I’m just back from three days away with Andrew and Ged. The weather was challenging at times, but we managed to get something good done everyday.
On Friday we climbed the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn in strong South-Westerly/Westerly winds and rising freezing levels. The ridge was a sheltered popular choice for the conditions and it was pleasant to bump in to quite a few folk we knew.
Freezing levels dropped down again for Saturday to around the 500m to 700m level, but there was lots of snow forecast on strong Westerly winds. We opted for Creag Coire an Dothaidh. This again proved a popular choice with the coire as busy as I’ve ever seen it. We climbed the first pitch of Right Guard, a pitch in a similar line parallel to Fahrenheit 451, a short easy rightwards traverse and a dogleg pitch bringing us out on the top section of Centigrade. This gave us some very good climbing at around III,4. The turf on the first pitch was softer than expected, but above this very firm with a lot of ice around. Simon and partner climbed Salamander Gully reporting it good, but with a steep ice bulge and John’s team climbed a hard variation on Centigrade. There were several other teams on the crag, but I’m not sure what else was climbed. Fahrenheit 451 looked fat at the top, but thin and bold on the first pitch.
With a forecast of very high winds from the South-West and rain we headed for the Cairngorms today and spent the day in the shelter of Fiacaill Coire Chais looking at snowpack, snow anchors and emergency shelters. The ski centre closed early due to the wind, but the rain didn’t arrive until late afternoon. With freezing levels above the summits during the day the crags were looking black and ridges were completely scoured, but there were still big depths of snow in sheltered locations.
Mac has kindly sent through some excellent photos of last Wednesday on The Cobbler. There’s a few below.
On Monday I climbed Dinnnertime Buttress before descending Stob Coire nan Lochan. Below are a couple of photos from the day.
Getting winter conditions right on The Cobbler is never easy. Hard frosts to freeze the turf; enough scouring to expose the turf on the steep sections and cloud to stop the sun stripping the rime from the South facing crags are all required. Today Mac, Steve and I were lucky enough to get it right. The walk in was tough with trenches from the weekend being mostly filled in and a lot of breakable crust to deal with; 2hrs via the back route to the col.
We climbed Ramshead Ridge and then the variation to Right Angled-Gully Direct which involves the ledge traverse to keep the grade consistent. Like most winter routes on The Cobbler it was good value and we split it in to 4 pitches to avoid rope drag. The crux on the day was the steep corner on Ramshead Ridge, which gave excellent hard technical climbing with just enough ice on the left wall to help with balance. However, gaining the groove at the end of the ledge traverse was harder than it looked and involved a fair bit of hilarity.
There’s wind slab on lots of aspects and careful route choice is required. The crags were well rimed and the turf on the route was very well frozen. Lot’s of ice forming above 700m on the rock steps near the Northern approach route. Powdery snow on ledges with older crusty snow underneath. Shallower angled routes and snowy gullies wouldn’t be a good choice at the moment on The Cobbler.
Ivor and I joined the Falkirk Community Trust minibus heading to Glen Shee today. There was low cloud most of the day and the light was very flat, so we skied mostly on the pistes. Mike and a group were looking at technique in the morning, before personal skiing in the afternoon to reinforce new skills.
A fresh Southerly wind today. No new snow fall during the day. The pistes have generally good cover, but away from the pistes or sheltered areas the snow is often scoured back to the heather.
Paul was looking for an overnighter with some mountaineering this weekend and an early return to Edinburgh. We opted for Glen Clova as having one of the better forecasts and probably less snow than a lot of areas. It’s worth noting that the drive up the glen has some pretty big areas of rutted hard packed snow and ice at the moment.
The approach conditions were fairly tough with deep unconsolidated snow and breakable crust, so we diverted form Plan A pretty quickly and headed up the Kilbo path. Once out of the woods we took a look at the broken ground to the South-East and decided that with careful route choice this would give us a safe route up on to Dreish. We picked our way up the terrain linking small ribs and buttresses that gave about 150m of height gain on Grade I ground.
As we’d expected the ridge and summit area were generally well scoured and gave good walking around to the ridge above the Kilbo path in late sunshine and with no wind. We descended the ridge and bivvied in the woods.
This morning we found a bank of snow that was just big enough to look at emergency shelters before heading back down.
There was fresh snow overnight and the wind had switched around to a North-Easterly with lots of wind movement of snow. There are now significant pockets of windslab on lots of aspects right down to around 600m and some big areas of slab about. Good route choice is definitely required at the moment.
Snow shoes or skis might be useful for travel to avoid wading and post holing away from scoured areas.
Stob Mhic Mhartuin is located above the Devils Staircase in Glencoe. The lads and I had a great day out climbing this peak with great views of Buachaille Etive Mor for most of the ascent. As well as climbing the peak we also practised some essential winter skills.
The snow cover is extensive abd deep in Glencoe at the moment as the video on the climbnow facebook page shows. It is worth taking this into account when planning journeys.
The drive south this evening to the central belt was less than perfect with particularly difficult driving conditions around Crianlarich.
John and I were out with a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Mountaineering group of Jim, Linda, Paul, Siobhan and Tom today. The choice of where to go was a hard one given weather and conditions. We ended up going to Coomb Craig Ridge on Swatte Fell near Moffat. This means after having not been there in winter since 2003 I’ve now been there twice this season.
The ridge faces North-East and we hoped we’d be sheltered from the winds and this proved to be the case. There was snow from the base of the ridge, but the turf was only frozen in places, so we opted to climb without crampons, but with an axe in case of a slip and for the occasional hold. We climbed the left side of the bottom buttress and then continued up the crest of the ridge. Care is required with loose rock, particularly on the bottom buttress; this can be bypassed on the left and would be better if well frozen.
Once on the plateau above the ridge, which is only just over 700m, we were exposed to winds of circa 40mph with gusts of 50mph, making us glad we weren’t any higher. We were back to the minibus before the rain/snow started in the afternoon, which made the day all the more pleasant.
There are sizable cornices above Nether Coomb. Strong South-Westerly winds during the day and as we drove back over Beattock there was sleet falling.
Tough conditions persist in Glencoe at the moment. Lots of snow at all levels is making movement time consuming. The boys and I had a good day out on Sgorr a Choise which proved to be a physical effort in the current conditions.
Very strong wind conditions on the summit ridge were continuing to build windslab in sheltered locations from about 550 metres upwards. Carefule studying of the avalanche report is required at the moment.
A frustrating day today, as John, myself and a group of climbers from Falkirk Community Trust had planned to take a look at the West facing crags near Bridge of Orchy. However, snowy road conditions on the way up and finally a lorry partially off the road on the A82 just North of Tyndrum, meant we never actually got out of our vehicle.
Visibility wasn’t great, but the odd glimpse showed the West facing crags to be pretty scoured. There was lots of fresh snow during the morning on a West or South-Westerly wind and this would have been leading to high avalanche risks on lee slopes. More snow is forecast overnight tonight with the winds being more Southerly.