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

Monday, 18 November 2019

First turns of the season

With only a few hours to spare from other duties, today I was up very early to catch the sunrise on Cairn Gorm. This was my first ski of the season, and it was fabulous. It was minus 7C in Strathspey first thing, but the rapid skin uphill soon saw me warm up! The descent was fabulous, as good as any day I've had on Cairngorm, and in November too! Really good snow off-piste, and great to get the ski-legs back in action.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

A great start to the Scottish winter season

The Traverse of Liathach, Torridon
The end of October and into November have brought sustained cold and wintry conditions to the Highlands. This is great news for the rest of the season, allowing the ground to cool down and hold snow. Plenty of folk have been out enjoying the mountains, whether walking, climbing or ski-touring. For myself, I have been fortunate to grab several winter climbs with good friends, in Cairngorms and in the NW Highlands. It looks like it will be staying cold for the foreseeable future, but a mild thaw would help things in the long run. The winds have all had an Easterly component, so the Cairngorms and Eastern ranges (including Ben Wyvis) have caught a lot more snow than the West Highlands just now.
Abseiling into Cha No, Cairngorms, to avoid the loaded descent gully

Anvil Gully IV, 4, Cha No, Cairngorms

The top pitch of Anvil Gully

Liathach Traverse, II

Saturday, 9 November 2019

From summer to winter

Over the last couple of weeks I have very happily enjoying a whole variety of work and play, from rock-climbing in Spain's Costa Blanca, teaching  scrambling skills in the NW Highlands of Scotland, and winter climbing in the Cairngorms after the first snow-falls of the season.

Teaching scrambling near Gairloch, NW Highlands

Teaching scrambling near Gairloch, NW Highlands

Leaning how to "pitch" difficult steps on harder scrambles

View from the top of the scramble

Teaching scrambling on Stac Pollaidh, Assynt

Teaching scrambling on Stac Pollaidh, Assynt

Winter arrives, climbing in the Cairngorms

Enjoying early season mixed climbing
Pygmy Ridge, Coire an t Sneachda, Cairngorms

Bouldering in Torridon, NW Highlands

Bouldering in Torridon, NW Highlands

Bouldering in Torridon, NW Highlands
Climbing on the Puig Campana, Costa Blanca, Spain

Climbing on the Puig Campana, Costa Blanca, Spain

 Puig Campana, Costa Blanca, Spain

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Summer catch up

This summer has been really busy, with an amazing mixture of work, learning and play, both at home in Scotland and out in the Alps. I've been privileged to enjoy the mountains with lots of fun, interesting people. Here are some photos to show just some of what we've been up to!

Guiding the classic ridge scramble of Liathach, Torridon, Scotland

Teaching rock-climbing, Dunkeld, Scotland

Guiding one of the world's classic treks--the Tour du Mont Blanc, European Alps

Guiding one of the world's classic treks--the Tour du Mont Blanc, European Alpsion

Climbing with friends above Chamonix, French Alps

AddClimbing with friends above Chamonix, French Alps

Extra learning----completing my International Diploma in Mountain Medicine, Swiss Alps

Teaching rock-climbing and scrambling skills, Glen Nevis, Scotland

Teaching rock-climbing and scrambling skills, Glen Nevis, Scotland

Guiding the ultra-classic ridge scramble--The Aonach Eagach, Glencoe, Scotland

Thursday, 30 May 2019


With apologies for the lack of updates recently, this reflects being too busy rather than being quiet, so I can't complain. Remember that you can keep updated with us via Facebook (On High Hills) and Instagram (@onhighhills_jontymills). Blogging will resume soon!

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Classic Mountaineering

Over the last couple of weeks I have had the luck to have three days of classic Scottish winter mountaineering on some fantastic ridges in the West and North-West Highlands. Never too technical, and not requiring too much gear, this kind of mountaineering is so rewarding. Efficiency with route-finding and rope-work is repaid by a fluid, efficient traverse, mountaineering at its simplest and finest.

First up was the A Chioch Traverse, on Beinn Bhan, in Applecross (NW Highlands) with Calum. A stunning ridge surrounded by deep, imposing corries leads to an intimidating headwall. From a distance it looks impregnable, but an amenable way leads up tricky rocky steps and natural grooves to the summit plateau. Very tricky for its traditional grade of II, one or two of the steps are more like III, and definitely pitched climbing terrain for most people.

Looking at the headwall, A Chioch traverse

Approaching the summit plateau of Beinn Bhan

Second was the Queen of mainland ridges; the Aonach Eagach, Glen Coe, and a chance to catch up with Dave. This is a long day out even in summer; in winter, with deep, unconsolidated snow it was a tiring day. The effort was worth it though, as we enjoyed some fabulous weather, and a stunning sunrise. Most of the ridge is often done unroped, but the descent from Am Bodach, and the Pinnacles section demand care, and a rope adds security. Due to the unconsolidated snow, we made a couple of quick abseils to avoid the sketchy, slabby descents. The guidebook grade of II/III seemed spot on; never harder than II technically, but a committing undertaking with no escape possible once into the meat of the traverse.

A great day in store.....

Great weather

Great mountaineering

Sunrise on the Aonach Eagach

The steep descent of Am Bodach, we down climbed then made a short abseil

Worth getting up for......

Lastly in this recent trio was an East-West traverse of Stac Pollaidh with Toby and Calum. This stunning "mini-mountain", in the far NW Highlands, is not often in winter condition due to its low height and coastal location. Thus just adds to the appeal of a winter traverse! It is well described in summer, but the traverse is not mentioned in the winter climbing guidebooks. It gave us a great day out, with some interesting steps and a couple of abseils, and all sorts of weather from blue skies and sun to horizontal sleet and snow! It felt like II/III again.....trickier steps than then Aonach Eagach, but much less of it!

Stac Pollaidh--wow!

Tricky step

Stac Pollaidh