Our new trekking destination, Bulgaria, offers the opportunity to climb the highest mountains of the Balkans and southeast Europe. At an altitude of almost three thousand meters above the sea level, the Rila and Pirin massifs are both challenging and beautiful.
I was working with Ed and Andrew on an Intro to Snow and Ice Climbing 5 day course, Lee and Nicholas were on an Improvers Snow and Ice course with Chris and Jamie. Andy Ravenhill was working with Val, a Russian now living in London, who got a very full on introductory week of Scottish Winter mountaineering.
Val recently completed a Winter Mountaineering Course and was very fit and able. He moved well on the hill and had previous rock climbing experience so his rope work was good. He has climbed in Spain with his girlfriend and summer climbed in the UK.
The South Col is a 70 litre pack, which does sound big but my worry before departure was, would it cope with the kit list and the load carrying on Aconcagua! Also how would it measure up against my old faithful pack that I’ve used on all my expeditions since my first visit to Aconcagua 10 years ago?
A slow thaw at lower levels saw us head to beneath the north face of Ben Nevis to find good winter conditions and make use of the access track to help with the heavy packs! A few hours walk in and some digging found us camped on a snow platform a few hundred metres above the CIC Hut.
Jenifer recently completed a Winter Mountaineering course and was a very quick learner, keen to progress onto more technical terrain. She certainly enjoyed her weekend and inspired to do both more rock climbing at home and come back for more winter climbing.
Unfortunately, weather stopped play for the teams summit attempt. They got to Camp Colora but we’re unable to summit with the wind strength. Ian and Chris got to within 50m of the summit but had to turn around but still a great effort by everyone in the team. They have dropped down to Plasa do Mules yesterday and are walking out today. They will be back in Mendoza by 10th Feb.
On Saturday we headed up into Stob Coire nan Lochan with the objective of some grade 3ish climbing. The firm icy snow from a slight overnight frost was rapidly softening as we ascended into a thick cloud layer but this cleared as we geared up in the corrie floor to show climbing teams heading for all the classic routes.