About Me

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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

January & Winter Returns to the Scottish Highlands - Winter Mountaineering.

 As I mentioned in my previous blog (http://wearyourboots.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/december-scottish-winter-mountains.html) the hills & mountains become a new and much more serious proposition under winter conditions requiring an additional level of pre planning, awareness, equipment & skills. So it was with some disappointment that I set off on my journey to the West Highlands for my long planned 10 days of Scottish winter routes & Winter Mountaineering course (http://www.expeditionguide.com/snowandice.php) after a Christmas & New Year period that had seen mild temperatures and very little snow fall! As fate would have it it took me 36hrs or so to complete the journey to Fort William due my long suffering work horse vehicle suffering a couple of mechanical breakdowns (unbelievable - only has enough miles on the clock to have circled the globe 8 times!).

 Arriving in Fort William on Tuesday after my much prolonged journey I set to work researching routes that would be under winter conditions for the upcoming days using guide books, maps, mountain area weather forecasts (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/loutdoor/mountainsafety/), avalanche forecasts (http://www.sais.gov.uk/) & information taken from blogs reporting which areas instructors had been using recently (http://www.expeditionguide.com/blog.php).
 After considering all this information and provisionally deciding on a suitable route I then went over all the information again at least once. I would in no way suggest this was due to my meticulous preparation but very much down to the 'more than slightly twitchy arse sphincter factor' involved when planning solo winter mountaineering routes. Though looking to increase and build on previously gained experience and skills, the knowledge that a simple mistake involving an unsafe snow pack or a slip thru not fitting crampons at the right time could prove somewhat 'problomatic' was a constant thought - especially as I'd paid for a hotel and wouldn't want to spend a night on the mountain with no refund!

 I started with a solo route on Bidean nam Bian in Glencoe followed by a day shadowing Rob Johnson to look at teaching skills before a solo trip up Ben Nevis via 3 Gully. The weekend brought fresh snow and I took the chance to cross the Carn Mor Dearg Arete to again reach Ben Nevis summit. Sunday saw heavy snow falling and I took a trip to Aonach Mor via Easy Gully which in retrospect was a bit 'dodgy'!
 Monday I again joined Rob Johnson for a Winter Mountaineering Course to look at movement over snow terrain, avalanche risk assessment & winter rope work. My week of Winter Mountaineering culminated in an outstanding day when we traversed the Aonach Eagach ridge where we enjoyed exceptional winter conditions!

  Overall I managed to complete 4 quality Winter Mountaineering log book routes, reach 5 new Munro tops for myself , complete 4 Grade I winter climbs + be on Ben Nevis summit in a clear spell which is rarer than rocking horse sh*t!
Wind blown col across before the climb to Bidean nam Bian summit.
Approach to Ben Nevis from CIC Hut. Number 3 Gully right of center.
View down from top of Number 3 Gully.

Looking back from the route up to Carn Mor Dearg
Clouds break around Ben Nevis (Rare!)
Towards the Mamores from Ben Nevis summit.
Aonach Mor East Face - Coire An Lochan
A snow filled 'Easy Gully' on Aonach Mor.
Aonach Nid
Making our way down after a days Winter Skills.
 The Aonach Eagach Ridge - Outstanding!!

Video from Rob Johnson/ expeditionguide.com

 After returning from Scotland I met up with AL & James who had been on a 5 Day Winter Skills course in Scotland, we took advantage of the winter conditions in the Lake District with a crossing of Striding Edge to Helvellyn.
 An air temperature of around -5C added to a 30-35mph wind gave us a wind chill of around -17C which added to the days adventure!

AL & James make their way towards Striding Edge.
On Striding Edge.


Sunday, 6 January 2013

December - Scottish Winter Mountains!

 The onset of winter may not be most peoples favorite time of the year but with the right set of conditions and on the right peaks a normally walking or hiking route becomes a mountaineering route, requiring additional equipment, skills & awareness.

 December saw me take the opportunity to head to Scotland to take advantage of a drop in temperatures and some recent snow fall. I would also be helping my mountain buddy Brett Savage to gain some log book days as he moves towards his Mountain Leader Award in the Spring.
 We planned to spend a few days around Crianlarich, North of Loch Lomond, where we had a number of Munro's (Scottish summits above 3000ft/914m above sea level) available to us whist keeping the journey North (nearly) bearable!

 After meeting up around 5pm Sunday afternoon and setting ourselves up at the campsite (part of the ML prerequisite is a number of valley & wild overnight camps) we decided to make use of the facilities at the local public house where we would plan Mondays trip. We could connect to the internet at the pub to check the latest weather reports, otherwise we would have simply enjoyed the stillness of the empty campsite.

 Important considerations for our route selection would include the weather forecast, the previous weather forecasts and any ground condition information, terrain and the predicted time to complete the route. After careful deliberation (over a couple of accidental Guinness for me and a WKD for Brett) it was decided we would head for 'Beinn Challum' 1025m the following day.
Laying snow and low cloud can be problematic on ridges or above crags!
Brett strikes a pose on the summit of his 1st Munro.
Rime ice is formed when water droplets in fog freeze to the surface of an object on the windward surface.
 Our route to the summit of 'Beinn Challum' rose steadily over grassy terrain before the ground became frozen and we reached the snow line at around 750m where low cloud and snow showers made visibility difficult. As we made our way across the corniced 'col' on the approach to the summit we were exposed to strong NE winds and care had to be taken to stay on track. After a quick photo to record the moment we retraced our steps back and out of the wind.

