Lowland Leader Award Training

On Friday evening, yesterday and today I’ve been delivering a Lowland Leader Award Training Course with John from Falkirk Community Trust. The candidates (Alan, John, Kevin, Michelle, Ricky and Tam) were all enthusiastic and keen to learn, which made for a great course.

Kevin, Ricky and Michelle on top of Mons Hill today

Kevin, Ricky and Michelle on top of Mons Hill today

As well as classroom sessions we used the areas around Muiravonside Country Park on Saturday and Dalmeny Estate today, which give good varied terrain for the course. Showers both days and muddy underfoot in places, but enough dry weather and shelter to make for two pleasant days out.

Snowhole Expedition

When thoroughly planned, snowholing expeditions can be brilliant fun. I am just back from another successful overnight stay on Geal-charn in the Drummochter Pass. As can be seen from the photo, one of the great benefits of sleeping out in the mounatins is sunrises like we saw this morning!

There is still large quantities of snow in the Drummochter Pass giving plenty of opportunites for winter sports.

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Aonach Mor, Stob Coire nam Beith and An t Sron

Yesterday the team and I headed to Aonach Mor to practice avalanche rescue techniques and micro navigation. The plateau area of Aonach Mor is still completely white and some good ski options still exist.

Large cornices still exist on easterly aspects.

Today we were in Glencoe where we climbed to the summit of Stob Coire nam Beith and then traversed An t Sron. There is still plenty of snow in Glencoe and lots of options still exist for gully and buttress climbing.

The snow is very firm at the moment and good crampon technique is required.

Descending from the summit of Stob Coire nam Beith.

Descending from the summit of Stob Coire nam Beith.

North East Corrie Beinn an Dothaidh

I have been out today in the North East Corrie of Beinn an Dothaidh looking at winter skills such as cramponing and ice axe arrest.

Plenty of snow still exists in the easy gully lines. However, as the photo shows most routes are out of condition.

Large cornices overhang a number of the easy gully lines.

The corrie today.

The corrie today.

Meall nan Tarmachan Ski Mountaineering

John, Emanuelle, Alan and I had a great day out ski-mountaineering with Falkirk Community Trust today. I’d been on the Tarmachan Ridge earlier in the week and new what snow conditions were like, so we headed to Meall nan Tarmachan.

Skinning up the East face of Meall nan Tarmachan

Skinning up the East face of Meall nan Tarmachan

A twenty minute walk took us from the minibus to snow patches on the East face, which we were able to link together for some steep skinning to gain the higher bowl. We skinned up through this and eventually had to don crampons and put skis on our back for an easy gully that lead to the North-East ridge, which we followed to the summit.

John, Alan and Emanuelle ascending the easy gully

John, Alan and Emanuelle ascending the easy gully

A short walk from the summit allowed us to ski excellent spring snow towards Meall Garbh. From the col a traversing descent on the North side of the ridge allowed us to ski the bowl immediately North of Meall Garbh, which gave a superb descent to around 700m. After skinning back up we skied the gully on the South side of the col until we were able to traverse around to the col between Meall nan Tarmachan and pt. 923m. From here we were able to access the bowl on the East face, which gave another good descent finishing via the line of our initial skin up.

The initial easy ski descent from Meall nan Tarmachan

The initial easy ski descent from Meall nan Tarmachan

The snow on the South side of the hills and below 750m was soft and heavy. Above 750m and on the North and East side of the hill the ski-ing was on great spring snow, The turf on the ridge and high in the shade was very firm. Fresh South-Westerly winds, no precipitation whilst we were on the hill, good visibility and some sunny spells made for an excellent ski-mountaineering day.

Aonach Eagach

John and I have been out today in Glencoe with Ian, Linda, Neil and Siobhan from Falkirk Community Trust. We traversed the Aonach Eagach from East to West.

Neil, Linda and Ian on Am Bodach with Stob Coire nan Lochan behind

Neil, Linda and Ian on Am Bodach with Stob Coire nan Lochan behind

The weather was superb with light winds and sunshine throughout the day. Conditions on the route were almost Alpine. The rock was dry and the patches of snow on the ridge were very firm. The turf was very well frozen in the shade and there was some verglas around.

