Posts Tagged ‘sunshine’

Every season except winter

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

This year we had the biggest New Year meet turn out for years, filling Blackrock Cottage and with people camping in vans and even staying at the ski centre up the road. So it shouldn't have been surprising that we also had some of the worst weather, with a massive thaw stripping pretty much all the remaining snow, and heavy rain and strong winds putting the high summits out of bounds.

Of course we didn't let this stop us getting out! Corbetts were climbed near Glen Orchy (Beinn Udlaidh was not in, unless you're into climbing unfrozen waterfalls in spate). Others did the Corbett above the Kings House before retiring to the bar. Trade at the newly rebuilt hotel certainly benefited from the bad weather, though private functions made it residents-only for the last few days. I don't think most of us will hurry back, it's lost all its old character and now feels (and looks) more like a motorway service station.

On the worst weather day an intrepid few of us did a walk over a couple of small hills on Rannoch Moor (hard to stand up in the wind even at under 500m) and back along the West Highland Way to the hut. Others went to Fort William for the local Park Run, followed by woodland walks and mountain bike trails.

Jayne led a big group in a circuit of Buachaille Etive Beag, staying low to avoid summit storms. Some fun and games were had trying and mostly failing to cross the normally narrow stream – the exception being Pete and Aiofe, who were rewarded by having to cross back again a mile or so upstream. We almost managed to stay dry until the last stretch back to the Kings House. Meanwhile others cycled down the road to Kinlochleven and back over the Devil's Staircase to the hotel.

More rain on the Monday morning led most people to the Ice Factor climbing wall, Warwick taking the opportunity for a run over the Devils Staircase. Carmen and I risked the forecast of an afternoon improvement and were rewarded by sunshine and views in the last hour before sunset.

Finally, on New Years Eve, those of us who remained were granted an exceptional day's weather – cool and clear with blue skies and light winds, fantastic conditions despite the near complete absence of snow. Peter and Ann took the train from the coast to Bridge of Orchy and cycled back through down the glen.

Carmen and I did a long walk from Ballachulish up the remote Corbett of Fraodhaidh. Pete led the others up Creise and Meall a' Bhuiridh, the two Munros behind the hut, taking in a fine scramble on the way.

The usual New Year's eve festivities followed, combined with a birthday cake for Noemi, and with far too much food courtesy of Karl who we unwisely left to do the shopping! We even all managed to stay up beyond midnight, partly because the forecast was back to wet and windy so there was no incentive for an early start. In the event it wasn't too bad, but the previous day could hardly have been bettered, and we all headed home.

A load more photos here

A weekend of two halves

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

This weekend saw the traditional opener to the orienteering season – the Aire weekend in the Dales.

Saturday's weather could hardly have been better, with blue skies, sunshine, and a pleasant breeze. Having done no running for weeks due to various injuries, I decided to ease myself in gently by doing the longest hardest course available, Black. Expecting to come last, I surprised myself to finish 16th out of 18.

Today was not a good day to be out on the hills, so I decided in advance to go for the Blue course, at 5.7km. Of course when I arrived I found myself entering Short Brown instead, 7.1km. Oops. Most of the next 2 hours was spent wandering round in circles in zero visibility trying to work out which knoll in the sea of knolls was the right one. The answer was, none of them, I was 200m too far west. If this had been a mountain marathon I'd have liked the conditions, as it would have given me the chance of gaining a few places on the fell runners who can't navigate. However, being an orienteering event, there are shit-hot navigators all over the place, so in the end I finished a very wet 19th out of 20. But still did better than the 12 who dropped out without finishing!

Next it's the RAB mountain marathon, in 2 weeks time. Hope the weather's more like yesterday than today!


Thursday, September 5th, 2013

GowerAs usual, due to holidays, family commitments etc, the August Bank Holiday meet was rather short on numbers – just 4 of us (Peter, Annie, Carmen and me) made the drive down to South Wales.

ThrutchingAfter overnight rain, Saturday turned out to be a good sunny day, so we all headed to Fall Bay for some climbing. I was meant to be spectating having cracked a rib a week earlier, due to over-enthusiastic thrutching at Brimham. But of course my will power failed and I ended up following Carmen up an HVS and a couple of VSs, as well as leading a Diff myself (and backing off a severe). Peter led Annie up an awkward Severe gully, followed by a Diff and an HS.

White EdgeMore overnight rain was again replaced with sunshine. Peter and Annie went for a cycle around the peninsular (on road bikes for a change). Carmen and I did some more climbing. Highlight for me was leading White Edge (VDiff), a striking line up a hugely exposed arete, marred only by some loose rock. Carmen led another VS, I led an improbable looking Severe. We then finished off with Cave Traverse, a fine HS 4a which climbs a crack before traversing above lots of thin air for a scary finish; we then abbed back into the cave (by now cut off by the tide) to get our gear, and climbed out by a nice little Diff.

