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

Tuesday, 27 February 2018


Pitch 4 of 8
The great conditions continue! Yesterday I was in the Northern Highlands climbing on Beinn Dearg, with my friend Chris. Beinn Dearg is a big, bulky mountain with plenty of dramatic corries. The classic climb there, and the one we were aiming for, is Penguin Gully III, 4 **** 350m. A 05:30 start from home near Inverness was decided upon, which worked perfectly----we were (just!) first onto the route. The route and corrie were busy (by Northern Highlands standards!) with two other teams behind us on the route and at least one other climbing elsewhere in the corrie. Temperatures started at -8 deg C in the morning, but with a 2 ½ hr approach we were soon warmed up! Eight long pitches of fantastic ice, snow-ice and neve followed—conditions were perfect. The first pitch was the hardest climbing, with good ice for picks (not so good for screws!), but the whole route was great climbing on squeaky, bomber snow and ice. Belays were decent and a mix of rock and ice-screws. Runners were few and far between on most pitches, but with the climbing straightforward that was OK. Emerging from the cold and shade of the NW face into the blue skies and wall-to-wall warm sunshine of the plateau was fabulous. Not a breath of wind, and only 14:15! A quick jaunt to the main summit of Beinn Dearg then the long trudge back, weary but totally content---a great climb, great weather and great company. The day wasn’t over though; the road to Inverness was closed by the police, meaning a huge detour back to Ullapool, then Elphin, Bonar Bridge, Tain and Inverness—4 hrs instead of 1 hr, with another delay as a lorry was pulled out of ditch on the singletrack road at Oykel. At least there was fish ‘n’ chips in Ullapool as the silver lining.......

The West Buttress of Beinn Dearg on the approach

Chris about to top out over the cornice

Not a bad day!


Heading down

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Best spell of the winter?

After last year's disappointingly wet, mild and windy winter, this winter has been really making up for it. At the moment we're enjoying a lengthy spell of settled, calm, sunny conditions in the Scottish Highlands. By this stage in the winter the sun is starting to have some real strength, meaning clear nights, very cold frosty starts, followed by warm afternoon sunshine. Lovely! Glen Affric is definitely one of the most beautiful glens in the Highlands, and I have had many special days there. However, I have never managed to ski up any of the hills there; yesterday I put that right with a great, short tour around Toll Creagach, one of the Affric Munros. A late start due to other commitments for once didn't work against us, as this gave time for the sun to break through the morning mists and soften the top layer of the snow, giving brilliant, easy skiing down long open slopes. The views north across Mullardoch and beyond were also incredible.Very windy and cold right on the summit, but hot and sunny down in the glen. A sun-cream day!

Looking up Gleann nam Fiadh to Tom a Choinich

Great skinning conditions

Sun starting to soften the snow

View N from the summit

The reward: fast, easy open skiing on great Spring snow.