Shiobhan and Ian descending snow on the Aonach Eagach

Shiobhan and Ian descending snow on the Aonach Eagach

We didn’t put crampons on, but we did use the rope to descend some of the harder snowy areas. If soloing the route, crampons may still be needed for the snowy sections.

Linda, Siobhan and Ian on the Aonach Eagach

Linda, Siobhan and Ian on the Aonach Eagach

 

Snowholing in the Drummochter Pass

On Thursday and Friday I was out building and staying in snowholes in the Drummochter Pass. There is still plenty of snow available for winter activities in the Pass and with careful route choice some great ski touring could still be had.

On the second day of our trip we climbed Geal-charn before practising slope stability tests and ice axe arrest.

The view from Geal-charn. Some great conditions still exist for ski touring.

The view from Geal-charn. Some great conditions still exist for ski touring.

Life in a snowhole. Inside the sleeping bag at 18.15!

Life in a snowhole. Inside the sleeping bag at 18.15!

Tarmachan Ridge

A great day on the Tarmachan Ridge above Loch Tay today with Billy, Cath, Derek, Duncan, Mary and Sarah from Falkirk High Tops Team. We joined the ridge East of Beinn nan Eachan and walked clockwise in order to ascend rather than descend the steepest section up on to Meall Garbh. We finished on Meall nan Tarmachan before descending it’s South Ridge.

The team with Meall Garbh behind

The team with Meall Garbh behind

Western slopes were largely scoured and bare, but East and North facing slopes are still holding a lot of snow above 600m. The snow was generally well consolidated and any areas of more recent accumulations encountered were beginning to bond well to the older snow.

Happy on the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan

Happy on the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan

The turf on the ridge was frozen hard and any high paths icy; crampons and axe were a definite requirement today. There are still some impressive cornice features and glide cracks around, which would need to be considered in thawing conditions. Just above freezing level at the summits today, with a very light Westerly breeze and no precipitation whilst we were out.

Ben Nevis

I’ve been on Ben Nevis for the last three days with Linda, Tony and Robin from Falkirk Community Trust outdoors. On Monday we walked in to the CIC hut and Linda, Tony and I climbed a right hand variation to Fawlty Towers up an icy corner just right of the normal chimney start. This joined the normal route after a pitch and a half and had good moves up the initial corner. We then descended down Tower Ridge to the Douglas Boulder gap and the East Gully of the Douglas Boulder. Robin climbed Ledge Route in excellent condition and descended Number Four Gully.

Tony on Harrison's Climb Direct

Tony on Harrison’s Climb Direct

On Tuesday Linda, Tony and I had a great day climbing Harrison’s Climb Direct on very good ice. Once in the upper bowl we headed up to the top section of Raeburn’s Buttress and finished up this taking in a short steep ice fall direct just below the top as a bonus. The ice on Harrison’s is holding on very well, but beware of the icicles of The Shroud on warmer days as they threaten the initial pitch. Robin went along the Carn Mor Dearg Arête, before heading out to Aonoch Mor and then returning via Carn Dearg Mheadhonach.

Linda in Green Gully

Linda in Green Gully

Today Linda, Tony and I climbed Green Gully finishing direct. The route was in good condition with the initial ice pitch being pretty banked out and easier than normal. We topped out in to glorious sunshine, no wind and great views. Robin spent the morning practicing Winter Mountain Leader Skills in Coire Leis.

A view in to Coire na Ciste this morning

A view in to Coire na Ciste this morning

The higher areas of Ben Nevis are holding ice well with routes on the Orion Face and Indicator Wall seeing plenty of ascents. Buttresses that are catching the sun are stripping fast in current conditions. There are still some large cornices about and these need to be considered on warm and sunny days.

 

 

Buachaille Etive Mor

The snow conditions currently in Glencoe are excellent with many of the easier gully climbs in great condition. We climbed up Coire na Tulaich which was in excellent condition before making the final ascent to Stob Dearg.

The Coire headwall is steep (maybe 50 degrees at the exit) on very firm snow and careful crampon work is required.

The Buachaille.

The Buachaille.

Looking out past one of our feathered friends at the top of Coire na Tulaich.

Looking out past one of our feathered friends at the top of Coire na Tulaich.