Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Beautiful man

As many of you will know, there was a tragic death of Mark Phillips on the Ben on Monday. 
both Will and my self would like to offer our deepest condolences to his wife Caroline and son Ruaridh, nobody should have to go through such loss. Mark was a friend, mentor, climbing partner and the most gentle loving man anyone could ever hope to meet, it is an honour to have shared a rope and so many beautiful experiences with this man and he will be dearly missed by all who knew him.
i wished to share some memories that i have of him.

from  Connor 

Conditions prevail on the Ben!!!

After much ale and little sleep the alarm signalled the start of the day.
Today Tristan and I raced up the Allt a’Mhuilinn on possibly one of the busiest weekends of the year to see what we could get done.

Whilst kitting-up in the base of Observatory gully, some bloke came skudding down towards us. This is no place for neglectful footwork, especially when there is plenty rocko bricko neve to contend with. After a 200m slide, the gentleman stopped and thankfully was well enough to gingerly walk down the rest of the gully and off the mountain with only a few minor injuries.

After wiping our bottoms, we continued upwards to inspect which routes were free as despite our early start, a spot of obligatory first aid put us at the back of the queue. Despite the crowds there was plenty to go at. Observatory Buttress looked as prime as I’ve ever seen it and provided a super alpine day out.
Early morning cloud soon lifted and the views were astonishing!! No matter how many times I go up the Ben, every time is a great one. I always feel utterly stoked and in a sense privileged to be born and serve my apprenticeship in the Highlands… no wonder when the surroundings are as such:
Teams were strung-out on Tower ridge and the winding trail up its spine looked as broad as Fort Bill high street… though I wouldn't stagger down that road!!   

Descent was made via No. 4 and the rest of the weekend was spent enjoying the Fort William Mountain Festival which was especially ace this year.  

from Will

Friday, 22 February 2013

Magic day on The Wand

Yesterday we got out on Creag Meagaidh with the idea of climbing Smith’s route, a cold climbs classic that rarely comes into condition.
At 4.30 am I heard Will wander back into the flat after going to the opening night at the fort William mountain film festival (I am assured he got some sleep), knowing we were getting picked up by John Macleod (Britain’s manliest man) at 5.30 it was time to get a wiggle on and eat my coffee and drink my porridge. After stopping at Spean Bridge to pick Sam up we fired on through to go climbing!

 As we walked into the corrie I knew it was going to be a good day with such an amazing sunrise, it was a nice easy walk in with just fell shoes on as the path is bare up till the Lochan. As we rounded into view of the corrie we could just see a team starting on Smiths route, gutted!!! I had seen a picture of a route called the wand earlier this winter and recalled a spectacular ice coated corner, so we opted for that in the hope we would get on it before the masses rushed into the corrie. We parted ways with Sam and John (who climbed north post direct in great condition) and headed round towards the Wand. As we rounded the corner we saw three teams on the Pumpkin, no thanks, but the wand was still free!

Conditions were great with super sticky ice and massive ice umbrellas, and great screws. Take a look! We were back at the car by about 3.30 and what a magic day it was!!!!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Skiing on the Ben

Yesterday 'Billy no mates' was without a climbing partner, but with conditions at a seasonal best there was no time to waste worrying about social inadequacies! After a wee study, I felt that by 2pm the snow should have soften in the red burn and provide a great descent, so I left Fort William on my rusty Chariot for the Achintee...but not for a beer;) 
There was lots of folk on the Ben today, even some happy campers who were looking to camp on the summit!! Though pretty crazy (without crampons/axes) these guys did have the sense to take other essential provisions including: beer, beans and bacon- the three camping B's!! At least they would enjoy their last supper!


Even though I left late in the day, the snow remained incredibly hard and the top 300-400m of the top was coated in ice. You can really appreciate just how icy the top was on the video... CCCCRRRRCCCHH!!

 I dropped down the top section of the red burn but shot across to the left side (looking down) giving better skiing due to the burn being so chopped up with foot prints. The descent was fairly steep and very fast giving enjoyable skiing almost until where the tourist track and the red burn meet.  The sky was absolutely tremendous and the clarity was such that the Skye Cuillin could be seen in the distance. I love theWest !!!!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

It was nICE while it lasted, Scottish winter

So for the past few days Connor’s dad has been in town which resulted in some rather large hangovers and some ace climbing. We managed to get out and climb the first pitch of the curtain (wee clip to follow) as a four, but bailed off after the first pitch due to the weather getting worse, Connor having to get to work, Wills gammy hand opening up again (while changing his ice axe picks he sliced his hand open which resulted in a trip to the hospital, four stitches later…)  and a large volume of ice coming down from above.  This pitch of ice was thin… and I mean thin, no screws up until the bulge, crap gear at the bulge , one shit screw after the bulge. When in doubt run it out! But combined with the wild weather and ice from above made this a bloody wild lead !!!!!

