Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Summer 2010 in review

As the seasons turn and the mountains once again mellow with the autumn, I find myself on the train back to Glen Coe for another season of fun at the Clachaig. The summer has been an interesting one for me. I haven't climbed anywhere near as much as I did during summer 2009, thanks in part to being away from Scotland for the bulk of the season, partly due to my policy of putting my writing first this year. I may not have climbed as much or as hard, but in its own way summer 2010 has been just as enjoyable as the previous one--and I have been to many new and fantastic places.

The other defining characteristic of summer 2010 is that most of my adventures have involved snow and ice! Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights.

The season began in May, that no-man's-land between winter and summer. On the 12th of May we climbed No.2 Gully on Ben Nevis. While hot weather gripped the glens and trees burst into leaf, ice remained in quantity on the high mountains and we enjoyed the finest ice climbing conditions of the whole winter. A very memorable day out.

A little while later, in the last week of May, James and I made a rare visit to the Cairngorms for a climb in Coire an t-Sneachda. Large amounts of snow still hugged the cliffs and we made a rather Alpine-style ascent of Pygmy Ridge, climbing steep snow to the start of the route then pitching the excellent moderate rock climb above in our mountain boots. After this hugely enjoyable excursion, I struck off by myself down the Lairig Ghru to finally climb Braeriach and some of its companion Munros. After several failed attempts over the past few years this two-day trip into the melting ice wonderland of Braeriach was particularly satisfying.

To celebrate my 24th birthday, on the 3rd of June, James and I made an ascent of Shrike Ridge on the West Face of the Aonach Dubh. I made the first recorded ascent of this fine climb the previous year, and it has now generally agreed that it is graded Diff--probably the best route at that standard on this side of the mountain. The crazy exposure on the sharp arete that forms the first pitch is certainly memorable, although unfortunately the upper pitches do not live up to expectations.

A few days later, James and I headed up to Skye. A visit to Skye is a rare treat and we made full use of our time: a short easy day on the Spur, followed by the excellent Round of Coire Lagan. We took in all of the most prominent mountains and enjoyed a full day of interesting scrambling and moderate climbing. The highlight was most definitely an ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle.

In late June I left Glen Coe in preparation for my great Norwegian adventure! It didn't turn out to be quite as great as originally planned--the weather saw to that--but nevertheless I enjoyed a full week of backpacking through delightfully wild and barren country, surrounded by remote, glaciated mountains. I climbed only one of these peaks, Kvitskardtinden, again hampered by conditions. Eventually a series of storms forced me to retreat several weeks earlier than planned. However, I feel better prepared for future adventures in the Jotunheimen region, and there's so much I would like to do there.

Finally in terms of mountaineering trips, the Alps! All the details are in my most recent post. I knew I'd have to make a short trip to clear up some research questions, but hoped I'd be able to get some climbing in as well. Happily, my friend Lauren and her husband were also planning a visit, and we spent nine days in Arolla. Our mountain, Pigne d'Arolla, blessed us with some fine views.

Last but most certainly not least, the end of the summer has brought more happiness for me in the form of a lovely red-haired florist from Lincolnshire--something of a UKC celebrity over the last few years, and I'm sure many of my regular readers will recognise the wonderful 'Hannah S'.

So: overall, an excellent summer, a bit more relaxed than last year but no less successful. In between mountaineering excursions I have been working hard at my book ("The Only Genuine Jones"), and thanks to the research I conducted in the Alps I am now in a position to finish it. Only four chapters remain before I'm at the end, after three years and one fairly major setback! Further adventures are in the pipeline for our hero Mr Jones as well, and with a bit of luck my store of ideas, and vast amount of research amassed to date, should keep me going for some time.

For now, it's fairwell to the summer and hello to the autumn, one of my favourite times of year. Snow and ice has already been reported on the high mountains. A new season begins!


  1. Summer was that small window between the end of the snow and the start of the rain for me haha. May and June! The last few months have been mega depressing! Bring on winter with gusto!!!!!

  2. Of course.... time to enjoy some inversions first :)

  3. Always the way Christ--July and August tend to be dead months for me.