Saturday, 31 December 2011

Another amazing year (posted by James)

The finest dawn I've ever seen, on Sgorr nam Fianniadh, Glencoe.

At the end of 2010 I was convinced there was no way the coming year could be as good as the 12 months I'd just had. I was wrong…and 2011 has been an absolute blast.

November: A day when I climbed Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis, and then climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor as soon as I got down.

It has been an amazing year - one of those when the rollercoaster has taken me to the highest highs and the lowest lows, but never given me a dull moment.

January: The summit view from Ben Lui, on the most beautiful day I've ever seen.

The whole year is to me now a blur…my camera and I and countless icy dawns and glowing sunsets, waiting and watching the light perform its dance and the world sing its song. And always making sure I was there to see it.

September: A view of Clach Glas during the Clach Glas - Blaven Traverse, Skye. One of the single best mountaineering days available in Britain.

At the beginning of January I realised something that has guided me for the whole of this year. I realised that I'd been in Glencoe long enough that in order for me to carry on taking "original" or exceptional (by my standards) photos, I would need to go to much greater measures. There's only so long you can live somewhere and keep taking photos before you need to find a new angle on things.

The same applied to climbing. It was time to aim higher and take a bolder approach.

January: Approaching the NE Face of Bidean nam Bian, Glencoe, on the way to the probable first winter ascent of Gateway Gully (II)

So I started waking earlier for dawn photography trips, putting more time into researching and exploring new viewpoints. Visiting more remote and obscure cliffs, hills, crags and ridges. Training hard in my spare time so that I was fitter and more prepared for the greater demands I was putting on myself.

December: Dawn light catches The Aonach Eagach, seen from the West face of Aonach Dubh on my way to the likely first winter ascent of Number 3 Gully Rib (II/III).

And all the time assessing and trying to improve my mindset as a soloist, the climbing discipline at which I have now become the most comfortable. I've learnt some massively important lessons about solo climbing this year and as a result I've managed to break a fair few mental barriers.

June: Quiver Rib (Difficult 4*), E Face Aonach Dubh, Glencoe - the steepest route of its grade in Scotland and one of the best solos I've done.

I've had countless wonderful days climbing and taking photos this year, far too many to mention. As always a few stand out….

May: Multiple crossings of the Aonach Eagach, Glencoe this year…the most memorable being a night-time crossing in a gale in August.

The best winter sunrise I've ever seen was on Sgorr nam Fiannaidh this February. Trudging through snow turning pink with the dawn, the entire West Highlands glowing the same rosy colour…one of the most staggeringly beautiful sights I've ever seen.

Five consecutive days of winter climbing in late February, and not a single cloud to be seen for the whole time. Perfect snow, perfect sun. Magic.

February: The view from topping out on the East ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach, after 5 days of winter climbing in perfect sunshine.

Battling my way up the rarely climbed "North Face Direct" (III) on Stob Coire Sgreamhach in a gale, and narrowly avoiding falling down a 10 foot deep crevasse that opened beneath me on an ice pitch.

December : Looking down the crux during a solo climb of Castle Ridge (III), my boldest winter solo to date.

The Lochaber Traverse - easily a candidate for the best hill-walk in Britain.

April: Mid-way along the Lochaber Traverse, A 22 mile crossing of 7 of the highest and finest Munros and finishing on Ben Nevis.

On-sight soloing The Great Ridge of Garbh Bheinn (Difficult) in June, a personally symbolic route and a committing solo.

June: Immense exposure during a solo of The Great Ridge of Garbh Bheinn, Ardgour. A route of the same scale and grandeur as the Ben Nevis ridges, but seldomly climbed.

Doing 69 new Munros taking me over half-way, the Clach Glas - Blaven Traverse, running Bidean nam Bian in a Clachaig split shift, trips to Assynt and the far North, the Aonach Eagach by starlight, a winter solo of Castle Ridge on the Ben….and many, many more!!

April: The amazing view along the Cuillin Ridge from my 100th Munro, Sgurr na Banachdich, Skye

It's been again great this year to bump into a surprising number of my readers either in the Clachaig or on the hill - I hope you find this blog useful or entertaining in some way, and I'll do my best to keep you up to date with news and photos from this wonderful glen.

March: A moment of magic seen from Gearr Aonach, Glencoe.

A very happy New Year to you all, and stay safe and have fun in the hills in 2012.