What do you do on a bank holiday Sunday with good weather and conditions? Nettle and I chose to go for an adventure away from the crowds. From the A9 we carried our skis a short distance before skinning up the track to pt. 902m between A’Bhuidheanach and Carn na Caim. We then skied down towards Meall Odhar Mor and dropped in to the delightful Cama’ Choire. This feature is more of a steep sided stream line than a normal coire.
Based on some vague memories from a trip in 2006 and some waterfalls shown on the map we were hoping to find some ice to climb. After descending the coire for a while and having to bypass a couple of steep steps we poked our noses in to one of the side streams and found what we were looking for.
The stream gave three good icey pitches (the longest steep section being about 25m) with some easy ground in between and then a solo out of the top. The ice was good, but quite hollow sounding in places and care was required around plunge pools. I’d guess it’s a new line at around Grade III. The climbing was generally escapable on to the sides of the stream, but is in a pretty remote location.
Once the angle in the gully eased back we put on skis and skinned up the gully and then around to A’Bhuidheanach Bheag before heading back to pt. 902m. The day finished with a glorious ski down excellent snow on the South side of Coire nan Cisteachan.
Snow conditions are currently excellent for ski touring in the area. There are some areas of windslab in sheltered locations and some icey scoured areas. Turf in the area was frozen from road level and there’s a fair bit of ice around. There’s also a lot of surface hoar, which will form a weak layer if more snow falls or is blown on top of it. Below freezing all day. Light South-East wind, sunshine and cloud, but no precipitation during the day.
The Falkrik High Tops Team and I visited Coire an Dothaidh yesterday. Nigel, Jacqueline and I climbed Cenitgrade on Creag Coire an Dothaidh. There was plenty of ice on the route but it was very variable. It will not take ice screws. A team backed off Farenheit 451 due to the quality of the ice.
John, Neil and Niall climbed Kick Start on Creag an Socach reporting good conditions.
It was a very beautiful day with sunshine all day and only light winds. Following a pleasent walk out we stopped off at the friendly Bridge of Orchy Hotel before driving back home.
Today I visited the Drummochter Pass with the Falkirk High Tops Team. We had a good day out skiing Carn na Caim. The snow cover is currently excellent for ski touring. We put skis on after a five minute walk in. The descent was via a different route and involved nice skiing on hard packed snow. The walk out was only fifteen minutes.
The current conditions would give a great opportunity for a two day tour in the Drummochter Hills. Possibly begining at Dalnaspidal before continuing over the peaks to the west of the A9. Following an overnight stop at the Blacksporran Cottages the second day could take in the peaks east of the A9 returning to Dalnaspidal to pick up the vehicle.
Mac, Steve and I were out today in the Arrochar area. We climbed a probable new route straightening out a line I tried earlier in the year. The line climbs a corner left of The Abyss and then the left hand side of a slab. On the previous attempt I’d decided the turf on the slab wasn’t well enough frozen, today it was super solid but the slab still gave some bold climbing on turfy blobs. Above we joined The Abyss briefly below it’s upper corner before moving right up a ramp line to gain the top of a huge flake pinnacle via some good chimney moves. A long step off the pinnacle lead to easier ground and the top of the lower tier. The discussion about grade seemed to settle out at V,4; the climbing never felt harder than 4, but there were moves well above gear on both the slab and final chimney/pinnacle. In keeping with the route names on the lower tier the suggested route name is “Hell Mend Ya”.
To gain the top of the crag we soloed up easy ground to the bottom of January Buttress and finished up this including the icefall, which was thin but good. We took in the summit of The Brack before descending the gully to the South of the Inglis Clark Arete, which was well scoured.
The turf was very well frozen at crag height. Soft snow on the ledges and easier ground with some firmer older snow on the upper tier. Some icing. Not much riming on the crag, so rockier lines wouldn’t feel very wintery at the moment. Some significant wind slab on the West side of the hill. Below freezing all day, with a fresh Easterly wind. Snow flurries on and off all day and only the odd bit of blue sky breaking through. The Brack was a good choice today being low and hence less windy than some options and with very little wind slab build up on the crag.
Working with Cameron yesterday for Adventure Edinburgh; this is an excellent programme for young people (12 to 16+ year olds) from the Edinburgh area who want to develop their rock climbing, mountain biking and walking/mountaineering skills. We were out at EICA Ratho and time was spent on routes (bottom roping and leading), bouldering and looking at placing/removing trad gear and building belays.
Based in the CIC hut for the last three days with Euan and the Falkirk High Tops Team (see Euan’s report below). There’s been considerable fresh snow and a lot of wind movement of snow since the last thaw freeze cycle; this has resulted in large build ups of wind slab. The wind slab is sitting on top of a hard old snow in a lot of areas on Ben Nevis. Additionally, there are weak layers of softer slab, which were deposited during periods of lighter winds, within the wind slab.
Careful route choice is currently required with crag aprons in sheltered locations a particular concern, as well as fresh building cornices and loading of slopes above routes and on exit slopes.
The winds over the last three days have mostly been from the East and South-East, but there is cross-loading on a lot of aspects. If you are on Ben Nevis over the next few days go carefully, particularly in poor visibility, as you may find unstable wind slab on slopes you don’t expect or potentially building above you.
It’s worth noting that on Gutlass and Waterfall Gully we chose to only climb the lower pitches and then abseil the route to avoid potential avalanche risk higher up or in descent and after finishing Curtain Rail the teams chose to abseil rather than come down the bottom of Number Five Gully.
For the last five days I have been up on the West Coast of Scotland. On Saturday, Tina, Scott, Steve and I climbed the excellent East Ridge of Stob Ban before continuing over the summit and traversing the Devils Ridge to Sgurr a’Mhaim.
There was heavy snow on Saturday night so we headed to Glencoe to climb Sron na Lairig as once on the ridge it would give a safe route. The ridge had large quantities of snow on it which made it difficult to find anchors. The weather cleared near the summit to give excellent views for the descent.
For the past three days I have been in the CIC Hut with Gayle, Linda, David, Roger, Gary, John and Martin from the Falkirk High Tops Team. The conditions are currently quite difficult due to the new snow and strong winds. Martin will be detailing the conditions in his report. Routes climbed included; Gutlass, CIC Cascade, Curtain Rail, Waterfall Gully and the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach.
I have just returned from a two day ski touring trip in the Cairngorms with the Falkirk High Tops Team. Yesterday, we skied from the ski centre car park to the summit of Ben Macdui before descending to the Shelter Stone. We spent the night here before continuing our tour via Coire Raibert, the summit of Cairn Gorm and our final descent via the pistes back to the ski centre.
Conditions for ski touring are currently excellent. We only removed our skis for a short section of the two days to climb one steep slope in crampons. The plateau was completley covered and the pistes gave excellent skiing.
Paul is currently ski touring in Andorra. This is one of many ski touring destinations visited by the ‘climbnow’ team and offers excellent ski touring during February and March.