Friday, 21 September 2018

WINTER SKILLS COURSE DATES 2018/2019

Winter is just Around the corner. Bookings already coming in for winter courses. As always I run mostly bespoke, individual tuition at dates to suit the individual.

I do have some Group Winter Skills courses running again this year. Limited dates left at weekends. My group courses are run at a maximum of 6 folk. Weekend dates always fill quickly so best to book as soon as possible. 

 WEEKEND, 2 DAY COURSES

DECEMBER 

8th-9th, 22nd-23rd, 26th-27th, 29th-30th

JANUARY

5th-6th, 12th-13th, 26th-27th

FEBRUARY

9th-10th

MARCH

2nd-3rd

4 DAY COURSES

JANUARY

7th-10th, 14th-17th

FEBRUARY

4th-7th, 25th-28th

MARCH

11th -14th

 All course details of my courses are on my website


Prices per person: 

2 day courses: £150

4 day courses: £300


Thursday, 20 September 2018

AFTER THE STORM, THE SNOW


Fresh snow on the Cairngorm plateau


Even a cornice forming

More snow over on Braeriach

Cairn Lochan

Cairn Gorm & Sneachda

Sheltered here

Coire an Lochan looking lovely in the sun

Point Five Gully & Fiacaill Buttress

Fingers Ridge


The cliffs of Coire an Lochain

Ben Macdui

Twin Burns


Yesterday saw the first storm of the season. Blowing up to 90mph on the summits in the Highlands. Storm'Ali' came and went overnight. I can't ever recall having to cancel a hill day for clients in mid September because of high winds. At Tarmachan Mountaineering we always try to be flexible, working around people's time and weather. Unfortunately my clients for Ben Nevis yesterday were heading back home to Canada today.  Shame as the winds eased right down by noon on Thursday and it was a beautiful afternoon in the Cairngorms.
This morning it was still blowing up to 60mph but the weather forecasts indicated an easing into the afternoon. I had a leisurely start, setting off at noon. The sun was out and the skies were blue. By the time I had arrived in Coire an lochan it was just a stiff breeze. Up on the plateau and there was hardly any wind really. A lovely and quiet stroll across the Northern Corries. There was some fresh snow above about 1050m and in the NE corries. A cool day on the summits but with the sun it was lovely. Only saw two folk all day after seeing lots of people coming back down to the car park as I was setting off. It's all about the timing! Check the forecasts. They're very accurate nowadays. The Met Office for Cairn Gorm today was just about spot on, hour by hour.
Of course a bit of snow in September IS| NOT the start of winter. No doubt we will have an heatwave in October before winter really starts on 1st November! Until then there are a few more wintry days to come over the weekend. Wrap up warm.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

MY ALPINE SUMMER

Mont Blanc at dawn from Refugio Bonatti
It's the first storms of the Autumn raging outside as I write. Time indoors today and a chance to write my annual end of summer blog. Another wonderful season out in The Alps working on trekking trips. So here's my best images that sum up the summer season out in the most popular mountain area on the planet, probably.

A snowy descent from the Col de la Seigne, TMB, mid June
It had been another good winter season in The Alps, just like here in the Highlands. Of course when we say 'good' this means lots of wonderful snow. Depending on how much snow falls thorough the winter and how warm/cold/wet the Spring is determines how much snow lingers at the beginning of the trekking season in The Alpine regions. Trekking groups on the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) get going around mid June. Before this many of the more remote accommodations are still closed. This is mainly because of the chance of snow high up. Most Tour companies that I work for don't start their season until around 15th June for this reason. Folk who come to trek in 'summer' aren't really wanting to be walking in snow (or ice). The reality is there will be snow above about 2000m

Descending the Col de Fours, TMB June
My first group of the season were a lovely family from Singapore. Not many mountains, never mind snow in their country! My group soon got into the swing of things on the white stuff. Learning how to cope walking on snow with summer boots can take a day or two. By the end of their trip they were experts on kicking steps in snow with summer boots. The weather was kind, in fact it was very hot. So it makes life easier. No frozen snow which can make things much trickier!

Easy walking when there's a trench!
Every year there seems to be more and more folk on the TMB. A victim of it's own success. I guess being in the 'Top 10 treks of the world' is to blame. Social media too! June did used to be a quieter time to come but not anymore. Having said that there are many times you can 'escape' the crowds and have your own piece and quiet on the trail.

Marmot, is it summer yet?
Trumpet Gentian
With such a hot summer this year the snow quickly melted away and summer had arrived by late June in all its glory with only small areas still with snow lying. The marmot's were everywhere, coming out of their 6 month hibernation under ground and the flowers out. Probably the finest time of year for me. If you love the flora then end of June into July offers the most abundance and variety of flowers. The hills are alive with wildlife.

A meadow full of Globeflower on the Col de Balme
Mont Blanc from Lac de Chesrys
The two images above were taken on the same week. Lac de Chesrys is just that bit higher for the snow to stick around longer. Be prepared! The other wonderful reason I love the early season is the light. The clarity in the air is usually beautiful and vibrant colours. A bit of snow adds to the scene.

Aiguille du Glacier
A windy day up high on Mont Maudit
In between trip this year I had a few days off and a chance for Karen to come out for a visit. The excellent weather just kept on coming.Good conditions for swimming, too hot for walking! Getting out early was a good idea before the heat.

