Thursday, 19 January 2017

The turkey blubber

I love working with motivated individuals who are super keen to learn.  I've been lucky enough to be working on some the Jonathan Conville Memorial Trust courses and the Mountaineering Scotland winter skills courses these past couple of weeks.


I feel that I am now pretty competent at seeking out dribbles of snow, being imaginative about routes and done enough ice axe arrests for the season.  I feel that I have burnt off the turkey blubber and would like to get onto steeper terrain now.  Which is a good thing really because from now I will be mainly on steeper terrain.


For those in the know, I had to cancel the Glenshee Skimo race this weekend which is really an excuse to cover myself in marker spray and ring a bell all day.


So instead of cheering on the nutters who call themselves Skimo racers I have a free weekend.  A bonus weekend.  A completely unplanned anything weekend.  The big question is what do 'normal' people do during the winter over the weekend?  Suggestions on a postcard ....


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Men in Black

Without doubt the best thing about my job is meeting people that you would otherwise never meet.  This weekend was no exception.


Wearing my Mountaineering Scotland wooly (err....) hat I had the pleasure of taking the mick out of 5 guys who wore black - enough said.


Black.  All they wore was black.  Black as coal.  Black as the ground we walked on.   Black.  Absolutely no use whatever for photographs!


Without doubt, the quote of the weekend:

[group walking out trying to link as many puddles of snow as possible.  2 ptarmigan woddle by.]

Di:   Look, some ptarmigan ....

Greig:  Oh, are they not white doves?

Di: [to herself, obviously unbelievably professional, WTF!]

Greig:  Oh, I was told that they were white doves ....

Di:  [snigger - failing miserably at being professional]

So, the Ptarmigan Restaurant will now always be known as the White Dove Restaurant and I will always snigger to myself next time I see those beauties.


Oh yes, and that is without doubt a can of Budweiser!


A massive thanks to the guys who made my last 2 days rather fun.   We might have learnt some cool stuff but it's all about the White Doves for me :)

Friday, 6 January 2017

The days are just fun packed

This is Divyesh.  Divyesh is keen.  On Wednesday he travelled up from London to Edinburgh to listen to Heather Morning passing on her years of wisdom for staying safe in the hills, as part of the Mountaineering Scotland winter lecture series.


On Wednesday evening, he travelled from Edinburgh to the Spey Valley.  On Thursday he met Di, who literally walked him into the evening.  In my eyes, if you want to get good at navigation there is no way better than navigating in the dark.  Especially when it's winter, cold and windy.


On Friday he spent all day playing on the ice getting very familiar with jumaring and fixed rope techniques in preparation for climbing big mountains.  As I am just about to relax with a glass of the red stuff, I think about Divyesh who is driving back to the Lakes and then after a few hours rest, returns to London.


Divyesh is keen.  Are you keen?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A New Year

My, how time flies ...


The 5th Skimo Scotland race series kicked off against all the odds on the 28th December when the thought of putting skis on was far from anybodies mind.


I can never decide when a New year starts whether I should set myself a challenge since I normally always break it.  However, this year I am going to do my 2017 challenge.  Now, this could be to eat 2017 jelly beans (far too easy), drink 201.7 bottles of wine (challenging but possible) and to laugh 20.17 times (too easy) so instead my 2017 will involved biking, running and swimming.  Now this I think would be fairly easy without actually getting too much in the way of life.  However ...


I am just about to embark on the busiest 3 months of work and then it does actually look like this year I will mainly be living in a tent at ridiculously high altitudes so my 2017 challenge is going to be exactly that - a challenge.  However, if that's the only challenge I have to face this year, I really have it easy.

Happy New Year if you are actually reading this.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Glen Orchy and Glen Etive

Di: "I'm pretty sure that you have done the Ben Starav loop"

Derek:  "I haven't"

Di: "I'm pretty sure that you have done the Ben Starav loop"

Derek:  "Nope, I haven't"

So, the weekend was planned based around Derek and his Starav loop.


You know what's coming don't you.  We drove down to the bottom of Glen Etive, left the car and starting walking into the hills.

Derek:  "None of this looks familiar"

Di:  "OK" [very happy to have a day in the hills taking in 3 awesome peaks]


And then there was an abrupt halt, followed by that look.

Derek: "Oh, I have done these hills haven't I?"

Di: "Yup" *snigger*


Thankfully, he still had 2 remaining Munro's to do which shared the start so a quick change of plan was required.   Just like the BOGOF offers, today was a climb 2, get 3 free :)


Sunday saw us head down to Bridge of Orchy for another random couple of hills which I knew that he hadn't done.  For 99.9% of the ascent we were in pea soup and then there was that sudden realisation that there was a slim possibility that there might be an actual inversion.


It was only on Stob Ghabhar, the highest of our 2 hills that we were rewarded with one of the best inversions that either of us have seen.


Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Climbing versus Skiing

We don't have to fit in a box and be either a climber or a skier.  We can be both.


The very good thing about being a climber and a skier is that it normally works well with the conditions and the weather.  Take this afternoon for example.


It is been cold recently with snow fall and light winds.  All the buttresses are plastered and the snow is unconsolidated.  Not idea climbing conditions to be honest: lots of trail breaking, blowing snow out of cracks and off ledges, and desperately looking for anything that you can actually yard up on.  From a climbing perspective, we need a thaw and then a refreeze.

However, having lift fluffy snow is a dream to skin up and ski down.  Good light gives excellent contrast which is essential for enjoyable skiing.


Therefore, during my play days, I let the conditions dictate what we do and this afternoon was certainly a 'whoop' day.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Superficial climbing

We very nearly never went climbing today because we knew that the conditions aren't great to be honest.


As I said to Derek on the route: "it would be a very nice climb if it wasn't for the frost, wearing crampons and tentatively pulling up on nothing with picks".


However, a perfect weather forecast always wins.


It's still early in the season and I think we are incredibly lucky to have such as amazing playground on our doorstep.  I heard a very good quote recently that will be my moto this season:


"The best gift you can give someone is their next adventure".  Unknown