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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.

Friday, 12 April 2013

British Summer Time - Winter Routes!

 As the clocks changed to signal the official end of British Winter Time it seems nobody remembered to tell the Jet Stream!
 With the Jet Stream having a 'kink' in it which meant it was racing across the skies above Southern Spain, cold air from Northern Europe and strong Easterly winds were the major influence on the weather over the British Isles - bad news for most, but not if your wanting to get out on the mountains for some bonus winter routes!
April in the Lake District from Blencathra.
April Fools Day in the Lake District. - Deciding I could not miss the opportunity to get out on the hills whilst still under winter conditions, I set off at 05:30am for an early journey to the Lake District.
 Arriving in the Lake District in cold, bright but breezy conditions I aimed to ascend to the summit of Blencathra via Hallsfell Top Ridge, which would give me a Grade I winter climb, and descend by the iconic Sharp Edge which would give me a Grade II climb for my Winter Mountain Leader log book. I would also have the option of descending via alternative routes should Sharp Edge look a bit 'dodgy'!
Hallsfell Top and Blencathra in above the snow line.
  Carrying all the winter extra's - ice axe, crampons, rope, slings, carabiner's and spare clothing I made my way up Hallsfell and into the snowline on Hallsfell Top ridge where I was exposed to the biting Easterly winds for the first time on the route.
 On along the ridge I took out my ice axe and put on my crampons before the path became too exposed and a slip would of been fairly terminal. Rime ice and small cornice's were evidence of the strong winds and freezing temperatures of the previous week or so.
Looking back down Hallsfell Top.

 Reaching the summit of Blencathra the wind became much stronger with buffeting gusts of approx up to 50mph which started to cast doubt in my mind of crossing Sharp Edge. Walking across to the top of the ridge I was forced to put on my ski goggles as my eyes were streaming in the bitingly cold winds so I could assess the conditions as again a slip could be fairly terminal, not least because of the freezing temperatures meaning an immobilising injury could lead quickly into hypothermia!
 After taking a look at the route across Sharp Edge I felt it was do-able with some care, the main problem would be the winds though these were blowing along the ridge rather than at an angle across the ridge.
Sharp Edge dropping from left to right.

 Making my way down on to the ridge I escaped the worst of the winds and began across the sharp rock formation of the arete which gives the ridge its name. I noticed that 2 groups had set off from the opposite side of the ridge and had decided to turn back which was a little unnerving for a moment but I was committed to the route and continued to cross carefully.
the 'sharp' bit of Sharp Edge.
Sharp Edge in all its winter glory!

 As I reached the 3/4 point of the ridge I found the winds extremely strong and had to choose my moments to move on, this is probably what caused the other groups to turn back.
 I thoroughly enjoyed both ridges and the conditions made them all the more enjoyable by making them more challenging!

Snowdonia in the Snow- Following the my solo trip to the Lake District I made my way to Snowdonia to meet up with Brett Savage (Savage Adventures coming shortly!) to join him on a couple of winter routes in the Glyders.
 Wednesday we decided to head up Glyder Fach by following Bristly Ridge to the summit (Grade II Winter) and descending by Y Gribbin (Grade I Winter). Making our way from Lyn Ogwen we were straight into the snow which steadily got deeper as we made our way up to Lyn Bochlwyd.
Snow sculpture en route to Bristly Ridge.

 We made our way up the steeply rising broken boulders which form Bristly Ridge steadily as the climb was covered in soft snow and patches of ice and quickly gained height.
Brett gets the 'man leg' out!
 As the ridge rises there are sections which are very exposed with some sections of step overs which need care especially when under winter conditions.
More 'man leg' from the Savage, with Tryfan in the background.
"Yes Brett, the sweet shop is down there!"

 After reaching the top of Bristly Ridge we made our way to the summit of Glyder Fach and had lunch at the Cantilever Stone (photo's unavailable as Brett hasn't released them!!). We then made our way over to Y Gribbin which we descended back to the car park.

 It is worth mentioning that whilst leaving the summit we came across a group making their way up with a guide(?), non of the group had crampons or ice axes and one mentioned that they wished they did! I don't think its just personal preference, the mountains in winter are a serious undertaking and it always tends to be more difficult to get down than up when gravity is trying to speed up your descent!!

Thursday we headed back into the Ogwen Valley and past Lyn Idwal on our way to Cwn Cneifion where we had seen a climb in the North Wales Winter Climbing guide book by Simon Panton and Mark 'Baggy' Richards. A more strenuous walk in than we had origionally thought(!) we steadily made our way to Clogwyn Du where we planned to ascend Glder Fawr by climbing up Hidden Gully (Winter Grade II).
The walk in!
Brett leads the way on Hidden Gully.
  After the walk in the climb was all too short but still exciting in places in the conditions. Exposed to the strong cold winds on leaving the climb we walked to the summit point of Glyder Fawr (no cheating from us boys!) before making our way to the descent.

Looking down the Ogwen Valley.
 Back climbing down the descent I was regretting not putting on my as goggles as the wind whipped up the back of the Cwm blowing loose snow into our faces. It was then mainly a bum slide and some ice axe arrest practice all the way down to Lyn Idwal.

All in all 3 Winter Routes including 5 graded winter climbs for myself so time well spent!!

N.B No photo's were available from Brett (lazy boy) Savage for this blog!!!

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