Today Craig and I have been out in the Cairngorms working for Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors. Craig was out with a team of four delivering a winter skills day and I was out with Doug and Gregor winter climbing. Given the recent thaw and then the fresh snow over the last 24 hours the climbers were going to be looking for snowed up rock and the winter skills team was going to need to head high to find some older snow for kicking and cutting steps, hence our choice of the Cairngorms.
Driving conditions meant we arrived relatively late, which worked out well for the climbers; as we walked in we met lots of teams who’d been in to climb on Mess of Pottage, Aladdin’s and Fluted Buttress areas and were walking out reporting spontaneous avalanches occurring. This meant we could change plans early and head to the Fiacaill Ridge area. The wind has been pretty much around the clock face in the last 24 hours and it had been snowing fairly continuously for long periods. As the wind had come through the North this morning it hadn’t moved as much snow off the North facing aspects as expected and these slopes were still being loaded with fresh snow.
As we could see the East facing aspect of Fiacaill Ridge was bouldery and relatively clear of snow we headed for the area below the small buttress just North of the col on Fiacaill Ridge and climbed here. There are lots of options (pretty much all of which will have been climbed before) on short ribs and grooves in this area. We climbed 4 pitches on snowed up rock and frozen turf. Three of the pitches were circa II/III and one was a short slabby pitch of tech 5 or 6. We descended Fiacaill Ridge. Not a guidebooked route, but a good safe day in the conditions. It was still snowing as we left, good route choice will be required over the next few days for safe travel.
Yesterday John and I were out with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors team of Andrew, Chris, Emily and Martin. It was an Introduction to Winter Climbing day. It’s been thawing for the last few days, so our options were a little limited. We headed to Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms. There were still some large and droopy cornices over the area from Jacob’s Ladder to Aladdin’s Mirror, so we opted for Central Left Hand as it wasn’t threatened by cornices. This proved a good choice as a sizable collapse did happen further left during the day.
The route was climbed on soft snow, rock, well frozen turf and even some good ice near the top. However, it was thawing fast during the day.
On Thursday I was at Muiravonside with Nigel, 30 primary age children and their teachers and some parent helpers. We had a great day with the kids doing bushcraft, teambuilding and walking in the park. It was great to see the children getting out in February and learning in an outdoor environment. It’s opportunities like these that will disappear if the Falkirk Council vote on the future of Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors goes the wrong way on Wednesday. Please have a look at Save Falkirk Outdoor Activities site ( https://www.change.org/p/save-falkirk-outdoor-activities ) for more information.
Yesterday I was at Glencoe ski centre. Here we spent time looking at snow anchors, holding falls and understanding snow profiles.
There was still a good volume of snow for skills courses. The centre was closed for skiing.
I’ve been based around Fort William for the last 5 days. On Saturday Andy, Rob and I climbed the very good East Ridge of the North Buttress of Stob Ban in Glen Nevis. The snow was down below the toe of the lower buttress and the turf was well frozen, so we climbed this on the way to the flat platform on the ridge, before climbing the route as described in the guidebook. We then took in the summit of Stob Ban before descending.
On Sunday Andy and I climbed a very windy Dorsal Arete on Stob Coire nan Lochan. We started via one of the direct starts, which hadn’t been climbed since the last snowfall, so required a bit of clearing and descended Broad Gully. Large sections of the crag were still pretty black and the recent snow hadn’t consolidated.
Monday saw Alan and I heading up to the CIC hut with strong winds blowing down the Allt a’Mhuilinn. After dumping our gear in the hut we had a quick look up the first section of Tower Ridge and then abseiled back down. On Tuesday the strong South Easterlies were forecast to drop during the day so we had a late start and headed up in to Creag Coire na Ciste and climbed Central Gully. This had some really enjoyable climbing, but the ice wasn’t great for screws, so is probably an overall grade or so harder than normal.
With lower winds forecast today we had an early start and climbed Tower Ridge. It was thawing lower down on the route, but good higher up. For this time of year there’s quite a lot of exposed rock and the through route under the fallen block chimney is passable. There is some ice on Ben Nevis, but most of the normal icelines that would have formed at this time of year aren’t currently there (e.g. Italian and Vanishing). It was thawing at most levels when we left this afternoon.
I’ll add photos to Facebook over the next few days.
The weather forecast was better today for the east coast. Therefore we headed for the Cairngorms. Here we visited Creagan Coire Cha-no.
Due to the rise in temperatures overnight most of the crag is now out of winter condition. However, Captain Fairweather was still completely white so we climbed this. The snow on the route was moist but the turf was still well frozen.
Much of the snow on the approach to the route was frozen and crampons were required for the descent back to the car.
Today the team, Matt and I visited the North East Corrie of Beinn an Dothaidh and were pleased to discover on entering the corrie that we were the only climbers there.
Following an assessment of the approach to the routes around the West Gully area of the crag we climbed Stairway to Heaven. The route was very well frozen except from the platform at the top of pitch one where the double warthog belay is. Here the turf has been well insulated by a deep layer of snow and was not as dependable as elsewhere on the route.
Lots more photos from the last two days on the facebook page.
The lads from Ballachulish and I were on Curved Ridge today in Glencoe (Buachaille Etive Mor). Conditions on the route were excellent.
It is worth putting crampons on just after the waterslide as much of the terrain above this is currently covered in ice and moving without them would be very difficult.
We descended today via Coire na Tulaich which today did not present any problems.
For many years members of the ClimbNow team have helped deliver activities for Falkirk Council and then Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors. This has included outdoor activities for thousands of school age children, adults and seniors. This service is now in danger of being stopped completely at the end of March 2017 if a vote at the Falkirk Council meeting on the 22nd of February goes the wrong way.
As I understand it there has been no obvious consultation with user groups and no realistic opportunity for the management team to put forward alternative options in a reasonable timescale. If you have the time please take the opportunity to visit the Save Falkirk Outdoor Activities site ( https://www.change.org/p/save-falkirk-outdoor-activities ) for more information and sign the petition if you feel appropriate. If you feel strongly about this consider contacting your local councillor or MSP.