Sunday, 26 July 2020

The Freedom of the Hills--Lockdown Lifts

Since lockdown has eased here in Scotland it has been a real treat to get out and enjoy our wonderful hills. One unexpected benefit of the lockdown has, I suppose, been a reappreciation it seems to have given us all, myself included, of what a wonderful part of the world we live in. A real privilege. Even if we were never allowed to leave Scotland or the UK again I don't think I would ever exhaust the supply of scenic views, great mountains and fantastic climbs. I've posted a selection of photos from the last few weeks to give you an idea of what I have been up to. Despite the obvious hammer-blow to tourism generally, visitors are returning gradually to the Highlands, and I am looking forward to guiding folk up our hills, scrambles and climbs once again, and passing on knowledge to those keen to be able to undertake independent adventures of their own in the future. Much thought, discussion and practical planning has gone into how to return to the mountains with clients in a COVID-secure way---it's a new experience for all of us, but we're in it together, and the mountain adventures are feeling even better after the enforced absence!

The wonderful mini-mountain Stac Pollaidh, NW Highlands

Me seconding Vlad the Impaler, Stac Pollaidh. HVS 5a ***

Bill enjoying freedom
Coiling the ropes on the summit of Stac Pollaidh
A stunning day on East Buttress, Beinn Eighe, Torridon. Diff ***

Myself and Sandy, Beinn Eighe

Atmospheric but easy climbing, Beinn Eighe
Heading for the Munro of Ruadh Stac Mor, Beinn Eighe

Staff training with Scotch on the Rocks Guiding--looking at adaptations to make activities COVID secure

Observing a Scotch on the Rocks Guiding Summer Mountain Leader Preparation Weekend

The hills are full of life right now 
Cragging in the sunshine at Logie Head on the Moray Coast

Afterthought Arete, the classic scramble/easy climb, on a cold day in the Cairngorms

Cioch Nose, one of Scotland's most classic mountain climbs. Applecross, NW Highlands

Lots of air on the Cioch Nose

Enjoying the last of the pitched climbing on the Cioch Nose

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Spring lockdown & a look back at winter

As I write this the world seems a very different place from just a few weeks ago. What we took for granted has been wrenched from us, and we're all feeling vulnerable and uncertain. For my own part, grand Spring climbing plans are on hold, and work trips to Skye, Wales, Morocco and closer to home have all been cancelled or postponed. Planning anything is impossible at present. On the one hand such frivolous activities may seem unimportant in the midst of crisis, but on the other I realise again just how much the mountains and wild places mean to me and so many clients and friends. They are what makes us who we are.  I have been in touch with all of you who had bookings for April and May----thank you for your understanding and flexibility.

Many of you will also know that I am also a doctor, and thus for me this has not been a time of staying at home, but transitioning back to the hospital as a regular workplace. It's not the mountains, but at least I feel I'm helping to some degree, and am lucky to be in a position to do so. How long this crisis will go on for  no-one can say, and it will be a slow readjustment as and when we come out of "hibernation". But the mountains and crags will still be there for us, and will be all the more pleased to see us for having had some peace.

It's been a while since my last post on the Blog, and sorting through photos to post up has made me take stock and realise that I've had a busy, productive winter, and have been really very lucky. The below video is just a very small selection of photos from the winter, a mixture of play, work and more learning.

Best wishes everyone, look after yourselves, see you on the mountains soon.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

January catch up

January has been a frustrating month for those hoping for non-stop winter conditions. Temperatures have been up and down, alternately bringing good snowfalls only for the snow to be washed away into the rivers a few days later. There have been plenty of stormy days, but some quieter interludes too. I have enjoyed being on the hill both for work and play. I have been working with clients from Glenmore Lodge and Scotch on the Rocks Guiding, as well as guiding private On High Hills clients. I've managed some climbing in the Cairngorms as well, and some ski-touring too. We're currently into a more optimistic spell of weather, with some good snowfalls and colder temperatures. Fingers crossed for this to continue!

The West Drumochter hills

Ski-touring on Geal Charn, Drumochter

Approaching Fiacall Buttress, Coire an t Sneachda

Climbing "Whose Line is it Anyway?" II/III Coire an t Sneachda

Guiding private On High Hills client Ian, in the Grey Corries, Lochaber--a hard day in deep snow: snowshoes indispensable!

