Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Everest Teams on their Way

Everest at sunset from Pumori Base Camp

Over the past few years I've worked with a number of folk who are following their dreams and heading off to attempt the North East Ridge on Everest this season. Andrew, Heather, Micky, Nigel, Josh, Keith & Geordie are all climbing with Adventure Peaks and David is joining Summit Climb's team. I'd just like to wish them all a safe, successful and enjoyable expedition and will be closely following their progress.

"Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end."
Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps

In addition to the company websites above Everest 1953 and Mount Everest.net both provide good coverage on all the expeditions on both sides of the mountain.

Sunday, 28 March 2010


Full Scottish conditions on Morwind!

Yesterday I was working for Alan Kimber. Richard was a total beginner but wanted to experience Scottish Winter Climbing and the weather didn't hold back. We decided to take the gondala up onto Aonach Mor and approach the East Face by was of the Nid traverse, giving us time and terrain to introduce the basic skills of using crampon and ice axe. As we approached the Climbers Col there was a break in the clouds giving us some stunning views of the monstrous cornices overhanging the climbs. With a strong westerly helping them to form and the freezing level hovering around 900m we weren't surprised to hear something give way and trigger an avalanche.

We opted to approach the climbs from above and had a good battle through the cornice above the Climbers Col straight into winds gusting up to 70 mph. We managed to locate the top of Morwind (III, 4) which rarely cornices and a few abseils got us to within 20m of the base of the route. The ice was pretty cruddy on the way out but with the belays already in place we made good time. We heard another cornice collapse over towards Tunnel Vision and through another break in the clouds there was plenty of debris below the crag including one big slide which had reached the lochan.

Aonach Mor cornices from the Climbers Col.

Topping out on Morwind.

A first foray in to Scottish Winter climbing!

The cornice above Tunnel Vision on the East face of Aonach Mor

Thursday, 25 March 2010

North East Buttress

The North East Buttress of Ben Nevis

Today ticked a lot of boxes for David. It was his final day of preparation before departing for an attempt on the North East ridge of Everest but with the poor weather of the past few days he'd had to abort two attempts on the classic North East Buttress (IV, 4). We made an early start and made a quick ascent summiting in a white out at 1.30pm. The slabs up to the first platform were thinly iced but the Mantrap was bare rock and the 40' Corner contained plenty of good ice. Today I was working for Alan Kimber & West Coast Mountain Guides.

David approaching the Second Platform.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Expedition Medicine

RN rescue chopper in Scotland this year

Today I was working for Expedition Medicine on their UK Expedition course for Doctors and Medics. With the rain holding off we looked at demystifying rope work, improvised carrying and navigation in the Borrowdale Valley. In the evening there was a inspirational lecture by Sarah Outen, the first women to row the Indian Ocean solo.

Monday, 22 March 2010

20th March - Brevant Avalanche

For the final day of our shake down trip and with a warm and wet forecast we headed up on to the Brevant ski area above Chamonix looking to put some mileage in. The total piste length is 57km and we reckoned it was possible in a short bad weather day. The morning went well with the skiing feeling easy after a few days off piste. However after a short break for some lunch we were heading back up the Index lift when we realized that the black run almost directly below and our target for this run had suffered a full depth avalanche down on to the easy pistes below. Ski Patrol were just arriving with a search dog closely followed by helicopter reinforcements. Luckily it looks like no one was caught out in this instance. We investigated the slopes above and found a totally saturated snowpack with water running down the slabs behind it. Ski penetration was above knee depth and the whole area was looking pretty scary so we beat a hasty retreat. With 46 km covered we headed back to the cable car spotting the evidence of a number of small slides around the resort. The only day of the trip where we chose not to wear transceivers as we were staying on piste was probably the day we were most at risk!

19th March - Argentiere Glacier Tour

After our efforts of the previous two days we made a leisurely start and skied back to the valley floor. The route through the icefall was obvious with just a couple of crevasses to avoid. On regaining the Grand Montets ski area we found only one set of ski tracks down the freshly groomed piste which gave a brilliant run down to Argentiere.

18th March - Col du Tour Noir

17th March - Col du Argentiere

Today we opted for the classic ascent and descent of the Col du Argentiere at 3552m. From the glacier below the hut a 5 hour skin brought us to the col with stunning views across to the Matterhorn. The surface was very variable with an icy crust and patches of deep crud catching us out a few times on the descent. The final climb back up to the hut in the heat of the day shouldn't be underestimated!

16th March - Refuge D' Argentiere

After our efforts yesterday we opted for an easy tour from the Grand Montet cable car to the Argentiere Hut. This is on glaciated terrain with the added hazards of crevasses and seracs. We wound are way down through the seracs to the glacier finishing with an icy side slip. The skin up the valley below the north faces of the Verte, Doites and Le Courtes was stunning under blue skies. The final climb up to the refuge was a sting in the tail, being icy and exposed but the refurbished hut is now very clean and comfortable.

15th March - Ski Mountaineering in Chamonix

We'd headed out to Chamonix to give our ski touring skills a good shake down before an attempt on the Haute Route in a couple of weeks. Our first day's touring focused on the classic Col des Crochues / Berard Traverse in the Chamonix Aiguilles. From the top of the Index lift a steep climb leads to the first col and provided a good test of our kick turns. From here a good descent leads to a very exposed and icy traverse which was made far more interesting by having to negotiate several avalanche run outs.

An easy climb then leads to the final col and a long descent through the trees. A tough and serious day with the current conditions

Friday, 12 March 2010

CIC Cascades

First pitch on the CIC Cascades Right Hand (IV, 4)

Second Pitch on the CIC Cascades Right Hand (IV, 4)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Chris Walker RIP

Chris Walker 1980 - 2010

East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn - 19th Feb 2010

Looking good in the Lost Valley - 2009

Winter Mountaineering in the Lost Valley - 2009

Winter Mountaineering in the Lost Valley - 2009

Summit of Stob Coire Nan Lochan - 2009

Summit of Stob Coire Nan Lochan - 2009

Navigating in a white out on the Ben - 2009

On the Zig Zags in Glencoe - 18th Feb 2010

Teaching winter skills in Glencoe - 2009

500m glissade off Na Gruagaichean - 16th Feb 2010

A parting shot! - 19th Feb 2010