Sheep Pen

The weather in North Wales has been very un-winterly lately. Pretty much all the snow has melted and the sun has been shining. Perfect bouldering conditions.

On Firday I went bouldering at sheep pen boulders with Andy Psyche.

Psyche on the Pinch a classic V7

Psyche on Toe Dragon into Dog Shooter V7 

Cairngorm Reflections and Final Couple of Days

I'm now home in Wales reflecting on nine intense days of getting out walking and climbing in the Cairngorms. In this time I managed to see in the new year with Amy in a remote Scottish bivi shelter, climb seven winter routes (six of them grade IV or above), catch up with good friends and eat 12 slices of all-you-can-eat pizza. Its been an amazing trip.

The highlight for me (other than the pizza) was leading Savage Slit, an absolutely fantastic route, it was also my first grade V,6 lead. I enjoyed every move.  

Iv realised over the past week that I'm more confident and enjoy mixed climbing more than I do ice. I think this is to do with the familiarity of moving over rock gained from years or rock climbing. Ice climbing still feels rather insecure. I think more ice mileage is needed!

Reflection over. Here's what I got up in the last couple of days:

On Friday Tom and I climbed the ice route Window Gully IV, 4 on Lurcher's Crag. This route seems to get no stars in the SMC guide book but its awesome. Possibly the most funky ice route iv ever done. The route gets its name from the fact you climb a pitch in-between a curtain of ice and the rock, then bust back out onto the ice through a hole! I lead this funky pitch, it was pretty dam cool! The transition from crawling on hands on knees behind the curtain of ice to climbing ice verticality upwards again was interesting! 

Tom leading 1st pitch up to the curtain

Playing about on the curtain..the ice was bullet hard

Traversing between rock and ice

Behind the curtain

Looking down 2nd pitch

The day was made even better by the alpine like weather. The crag is SW facing so we got plenty of sun in the afternoon. Magic. 

Fantastic views 

On Sat I climbed The Seam IV,5 in Coire an t'Sneachda. The main chimney pitch is fantastic mixed climbing and one of the most striking lines in the Coire. A foot of fresh powder snow and verglassed cracks made the climbing and finding gear placements hard work. A proper winter experience! 

Looking up at the main chimney pitch of The Seam

Tim Seconding

loving it! 

Similes all round

The Seam is the obvious striking line on the buttress at the top left of the photo

Cairngorms continues...

Another great couple of days out in the Cairgorms. The weather has been pretty good, despite the metoffice saying otherwise every day!

Yesterday the team (Tom, Chris and myself) climbed Fingers Ridge IV, 4. Nice route, always interesting but never too hard.
Tom seconding the 3rd pitch of Fingers Ridge
Myself seconding the fingers
Tom fueling up on babies

Sunset over the cories 
Today we climbed the short ice pitch of Aladdin's Mirror Direct IV, 4 then continued up Pygmy Ridge IV,5. The ice despite being short and in perfect nick was pretty pumpy. Pygmy Ridge was a great contrast to the ice, sustained and technical mixed climbing. I found it pretty tricky, lots of pick torquing and axe jamming. Fresh powder covering the route did not help.

Tom storming up the ice of Aladdin's Mirror Direct

The Team

Chris seconding the 1st pitch of Pygmy Ridge

Savage Slit

Yesterday I climbed the classic Savage Slit V,6 in Coire an Lochain. The route takes an amazing wide crack line on No.4 buttress. Route finding was not an issue!

The obvious line (thanks to Tim for the photo)

Chris seconding the main pitch (thanks to Tim for the photo)

Me on the main pitch

The route was amazing, it was the hardest winter mixed route I've lead. It was never scary, just really absorbing and enjoyable climbing. Some parts of the route were more like caving then climbing, much to Chris's disgust...he came to Scotland fresh from a uni bouldering competition!

Chris seconding the main pitch...glad to get above the chimney section!
Skelhon savagely seconding
Team savage on the top
The decent was not without interest, Chris inadvertently choose the steep traverse back to the base of the route as a good time to practice ice axe breaking, he managed it, but not without dropping an axe...

Cairngorm New Years

Just as all the ice was melting in North Wales I headed up to Scotland, the rather good timing was down to luck rather than good planning!

On new years eve Amy and I walked into Grabh Coire bothy, a little stone shelter in a remote coire half way up the Lairig Ghru.

Northen Coires at Sunrise

Walking down the Lairig Ghru..the only bit of sun I've ever seen in the Cairngorms
We were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves, which was just as well considering its minimal size. The bothy had obviously not been used for a while considering the few foot of snow we had to dig out from the inside.
Grabh Coire bothy
Feast in the making 
It was a great place to see in the new year, music on my phone, good food (plenty of) a bottle of red gave the place a festive atmosphere. The 60mph wind and snow outside added to the cozy feel inside.

The next day we summited Braeriach and walked along the ridge then descend back into the Lairig Ghru ready to go back through the Chalamain Gap all in classic Scottish weather. Lovely.

Snowy Amy after dropping out of the cloud on the Braeriach ridge 
The next day we did Fiacaill Rdige in the northern coires as Amy's first winter route. The ridge was disappointingly short and all the tricky sections are fun but easily avoidable. But pretty atmospheric in the mist. 

Amy on her first winter route

Amy enjoying her new iced up hair
We descended Chorie Chais ridge back to the car then back for a late lunch. A good rest day in preparation for the next day..see next post