Reports - winter conditions and activity

Monday, January 28, 2013

E-Climb Products

I have just linked up with E-Climb and look forward to using the awesome looking products from this innovative company.

E-Climb products are available on-line and are already well recognised in Europe.  Their products however are perfectly suited to the UK and Scottish winter market.  As well as a selection of ice axes and ice screws they also make some great looking, and very Scottish, protection.  The 'Icepider' resembles other hammer in hooks we see on many a Scottish mixed rack but is really well thought out with and extended clipping point and retrieval eye that can be 'stein pulled' out with the tool.

The Icepider

Another example is the 'Klauo' ice screw, a super short screw with an extended anchor point.  The screws all have replaceable tips as well which is a great idea and will be welcome as bottoming out screws is a fairly regular issue on the ice we tend to climb over here...

 Replaceable screw tips and the stubby Klauo ice screw

The re-usable ripper quick draw also looks cool and is one of the many innovative ideas they have included in their product range.

Re-usable ripper 

Thanks to E-Climb for the great set of equipment they have sent me through.

As well as screws they have sent me some Cryo M and P axes, great as a working axe and for all aspects of winter climbing and Alpinism, and some Cryo Pro axes, the most technical tool in their range and aimed at high end ice and dry-tooling.  The Cryo Pro will be great for steeper UK mixed climbing and a small hammer can be added to protect the tools for hammering in gear.

                    Cryo Pro and M axes                    Removable hammer

My first impressions having had 2 days working with the Cryo M and P axes is of the absolute quality of these axes, the build is perfection!  They felt amazing on both ice and mixed, well weighted and balanced and the finish and look definitely catches the eye, I can honestly say these are the nicest tools of their category I've used.

The Cryo M and P tools, first test was the Cairngorms this weekend

Looking forward now to trying the Cryo Pro's, I am certain these will be top performers on steeper mixed routes.  Another notable thing about the kit is how easily adjusted everything is, all the parts can be easily replaced or changed for different types of climbing.

E-Climb offer great value for awesome kit, have a look at their site here -

Cairngorms 27-01-13

Yesterday I was back into Coire an t-Sneachda with Ivan on the 2nd day of his 'Intro to Winter Climbing' course.  Having climbed a mixed route on Saturday we were keen to try and include some ice on Sunday.  We headed for the Mirror Direct IV / 4** which was in great condition.  The ice was good and gave us a chance to look at ice technique and protection.  Ivan also explored his technical limit on the steep ice!

We headed up and climbed one of the variation finishes on the buttress at the top of Aladdins Couloir at about III / 4 which gave a great finish and a bit more mixed climbing.  The day was much better than forecast and was actually really nice most of the day though the wind did go wild in the afternoon with fairly full on gusts, one flattening us both on the plateau.  It felt as though it was still freezing at the crag for most of the day however this seems set to change with the incoming weather....  A brief rise in temperatures on Saturday night stripped some of the lower rock but will have helped the pockets of slab that were present consolidate a bit.

Thanks to Ivan for another great course and welcoming the full Scottish experience!

 Aladdins Buttress

 The Mirror Direct IV / 4**

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cairngorms 26-01-13

Great day in the Corries today, surprisingly little snow about after yesterdays storm... some wind-slab to watch for all the same!

I was out with Ivan for his first taste of winter climbing so we headed for Invernookie III / 4*** which gave a great day out and was in really good condition.

Plenty of others out and lots of routes getting ascents...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wasdale Screes 24-01-13

Steve and I went around to Wasdale Screes today to have a look at the 'Cold Climbs' classic and rarely formed right-hand branch V / 4 *** of Central Gully.  The gully approach was holding ice but was thin in places with dubious ice requiring a lot of care.  The right-hand branch itself was however in great condition and gave some brilliant classic ice in a great position above Wastwater.

We stopped on the way up the gully to climb a great looking pillar of ice on the side wall which was climbable in one pitch and was really good.

Wasdale Screes, Right-Hand branch can be seen clearly in the centre of the photo

Right-Hand branch V / 4***

The side wall ice pillar, not sure if this has been climbed?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Beinn Udlaidh 22-01-13

Lots of good ice forming on Beinn Udlaidh.  Various routes in condition and others coming in.  Few others out today on Quartzvein Scoop and Green Eyes.  There was a reasonable amount of fresh powder blown about and some of the exits on the main crag had a bit of build up and a small cornice, not too much of a problem though.

Today we were looking to climb another 'Cold Climbs' route and so headed to Quartzvein Scoop IV / 4***. There was a fair bit of snow covering the ice but underneath there was some good ice, a little hollow in places but all good.  After this we dropped down to the single pitch routes on the lower tier and climbed a short steep route down there which gave a great little pitch and a bit steeper than what we have been on the last few days.

