Sunday, 31 March 2013

Seattle Grooves First Ascent

I went to Stob Coire nan Lochain with Edinburgh University fresher Alex McMillan on Saturday to try and get some late season wintering in. I intended to make the second ascent of a recent Simon Yearsley/Malcolm Bass route "Twisted" (VII,7) but unfortunately this didnt look "in". I had lots of back up options but all of these were steep and had been stripped of snow in the lower parts.
I walked in quite quickly so I had a look through the guide and decided to try and find some new ground. I settled for a line between Twisting Gully and Forked Gully Right Hand.
We started at the foot of the buttress at the lowest rocks. I made my way up snow slopes to a short corner, climbed the corner then followed the snow again until I found a belay underneath a steep, turfy groove line. I had hoped to climb this but it was dripping with water and didn't have as much snow on it as I had thought. I decided to keep on climbing up the snow slope until I found a suitable place to breach the steep wall. I found another narrower groove line about 10m above the belay and attempted to climb this. I climbed a few meters up on thin hooks but decided it wasn't really going to go as I couldn't find any gear and it looked like it was going to get harder higher up, so I down climbed.
Just to the left of the groove was an icy ramp which I climbed instead. Above this was another, slightly steeper, icy groove which led quite nicely to a belay on some broken blocks.
First Pitch (Photo Credit: Alex McMillan)
Top of Pitch 2
The final pitch was the reason why I had chosen this line. I could see some very white looking rocks from the coire floor which didn't seem to have any routes up them. I took the left hand groove on this. The groove started off nicely with some good ice in the back but got increasingly steeper with less foot placements until a steep pull over a bulge brought me onto an icy ramp. I climbed this to its top and made my way carefully through the final couple of meters to a small cornice. I broke my way through that and topped out into amazing sunshine.
Final Pitch (Photo Credit: Alex McMillan)
(Photo Credit: Alex McMillan)
(Photo Credit: Alex McMillan)

The Line
I have emailed Andy Nisbet to ask whether its new, and he seems to think so. I have decided to call it Seattle Grooves. I have named it this as I only found out that Alex is from Seattle on the drive over. I have graded it IV 5, but im not too sure really as some of the moves could be tech 6.
We finished this quite early so climbed Spectre (V,6) to finish off the day. I managed to climb it in 2 pitches, although I got to the final belay on rope stretch.
Alex on Spectre

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Ravens Edge

On Tuesday Helen Rennard, R and I climbed Ravens Edge on the Buachaille. The route gets VII, 7 in both scottish winter climbs and the glen coe SMC guides but I think the VII, 8 which it is given on UKC is a better grade.

I picked R up on my way over and we met Helen in the Buachaille car park at 7am. Everything was looking pleasantly white and the clouds were just brushing the top of the mountain. We set off up the footpath and geared up at the bottom of great gully. Great gully has a couple of interesting ice steps and the snow was quite well compacted.
Ravens Edge makes its way up the buttress to the right of Slime Wall, with Ravens Gully splitting them. Ravens Edge look very nice and white high up and the turf on the approach to it was quite good in places. Ravens Gully seemed to be holding a fair amount of ice, which I've heard is rare for this route.
Helen led the first pitch which is a long 55m pitch of quite run out ground, all be it never too hard.
Helen on Pitch 1
The second pitch was R's. It took a thin rising traverse line into a large open book corner. There was gear, although not that much, so it was important for neither second nor leader to fall off here. We all got up that fine and next it was my turn on the main corner. The start was barred by a small roof, which I traversed under. In the process I ripped a block off which I thought was a very good hook. I managed to stay on and kept on going. The rest of the pitch was quite sustained, but the gear was good if you could place it. There was one more scary moment when both my feet came off. Luckily I was on good hooks and it actually allowed me to place my crampons on the higher holds I was trying to get to. This pitch turned out to be by far the crux on the day.

Starting Pitch 3

That pitch took a while so we decided it was best to try and run pitches 4 and 5 together. This should have been 65 meters of climbing, on 60 meter ropes, but we decided to have a go anyway. R climbed pitches 4 and 5 very quickly, and used just under 60 meters of rope. Pitch 6 was a short easy pitch to finish which I climbed. It was a bit longer than the 10 meters suggested by the guide, but was nice quite easy so we managed to top out just before dark.
We descended down great gully, which needed 3 abseils to avoid the ice, and we were soon at the bottom.
Im really pleased to have climbed Ravens Edge. According to UKC it hasn't been completed since 2008, which was by Ian Parnell and co., and has only been attempted once since. UKC isnt an exhaustive list of ascents so if anyone knows otherwise please tell me.
Anyway to sum up conditions on the Buachaille low down things look in thanks to the low freezing levels and snow of recent.
There would have been more pictures but no one else brought a camera and I forgot to charge mine, and I also couldn't see R on pitch 2 to take any of him.
I will add some more photos later when Im on my own computer, this was a library job.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Not so fast and not so furious

