Archive for February, 2015


Saturday, February 28th, 2015

The last meet saw us heading to Crianlarich. Unfortunately, the ideal winter climbing conditions did not last and there was a thaw just before our visit.  However, that did not deter Rob, Will & Paul from heading up a day early. After a not particularly early start they headed up to Ben Nevis and climbed 2 pitches of The Curtain (IV, 5) before an abseil retreat.

Ascending Ben Lawers - spindrift

Ascending Ben Lawers – spindrift

By the time they arrived back at the hut a number of us had arrived. Sat was forecast to be the best of the remaining days – with unknown conditions for local ice-climbing Simon, myself and Pete W opted for a walk. I was keen to get a few more munros ticked off – so we headed over to the Eastern side of the Ben Lawers range. It was a snowy walk in (but not too deep) and once higher up on the ridge progress was easier – that is when we weren’t head on into the wind.

Ascending Ben Lawers, An Stuc in background

Ascending Ben Lawers, An Stuc in background

There was a strong wind on the initial ridge up Ben Lawers with plenty of spindrift making it atmospheric (balaclava and goggles remained on for the majority of the day).

Starting descent from An Stuc

Starting descent from An Stuc

We carried on to An Stuc – the descent from which was more than a walk – with some careful route choice and front-pointing required. The rest of the walk proved a lot simpler, and with the wind behind us was more pleasant. 4 munros in all – making a good winter circuit.

Meanwhile, Rob, Will and Paul were still keen to climb and this time headed for Beinn an Dothaidh to climb Stairway to Heaven (III) which was rather banked out with snow. Peri, Liz and Mark headed off with the plan to traverse the Aonoch Eagach, however, the snow conditions called for a change of plan (they meet a couple of other teams retreating) and decided to head up a Corbett instead. Karl, Jamie and Russ also went for a winter walk taking in Ben More and Stob Binnein. Mike unfortunately soon realised that he was not fully recovered and had to turn back and headed back home.

Sat night saw us eating Rob’s leek, potato and chilli soup followed by oodles of cream courtesy of Pete’s whisky cream (to accompany the ton of haggis) and extra cream in the marmalade bread and butter pudding from Peri – thanks chefs. Sat night we checked the forecast hoping that it might have improved – it hadn’t and had actually got worst with gusts of 60-90 mph forecast, along with snow/rain. With a similar but less windy forecast for Monday, a number of lightweights (sensible people) headed back to York.

Simon & I got up early and headed back to the Ben Lawers range to take in a Corbett (Meall nan Maigheach) close to the road. This plan paid off, although the drive was much longer than anticipated due to the ungritted road and finding a sensible place to park.  Navigation was easy as we followed a wall until it stopped and a short walk on a bearing took us to a cairn– not knowing whether this was the highest summit we took a bearing to the other cairn and then retraced our path back down.  It took us just over 2 hrs – even with the car parked further downhill than ideal.

Rob, Mark, Paul, Pete and Will went for a low-level walk along the West Highland Way and returned to the hut rather soaked – at least we had only been snowed upon. Everyone else had fled. Pete decided a bit more exercise was called for and headed out for a run.

By Sunday night we were down to 3 (Simon, myself and Pete) we enjoyed a smaller variant of the communal meal I had planned. We opted for an earlish start on Monday – to get out before things deteriorated. We were a little surprised to look out the window and see everything was now covered in snow at ground level. Attempts to push the car were unsuccessful, so after a session of shovelling we finally made it away from the hut (thanks Pete). We attempted a Corbett just down the road from the hut. Unfortunately, strong winds and deep powdery snow meant that we did not make it to the summit – even using snow shows we occasionally sunk up to our thighs. At just over 700m the wind was unpleasant, visibility was almost zero and we had lost all depth perception – it was time to give up and head home. Meanwhile, Pete opted for another run from the hut before catching the train to Edinburgh.P1120221

Nothing ventured…

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Scafell ShamrockWe spent most of Saturday running across snow covered moors in the Peak District on the first RAB Mini Mountain Marathon of the season. Which isn't really relevant to this blog, but I have to mention it so I can drop in the fact that I finished 9th out of 183 – success is rare so I need to make the most of it when I can!

Anyway, after this my vote was to return home and spend Sunday eating food and watching films. But since we'd packed a car full of camping and climbing gear, Carmen outvoted me and 4 hours later we arrived in Wasdale. After a thaw earlier in the week we weren't confident that there'd be anything much left to climb, but if nothing else we'd take the kit for a walk. Again.

PillarAfter a chilly night we cleared the frost from the inside of the tent, broke camp, and set off up Scafell. Early brightness led quickly to clag, as a thick sheet of fog rolled in across Wastwater. But we soon climbed through it and were rewarded with a magnificent cloud inversion, which last for the rest of the day.