Its always great to climb the classic winter climbs of the UK and 'Cold Climbs' gives some great background info and history associated with a selection of routes and in looking to climb many of the listed routes you'll be taken off the beaten track.

'Cold Climbs' -

Lower Tier Ice-falls

Quartzvein Scoop IV / 4***

 Main Crag

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ben Nevis 21-01-13

Was back on the Ben again today with Jill who is keen to work her way through some 'Cold Climbs' classics, a selection of some of the UK and Ireland's most sought after winter climbs.

The weather was due to be windy today but with heading up with a few options we were able to find some relative shelter on the mountain on Comb Gully IV / 4.  Comb did get its fair share of spindrift today but seemed much better than most parts of the mountain and was a good Scottish day out.  We had also considered Glover's Chimney but it seemed to be getting the brunt of an upward wind returning in the Coire and a constant stream of spindrift going up the route, there was a team trying Glover's though and the first ice-fall looked good.  We saw a few others on the Carn Dearg Cascades and that was about it.  Some friends took a trip up and down No.4 and lost a half loaded rucksack to a gust!

Comb Gully gave another great day and was in great condition.  Apart from a little fairly avoidable bit of wind-slab low down the whole route was on hard frozen snow and good ice.  Descent again down the Redburn was fast with a little bit of fresh slab about to watch out for, all avoidable though.

Mixed climbing conditions looked awesome high up, the front steep face of the Comb was frosted today and the routes around No.3 Gully Buttress looked to be in prime condition!

Video clip from Comb Gully

First Step

Second step before easy ground to top

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ben Nevis 20-01-13

Not many out on the Ben today, few on Ledge route and down around the Douglas Boulder and Carn Dearg Cascades.  There were some pockets of slab about, notably there was a layer of dry powder between the slab and old snow below creating a very unstable combination.  That said, we went into Coire Ciste and climbed Green Gully and were able to complete the whole day without leaving good well frozen hard snow.  Green Gully itself was thin but good for the first pitch and after that was in great condition with good ice and well frozen snow all the way, all 3 exits looked good, we finished up the left on good ice.  Exit slopes were fine.  We descended the Redburn which was fast with snow all the way but had some pockets of slab to watch out for.  No.4 Gully had been used in descent today and looked OK, can't say for sure though as we didn't use it...  No.3 Gully Buttress looked good also and looked to have been climbed probably yesterday.

So it seems a lot of routes have been blown clean of powder and are fine but no doubt there will be pockets of significant wind-slab about to watch out for.

Coire Ciste

Green Gully IV / 4 ***

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ben Nevis 18-01-13

The Ben took on a new look today altogether.  As there has been no thaw it would seem the very strong winds had literally blown the snow of the crag!  So its all ended up somewhere but who knows where?!  The Douglas Boulder and lower areas were a bit blacker, high mixed was looking great still.  The snow has stayed powdery and dry and was air-born most of the day, we were in Castle Coire at one point and there is mainly hard old snow in there and not much powder about at all.  The crags were a lot more stripped in there also than yesterday.  Ice is still building, especially lower down it seems, the icefalls below Carn Dearg are still getting some seepage so hopefully should improve further.  There were other teams out today but not sure what got climbed if anything as many were heading down fairly quickly most likely due to the winds up in the higher corries.

Rich was keen to go over some snow anchor options, climb some ice and have a look at ice threads.  So with a few skills to cover and high winds we headed for the icefalls and climbed Carn Dearg Cascade right hand.  The obvious steep fall behind in the photo isn't far off, not quite there yet though.  The closer one we climbed and was really good, the first 40m pitch was great but the ice quality varied a bit.  The 2nd pitch is easier but was very thin.  After this we had plenty of time to cover snow belays and threads etc with good old snow in Castle Coire.

 Icefalls below Carn Dearg

Looking at ice threads and retreat options...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ben Nevis 17-01-13

Still great conditions on the Ben, ice is starting to form again in places and the mixed routes are still well frozen and white.  No.3 Gully buttress looked great but even mixed routes down on the Douglas Boulder were still in good condition.  More wind today has formed reasonable wind slab in places and there was a lot of snow moving about the mountain, teams were up and down No.4 Gully and Ledge route but it may change over night as the wind is set to continue...

Richard was keen for another days mixed action to build on the previous days routes and to do some more technique coaching so we headed for Cutlass VI / 7 *.  This was a brilliant route with 3 contrasting pitches before joining the SW ridge and I'd think worth more than 1 star?!  After that we looked over setting up abseils for retreat and using pegs etc before heading for home.  Another great day out.

 Coire Ciste

 NE Buttress and Douglas Boulder

 Richard on the crux of Cutlass

 Happy to be at the belay...

The chimney, pitch 3 on Cutlass