Sunday, 19 August 2018

Finding your way.........

Today I was down in the incomparable surroundings of Royal Deeside with new client Simone. Stimulated by an upcoming move to the Pyrenees, Simone wanted to learn to navigate "properly", and not just have to rely on mobile phones and similar technology. Very wise! Navigation teaching has changed a lot in the mountaineering world over the last few years. The "modern" approach is to make use of large-scale (in our case 1: 7,500) orienteering maps to help maximise learning in the early stages. This is certainly the method that the NNAS awards (of which I am a provider) advocate. With this in mind, we spent the morning at the new Permanent Orienteering Course at the Linn of Dee, completing 20 navigation legs of increasing difficulty by lunchtime! We covered setting the map, the 3 Ds (Direction, Distance, Description), estimating how far you have travelled using pacing/timing, handrails, catching features, as well as using "quick" bearings to ensure you're on the right path. Towards the end of the morning Simone, who hadn't used a compass before, was managing to navigate across open country using a "quick" compass bearing. After lunch we put these skills into practise with a journey using the more usual (for hillwalking) map scale of 1:25,000, moving around the complicated topography of the slopes and birkwoods of Morrone above Braemar.
A really enjoyable day out, and Simone worked very hard to make brilliant progress.

Get the right tools for the job

Handrailing the fence line

Found it!
The hills are full of crowberries just now

Heading out across open country to hit another linear feature
Heading home

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Mountaineering Instructor

First of all, apologies, my blog has been very quiet over the last few months. This is because the rest of life has pretty much been on hold for me as I prepared non-stop for my Mountaineering Instructor Award (MIA) assessment. This is the highest UK instructional award for teaching and guiding scrambling, multi-pitch rock climbing and more besides, and the entry point for full membership of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI). I intend to write more about this preparation in the future, for now I'll just say that it was exhausting, but I passed. So I can now extend the activities I offer folk to include scrambling, whether on Skye, Ben Nevis or Glen Coe for example, as well as classic long rock climbs in the mountains. Looking forward to it! A big thank you to everyone who has helped me on this journey over the last few months.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Cairngorm Spring

The last four days have been spent in the company of a great group of chaps who decided on the Cairngorms National Park as a great place to catch up and have a reunion. From a base at Suidhe Lodge, Kincraig, we had four days to play with. Day 1 was a relatively gentle introduction, with me taking the group over the Kincardine Hills above Glenmore Forest, including the iconic Meall a Buchaille, and the famous Ryvoan Bothy. For the second day we upped the ante and, with the benefit of two vehicles, had a great day traversing the Munro of Sgor Gaoith and on to the Argyll Stone. This is a lovely ridge set between beautiful Glen Feshie and the dramatic Gleann Einich. On both of these days I had Alex Cowan along to help; he is working towards his Mountain Leader award, so this was good experience for him.  For days 3 and 4 some more of the group arrived, so I was joined by my colleague Olly Stephenson to allow us to split off in various directions. I took a group rock-climbing and abseiling at Kingussie crag in the morning, followed by an afternoon roaring around the fantastic tracks and trails of Rothiemurchus on mountain bikes. This was a welcome change in the muscles being used for some! Olly led the other group hillwalking, doing a similar day over Sgor Gaoith, for those that had missed it the day before.  Our final day, today, was a fitting finale, with a great circuit of the Northern Corries of Cairngorm, followed by the summit of Cairngorm itself. Light winds, good amounts of sunshine and great views made for a terrific last day,  and lovely to enjoy the company of all eleven folk. The group were really good fun, a delight to spend time on the hill with--thank you guys!

Abbey Road meets the Cairngorms!

Soaking in the views over Gleann Einich

Still wintry on Sgor Gaoith

The A-Team hit the bike trails

A great team

Friday, 13 April 2018

Sunny Skye

I have spent the last few days on the Misty Isle--The Isle of Skye. Fortunately it didn't live up to its name on this occasion and we had some lovely weather, plenty of sunshine, and feeling warm. Lots of rock climbing done on the sea-cliffs at Flodigarry in the north of the Island, as well as at the fantastic, remote Loch Coruisk. Our final day was wall to wall hot sunshine as we climbed the six-pitch classic route on Marsco in the Red Cuillin, The Snark VS.

A stunning evening on Marsco, Red Cuillin, Skye

Blaven, Coruisk and the Black Cuillin; Skye

Halfway up The Snark, VS, Marsco

Scoping out a way through the overhang. Loch Coruisk Crag.

Finishing up Raining Men, VS 4c, Flodigarry, Skye

Abseiling in to a hanging belay above the sea

Buoy Racer, VS 4c, Flodigarry, Skye

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Out on the rock

An incredible time of year up here in the Highlands. At the moment we have excellent conditions for winter climbing, ski-touring as well as rock-climbing. I have been enjoying getting back into the latter, with some days personal climbing but also teaching others.

Open Secret ***, Hard Severe 4b, Stone Valley NW Highlands

Inside Information *, HVS 5a, 5a, Stone Valley NW Highlands

In my element
Enjoying the rock at Duntelchaig, Inverness
Learning to belay up a second

Learning to abseil!

Jetty Crag, Gruinard, NW Highlands

Scrambling near Inverness

Sunday, 25 March 2018

No chilly fingers!

With the rock-climbing season in sight I am recently back from a short trip to Spain, the primary purpose of which was to get some early season mileage on rock. With sunshine and temperatures of 15-20 degrees, it was very pleasant for March! We climbed several multi-pitch trad routes as well as lots and lots of the great bolted sport pitches for which the area is renowned. A busy, exciting April beckons-watch this space!

Via Esther, Hard Severe **, Echo Valley

Espolon Artura, Severe, Toix Este

View of Calpe and the stunning Penon d'Ifach

Friday, 9 March 2018

Mountain Medicine in Scotland

A stunning place for a complex mock multiple-burial scenario
As part of my Continuing Professional Development (CPD), as both an outdoor professional and a medical doctor, I have been enjoying working towards gaining the UIAA Diploma in Mountain Medicine. With other modules based in Wales and the Alps, over the last week the Diploma came to me (!), with a module held on the west coast of Scotland in Fort William. We covered plenty of the syllabus, mostly in relation to mountaineering skills/access to casualties, with a particular emphasis on rescue, assessment and decision-making with regards to victims of avalanches. We also got to go climbing with days spent on Beinn Udlaidh in the Southern Highlands climbing Quartzvein Scoop (IV) and Peter Pan Direct (V), plus a grand mountaineering day out on the Forcan Ridge of The Saddle, Glen Shiel (II). On our final day, the sun came out and gave mesmerising views up and down Glen Coe as we took part in increasingly complex avalanche rescue scenarios. A hard-work, intensive week, but lots learnt and plenty of good craic.

Descending back into Glen Shiel from the Forcan Ridge (on the left), NW Highlands

Magical Glen Coe

A snowy Quartzvein Scoop--Tim Neill BMG leading