Aonach Mor

It has been a beautiful day in Lochaber today. The team and I were out on Aonach Mor looking at navigation skills and avalanche rescue techniques. Massive cornices exist on easterly aspects while westerly aspects were well scoured.

The ski conditions at Nevis Range looked excellent today.

Two of the team preparing to do a transceiver search.

Two of the team preparing to do a transceiver search.


Beinn an Dothaidh

Huge amounts of snow arrived last night and this morning in the Glencoe and Bridge of Orchy areas followed by more heavy snow and very strong winds this afternoon. The current weather is creating significant windslab and cornice danger.

The team and I did however still have a great day out on Beinn an Dothaidh. We climbed steep ground near Creag Coire an Dothaidh before using a rope to ensure safe navigation in whiteout conditions on the way to and back from the summit.

The 1000m summit of Beinn an Dothaidh in less than perfect conditions.

The 1000m summit of Beinn an Dothaidh in less than perfect conditions.

Stob Mhic Mhartuin

Heavy snow arrived last night and this morning in Glencoe on strong winds before clearing late morning to give a stunning day of sunshine and showers.

I have been out today on Stob Mhic Mhartuin with a team looking at essential winter skills such as ice axe arrest and cramponing. Deep snow can be found on most aspects and cracking of the snowpack is clearly visible from the feet indicating that lots of windslab is around. We had one crack propagate eight metres from our feet on a convexity. It is worth consulting the avalanche forecast before heading out.

On Mhartuin with the Buachaillie behind.

On Mhartuin with the Buachaille behind.

North-West Highlands Trip.

I’m just back from three days based at the Sail Mhor Croft Hostel near Dundonnell with the Falkirk Community Trust Winter Mountaineering and Winter Hillwalking Teams.

Descending Sail Liath

Descending Sail Liath

On Friday the Mountaineering Team of John, me, Alastair, Linda, Lorne, Neil and Wilson completed the traverse of An Teallach. This is a long, but very rewarding day. The conditions on the ridge were firm snow, hard ice, well frozen turf and rimed rocks. The ice on the descent from Sgurr Fiona was particularly hard and scoured and required great care.

Climbing up on to Corrag Bhuidhe

Linda and Neil climbing up on to Corrag Bhuidhe

Craig and the Hillwalking Team decided on the Fannichs and climbed Sgurr Breac in high winds and often with poor visibility in driving snow.

On the An Teallach traverse

On the An Teallach traverse

On Saturday the Mountaineers took a gamble on a Grade 1 summer scramble on Sgurr Ruadh. This worked well and we were able to take a number of harder variations on the short buttresses on the North ridge. Some of the team then descended snow from the col beyond the summit, whilst the rest continued on to Sgurr Creag an Eich before returning to and descending the col.

Lorne & Wilson on Sgurr Ruadh

Lorne & Wilson on Sgurr Ruadh

The Hillwalking team attempted Bidean a’Ghlas Thuill, but were turned back by high winds and tricky underfoot conditions just after the col with Sron a’Choire.

Today Neil and I climbed a gully/buttress on the East Face of Sail Mhor before descending via a gully whilst the rest of the group headed up to the summit of Sail Mhor. There’s lots of water in the burns and the best route to Sail Mhor at the moment is up the West side of the very impressive Ardessie waterfalls; this avoids crossing the Allt Airdeasaidh as the old route has been washed out above the falls.

Neil about to descend a gully on the East face of Sail Mhor

Neil about to descend the gully on the East face of Sail Mhor

Strong West, South-West or Sourtherly winds throughout the period. Plenty of precipitation with snow down to about 500m, lots of fresh accumulations of snow in sheltered locations at height with strong scouring of windward slopes. Groupel and at times heavy hail showers today. The freezing level seemed higher than forecast today and was above the summit of Sail Mhor.

Glencoe Ski Centre

Yesterday I was running a winter skills course near Glencoe ski centre. The ski conditions looked excellent and look set to improve over the next few days with more snow forecast. Thanks to Dave Crookes for the photo of the team and I. The photo is taken from a snow shelter that we built during the day.


Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag and Beinn an Dothaidh

Yesterday with the team I went to Nevis Range and used the Gondola to access Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag.The conditions underfoot were good with the ground well scoured. This has however led to significant cornicing on easterly aspects and required us to use a rope to safeguard our navigation to the summit of Aonach Beag in whiteout conditions.

Today I drove through Glencoe to Bridge of Orchy. Significant avalanche activity was clearly visible from last nights thaw and recent avalanche activity was noted on Beinn an Dothaidh which we climbed. The crags of Creag Coire an Dothaidh are now all black.

