Early Winter Skiing and Walking

From blue skies and steep ice in Canada it was back to hillwalking in North Wales in some rather wet and wild weather. Its the variety of locations, weather and people that means no two weeks or days of work are ever the same!  A few days at home for Christmas in Ireland with the family rounded off a great year and allowed for a bit of respite before the winter season kicked off properly.

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One of my favourite views and places to go climbing…the small but atmospheric Hen Mountain on the edge of the Mournes.

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The incredible view up Llyn Padarn on the way to the airport…superb!

Winter 2015 started in the Alps this year with a few weeks skiing in preparation for my BMG Skiing induction. Due to lack of snow at the start of the season my skis took a bit of a hammering from the rocks and grass showing through…more akin to skiing in Scotland really! A great days touring above the Col de la Forclaz with Tim, Dave and Lee meant we were able to escape the crowds and chopped up pistes and get some good turns in before the inevitable combat skiing through the trees at the end!

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Shadows and light skinning up to Pointe Ronde

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Eastern vista across to the Valais and beyond.

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Tea break anyone?

A superb ski technique course in Leysin, Switzerland was followed by the ski induction which went well and then a 5 day avalanche course run through the European Avalanche School. This looked at all aspects of snow science and avalanche education which was very useful for my own personal benefit but also for thinking about how I deliver avalanche education to students.

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Snow science and Mark Diggins showing us how to record it.

On return to Wales the snow had arrived and so I had a great week running a winter skills and walking week with work including an amazing day on Snowdon with the best inversion I’ve ever seen! I spend a lot of time in snow throughout the year between Scotland and the Alps but when it happens on your back door, whether that’s Snowdonia or the Mournes it makes it even more memorable and special!

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The start of a great week on Moel Siabod.

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Lliwedd floating in a sea of cloud.

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Incredible inversion with Lliwedd and, in the distance, Moel Siabod rising above the clouds.

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Canadian Ice

Terminator, Stanley Headwall, Polar Circus, Sea of Vapours…these were all routes I had heard of over the years as being legendary Canadian Ice routes. Canadian ice climbing has always conjured up various images in my head…huge walls and pillars of vertical ice, remote backcountry access, massive blue skies with snow covered trees and lines that you could see from the valley miles before you even got close to them. It was always a dream to go and climb ice in Canada and get to see if what I imagined actually was true. At the beginning of December I was fortunate to head out to the East Rockies with work for two weeks to climb some of these lines and teach others how to give people a safe experience on ice.

Whilst I didn’t get to climb any of the above mentioned routes, I did climb some incredible lines and found Canadian ice to be all I imagined and more. I left inspired to return to climb some of those incredible lines I had seen from a distance but never got close to.

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Massive blue skies and snow covered trees…Evan Thomas Creek, K Country.

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A thin start to Moonlight. Evan Thomas Creek.

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Wicked Wanda, The Ghost

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Exiting Wicked Wanda after a very wet top pitch.

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Part of the adventure of going into the Ghost…getting your truck stuck!

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Lake Louise Falls

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Lead climbing coaching with the students

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Trainee instructor managing a descent at the top of Grotto Falls.

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Andy on the classic Carlsberg Column, Field

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Myself approaching the belay on Carlsberg Column, Field

Sun, Sea and Mountains

I’ve come to the conclusion that blogging is hard work and the longer you leave it the harder it is to write something! Climbing at Fairhead in glorious sunshine away back in June seems a very distant memory as I write this looking out towards where the Mourne Mountains should be…instead there is only greyness and incessant mizzle.

After the incredible summer of 2013 it was hard to imagine the summer of 2014 being any better, but it was! It just kept on going and going and despite a brief interlude towards rolled on into a generally dry and sunny Autumn and North Wales just kept on giving. Here a few photos that sum up some of what happened in those months.

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Cenotaph Corner

– Mel puts to rest a longheld ambition to climb Cenotaph Corner…not bad for a 70 year old!

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Heart of Stone

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West Buttress Eliminate

The high mountain crags once again dried almost completely and so it was off back up to Gallt yr Ogof and an almost obligatory visit to Cloggy to climb a couple of classics, West Buttress Eliminate and Great Wall.

Until a couple of years ago the Lake District was never high on my list of paces to go climbing, that is until I spent an incredible weekend on Scafell Pike climbing dry, high quality mountain rhyolite. This year I made a couple of trips back up including one week of incredible blue skies and hot weather. Climbing on Pavey Ark, Gimmer Crag, Esk Buttress, Dow Crag, Goat Crag, Reecastle and several others just confirmed to me just how great the mountain cragging is in the Lakes!

Langdale Reflections

Central Pillar, Esk Buttress

Central Pillar, Esk Buttress

Esk Valley...stunning!

Esk Valley…stunning!

The remainder of the summer was largely taken up with sport climbing as I rediscovered The Diamond on the Little Orme. A lot of redevelopment has taken place here over the years to turn it into a top venue. Unfortunately its only climbable a small part of the year so there were a lot of after work visits to capitalise on the golden evening light and generally good conditions. Some accounts were opened and closed, one other in particular was left open…I’m already looking forward to getting back down there at the start of August!

The Diamond in golden evening light.

The Diamond in golden evening light.

From sea level bolt clipping it was off to the very north of Scotland for some classic sea stacks as part of a work trip. The Old Man of Hoy, Old Man of Stoer and Am Buchaille are three of the most iconic lines in the UK for the adventurous trad climber. I was fortunate to climb both Am Buchaille and The Old Man of Hoy along with a couple of days cragging at Sheigra in exceptional weather for the north of Scotland!

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Am Buchaille from Sandwood Bay

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The Old Man of Hoy standing proud of St. Johns Head

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A Few Dollars More on Old of Hoy

From the seaside it was off to the Alps and a warm up route on the North Face of the Midi set us up for the Schmidt Route on the Matterhorn. Conditions on the face were exceptionally good and made this one of the most enjoyable north faces I’ve climbed! It also completed the big three North Face Trilogy routes for me!

Alpenglow on the Tournier Spur, NF Aiguille du Midi

Alpenglow on the Tournier Spur, NF Aiguille du Midi

Top of the ice field on the Schmidt Route

Top of the ice field on the Schmidt Route

The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn

The glorious Autumn continued on with a good bit of great autumnal weather that allowed cragging right up to the end of the month. Autumn is definitely a favourite time of mine to climb, the air is crisp and clear, the sunshine more than welcome and the colours give the surroundings a vibrant feel. Climbing in the sun all the way up to the start of my winter provided a fitting finale to what’s been a great year.

Photo: Tim Neill

Crisp, sunny days at Nesscliff. Here on Notional Trust

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Breezy, sunny days on the Lleyn Peninsula. Path to Rome.

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Cold, friction days on Slate. Tom Livingstone on Poetry Pink.

Photo: Tim Neill

Last day of rock climbing for me in amazing sunshine by the sea at the Great Orme, Gritstone Gorilla