 With a much improved forecast and full of confidence from our first days outing we agreed to take a trip up 'Ben More' 1174m and onward to 'Stob Binnein' 1165m for our second days outing.

Ice axe & crampons essential on the approach to Ben More summit.
Brett shelters from the icy winds on Ben More summit.
Descending from Ben More to ascend Stob Binnein
A very cold Stob Binnein summit.
Brett goes head to head with the wind!
  The ascent of 'Ben More' was described as 'the kind of route a sadistic Sergeant Major could only dream of when looking to beast his troops', it didn't disappoint! With an incline from the stuff of nightmares we made our way (steadily) into the snow line where the going only increased the demands on the already struggling lungs and burning leg muscles. As we continued up we were joined by a fellow walker Mick and his canine friend, as it turned out Mick had been part of the RAF Search & Rescue team and his canine friend 'Corrie' was search and rescue trained. We were more than happy to have them join us!
  Crampons and ice axe's became essential as we approached the summit over a large area of wind slab and at the summit we greeted by knee high drifts and strong winds. After a quick bite to eat we made our way carefully south to 'Stob Binnein' past hanging cornice. A descent of 350m followed by an ascent of  300m had the thigh muscles burning deeply after the first ascent of Ben More!

 After an exhausting day we again headed to the pub for some nourishment and to plan Wednesday trip. Looking at a worrying forecast of gale to storm forcw winds we decided on a lower summit of 'Beinn a'Chleibh'.
Making foot holds on the snow slope.
Brett practices ice axe arrest.
A river crossing thrown in for adventure!
Brett on the frozen, wind blown summit.

 Starting before dawn we made our way through the wooded approach to the 'Beinn a'Chleibh', as we way left the wood behind the full force of the wind became apparent andas we made our way closer the ascent gusts knocked us both off our feet.
 With the wind out main concern we decided to head to the 'col' between 'Ben Lui' & 'Beinn a'Chleibh' where we would then decide if it was safe to go on. With our ice axes in hand we kicked steps in the snow up the 'col' where we made the decision to go thru the winds and low visibility to the summit. At times we were holding onto each other until we made it the summit where, as was becoming customary, we paused only time enough to take a couple of photo's before making our way back down and out of the wind.

 All in all it was a very good few days. It had been the first chance for either of us to get out and use our winter skills as well as gain logbook days for our respective Mountain Leading awards.



Saturday, 5 January 2013

October/November - Nepal

 Over 3 weeks at the end of October & start of November I joined a group from Rob Johnson's Expedition Guide trek from Lukla to Kala Patthar & Everest Base Camp in the Nepalese Himalaya.

 After flying from the UK we stayed overnight in Katmandu, before making the short journey back to the airport for the legendary flight to Lukla (http://www.wearyourboots.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/lukla-worlds-most-dangerous-airport.html).

 Arriving at Lukla we steadied our nerves and before beginning our trek. Lukla is perched on the hillside at 2840m asl (above sea level) and fortunately our first days short trek would see us drop to 2610m which would help prevent us getting Altitude Sickness.
Leaving Lukla
The first valleys of our trek

   We would be spending our days trekking 4 to 5 hours/day and our evenings would be spent in 'tea huts' of varying comfort and facilities. We would also have our evening meals and breakfasts in the tea huts, these were of Nepalese dishes such as Dal Bhat & Tibetan breads varying to chips & cheese and pancakes (Dal Bhat is a dish consisting of a lentil broth, rice & slightly curried vegetables. No two Dal Bhats were the same, I know as I ate it most days!).
  Each day we would not ascend more than approximately 300m to avoid the effects of the dreaded Altitude Sickness, if we did have to make an ascent of more than 300m then we took a rest day at a tea hut.

One of the bridges spanning the many river crossings.
Namche Bazar cut into the mountain side
Sherpa Tashi, Si (Roomie), Brett & Mark spin the prayer wheels in Khunde.

  Day 9 of our trip saw us reach Gorak Shep 5140m which is the last 'settlement' before Everest Base Camp, here it was decided we would trek to the summit of Kala Patthar before returning overnight to Gorak Shep and make the short 2hour trek to Everest Base Camp the following day.
Perched on the summit of Kala Pathar
Everest Base Camp.
Everest Base Camp
 The trek from Lukla to Everest Base Camp had taken us a total of 10 days including rest days, the trek back to Lukla would take us just 4 days including a rest day.
 The trek took us through many small settlements, some consisting of just a couple of tea houses whilst others had shops and a couple of bars and others were built around temples. I found the people of Nepal really friendly, especially the Sherpa people from where the famous shepa's are descended.

 It was my first trip to Nepal and the Himalaya and I loved it from start to finish, even the unfortunate stomach problems and heavy cold didn't take away from the experience and I would love to return at some point.