Beating the rain

Dave: Today was my first day with Nick Gardner and it was a pleasure, unfortunately the forecast was against us, but Nick said he was keen for a 6am start as he was sleeping in car anyway. We made quick progress up Am Bodach sub 2 hours, we then tied in and remained on the rope throughout the scrambling to the summit of Stob Coire Leith, we were on the final Munro Sgorr Nam Fiannaidh in under 3 hours from Am Bodach. We returned to the previous col and descended to the Glen, unfortunately it started raining for the last 30min of the descent, but it was a mainly dry morning, 6 hours car to car, not bad for 82!

Me and Nick have a few more Munro’s to do together so watch this space for more. I have added some links below for Nicks Just Giving Page, Instagram and a great read of his story.

We have 1 space available on an Aonach Eagach trip 18th of June.

The ever-changing Cuillin.

Dave: It’s been great to be back in the Cuillin sharing the joy of the scrambles and the achievement of its peaks with our guests.
The weather has been a mix bag the last week but before that we had a brilliant spell of dry weather, warm rock, and plenty of water to collect from the mountain. However, there is a lot less spring snow this year compared to others.
The biggest change I have noticed so far this season. There was a chockstone at the base of the Pin, ¾ down the slab before south crack, this boulder is now gone. I had once joked that this boulder was a great indicator to stability.

We have 1 space available on our 4-day Cuillin Munro trip 27th to 30th of May, get in touch!


Continual professional development

Dave: Over the last three days I have had the pleasure and privilege of facilitating 2 days of training for members of on the Inaccessible Pinnacle and a day with some of the West Coast Mountain Guides team.

Congestion on the Inaccessible Pinnacle is not a new thing but over recent seasons it is something members of the Ass have been aware of and in discussion on good practise and tactics to work efficiently on the peak. It was great to hear everyone sharing experiences and discussing their practises on the classic East Ridge route, we also looked at alternative ways of descending from the Pinnacle and alternative climbing routes. The short side of the Pin is a difficult and steep climb but a great way of avoiding queues, South Crack is by far the best way, a beautiful 35m slabby groove and crack on the sunny side, both can be done by beginner climbers who have had some indoor experience.

For the team West Coast Mountain Guides day I wanted to cover some different ground to what other workshops had been using, so we opted to head into the rarely travelled Coire Mhadaidh accessing the ridge via the upper rake. We then headed North traversing 3 tops of Mhadaidh, Bidein Druim nan Rahm and An Caisteal. It was great to be on a quiet section of ridge with so many competent people exploring alternative options and sharing so much knowledge of their preferred routes and means of securing the safety of their guests.

We have availability on our Cuillin Munros Courses 27th to 30th of May, 4th to 7th July, 29th of July to 1st of August and 2nd to 5th of September.

We also have lots of availability this summer for Private Rock Guiding on Skye, Cuillin Ridge Traverses and ascents of the Inaccessible Pinnacle.


Private Rock-Climbing Guiding

Dave: Spring and early summer really is the best time to rock climb in Scotland and over the last two days I have been sharing this pleasure with our guest Martin.

Day 1 we travelled to the Etive Slabs enjoying the long drive down the Glen whilst it is still reasonably quiet and a fairly dry approach. We climbed Spartan Slab VS 5a opting to stay right and away from rock fall reported last year, there was none through the day but lots of raven’s nesting in the crags above the slabs. Spartan is a brilliant slab climb with varied pitches and so much visible history as you use old aid peg scars as holds and gear.

Day 2 wanting some more challenging climbing we went down Glen Nevis to Polldubh where we started our day on Storm HVS 5a, I linked the first 2 pitches into a 55m mega pitch to keep things efficient. We then had a very short walk to After Crag where we climbed Rubber Face E1 5b which leads well to walking up to Secretaries Crag and Secretaries Super Direct E1 5a, I linked the first two pitches giving a brilliant 40m sparsely protected slab pitch. We then had a short walk down into the busy alp where we climbed Damnation VS 4b, after which we decided our feet hurt too much to climb anymore.

We have availability this summer for Guiding on Classic Rock routes, Instruction to become an independent climber or Polldubh Marathon climbing days.
Polldubh is one of the best venues for linking up climbs with very short walks between. How many routes do think you could climb in a day?

[email protected]


Dry rock and firm snow on Tower Ridge

Dave: Great conditions on Tower Ridge today, after the snow approach we had dry rock with no crampons or ice axes needed until two steps below the Eastern Traverse, the thin slithers of snow in the corners and grooves up to the traverse gave great placements and easy climbing. The traverse was easy on firm snow with some grass showing through, the chockstone is filled and beyond this lies dry rock making an easy climb onto the great tower. The Gap is almost all dry rock and crampons probably made it harder but shortly after the gap firm snow led to the summit. Adam and I made quick work on the descent of red burn or at least it felt quick as the conversation flowed from summit to car park, brilliant last day in crampons.


