The days are just fun packed

This is Divyesh.  Divyesh is keen.  On Wednesday he travelled up from London to Edinburgh to listen to Heather Morning passing on her years of wisdom for staying safe in the hills, as part of the Mountaineering Scotland winter lecture series.

On Wednesday evening, he travelled from Edinburgh to the Spey Valley.  On Thursday he met Di, who literally walked him into the evening.  In my eyes, if you want to get good at navigation there is no way better than navigating in the dark.  Especially when it's winter, cold and windy.

On Friday he spent all day playing on the ice getting very familiar with jumaring and fixed rope techniques in preparation for climbing big mountains.  As I am just about to relax with a glass of the red stuff, I think about Divyesh who is driving back to the Lakes and then after a few hours rest, returns to London.

Divyesh is keen.  Are you keen?

A New Year

My, how time flies ...

The 5th Skimo Scotland race series kicked off against all the odds on the 28th December when the thought of putting skis on was far from anybodies mind.

I can never decide when a New year starts whether I should set myself a challenge since I normally always break it.  However, this year I am going to do my 2017 challenge.  Now, this could be to eat 2017 jelly beans (far too easy), drink 201.7 bottles of wine (challenging but possible) and to laugh 20.17 times (too easy) so instead my 2017 will involved biking, running and swimming.  Now this I think would be fairly easy without actually getting too much in the way of life.  However ...

I am just about to embark on the busiest 3 months of work and then it does actually look like this year I will mainly be living in a tent at ridiculously high altitudes so my 2017 challenge is going to be exactly that - a challenge.  However, if that's the only challenge I have to face this year, I really have it easy.

Happy New Year if you are actually reading this.

Glen Orchy and Glen Etive

Di: "I'm pretty sure that you have done the Ben Starav loop"

Derek:  "I haven't"

Di: "I'm pretty sure that you have done the Ben Starav loop"

Derek:  "Nope, I haven't"

So, the weekend was planned based around Derek and his Starav loop.

You know what's coming don't you.  We drove down to the bottom of Glen Etive, left the car and starting walking into the hills.

Derek:  "None of this looks familiar"

Di:  "OK" [very happy to have a day in the hills taking in 3 awesome peaks]

And then there was an abrupt halt, followed by that look.

Derek: "Oh, I have done these hills haven't I?"

Di: "Yup" *snigger*

Thankfully, he still had 2 remaining Munro's to do which shared the start so a quick change of plan was required.   Just like the BOGOF offers, today was a climb 2, get 3 free :)

Sunday saw us head down to Bridge of Orchy for another random couple of hills which I knew that he hadn't done.  For 99.9% of the ascent we were in pea soup and then there was that sudden realisation that there was a slim possibility that there might be an actual inversion.

It was only on Stob Ghabhar, the highest of our 2 hills that we were rewarded with one of the best inversions that either of us have seen.

Climbing versus Skiing

We don't have to fit in a box and be either a climber or a skier.  We can be both.

The very good thing about being a climber and a skier is that it normally works well with the conditions and the weather.  Take this afternoon for example.

It is been cold recently with snow fall and light winds.  All the buttresses are plastered and the snow is unconsolidated.  Not idea climbing conditions to be honest: lots of trail breaking, blowing snow out of cracks and off ledges, and desperately looking for anything that you can actually yard up on.  From a climbing perspective, we need a thaw and then a refreeze.

However, having lift fluffy snow is a dream to skin up and ski down.  Good light gives excellent contrast which is essential for enjoyable skiing.

Therefore, during my play days, I let the conditions dictate what we do and this afternoon was certainly a 'whoop' day.

Superficial climbing

We very nearly never went climbing today because we knew that the conditions aren't great to be honest.

As I said to Derek on the route: "it would be a very nice climb if it wasn't for the frost, wearing crampons and tentatively pulling up on nothing with picks".

However, a perfect weather forecast always wins.

It's still early in the season and I think we are incredibly lucky to have such as amazing playground on our doorstep.  I heard a very good quote recently that will be my moto this season:

"The best gift you can give someone is their next adventure".  Unknown 

The penultimate corbett

I would love to say that it was my penultimate corbett but unfortunately not.

On Wednesday afternoon we sat in the truck at the side of the road waiting for the latest deluge of rain to pass and the wind to ease enough to open the door.  To say my motivation was absent would be an understatement.

The weather was atrocious even by our standards, the only saving grace was that we had decided to wear wellies and scabby waterproofs for the bike into the bothy.  A bike into a bothy is normally quite appealing but not on Wednesday.  My trailer, loaded to the brim included 10kg of coal of 4 prime silver birch cloggies was heavy, so heavy that it bent the skewer.  It was chucking down with rain and we had a gale force headwind which made the trailer act like a sail.  When it wasn't raining we were met with thunder and lightening.  Our bike into a bothy was in reality a curse filled walk into a bothy.

