More wonderful autumn weather gave us a brilliant time on Ledge Route today. Abacus Mountain Guides has an AALA licence so we can work with people under 18 years old. The team we had today was George, Felix, Hamish, Jacob, Johnnie and Ralph; six seventeen year old guys up in The Outdoor Capital for a big adventure. They are fit and up for a big day so went for Ledge Route, over the summit and down by Coire Leis.
Most of the snow from Tuesday has gone but there are plenty of patches for making snow balls with! There is none on Ledge Route or Tower Ridge so the great ridges are still simple to climb. On Ledge Route Sally and I guided the guys on two ropes, moving together alpine style for the whole climb. It's simple scrambling but in a very exposed position for most of the way so a rope for security is a good idea. This was the first day in big mountains for most of the guys as well!
It looks like we will get some more good days through the weekend and warmer weather next week but the winter is not far away. Have a look at our winter programme of events and see if there is something there for you - https://www.facebook.com/AbacusMountainGuides/events/
We often expect the first snow to land on Ben Nevis in October but I doubt many visitors from Australia would be too keen to see it! Elspeth and her son Luke, on a trip from Australia to see the very best bits of Scotland, came up to The Outdoor Capital of the UK to have a go at climbing Ben Nevis and we had a brilliant day. We woke to see a good fall of fresh snow down to 900m above sea level so the top third of Ben Nevis was under the white stuff. The cold front had passed over during the night though so we had nice weather with bits of sunshine and light wind. It was cold but it was just above freezing on top and about 15cm had collected on the summit.
The snow is likely to melt away over the next few days and we will get more falls like it before it starts to build up properly in December. Ideally we will get a cold spell of weather with the tops in sub-zero conditions for a week or two before it snows properly to help it stay around for a bit longer. But today it was already starting to melt away as we were walking down. It's a great sign of the coming winter which, along with the wonderful autumn colours in the glen, is getting us very excited!
As luck would have it I came home to find a very nice parcel from the very lovely people at Jottnar. Make sure you take a look at the new range of apparel and perfected original masterpieces. I'll be very warm and dry this winter what ever weather is thrown at me! Thank you Jottnar!
Mike was away on a family holiday to the far North West last week, taking advantage of the brilliant weather on the west coast. We stayed at a cottage next to Achmelvich near Lochinver, surrounded by sandstone giants such as Suilven, Canisp and Quinag. It's also on the road to Stoer and a climb of the classic route on the Old Man of Stoer was quite high on the list of things to do while on holiday. Being such a remote and wild place you can't help but take things a bit more slowly here. There's lots of breathing space and lots of time for quiet contemplation but there's also wild adventures to have as well.
We chose a day with a low tide at 11am so we could be there an hour before. The stack is accessed by tyrolean traverse (or boulder hopping on a spring low tide) and we were lucky to find three ropes in place already. It's hard to assess how good the ropes and their anchors are and I don't think they are always in place. It worked well for us though and we managed to traverse round the right side of the stack to avoid the traverse pitch at the start of the classic route (well worth avoiding if you can!).
The rest of the climb is classic sandstone climbing, steep with big flat breaks and huge rough holds every now and then. It's an intimidating climb, not just due to it's position on the stack but also because of the tricky protection (take lots of cams) and the not so obvious route finding. We made it to the top securely though and enjoyed a moment in the sunshine before abseiling down.
This was a proper father and son adventure; boys out having fun and sharing an experience that will last with both of us for a lifetime. For Owen, at the age of 12, it's this kind of experience that might guide what he values for the rest of his life. The evidence shows that if we give children high quality experiences in nature they will always appreciate and participate in outdoor adventure. Experiences in the wild outdoors don't get much higher quality than this so I think Owen will be hooked for life! All of our Family Adventures are tried and tested on our children so you can enjoy the best of them with your family!
We have a new crop of students at West Highland College UHI who are receiving a range of foundation training in different activities. Today I was with a brilliant group of students coaching core rock climbing skills. We started out with the essentials of putting on a helmet and harness properly, then tying in and belaying. Next up we went to look at single point anchors at the top of a crag for top roping climbs and abseils. It was a stunning day - continuous sunshine and bone dry rock but cold in the wind. We need to get used to it, it looks like this blocking high pressure will be with us for a good few days to come. Beautiful autumn weather for getting outdoors and watching the colours change for winter.
Running mountain leader courses in October is difficult when it comes to the expedition. We need to walk through coires, off the major ridges and paths. However stalkers are out shooting stags and it is a really busy time of year for them. So we went to Creag Meagaidh where SNH manages its estate very differently. For the last couple of decades SNH has had a policy of shooting deer to keep the numbers far lower than is usual. This has resulted in a very different environment - it is much more diverse and healthy with regeneration of trees and shrubs, more plant, insect and animal life and a very different feel to the place. It also means we can walk through the estate without disturbing their stalking quite as much as on other estates.
We started at Aberarder and went up the big climb to Carn Liath. It was very windy and cold when exposed to the wind but it stayed dry for us for the whole two days. It made for challenging conditions and good leadership was required to look after everyone. We did lots of navigating before setting up camp for the night near Lochan Uaine on the other side of The Window.
Last night we spent three hours practising night navigation on a very dark night and today we packed up in even stronger winds despite the forecast for lighter winds. It was now too windy for any useful practise so we went through The Window and back to Fort William where the sun was out and it was very warm out of the breeze. We did a last bit of good visibility navigation training on the back of Cow Hill before wrapping up an excellent training course. All the trainees were very experienced before this course and we have had great fun tuning this experience and capability into the skills required to be a mountain leader. Thanks for a great few days team!
Last week we did three days of a Summer Mountain Leader Training Course based at Three Wise Monkeys Climbing. I switched to mountain bike coaching for two days at West Highland College UHI before enjoying a very sunny weekend. This week we are finishing off the remaining three days of the ML Training Course and today it was to do when it goes wrong! Dealing with accidents and emergencies of all sorts, duty of care, hypothermia, thunder and lightning, and ticks. We practised several improvised stretchers and carries in a realistic situation and looked at managing water hazards. Stream crossing were practised down in the River Nevis before going back to base for a cup of tea and preparation for the coming expedition.
We went to Steall at the top of Glen Nevis to see the recent rock fall in the gorge. The path is still closed for work to be done on the path and to stabilise the massive blocks threatening the path from above. You can go up to the col north of Meall Cumhainn though and we took this route into Coire Guisachan. This is a lovely coire with a grand feel and huge boulders to explore. We have a blocking high pressure over Scandinavia at the moment so we should get dry but breezy weather for the next few days. Nice weather for a two day camping trip on Creag Meagaidh.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.