Mostly brilliant ice in Green Gully, Ben Nevis

Ken: After a week of rock climbing, mainly on lesser-traveled routes in Glen Nevis and at Dirc Mhor, it was back to winter climbing today. Roddy and I climbed Green Gully, which is mostly in excellent condition, with solid ice, which gave first-time placements for axes. A bit of care was required at the steepening on pitch 4, which was quite brittle and prone to breaking off in alarmingly large chunks.

Plenty of routes looking good, although there are still sizable cornices guarding the tops of a number of routes.

We descended the Red Burn, which was full of rock-hard snow for much of the way down. Definitely not a place to be without an axe and crampons.


The end of winter? North East Buttress, Ben Nevis

Ken: This past week, it has felt like winter is drawing to a close. The sun has been shining, the freezing levels have remained above the summits and the mountains have suddenly become much quieter.
But, you never quite know what’s around the next corner and there are signs that it will cool down next week. Will it be enough to prolong the season, so that we can enjoy ice climbing well into April?

Today, I was out with Dan and climbed North East Buttress, which is still just about wintry. There is still some good ice on some of the pitches, but equally, some of the pitches are a bit soft. The Man Trap was dry, whereas the 40 Foot Corner was still quite icy, although starting to get a bit thin.

Other teams on Tower Ridge and Ledge Route. A few sizeable avalanches cam down from Point 5 Gully and Raeburn’s Easy Route. Best to stick to the ridges for the time being!

I’ve also enjoyed a few days of rock climbing and thoughts are now turning to spring and summer work, both in Lochaber and on the Isle of Skye. We have some availability on the following courses and trips in May and June:

06-09 May, Skye Munros, 4 Days, £649, 1 SPACE AVAILABLE
14 May, Aonach Eagach, 1 Day, £149, SPACES AVAILABLE
21 May, Aonach Eagach, 1 Day, £149, SPACES AVAILABLE
27-30 May, Skye Munros, 4 Days, £649, 1 SPACE AVAILABLE
13-16 June, Skye Munros, 4 Days, £649, SPACES AVAILABLE
18 June, Aonach Eagach, 1 Day, £149, SPACES AVAILABLE

All the above trips are on a ratio of 1 instructor to 2 participants, in order to maximise safety and enjoyment.

For further info:

We also have plenty of availability for Cuillin Ridge Traverses and Private Guiding on Skye and in Lochaber.

Mountain Hardwear

King’s Ransom, Aonach Beag

Ken: Apologies for the rubbish photos! Mark and I had a day off before our second CIC Hut Week of the season and decided to squeeze in a day of climbing. We thought that the North Face of Aonach Beag was worth a shot (again). Despite it raining hard in the car park first thing this morning, amazingly, we weren’t the only ones who thought it might not be a completely ridiculous idea.

The first pitch, which takes a steep icy chimney and is capped with a chockstone, was very wet and we both considered bailing at various points, but thankfully, thereafter, the ice was quite good, with mostly solid axe placements and good screws. The top of the pillar on pitch two and a narrow section on the third pitch are starting to get a bit thin (still ok), but it looks like we’ll see cooler conditions returning on Tuesday through to Wednesday, which will help. We missed the mixed pitch, as the rock was black and not very well stuck together, but it’s a route I’ll definitely be back to climb again when it’s colder!

Another team climbed Stand and Deliver, which isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Camilla was looking a bit thin, Royal Pardon looked ok, but again, could really do with a good freeze.

Mountain Hardwear

Best two weeks of the season so far

Dave: March really is the best month, longer day light hours and fatter ice. The last two weeks have been some of best guiding I have done. Last week at the CIC hut during some settled weather I climbed with 2 brilliant guests Ken and Dave, together we climbed 5 days and 4 routes I had not done before. The highlights were Orion and Cresta Direct.
This last week I have had the pleasure of climbing with David and Mark on an Advanced winter climbing course. Great weather at the start of the week meant we got straight on Crowberry Gully and an early start got us lead position, the windy days had us climbing mid level ice around the Ciste and Observatory Gully. The highlights were Tower Ridge and Crowberry Gully.


Reasonable conditions in No. 2 Gully, Ben Nevis

Ken: After a soggy day on Ben Nevis yesterday, where we made a swift ascent of Ledge Route and pushed on to the summit, today felt much calmer and more settled. Kumar and I made an ascent of No. 2 Gully, which mush be one of the most atmospheric gullies in Scotland. It’s a deep cleft, high on the mountain, with an overhanging right wall for much of the way.

There was a decent amount of ice on the sidewalls, and very little in the way of rock protection to be had, so take a few ice screws! The snow in the gully was quite soft, but it should firm up a bit by tomorrow, as the freezing levels are due to drop in the early hours.

Some significant ice falls forming on The Cascade, the base of Comb Gully Buttress and around Tramp/Diane area and No. 3 Gully Buttress looks like it would be good sport today.

We have one space left on our Winter Mountaineering Course, running 10-14 Jan. If you’re interested, please get in touch: [email protected].