Creag Coire an Dothaidh

John and I were out with a Falkirk Community Trust climbing team of Doug, Graham and Tam today. We were looking for a scoured crag, given all the new snow, and headed to Creag Coire an Dothaidh. Creag an Socach actually looked more scoured, but with the turf feeling variable on the walk in we headed for the less turf dependent lines on Creag Coire an Dothaidh. Big thanks to the soloist and the team of walkers heading for Beinn Dorain who put a trail in for us.

Graham about to move through the first narrows on our 2nd route

Graham about to move through the first narrows on our 2nd route

John, Doug and Tam climbed Salamander Gully, which they described as “climbable, but with the ice thin in places”. Graham and I climbed Centigrade, which had some thick ice, but required a delicate approach on some sections where the ice was good, but not extensive. Graham and I then nipped round and climbed a line between Centigrade and the col, which started just left of a steep 5m wall and followed a gully/groove line through a couple of narrow sections on good featured ice at about tech III . I’ve vague memories of a line being recorded in one of the SMC Journals here, but now can’t find it. Anyway it gave a good quick second route for the day.

Graham pulling round some ice "cauliflowers" on the 2nd route

Graham pulling round some ice “cauliflowers” on the 2nd route

A lot of soft fresh snow around in sheltered locations. Turf frozen where exposed, but soft where insulated. Ice around on the crag, but not extensive. The crag was well rimed, but was loosing some of this during the day. Above freezing level at crag height most of the day after an overnight frost and temperature rising as we left with rain showers starting to move in.

The Zig-Zags and Stob Mhic Mhartuin

Yesterday morning I drove from South Queensferry to Glencoe. This took five hours including two hours stuck in the snow on the A82 in Glencoe. This hopefully gives a good idea of how much new snow has arrived in the area over the last couple of days.

Once I arrived in Glencoe I met the team and headed out to the Zig-Zags on Gearr Aonach. We climbed and descended the route looking at short roping and abseiling skills. The route was a popular option with quite a few teams around trying to avoid the worst of the weather by staying at lower altitudes.

Today I have been out on Stob Mhic Mhartuin looking at winter skills such as ice axe arrest and emergency snow shelters. There is a lot of new snow around making movement  time consuming and significant wind transportation increasing the avalanche risk on certain aspects.

Unfortunately my camera broke on Sunday and so my blog posts will be without photos until the weekend.

Beinn an Dothaidh

John and I were out yesterday with a Falkirk ski-mountaineering team of Alan, Elsie, Findlay, Rebecca and Rob. We headed west to Beinn an Dothaidh to try and make the most of the new snow after last weeks thaw. This worked well as we were able to skin from about 450m.

Skinning up towards the NE Coire

Skinning up towards the NE Coire

We skinned up in to the North-East Coire of Beinn an Dothaidh before putting the skis on our back and climbing Emel Ridge. We’d chosen this route as a good option given the fresh slab, which had developed on Friday on top of old snow in gullies.

Alan on an easy section of Emel Ridge

Alan on an easy section of Emel Ridge

We then skied to the summit before descending to near the head of Allt a’Coire Ghabhalaich on excellent new snow. From here we had a long skin around and up to the head of Coire Daingean before descending back to the mini-bus. This was generally on good fresh snow, but without any real base and with burns showing and often requiring the removal of skis. A long day with the final descent and carry of skis back to the van being in the dark.

Rebecca and Elsie in Coire a'Ghabhalaich

Rebecca and Elsie in Coire a’Ghabhalaich


Some snow showers during the day. Accumulations of new wind slab on North through to East facing slopes and in sheltered locations on other aspects. The exposed turf was well frozen, but where insulated under new snow the turf was soft. Good conditions on Emel Ridge and teams on Stairway to Heaven and on the buttress around Zig-Zag Gully. A starry night as we headed out and a hard frost developing.

Ben Nevis Conditions

Finn in Raeburns Buttress intermediate gulley IV 5

Finn in Raeburns Buttress intermediate gulley IV 5

Finn on  Raeburns Ordinary Route Stob Coire nan lochain

Finn on Raeburns Ordinary Route Stob Coire nan lochain

A couple of weeks earlier in January I had a great time working on the British Mountain Guides winter training and even bumped into wilf on the east ridge of beinn a choarain.
Last week working on MIC training with Plas Y Brenin I met a friend of euans, Ady Williams total legend.
This last few days working with Finn have been brilliant.
Some of the routes climbed in the last few weeks.
Mega Route X
Vanishing gulley
The curtain
raeburns buttress intermediate gulley
Italian Right hand
tower ridge
point five
1934 route
ledge route
Castle north gulley all ben nevis.
I found great conditions on routes in glencoe, aonach mor and rhe cairngorms but the ben is as good as Ive ever seen it, even met chamoniards on the curtian yesterday.
Lets hope it survives this turbo thaw.