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Sunday, 22 February 2015


Just a quick post to show the current conditions in the Angus glens. On Sunday Ana, Sharon, Paul and I drove to the Clova car park to practice some winter skills.
 Not much winter left in the glen and whilst Corrie Farchal looked quite white, there was little left in Winter corrie. 
 Equally, Corrie Fee was black and even A and D gully were largely stripped. So we practiced on a snow slope near E gully to reach the normal path...
 ... to the White Mounth plateau. 
 From there southwards...
 ... to the top of Mayar which was Sharon's and Paul's first Munro.
 More winter skills on the way down (hard neve yesterday) ...
 ... and some sunshine with a view towards Driesh.
It is all changing again with sub 5 degrees temperatures and rain in Dundee meaning that snow will accumulate higher up. Freeze thaw cycles are predicted for the week so thing will look better for winter climbing and ski touring next weekend!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Hadrian's Wall Direct V,5***

February is the time when the icy lines on Ben Nevis come into condition. The cliffs collect snow in December and January which in February repeatedly thaws and freezes to transform into snow ice. One of the great icy lines which I had never climbed is Hadrian's Wall Direct, first climbed by Mike G. Geddes and Graham E Little in 1971. Robbie was available, I had some time, the forecast predicted not too much wind and some clouds on the coastal hills and the UKCers and guides seemed happy with the conditions. So game on. Robbie and I left Dundee at a relatively late 5.15 am but the drive was smooth and we were racing up the hill, overtaking several teams on the way. And no coastal clouds!
We drank some water at the CIC hut and quickly ascended past the Douglas boulder towards Point Five Gully seen above Robbie's head and Hadrian's Wall to the left...
 Here is a photo of Point Five Gully and Hadrian's Wall. The route takes the inital ice fall, followed by a chimney, easier snow fields and a final band of iced up rocks. 
 Here is a team from Aviemore on the first icefall, the key feature of the route...
 ... and here yet another team joining the Point Five party!
 Here I am starting the icefall.
 I am initially a little nervous on ice but after a few moves the routine comes back and it all feels solid. Robbie then led the second pitch of the ice fall...
 ... whilst team Glasgow was hot on our heels.
Hadrian's wall is a good point to take photos of the lower pitches of Point Five, seen below. 
 The icefall of Hadrian's eventually relents and a chimney becomes visible, here tackled by team Aviemore. 
 Here I set off, carrying the limited rock gear on one sling and the quickraws on another. Rockgear is almost useless as there is 90% ice screw protection. 
 After the chimney two long pitches ascend the snowfield which was mostly good neve with a couple of welcome ice blobs for screw protection. Here is Robbie on the first of the snowfield pitches...
 ... and here I set off on the second aiming for the final rock band. 
 Two pitches then climb the rock band at roughly grade IV. Climbing with 60 m ropes allowed Robbie to belay near the place where the Aviemore climber is seen. 
 From there it was just 15 m to top out. Here I climb the last metres of the route.
 I walked off onto the plateau and Robbie followed on a tight rope. Here I am on the top of the UK once again with a clear view ranging from Schiehallion to the North Western hills with hardly any coastal clouds...
 The skies turned into a warm orange...
 ...easing the descent.
 We mountaineered into number 4 gully where the normal entry was blocked by a cornice and bum glissaded to the CIC hut. The skies were a mix of pink and blue. This is me...
 ... and this is Robbie in a photo taken with a flash.
 We slogged on to arrive at the car just after 6 pm.
No need to comment on whether it was good as some things are self evident.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Skinning up and skiing down Ben Tirran

After two weekends of winter climbing I had planned a no hills weekend. But the skies were blue and a strong North-Easterly is easily ignored. So I jumped into the car at lunchtime to head with my skis for the Angus glens to look for a skiable hill. The foothills such as Cat's Law were not white enough but Clova had collected a lot of snow overnight. So I went to near Rottal lodge planning to skin up and ski down Ben Tirran. Here is my GPS recording of mainly the descent. 
 Clova was surprisingly wintry with the Eastern side being much whiter than the Western side. 
 Sun and February snow. Here some of the dune-like sculptures on the way up. 
 I initially wanted to skin around Loch Wharral which is in the Corrie seen in the distance...
 ... and this is me heading that way (selfie)...
 ... but I spotted a line of continuous snow on a burn which is labelled as 'Gowed Hole' on the OS map. It is clearly visible on the image below. 
 I skinned up, largely out of the wind ...
 ... to reach the summit. 
Actually the real summit is called 'The Goet' and is a rather flat 600 m away from this cairn to the East. But I did not fancy skinning the scoured top in the icy wind as time was limited and as the descent looked like skiing heaven. So after a short stretch of skinning over the scoured heather I reached the compact, soft snow of the burn to experience a few minutes of skiing heaven all the way down to the car. Very much recommended and much of it will survive a thaw.