumplings.  Probably the best decision of the week though disappointing when we found that its been done beforeIMG_0116 Next up Scott and I headed to Garbh Bheinn, possibly my favourite Scottish Mountain.  We were going for the great ridge which was low enough to be out of the high avalanche risk but it also turned out to be rather out of condition!  Scott above on the first technical step which felt hard!!IMG_0118 Scott trying to get us out of trouble – a lot of traversing happened after we realised that we were not going to be successful.IMG_0132 Next up I spent some days with Bob to help him get ready for his Winter Mountain Leader assessment.  The WML is all about making good decisions in the winter environment. The days we had were not ideal but certainly posed some challenges.  Above – Bob toughing it out in a bucket seat belayIMG_0136 We dug some emergency snowholes for practice – On assessment you classically get 20-30mins to dig one of these with just an axe and be comfortable enough tospend the night.  If you have never done this its a great thing to practice in case your good decisions turn out to be not so good.

IMG_0150And finally – Bob and I planned to spend a night snowholing and practicing night navigation up on Creag Meagidh.  We dug in for just over an hour and stopped to have a bite to eat and a drink.  In this time the doorway filled with spindrift (blown snow) which took a further hour to dig out.  The doorway filled again and we decided to bail.  The above photo is courtesy of Bob – me taking some bearings before exiting the snowhole for the long walk back to the van.  When we saw the next days avalanche forecast I was in no doubt that this was the right decision.

Its been a rather hectic few weeks, lots of work, lots of courses and lots of wading through deep powder.  None of that is about to stop any time soon but I cant help but hope that the Avalanche risk drops in the next week or so to allow people to head for the winter routes they want to.

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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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