Monday, 29 January 2018
A change from winter, snow and ice for me over the last week, having been in the Anti-Atlas mountains in Morocco. These are a lower, drier range compared with the more famous High Atlas, and over the last twenty years have attracted an increasing number of rock climbers keen to escape the cold, wet European winters and climb dry rock in the sunshine. The majority of the exploration has been by British climbers, thus the predominating ethic is of traditionally-protected climbs, in contrast to the majority of "winter sun" destinations which are bolt protected sport climbs. This suits me just fine! We were based in the oasis town of Tafraout, which is a low-key, friendly, relaxed sort of place. During the week we had uninterrupted blue skies, with daytime temperatures of 15-20 degrees Centigrade.......perfect! We climbed on both the large mountain crags composed of quartzite, as well as the smaller granite crags closer to Tafroaut. Some highlights were the superb flake climbing on High Sierra VS 4c ***, a mountain adventure on the aptly-named Wild Country V Diff ***, and climbing a possible new route on slabs, cracks, chimneys and off-widths which we tentatively named "Wide Sierra" HS 4b. It's fair to say that we only scratched the very surface of what the area was offer. By the second day of the trip we were already discussing when we could come next----the sign of a great place!!
Wednesday, 17 January 2018
I have recently returned from an excellent, challenging holiday to the Italian Alps. Despite the largest snow-storm in 10 years, which disrupted travel and plans to begin with, we enjoyed some excellent snowshoeing, ice-climbing and ski-touring. Based near historic Aosta, we were able to visit many of the local areas, including the classic ice-climbing venue of Cogne, the lesser known icefalls of Valsaravenche and Valtournenche, as well as enjoying lovely snow at Pila and on the local classic snowshoe/ski Pointe de la Pierre. I have been visiting the Aosta Valley for over a decade know, and enjoy finding new places to explore. As a fully-qualified UIMLA International Mountain Leader (IML) I am well-placed to help you enjoy this and other areas of the Alps safely, whether trekking in summer, or snowshoeing in winter.
|Alpine avalanches can have a huge scale, this one almost reached the road!|
|Cascade de Lillaz, Cogne WI3|
|A beautiful afternoon on the snowshoes|
|When in Rome...........|
|The Church in Cogne, a beautiful high Alpine village|
Friday, 29 December 2017
For Emily's last day out with me we planned to look again at some specific skills. After yesterday's efforts a shorter day was called for, and we headed into Coire an t Sneachda. We looked at building emergency snow shelters, and had a go with the Bothy Bag---these can be lifesavers in winter. The weather was wilder than forecast with strong SE winds funnelling over the Cairngorm plateau; lots of new snow being deposited, with windslab forming readily. Plenty of spooky "shooting cracks" too, so check the avalanche forecast carefully and remain aware of which aspect and what gradient of slope you're heading onto!
|Poor visibility requires careful navigation|
|Windslab and shooting cracks|
Thursday, 28 December 2017
For Day 2 of 3 with Emily, we went for a bit more of a journey, doing a lovely circuit of Sgorr Gaoith, a Munro above Glen Feshie, on the western side of the Cairngorms. Today we focussed on navigation whilst we were journeying, with Emily taking us from point to point using map and compass. We looked particularly at the importance of having a system to use for each and every leg, so you can be confident of how far you have come on your compass bearing, and what to expect from the ground underfoot. On the way down from the cloudy summits we were treated to some of what Scotland does best, that magical winter light that is simply breathtaking. A brilliant day out!
|A holiday snap for Emily|
|Hard work but fun|
|Looking across Gleann Einich to Braeriach|
|Cornices---not a place to get your navigation wrong!|
|Starting the descent|
|Last of the day's light--a great day|
Wednesday, 27 December 2017
Emily was out with me today for the first of three days, aiming to learn and consolidate winter skills. She is over from Australia for a short holiday and keen to make the most of her time. Winter has made a welcome return to the Highlands with plenty of snow. We started with a discussion of how to interpret weather forecasts and avalanche forecasts then it was straight onto the hill. We covered footwork and use of the winter boot, kicking steps etc before looking at the ice axe as a tool for security and to stop a slip. We found some hard snow on the side of the Fiacall a Choire Chais which allowed us to do some crampon work up onto the ridge. We finished the day with a look at how to use avalanche safety equipment; transceiver, shovel and probe to effect a companion rescue. With just 30 minutes of training Emily was already looking competent----being also keen on backcountry/off-piste skiing these will be really important skills for her.
|First time on crampons--great fun|
Friday, 22 December 2017
|A COLD day on Hidden Chimney|
|Short days mean early starts in December, but worth it.|
|The snow just starting to soften....|
|......giving us some great turns|
Friday, 15 December 2017
We've had a great start to winter this season, with lots of snow. I was keen to make the most of the low snowline today and get out on the skis. We plumped for the shapely hill of Beinn a' Bha'ach Ard. This hill lies at the foot of Strathfarrar, in the NW Highlands. We were able to put skins on from the road and had a lovely day weaving our way round the hills. There was the usual mix of Scottish snow conditions, some great, some not (!). The Scottish Avalanche Information Service started issuing forecasts as of today so make sure to include it in your planning process.