Plenty of wonderful sunsets from Les Houches
Les Drus loking fine
Swimming Lac Combal
Swimming Lac de Chesrys
 One of the main tourist attractions in Chamonix is the fabulous cablecar ride up to the Aiguille du Midi on the Mont Blanc massif. At an altitude of over 3800m it gives stunning views in all directions. A world of rock and ice that can be viewed with hardly any effort apart from queueing up and going up and down a few steps to get your best view. Unfortunately this marvel of engineering had been closed early season for maintenance. It was eventually open and running  again by 7th July.

Sunset on a silent Aiguille du Midi


Climbers heading out from the Midi
Cosmiques Arete, Mont Blanc


Back to work and the first of 4 Haute Route treks this year. My favourite walk in The Alps. A brilliant 10 days of hiking  from Chamonix to Zermatt. En route some of the finest and biggest mountain scenery in The Alps. It's now my 29th ( I think) Haute Route and every day is superb. My first trip was for a private group from USA. Initially they were going to trek it themselves but on closer inspection of the route and possible difficulties they decided to hire a guide! Good choice!

On the Senier de Chamois, Grand Combin on full show
Trient Glacier on the Fenetre Arpette
The Haute Route is a big step up in  the fitness and skill level compared to the TMB. Longer days, steeper terrain, higher cols, more exposed and technical ground. Despite this it is still achievable for anyone with some Alpine trekking experience. Another big draw is the quietness compared to the Tour of Mont Blanc. I would guess there is probably only 10% of  folk who do the HR compared to the more popular TMB. More chance of spotting the wonderful wildlife here too. If you don't see Ibex or Chamois on this trek then you are very unlucky.

Male Ibex, HR July
Chamois, HR July
Young male Ibex
This summer was a brilliant season for butterflies too. Whether this was to do with it being so hot and dry I do not know. A fabulous display of many species and large numbers. Constant companions along all these treks are the wildlife. Looking at other groups wandering around the trails it looks like time is their biggest motivation. Or is it the latest in GPS and 'smart' watches. Making graphs with spike charts at the end of every day. Don't forget the 'floors' and 'steps',  km's and metres just don't hack it in today's world. I wonder when there will be a smart watch that will calculate the 'Enjoyment Value' at the end of every day?
Small Copper
?
Swallow Tail

On the Haute Route you will see some of the Alps biggest mountains. You may not see all 86 4000m peaks but you'll certainly get to view the finest ones.

Weisshorn and Zinal Rothorn from Carne de Sorbois
Looking down to the Val d'Herens
August is always the busiest time of the summer season. Everyone is on holiday. The whole world it seems! Accommodation is scarce to find if you've not booked anything in advance. The trails are busy but the Haute Route is still relatively quiet. Mid August it gets crazy. Back on the Tour du Mont Blanc and I had another lovely group out with me. Some fine weather once again.

High summer and you can still have some peace. Aiguille de Bionassay
Peace and quiet, Monte de la Saxe, August
Last of the snow, Lac Blanc
Alpine Pansey
Time off between trips is always a bit limited. I had a day off in Zermatt before my next  Haute Route. So many places to walk out from this famous Alpine town nestled below The Matterhorn. Spoilt for choice really. The views from the Gornergrat are stunning. This amazing journey from Zermatt by a cog railway takes around 40 minutes. Some fantastic scenery en route to the 3400m high point overlooking the Monte Rosa massif. Of course you can actually walk up!

Liskamm & Breithorn from near the Gornergrat
The Matterhorn at Riflesee
Some more images from the TMB in August. For me the best days on this classic hike are on the Italian side. The days between Lac Combal and the Grand Col Ferret offer some of the finest views of the Mont Blanc Range. Do make sure you walk the high level routes as these are definitely the best days you will have.


Grand Jorasses above Val Ferret

Lac Blanc

Mont Blanc and Val Veny
 And so back to the Haute Route for a final time. September offers some beautiful light. Autumn is just around the corner. The nights are colder, the mornings are crisper. The light can be magical. The thunderstorms aren't as many with the day time temperatures not so hot. One of my favourite months! The trails a wee bit quieter and that was certainly the case for some of the days on the final trek this year.

Moon above the Brunegghorn and Weisshorn
The Col de Reidmatten
Cloud swirling in the Mattertal
The Europawg above the Mattertal
Bishorn and N. ridge of the Weisshorn from Meidpass
The finest sections of the WHR are from Cabane du Mont Fort through to Arolla. It's wild, high, remote and full of wildlife. This year there seemed to be plenty of ibex and Griffen Vultures. Golden Eagle seen on every visit between the Col de Termin and Col de Louvie. It's the Ibex that is the King of the Alps. What a beautiful and majestic animal superbly adapted to the high mountains.

Male Ibex
Griffen Vulture
Female Ibex and her young
Getting out early in the day gets some wonderful light. Staying in the refuges on this high level section definitely gets everyone up early! A quick basic breakfast and folk are keen to get out. Especially as big 10 hour days are ahead of us so an early start essential.

Early morning, Lac Dix from Col de Roux
Mont Collon above Arolla
Mont Blanc de Chillion with a dusting of fresh snow
The days get slightly easier after Arolla. Still as stunning! This last trip was filled with fabulous clear days.

Pigne d'Arolla
Dent Blanche (the most beautiful peak in the Alps)
Mattertal
Meidpass
Zinal Rothorn
Mattertal from the Europawg above Zermatt
Weisshorn, North Ridge


No guesses
So that was my Alpine summer 2018. Thanks to all those wonderful folk I guided across The Alps this year. Some great times, good laughs and a few tears and blisters along the way!

This year I have been guiding for some great companies again.

Mont Blanc Treks
Alpine Treks
Cloud 9 Adventure
Tracks & Trails

Mont Blanc from near Brevent