Thursday, 9 January 2020

That's better! Winter returns

A welcome return to more normal temperatures for the time of year, and a new, albeit, light covering of snow. Today I was out climbing with my friend James on an easy mountaineering route in Coire an Lochain in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms. A beautiful day of no wind, great views and lots of sunshine. The snow in the gully was lovely to climb, having become bullet hard from lots of freeze-thaw cycles. It looks set to stay cold for the foreseeable future-great!

Enjoying The Couloir

Coire an Lochain

Smiles all round!

More smiles!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

What a year!

Happy New Year! Thank you to clients, friends and colleagues for a whirlwind 2019, and here's to an equally good 2020.

Trekking perfection--Tour du Mont Blanc, July 2019

Like most years, for most people, 2019 has had its ups and downs for sure. But when I scan back over the diary and photos it brings back lots of happy memories. Guiding and instructing clients at home all over the Scottish Highlands has been a big part of the year, and I have worked on Skye, in Torridon, the Cairngorms, Ben Nevis and Glen Coe, and everywhere in between! It's been fantastic meeting lots of varied people, some after an adventure, others looking to learn new skills, and some just wanting to spend time in our wonderful hills and glens.  There's been climbing, scrambling, walking and even the West Highland Way!  Further afield I have taught navigation in the Lake District, and guided the wonderful Tour du Mont Blanc trek (twice!).  Personal climbing has taken me all over Scotland, as well as to Spain, Morocco, Chamonix as well as the more esoteric delights of Fairy Cave Quarry in deepest Somerset! Personal skills development for me included finally gaining my UIAA International Diploma in Mountain Medicine, as well as the Snowsport Scotland Alpine Ski Leader award. In between all that a juggling act of family, home-life as well as a little bit of medical work. Phew!!

What about 2020? It's already looking like another busy one! Skye, the Dolomites, Morocco are already confirmed for work, and I'm really looking forward to all of it!

Guiding the Traverse of Liathach, Torridon

Teaching climbing, Dunkeld

Personal climbing, Chamonix

Glacier skills & crevasse rescue as part of the UIAA Diploma in Mountain Medicine

Guiding the Aonach Eagach, Glen Coe

Autumn sunshine boulding in Torridon

Abseiling into Creagan a Cha No, Cairngorms

Teaching rock-climbing, Glen Nevis

Personal climbing, Puig Campana, Spain

Personal climbing, Pygmy Ridge, Cairngorms

Chimney Rib, Caingorms

Bouldering in Torridon

Liathach traverse in winter

Great turns on Cairn Gorm in November
Superb scrambling in Morocco--Tizgut Ridge
Alpine rock in Morocco--Millennium Ridge, 1500m of climbing

Bouldering in the Peak District!

Friday, 27 December 2019

A good start, temporary blip

We've had a good start to the winter season here in the Highlands, with people being able to grab winter climbs, walks and ski-tours recently. I was most recently out on Christmas Eve, and enjoyed great snow-ice conditions in Coire an-t Sneachda in the Cairngorms.  The next few days look set to deliver a big thaw unfortunately, with strong SW winds likely to deplete the snowpack significantly. All is not lost though, as it looks set to cool down again next week, and the winter is still young!

Central Left-Hand I/II, Coire an-t Sneachda, Cairngorms, 24/12/19

Friday, 20 December 2019

Morocco rock and scrambles

Recently back from another stunning trip to the Anti-Atlas mountains of Morocco. The area offers a fabulous mixture of easy access and logistics, great winter weather, superb mountain rock-climbing and scrambling all encased in an exotic yet really friendly culture and environment. I'll let the pictures do the talking, but if you want to join us next year take a look at the website for details and how to book.

Welcome to Morocco---a hotel with a view!
Exposed but straightforward climbing on the area's longest climb-the 1500m Millennium Ridge

Big hold, big smiles. Outrageous situations for a V Diff!

The highest peak in the area--Jebel el Kest 2375m gives a superb day of mountain scrambling

This wild country----careful route-finding required!

The superb Tizgut Ridge--like the Aonach Eagach but longer and a bit harder! Grade 3 scramble
The oasis town of Tafrout, our base