All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Winter Round Up - South Wales

Now that spring seems to have arrived and is hanging around, it seems like the time for a quick round up of winter.  La Grave has been covered in detail, Christmas in Chamonix with Kath and Andy - check, but what about the UK?

This year I promised myself I would do more winter climbing around the UK and therefore weekend trips would be the answer.  Before any tree huggers get on my case, I recycle, give to various nature charities, have planted many trees in my time and even sponsored some trees and my company Mountain Goat Adventures has a very green ethos.

So with the van full on all trips we would head off.

First stop, Brecon Beacons, South Wales.

On the weekend of Feb 13th/14th Feb, Nik, Rachel, Daniel and myself headed to the Beacons.  The plan to climb one day and walk with Giles and his daughter Mossie.

We drove over on the Saturday morning and Daniel and I headed straight in to Torpantau Falls. As we walk in and we got a surreal view of the falls it was clear this was going to be fun little adventure and a good way to kick start Daniels winter climbing career.  Bloody Norwegians ski as if they are born with skis on their feet, but more often than not (according to Norwegians) don't winter climb.

While Nik and Rachel enjoyed Talybont-on-Usk, cake, coffee and relaxing, Daniel and I started up the lower part of the falls, the ice started with the consistency of a Slush Puppy and over the series of lower steps improved.  At the main sectors of climbing the ice was well formed and solid and made for excellent climbing.

Torpantau Falls in the distance (Photo: Daniel B)

You get a choice at the top of this route, a left easier option or the fanned ice that had formed to the right making for more interesting, technical climbing and harder climbing, we went this way of course.

Daniel, climbs the first series pitch of ice

Successfully climbed we ice bouldered our way up the remaining steps in the stream and headed back.  This was a great little route and it seemed to cheeky to pass up this climb when in South Wales.

The next day we headed off for a winter walk in the sun (after a cold nights sleep) with Giles and Mossie.  It was great to do some walking and see the Beacons in mild wintry conditions and Giles and I also practiced some navigation for our ML.

Some pictures below of the day on the Beacons.

L - R, Nik, Giles, Mossie, Rachel and Dan.

Below Left Bomber 1465 wreckage and below right Brecon Beacons

Nik and Mossie, weaving through the bogs.
(Photo: Daniel B)

Return to Plyon and Dry Tooling, La Grave - Part 4

The last one honest.

With Nik out of action and it safe to venture out to climb again, Darren and I headed out to Pylon and dropped Adrian and Jamie off on the 3rd attempt. Better planning next time guys.

Anyway, Darren and I walked into Plyon and geared up, while a couple of chaps from Grenoble finished there first route knocking loads of stuff down, but unlike the Spanish days before, they made lots of very clear early calls.

The weather was noticeably warmer and on leading the first pitch this was confirm.  Whilst Darren and I debated continuing up after I had had a good look and got soaked in the process, the French chaps joined us from above on the belay.

A short and comical exchange and it was decided that today valor needed to be shouldered and discretion heeded.  We lowered off.  I then lead the other side through the steepest line on soft wet ice and made my way to the belay.

At this point the French chaps waved, wished us well and departed.  I wondered out to the start the final pitch, place a screw that was immediately turned into a spout. Hmmm!  Darren and I deliberated for a little while and I pressed on a bit.  We chatted a little more and we decided to shoulder arms and head back to the gite for a beer.

Lowering off, the ropes got tangled, so I had to climb on very thin ice, scratching tool placements to regain the belay ledge and the ab off.  The ice and technique I had just encountered reminded me of Andy Kirkpatrick at one of his lectures explaining a lead that Ian Parnell had done and the fact that they had to sim-climb to complete the pitch.  Admittedly, they are faaar better climbers than me and didn't have a belay and were climbing much harder.

As promised we returned to the gite for a beer.

Saturday, the last day before the long drive home.  What do do?
We dropped Adrian and Jamie off at the base of a road side route and headed for a dry tooling boulder that Jim knew of, Nik, Cat, Darren, Jim and I.

On arrival Jim and I quickly rigged a few ropes and we proceeded to climb some of the routes and Jim and I tried a project that Jim had been working and both got shut, but not without a fight.  We eventually retired and headed back to the gite for the final night.

Left, I fight with the project and right, Jim practices some moves before clean this route eliminating the wooden holds.  (Photos by: Nik)

The week had been a fairly successful week for all, with the exception of Nik's hand and another group members ankle getting broken.  Thanks to Dave and Rich for organising the accommodation and food, and thanks to all for the great company and brilliant stories.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

La Grave, Part 3. About time really.

With loads of powder being dumped over night and Nik's looking swollen and red, there was only one thing to do really......................................SKI!

So we did. We had decided this the night before and Nik had already got her skis sorted. So Adrian did the same in the morning, we got lift passes and hit the slopes.

The powder that had been dumped was amazing, the pictures below is on piste in Alpe D'Huez.

(Photo: Nik)

The white stuff was so light, deep and fluffy, I couldn't get enough of it.  Nik and the rest of the crew where loving it also.  As I got my ski legs it was time to head off piste, the snowing being so deep would prove to be a good thing.

Even thought the day was gloomy, the loads of powder more than made up for.  Nik got more comfortable with the powder and was soon heading of piste as well.  Doug and I continued to tear the powder up and managed to carve some fresh lines, some with the occasional bomb hole in the middle of them.

Doesn't look that steep here, but at the top, it drops away, like the side of a barrel.
(Photo: Nik)

As the day drew to an end the calls of one more run were made again and again, as jumps had been included in some of the runs this was certain to end in tears.  But it didn't, it ended like this.

(Photos: Nik and Steve)

Oh and some idiot decided to make a drop off out of the button tow way.

We headed to the bar for some Apres Ski and chatted excitedly about the days events.

The next day we headed out for more powder fun and spent some more time in Alpe D'Huez and even stopped for lunch.  Nik and Adrian and myself to a lesser extent had given Jamie a great deal of pointers as he had headed out to ski for the first time, after hearing about our previous days exploits.

Jamie, progressed a hell of a lot in that day and I am sure next season he will carve well.

Doug and I pushed hard in the afternoon to squeeze as many new tracks in the powder and we found a interesting kicker, which sent us both head first into the powder on our first jumps.  The next run, I managed some good air a held my form to land it and ski out of it.  Doug got some good air and almost held on for the win.  Mean while Nik continued to find fresh untouched powder and carve her way through it.

The end of the day soon drew in and it was time for more Apres Ski at the same great little bar and Nik even managed to make new friends.

It was then home for food and the Peglars Ice Fest quiz and my team missing the win by 1 point.