I had a great time working for Steven Fallon Mountain Guides this weekend in the Cairngorms. Only problem was that is was 12c, which is a bl**dy nuisance when you want to teach winter skills! For full blog, see http://www.stevenfallon.co.uk/blog.html
Paul and I continued his quest for the highest points in all the countries of Europe last week with a winter ascent of the Mulhacen 3478m from the ski resort of Pradollano.
Despite being close to Granada in the Sierra Nevada at a balmy 18c, it was -4c on the summit, but unusually free of snow on the final approaches. We had a light westerly wind, and high cloud above summits, with sun for 80% of day. We took the cable car to Borreguiles at approx. 2400m, then walked under chairlifts to the road across the base of the adjacent peak, the Valeta, (apparently forbidden to do so!), then followed track all the way.
We took a look at the steep traversing path at the caldera, but opted for the longer but safer track around the promontory. The ice and snow dictated crampons the majority of the day, except for the long pull up the west flank to the summit, which was surprisingly snow free, but all around was an amazing myriad of water- ice shapes.
On the summit we met one of the few folks we saw all day, a German, who joined us for the descent back down to the excellent un-manned refuge at the caldera for some photos and a snack in relative warmth. It was then the long trudge back....and it was long!
It took 11.5 hours in total, 38k and 1800m of ascent/descent - not to be underestimated. That included a long walk down from Hoya la Moro and into town in the dark, which could have been avoided if we had a car there. If we did it again, in winter, we would do it in two days using the refuge. Altitude was a killer on that final slope too, and we both had aching lungs from the rapid ascent from sea level and the cold air, gulped deeply. You spend a lot of the time over 3200m, and you feel it.
We got into a great tapas bar at 20:30, kit and all, and the patron treated us royally. Never did a San Miguel taste so good! I have done it from the east and the west now, in a day and with an overnight - It's a great mountain, with surprising facets that make it interesting.
Here's to the third time......
This weekend winter finally arrived properly, and not before time, as I was working alongside Richard Kermode for Steven Fallon Mountain Guides on a Winter Skills course. We had great conditions, and a great group - For more pics and for full blog, see http://www.stevenfallon.co.uk/blog.html
After the quite splendid Hogmanay celebrations at Nethy Bridge, we all headed rather late for the Cairngorm Mountain, some to take the funicular, a couple to climb (who had left bright and early), and the rest to go for a walk.
However, once we got out of the car, and the wind hit us, almost everyone wussed out, just leaving myself and Liam to go for a daunder into the coire. It was icy going, and the wind was against us the whole way, blowing up some spectacular snow devils as it whipped at the surface. There is not much snow other than in the gullies and hollows that was icy neve, great for cramponing, but tricky to walk on.
As Liam had taken it steady the night before, (and has age on his side), we made good time into the coire, stopping to chat to folks on the way. We just intended on spending a little time covering some basic winter skills, as Liam had never walked in winter before, and that we did. After short sessions on boot use, axe use, crampons and self-belaying, we traipsed around a little in our crampons, before setting off back to the centre.
We knew our friends Adam and Ben were climbing in the coire, and saw them on Finger's Ridge iv 4, although of course we didn't know it was them! They had an 'interesting time' finishing the route in the wind! We could see the spindrift being whipped off the Goat Track, and were glad to not be up there.
We returned via the Fiachaill a'Choire Chais, trying to make our job easier by looking for ribbons of neve to crampon on. We did find a few hundred metres, but it was then down the nature trail path, unusually evident with the lack of snow.
A nice bracing afternoon out, cobwebs well and truly blown.
Now, fingers crossed for some snow!