I went to Newtyle Quarry yesterday with Dom Scott, Andy Laing and Anne Peale. Its the first time I've been since my injury so I was interested to see how my elbow fared.
Photo Credit: Dom Scott
I started with a warm up on fast and furious (M10). I managed to remember all the moves but I climbed it in a very non-flowing manner. Despite this all the moves seemed pretty easy and well within me today. After a rest and watching Andy, Dom and Anne all have a go I got back on and, after climbing fast and furious, tried to do the link up into Too Fast Too Furious (M11+). Too fast is over twice the length of fast and furious and although the technical crux is probably over by the time you've done f+f you are very pumped.
Photo Credit: Dom Scott
Photo Credit: Dom Scott
I managed to climb TFTF to the end of the ramp and managed to latch the hook on the wall after this but I left my axe behind while swinging off and had to take on the rope to reach it. I forgot were the hooks were for this section, but now after looking though some old pictures of me trying it I remember again. I then climbed the next section to just below the last quick draw.  From here the territory is new to me and I took a while trying to look for hooks. Once finding them I climbed to the chains but in my attempt to clip I fell off, leaving on axe behind and knocking the other out of my teeth, which hurt a bit.
I was quite pleased with my attempt on TFTF today, despite not actually managing to clip the chains. I think now that I know the moves and abit of work on tooling fitness I should be able to get it.
Photo Credit: Dom Scott
After getting my axe back Anne and I went down to the Happy Hooker wall, to climb Happy Hooker (M7), leaving Andy and Dom to work F+F. Thanks to Ross Cowie for the rope, quickdraws and beta. I managed to climb it on my first attempt.
Photo Credit: Dom Scott
After this we returned to the tube. Anne and I both had another go on F+F. I managed to almost climb F+F again but my axe ripped from the last hold. You can actually clip the chains from this hold so can I just count that as a victory wipper?
Photo Credit: Dom Scott
Hopefully I will be able to tick TFTF soon, all be it after a bit of training. Im hurting a bit today. My elbow feels fine, although it was complaining a bit yesterday, but my teeth hurt from the fall off TFTF and I just ache in general all over.
Photo Credit: Dom Scott

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Back to it

Its been over 2 months since I injured my elbow, and since my last blog post, and I have quite a bit to update you on.
My elbow turned out to be dislocated, although it popped itself back in. Its mostly back to normal now, although it still doesn't fully straighten.
Whilst injured I managed to keep fit by initially using exercise bikes in the gym, then going running and one handed climbing. This was all a bit boring really compared to normal climbing but it was something to do.
My return to proper climbing was during a trip to the peak district. The mountaineering club was supposed to be going to Torridon but the weather was bad, so it went south instead. I climbed mostly with Joanna and managed to lead Left Unconquerable (E1), Flying Buttress Direct (E1), Desperation (E1) and Wuthering (E2). I also had a good go on the green traverse, but kept on getting pumped just before the end.
Flying Buttress Direct


The week after I went to Glen Coe with Joanna, Jamie Sparkes, Claire Holland and Dan Tait. We climbed in Stobe Coire nan Lochain. I did Moon Shadow (IV,4) with Dan and Joanna and Twisting Gully (III,4) with Jamie. It was nice to be back in the mountains, and in amazing weather. My elbow survived alright although it did hurt a bit with the jarring motion associated with ice climbing.
Stobe Coire nan Lochain
In the last few weeks I have made a number of trips to Ben Nevis. My first trip was with Helen Rennard and Dave Macleod, where we climbed Left Edge Route (VI,5), a little repeated route in observatory buttress. Im not sure I can go as far as saying it was the second winter ascent, but I don't think its been done many times in winter.
Left Edge Route
My next trip was with Sinclair Cooper. We went to try Darth Vader (VII,8) on number three gully buttress. I led the first 2 pitches, which saw me belaying in the cave belay of the main chimney. Unfortunatley Sinclair couldn't second the second pitch so we abbed off. I then soloed South Gully (III).
Darth Vader, Pitch 1
Darth Vader
My latest trip was with Cassim Ladha, Craig Holden and Alex Toomey. It was the weekend of the mountaineering clubs Ben Nevis trip, but unfortunately there wasn't a mini bus driver so I took some extras in my car. We made quite a later start on friday night, as we needed to wait for Cass to drive up from Newcastle, and so didn't get into our tents next to the CIC hut until at least 2am.
On Saturday Cass and I attempted Hobgoblin (VI,7), also up number three gully. I actually intended to climb Gargoyle Wall but I didn't read the guide properly and so climbed direct to the Gargoyle, which is the line of Hobgoblin. After the 3rd pitch, which were the amazing Gargoyle Wall cracks, we abbed off ass Cass was too cold. On Sunday I went by myself and soloed Vanishing Gully (V,5), South-West Ridge (IV,5) (although probably III,4 on the day), and Observatory Buttress (V,4).

View from the tent Saturday morning

Tents and Carn Dearg

Hobgoblin, pitch 1

Cass seconding pitch 1

Vanishing Gully