On Tuesday we had a raid up the Ben before Connor was working again ! This time we climbed Harrison’s direct, a classic though rarely in condition route. This was not plan A, or plan B, or plan C but hey ho! It is a brilliant climb and was in superb condition with super axe placements and great climbing, totally convincing ice screws were hard to find but it was hard not to feel confident due to great conditions, even on the incredibly steep crux corner ( poky at IV?) 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Morocco Photos

Just a quick one with a few photos from our recent Morocco Trip 

 Crux of stand-geblasen 
 The Talking Boot! The ice axe was used to get all the old glue off

 "What is this all about!!"-  Glue and Tape Crux squeeze
 Toubkal This Way

 Marrakesh at sunset
Off out for a climb on the Ben tomorrow, So some more photos tomorrow.
Daddy Holdsworth in town also so be prepared Fort William...

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Popping the Blog Cherry, Morocco new routes

So to pop the Blog cherry I thought we should do a post on getting to Morocco.
We actually, believe it or not had a minor epic getting there, it had snowed in Gatwick.  Yes it had snowed in London and as expected everyone was running around crying and waving their hands in the air, this meant that I had arrived fine and on time, and managed to find a pub, by the time Will phoned and told me he wasn't coming and would have to get me in Morocco. Being a little fresh by this point I might have blamed southern fairies... (loudly) got some funny looks in that pub... anyway a nice Irish lady approached me and asked me what was wrong, I explained that apart from the fact that I could see two of her my climbing trip was potentially ruined, she then replied, “don't worry he can stay at my B&B tomorrow night at a discount price”, sweet! phone number and address in hand I went outside to phone Will, read out the phone number and address fine(ish) He then asked what the names of the lovely couple were, I told him that they were called Mary and Joseph, this had not even clicked 10 minutes ago in the pub, he was going to stay at Mary and Joseph's inn! The only thing missing was a pregnant bird and a donkey. 

Anyway I arrived, Will arrived eventually (turns out the phone number was wrong, oops!), and we went climbing!!! More funny stuff happened, such as the hotel disaster in Marrakesh (this might have been my fault again) but I don't was to give it all away at once, 

Here are the route descriptions of the two new routes we climbed out there, more pictures to follow once Will gets back in the house 

III 680m   we climbed the right hand start of the left hand gully line.

120m. follow easy snow to below a chock stone, belay 15m below in a bay on the left 

Pitch 1 
30m (Crux) tunnel under for the through route, will be harder if the tunnel fills in but easier if banked out. Bring some lube and breathe in. steep ramp on the left also possible. Belay after the squeeze.

Pitch 2 
60m, leave the belay and descend into the gully proper, and follow it, chock stone belay before next step.

Pitch 3 
60m, follow the left slanting gully to a traverse (short) behind a spike to join the main gully line, belay below an ice step.

Pitch 4
60m, climb the step and follow snow to a sh**e belay 

Pitch 5 
50m, trend right on snow, ice and choss, several belays possible. 

Pitches 6-8 
150m, come back left between two rock bands (escape possible to left)

150m, traverse up and right to summit ridge. 

Multiple options, we descended back to pitch 6, and continued traverse to the col (Tizi Ouanames) (route finding hard) it is also possible to descend the ridge in either direction.

Fox on a Spit area 
Stand-geblasen (pronounced shtund ge bla zin)
WI 4+, 5 pitches 
The photo just does not do it justice, there was so much ice!!!

Pitch 1
20m, (crux) start on the lowest ice fall which is climbed direct 

Pitch 2 
At the back of the terrace (40m) climb the ice fall 20m 

Pitch 3
Climb the short ice pitch directly above at the back of the terrace, this leads to the first amphitheatre which gives many options, 

Pitch 4 
On the right there is a long steep ice fall left of a gully. This leads to another large amphitheatre.

Pitch 5 
After crossing easy ground there is an easy ice ramp on the right hand side of the amphitheatre which leads to another terrace

 Traverse down and left on easy snow into the first of 2 gullies, one 50 or 60 m abseil from a huge block in the gully leads to the start of pitch 4. Descend steep snow down and right to the top of pitch three, to the far right a steep down climb of short abseil takes you to the terrace at the top of pitch two, traverse left or right to easy ground and the start of the route.