The snow was quite patchy and nowhere that extensive. But as we got higher, some of the white took on a blue tinge, and a number of icefalls came into sight. Most notable was a large frozen waterfall high on the right of the Shamrock. Luckily was on one of the routes we were hoping to climb – we just weren't sure which one, as the guidebook was pretty hopeless in identifying anything, so after some dithering we just aimed for the most obvious ice.

TThe main pitchhe first pitch up a narrow icefall didn't look too hard so I led off. Of course it was steeper than it looked (aren't they always), about grade 3, but 2 or 3 ice screws calmed the nerves. Carmen took the next pitch, easier but with enough steep ice to make it interesting. Two more easy pitches on ice alternating with deep powder snow, led us to the foot of the main icefall. By now we'd worked out that we were climbing The Direct Route (II/III **), though the pitch lengths given were totally wrong.

Burnmoor TarnA ramp leading up to the left was topped by a line of impressive ice. The next pitch was supposed to take a direct line up the right side of these, but luckily there was no way that would go at the grade – fragile-looking, too thin to take screws, and dripping with water. So instead I climbed up the ramp and exited by another steep icefall at the end. Again, harder than it looked, a good grade 3 with ice that in places wasn't fat enough for screws – at one of these points my foothold gave way, giving me enough of a scare to stop faffing and get to the top PDQ.

Scafell summitOne final pitch took us to Lords Rake, which we followed rightwards to reach the sunshine at last, the marked temperature difference hitting suddenly and forcing a lunch stop! The warmth didn't last long as we walked up to the summit and a strong cold wind hit. So after taking summit photos we headed straight back down the hill and into the valley cloud, where it was a grey miserable afternoon, no sign of the fantastic conditions above.

Some more photos here



Tea, coffee and slabs

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

The sun was shining on Saturday morning so I fired off a quick email to the club and rushed off to Slipstones for a spot of bouldering. Despite only being 25 minutes from my front door, Rob and Paul miraculously managed to get there before me – probably something to do with the fact that they were on route to the Goat (apparently the weather was rather gloomy in York) when they saw my email. That and the small matter of a cooked breakfast and second pot of tea between emailing and leaving the house!

Tea Party Slab

Tea Party Slab

Jamie inching up the slab

Jamie inching up the slab

The short, sharp walk-in and unseasonal temperatures had us all striping down to t-shirts before kicking off with a few problems on the lower tier. Several were ticked, most notably Tea Party Slab which finally succumbed to the relentless assault from the three of us. A highly dubious font 4+.

Rob at full stretch

Rob at full stretch

So close

So close

After a pause for coffee and slabs of Soreen/banana Soreen/bananas (delete as appropriate) we moved on to a few steeper problems with mixed success. Before long the clouds were gathering, and as the temperature began to drop, so did our energy levels and we called it a day.


Blea water crag (video blog)

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

It's time for YAC to enter the 21st Century, Rob and I headed to Blea Water Crag, with a video camera in the pack. We set off from York around 7 (Dave W was clearly keen as he'd headed over there around an hour earlier!). At the head of the road leading to Haweswater Rob spotted a red squirrel, it made his day and for a moment I thought we may be knocking the climbing on the head. But we persevered, up past Haweswater, made interesting by plenty of ice. Getting up to the crag (alpine conditions and everything) we could see at least two groups on the classic route (III – Blea Water Gill Icefall) so we plumped for Birketts Gully (II/III) which looked like it had good ice low down. But you can judge for your self, here is a video of Rob climbing the first couple of pitches.

Here is another video, the entrance to the gully follows a set of easyish ice steps. These are a little higher than the last lot:

As I was too cheap to buy a decent camera there is no more footage due to the battery running out….. (also thanks for all the wonderful and inventive alternative to GoPros suggested by club members – you know who you are!)

The mid pitch of the gully was not in great condition. The ice was thawing and starting to fall down, Rob decided to head to the left which put him on some quite exposed ground, I opted to go right scrambling up a bit of a waterfall! Neither was a good option but my choice was decidedly less scary (isn't hindsight a wonderful thing). The upper sections turned out to be in good nick but we roped up and pitched these sections. We topped out into howling wind and clag. Thinking the weather had turned for the day we opted for a gentle walk back to the car via Small Water. The weather cleared after about 30 minutes leaving nice views down the valley, and the walk back.

Stretch . . .

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

IMG_0037another good turn out at harrogate last night with a dozen members and prospectives pairing up to climb.

With no new routes since last week we ticked a whole range of grades, Peri managed not to scare any young boys, C3 spanned the arch of doom and dave d attempted a 6c.

What is the world coming to.