So, why did we put ourselves through this?  Well, once upon a time there was a Munro called Beinn a'Chlaidheimh.  Heather & I had both climbed this before when doing our respective round of the Munro's.

A couple of years ago, the Munro Society had the great idea of remeasuring it and decided that it wasn't worthy enough of Munro status so it got demoted to a Corbett.

Now, I had absolutely no intention of climbing it again (sometimes I have no ethics) but Heather felt that she should so here we are.  To be honest, it was a pretty cool day - it's just a shame that it is situated in the back arse of nowhere and beyond.

Our reward this morning was an awesome bike back out to the truck.

First route of the season

Today was all about getting in, getting up and getting out before both the temperature and the winds increased.

As we got blown down the ridge at the end of the day, I worked out that it was 1993 when I led my first real winter climb.  Not wanting to sound like a bore, but back in the days, things were done differently.  There was no avalanche service nor the weather resources that we have now and there certainly was not the good old tinterweb.

You just had to learn the hard way.  I remember becoming fascinated with weather forecasts and drooling over guide books to try and remember as much information as possible.  I remember driving for hours, walking for hours to only discover that the route wasn't actually there and returning back to the car without a route in the bag on more than one occasion.  However, every day in the hill is a school day and without fail it expands the knowledge base.

So today, we done a combination of 3 different routes - 2 of which I have done on numerous occasions but 1 new pitch.  It looked nice so we just climbed it.

More importantly it was -1.5 in the valley this morning when we left and it was 7 degrees when we got back late this afternoon.  All part of that consolidation cycle that is so important in scottish winter climbing.

Out of the starting blocks

 I think my glutes are going to be sore tomorrow.

That's a good thing really because I think my ankles will be sore too judging by how stiff they are now.  If I have sore ankles, that means maybe my glutes won't feel so bad.

I wouldn't say that I am particularly unfit at present but the start of winter always feels different.  It wakes up muscles that have been asleep for some time and this season will be no different.

On a very positive note we didn't forget anything (actually I did forget to put £5 in my jacket for a hot chocolate stop at the Ptarmigan but I will let myself off on that one); drop anything or get lost.  Tomorrow however, is a new day and if I can survive without stabbing myself with sharpies, I'll be happy with that. 

Oh, and yes winter has finally arrived.

Be Prepared

I get envious of people who have probably indexed and catalogued their photos into various albums. However, when you have 33,826 photos the thought fears me with dread so I choose to ignore and live in the world of unorganised photos.  

The same can be said for preparing for winter.  If it was a simple case of digging out the winter boots and crampons it would be a simple job.  Now I don't have 33, 826 items of winter equipment but today it has felt that I did.  I kicked myself of the opportunity to play today when I realised that I haven't made the change into winter mode so instead I have been a proper boy scout and got my sh*t together.

What does that actually mean?

First up was getting the Scottish skis ready to rock n roll.  I have learnt over the years that you really do need to look after the planks but it does take some time for a mere moral to get them ready for action.  After removing their summer wax coat you spend the next 30 minutes trying to get all the wax off yourself before dragging it all through the house.  Every day is a school day.

Mountain bike rucksacks have been replaced with ski touring rucksacks; crampons have been adjusted to normal winter boots and not 8000m boots; rock shoes have been replaced by Phantoms (well nearly, there is still the rock wall); bike helmets have been replaced by ski helmets; the summer rock rack has been replaced with a scottish mixed rack; the gps has been dragged out of storage and updated; batteries replaced on everything that needs them; avalanche transceivers have been sent away for a diagnostic test and to make sure the magic still works and all my winter woolies have replaced the summer thermals.

The crampon and ski repair kits have been refreshed and all my maps have been refreshed with ones that I can actually read.

Sad I know, but it's a big world out there and I for one needs to be prepared for everything she throws at me.

Autumn days

The summer work is officially over for me now.  I can honestly say that I don't ever remember such a memorable Autumn in Scotland before.

The primary reason for this, in my eyes anyway, is that we still actually have not had the first big autumnal storms.  As a result the trees are holding onto their leaves and are displaying natures finest technicolour dream coat.  The deer grass too has changed colour and displays the most amazing carpet to walk on.

The low sun is casting fantastic shadows and the sound of the roaring Stags can still be heard.

The rock climbing days are limited for me now since I really don't enjoy climbing with numb feet and cold fingers.  It's time to enjoy the last few weeks with a light rucksack, before autumn turns to winter.

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