Cave TraverseMore sun on Monday, and while Peter and Annie went for a walk, it was more climbing for Carmen and me. We started at Paviland, where Carmen nicked the lead of East Gully Grooves (HVS) from me (well it was her birthday). Brilliant route, but horribly overgrown until half height. I led a fine VDiff slab, and we finished with a couple of routes at the scenic but crumbly Horses Cliff.

An excellent weekend, well worth the drive. The Gower's a good place to go, not quite as dramatic as Pembroke to the west, but more friendly, with most crags accessed by walking rather than abseils, and loads of fine climbs starting on sandy beaches. The club last went there 9 years ago – we'll try not to leave it so long before our next visit.

More photos here

Muir Cottage – Braemar

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Eight members made it the August Bank Holiday meet in Braemar. The forecast improved as time went on and the weather was not as bad as expected – apart from Monday.

Saturday morning saw some of the bikers up early tinkering with their bikes (Andrew) for what seemed like hours. Then Andrew and Peter drove for what seemed like (because it was) hours to dump a vehicle at Blair Atholl. Meanwhile Annie and Karen headed to the cafe – for a quick coffee and bite to eat. They needn't have rushed as the drivers/bikers did not return until 1pm. Then it was time for lunch of course. So after an early start at 2pm! they set off on their ride down Glen Tilt – again.

Meanwhile the walkers Richard and Dave D went off to bag Carn Bhac – in the rain. Dave D had been keen to tag on another Munro but fortunately for Richard the clag removed interest in this option.

Having done all the local Munros and with a big day planned for Sunday and dinner to finish cooking, Simon and I settled for a nearby Corbett (Sgor Mor) which could be done from the hut. We waited until it stopped raining before setting off – looking out for the bikers throughout our walk-in – little did we know they were still hours behind. It was a pretty walk with all the heather in bloom – we never normally see Scotland at this time of year due to a certain small insect. The cloud was down on the surrounding hills, but we remained cloud-free throughout. The descent off the hill was slow progress as we trudged through heather, down past the bee hives and back to the forest and river. As soon as we stopped to remove waterproofs we were surrounded by midges which encouraged a quick retreat back to the hut arriving shortly before 4pm! Arriving just behind us was Karen who had been out for a local cycle.

Around 8:30pm the bikers finally returned, slightly subdued, the ride having been harder work and less cyclable than they had remembered from last time. However, they soon perked up with curry and beer, followed by rhubarb crumble.

Sunday had the best forecast and Simon and I had big plans – so we left the hut before anyone else was up. We cycled in to Glen Slugain – me moaning somewhat as the track was worse than I had imagined (didn't help that it was first time on a bike since last year). We then went on a long walk over Ben Avon and Beinn a'Bhuird, made somewhat longer by taking in all the tops (Simon is slowly turning into Charles). It was a good day for it though with cloud-free tops and mainly blue skies. Cold wind throughout – which would have made standing around climbing unpleasant, so a good decision to go for the walking option.

The rest of the club headed for Derry lodge where they split– Andrew, Karen and Richard R went up Derry Cairngorm. Meanwhile, Annie, Pete and Dave D went up Beinn Mheadhoin, followed by Derry Cairngorm. Both groups had a mix of people on foot and bikes and so there was a bit of a wait at the cars afterwards.

Unsurprisingly Simon and I were back to the hut last – but at a reasonable time 8pm. 11hrs 15 mins for our cycle/walk. Midges were only an issue when we collected the bikes. It is amazing how it can go from no midges to being absolutely covered in midges in the space of 2 seconds! Thanks go to Dave D for shopping for the communal meal which Karen cooked whilst Dave D opted for a longer walk – so many thanks to Karen as well. Annie had remembered it was my birthday – so dessert was replaced with a large chocolate cake – many thanks to all.

Monday – rain, rain, rain. A good day for most to be heading home. A blistered toe and wet weather saw Dave D and Richard heading straight home, as did Pete. Andrew & Karen were heading up north to stay in a lighthouse. Forecast was for it to get wetter with gale force winds – so Annie, myself and Simon headed Ballater way. We went for a short walk to 'The Vat', a product of glacial erosion, and followed the river through woodland for a couple of miles before heading back through woods and moorland. The trees were festooned with lichen which was all very pretty. We stopped at a very nice cafe in Ballater for coffee and cake before heading back to the hut for tea and cake.

Tuesday morning – sunshine and showers and even more squirrels. Simon had been feeding the birds/squirrels over the weekend. We had only ever spotted 2 red squirrels at the same time but today there were three – chasing each other from the feeder, plus a woodpecker which went on the nuts whilst the squirrels out of the way. Not a bad breakfast view.

After tidying the hut – Simon and I headed south to Craig a Barns near Dunkeld. We didn't hold out much hope of climbing given the recent rain and strong cold winds. However, we arrived at the crag in the sunshine and sheltered from most of the wind. We were overdressed to start with! However, it gradually clouded over and winds increased – but we managed to get 2 single pitch routes and a two-pitch route in before the rains arrived. Simon retreated off his last route of the day as the heavens opened. Good little crag for a stop off on the drive back south as just off the A9 and with a 5 min walk in. Some of the routes suffer with drainage more than others – but not bad considering the persistent rain on Monday. Annie was last seen heading south possibly via a friend’s house in Edinburgh.

