February skiing, munro bagging and a springer/collie cross…..

After doing my best to pretend winter isn’t happening and hibernating in Edinburgh throughout January I resolved to get in about it and organise some days out up in the Highlands.

Been up at Glenshee Skiing and bagged Ben Chonzie (pronounced Ben Honzie, who knew!?) and An Socach over the past few weeks.

Ben Chonzie is a munro just through Comrie in the southeastern corner of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park and has the dubious accolade of Scotlands’ most boring munro. We did not think it deserved that reputation at all and on a winters day it makes a fine outing. Five hours return with 700m of ascent. There’s ridge line that looks out to the Lawers range which leads to the summit.

An Socach is in the southern Cairngorms about four or five miles north of the Glenshee ski area. Again made a fine winters walk, only 500m of ascent but what there is was steep! Once the height is more or less gained there’s an open wide rocky ridge which meanders to the summit for two to three kilometers

Glas Maol Bowl
Glas Maol Bowl
Rocky An Socach ridge
Rocky An Socach ridge
Timing fail....
Timing fail….
Ben Chonzie
Ben Chonzie
Focus
Focus
Headband!
Headband!
Summit fever!
Summit fever!
Wiped out Daisy
Wiped out Daisy

Failure on Skye with a sweet ending

Last June me, my girlfriend and three friends headed up to the North West to Skye to try for a full traverse of the Black Cuillin. Some of us had spent time scrambling in the Cuillin before so we had a good idea what to expect in terms of the imposing stature of the place and the difficulties we would find on route. We were aiming for a two day south to north traverse with a overnight bivvy somewhere in the north central area of the mountains. Despite having 8 days booked off work and it being the first week in June we never got a 48 hour weather window clear enough to give it crack. I can’t bring myself to watch Danny Macaskills ‘The Ridge’ where he apparently shows up along with a two week high pressure system!!

We picked off a few sections throughout the week and visited different parts of the Island walking and touring. This wasn’t without it’s difficulties given the weather and included getting really, really lost along the Trotternish ridge which you wouldn’t believe it possible to get lost on. Learnt a 101 (via a £35 taxi fare and aching legs) in the importance of checking your compass! As the team split up we had the feeling that we have unfinished business on the island. We’re planning a couple of long weekends this summer and dropping all and giving the traverse another go when conditions are right.

Kate looking the business
Kate looking the business
Keir and Danny enjoying the view
Keir and Danny enjoying the view
Walking off the Black Cuillin
Walking off the Black Cuillin

Kate and I decided to stay on with a friend of the family for the last few days, Maggie and her untameable but well natured Irish Water Spaniel ‘Woodruff’ at her lovely place in Ord on the western coast of the Skye’s south-east peninsular. My parents were also enjoying their retirement and holidaying at Maggie’s so was good to catch them for a day.

Probably the worst behaved dog in the world and owner
Probably the worst behaved dog in the world and owner

With one eye on the forecast Kate and I took the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig and had a brilliant days sport climbing at Black Rock just south of the ferry. The crag offers plenty of low to middle grade routes and overlooks a postcard perfect west coast bay. If you ever give them go watch out for the short stabby routes to the far left, some of the bolts were aged and spaced and don’t install much confidence. Generally the rock is in excellent condition with good friction and the lines give interesting climbing. The crag is in the SMC’s ‘Scottish Sports Climbs’ publication.

Me half way a sport route on Black Rock
Me half way a sport route on Black Rock
Postcard perfect view from crag
Postcard perfect view from crag

We left the crag exhausted but after a check of the BBC weather talked each other into stopping off at Glen Nevis for the night and giving Tower Ridge up the North Face of Ben Nevis a go on the Sunday. I love that climb and once again it didn’t disappoint.

Half way up Tower Ridge 2 hours in and still going
Half way up Tower Ridge 2 hours in and still going
Some climbers making their way to the start of 'The Long Route' on Ben Nevis.
Some climbers making their way to the start of ‘The Long Route’ on Ben Nevis.
Kate negotiating Tower Gap on Tower Ridge towards the end of the climb.
Kate negotiating Tower Gap on Tower Ridge towards the end of the climb.

Traprain Law

This summer I discovered the good side of climbing at Traprain Law after a cold grey outing a few years ago with Marcus which culminated in a botched pitch as we tried to punch above our grade. Managed a couple of beautifully sunny half days there in June and October. The crags situation is south facing overlooking some fields and the Lammermuir Hills. The crag drys quickly has a non-threatening feel about it and offers generally well protected climbing in the lower grades. The rock is heavily polished in places after generations of Edinburgh climbers visiting the crag. My mum’s first and only climbing experience was here 40 years ago with the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club which didn’t sound too successful….! Stand out climbs for me were The Great Corner (S**) which follows a perfect line up a corner crack and Left Edge (S**) which offered satisfying climbing and placements although felt tough in grade – once the crack is gained there’s plenty of gear

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Lucy belaying Kate on Double Stretch (S*) on the Lammer Wall.
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Very nice! View out towards the Lammermuirs.

Glenshee Ski Area

Awesome early February day at Glenshee. Best conditions were Carn Aosda (917m) in the morning then Glas Maol (1068m) in the afternoon. A rare benign day following weeks of unsettled weather and endless low pressure systems which have been battering the UK. There was an unbelievable amount of snow, up to 20ft on on the lee-side of Carn Aosda, the chair lift was so buried the top cable was only waist high on the slope!
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Benn Ghlas – The Trossachs

Winter walking in the Trossachs early January 2014. We snuck the ascent in before the weather closed in from the south and reached the summit in near whiteout conditions. Benn Ghlas is a 1,103m munro in the Ben Lawers range, it’s usually the first peak climbed before traversing 1000m or so to the summit of Ben Lawers – this day the wintery conditions didn’t allow it! Walkers – myself, Andy and Kate.

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a diary of days spent walking, climbing and surfing in Scotland