All in all in a good trip to a lovely hut. Certainly wouldn't have wanted to be camping!

Red squirrel movies – can be seen on following links

Photos from Carmen and Simon and David

Sunshine at last

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Not much to report this week other than some overdue sunshine. We headed for Wharncliffe, where Carmen and I started with a protracted assault on Tower face (HS 4b ***).

It's clearly not possible that I've got worse in the 10 years since I last led it, so some crucial handholds must have gone missing or something. Got there in the end, though need some bridging to the block opposite which is probably cheating.

Not much time for anything else so we finished with Hell Gate Variation (VD **) which follows the normal line to the 2nd ledge, then traverses to the arete for a super-exposed finish. Better than the original, recommended.

Meanwhile Gordon and Dave climbed Puttrell's Progress (S 4a **) and a couple of nearby routes, and finished with one of the Black Slab routes. I don't think anyone else made it, but hard to be sure as it's a big crag!

A large block seems to have fallen off at the start of the classic Himmelswillen (VS 4c) but I don't think it's any harder, it may even be easier. But we can't remember what this bit was like before!

A few photos to follow later.

A quiet valley in the lakes

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

The october meet in Dunnerdale managed to catch the last of the indian summer before it mutated into the november freeze. Dunnerdale was a new venue for me. I had only heard of the main crag, Wallowbarrow, as a Wet Weather Alternative so was not expecting anything too much. After this meet I am surprised the valley and crag are not more popular. There is no lake, and no big peak, I suppose that's why it doesn't get the tourists, but it's a beautiful, quiet place with lots of mossy woodland, little crags and rocky streams.

Wallowbarrow crag itself turned out to be a friendly-feeling little stunner. The routes are multipitch but not high – under 60m – and mostly in the low to mid grades. Because the crag starts high on the hill overlooking the valley they feel much bigger and the views from the belays are gorgeous, the friction is excellent, the protection mostly good and it catches the afternoon sun so we were climbing in T shirts.

Angela at Wallowbarrow

On day one Me, Angela, Rob, Julie and Pete B went to Wallowbarrow, where Angela did her first multipitch lead. Unexpected entertainment came when we sauntered back to our gear in the gathering twilight, only to realise my headtorch was still hanging on my bunk. Luckily the moonlight was bright enough to cast shadows, making the walk back through the woods a really nice experience rather than a pain in the arse.

The mood changed completely as we walked into the pub – the whole of the meet was in there and Annie was in full cry. Staggering back to the hut I discovered there are advantages to being little – the cars were all full but Andrew kindly offered to put our gear in his boot, I then realised I was small enough to curl up inside with the sacs so got a ride back amongst the gear.

Next day…
Simon and Carmen had visited some obscure crags for a change. They recommended Seathwaite Buttress, so me, Donal, Pete the Pie and Simeon set out to find it. We arrived, but werent sure we had – the thing appeared to be auditioning for a slot on Gardener's World. We peered dubiously at some nearby slabs, which looked even less promising, then decided this was the right place before also deciding it looked about as inviting as the Stabbers Arms on a wet Tuesday.

After more dithering and pondering, Rob and Pete B arrived, so we left them to be the guinea pigs and headed back to sunny Wallowbarrow where we met Simon and Carmen again. Rob and Pete reported later that the crag was fine once you passed the first 10 metres of moss and incipient rainforest, but I dont think I'll be going out of my way to find it again. On the other hand I will happily go back to Wallowbarrow – it's a lovely little crag and far nicer than I expected from a  "Wet Weather Venue".

Armscliff sandbags in the sun

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Finally after several disappointing weekends a gloriously warm and sunny Sunday came along. Despite its thuggy reputation the grassy meadows round Almscliff make it a very child friendly location so we took full advantage of it, and there was a picnic atmosphere as climber after climber was lured out by the warm sun. While the adults took turns to remove the skin from various body parts, the sprogs showed us the future of climbing on the various mini boulders scattered round, Pia in particular showing early signs of giving dad a good run for his money when she gets older. Other kids present included Iain Everett and Liz's son Joshua (in uber-cool shades) and Poppy, Ali's daughter, now taking regular climbing lessons herself.

Giggle of the day was definitely South Chimney Layback, with Sweary Ian, Dean and myself demonstrating the use of a human pyramid to overcome a cruxy start. (Ian, I'm hoping you have photos of this to post). I had wondered at Rob's choice of this notorious sandbag for a warm up, but who was I to spoil everyone's fun? A definite jamming baptism of fire for Dean, but not to be put off he later ticked off his first trad lead, on Low Man Easy Way. I got to tick off my Z Climb project and the day was also a first for Iain Everett who despite being a well seasoned limestone climber had never been to Almscliff before.
Embarrassing Adults present: Rob, Iain Everett, Liz Moreno, Sweary Ian, Peri, Dean, Dave Shield, Ali, Ann Freund, Jenny Tweedy, Astell
Cool Kids: Joshua, Pia, Poppy