Nettle and I had a constraint of not being able to leave Edinburgh until 10:00 am this morning, so required somewhere that wasn’t a big drive or long walk in. We gambled on Swatte Fell near Moffat and put fell running gear in as well as axes and crampons in case the gamble didn’t pay off.
There was just enough white visible looking up Black Hope from the Moffat Dale road to encourage us to go with winter boots, axes and crampons. When we got up to the crags the ice on the steeper routes in Upper Coomb looked too thin, so we opted for the snow in the Grade I gullies on Nether Coomb Craig. We soloed up two and down one of these before heading out to the summit of Swatte Fell. The guidebook simply states that there are “a number of gully and buttress lines at Grade I”, so I don’t know if any of the ones we climbed have names, but they all gave good fun on the day.
We returned to the top of the craigs before removing crampons and descending the fine ridge separating the two Coombs. This was largely free of snow, but the turf was firm and required care.
There were the remains of a sizable cornices at the top of the crags in Nether Coomb. These were very firm today, but will be an issue in thawing conditions.
Turf was variable at the bottom of the crags, but firm higher up. The old snow in the gullies was firm and made for easy climbing. Quite a lot of ice around, but thin and undergoing a slow thaw. Broken cloud at about 700m, just above freezing at crag height in the afternoon and a light South-Westerly wind with no significant wind movement of snow.
Mac, as usual, managed to get some excellent photos when we were climbing Silver Threads Among The Gold. I’ve put a couple below (click on them to see them full size). There’s more in his UK Climbing gallery at http://www.ukclimbing.com/photos/author.html?id=77600 .
I’ve also created a topo of the line, but wanted to check with the first ascensionists before putting it up. It’s now below. The red line is the route as described in the SMC Journal. The blue are the variations we took on the day (an easy entry pitch and a traverse right to join Pearls Before Swine on the top pitch due to deep semi-consolidated snow). The crag is probably best in lean conditions i.e. turf frozen hard, but not too much snow. Some of the lines may be easier if there’s a build up of well frozen snow on them.
Sharon, Mac and I decided to take a look at Coire Farchal on Dreish today. As we drove down Glen Clova in the dark there was some unexpected and impressive lightening flashes.
We headed up in to Coire Farchal with the snow lying properly from about 500m and climbed a route called Silver Threads Among The Gold. This is a very good IV,5 put up by Henning Wackerhage, Simon Richardson and Tim Chappell in March 2013. We climbed the route in four pitches as opposed to the three described and it’s definitely worth thinking about breaking the long pitches down as rope drag was a problem. The bottom two pitches, as described, gave some excellent climbing with exposed turf well frozen, good ice on the “short impending headwall” and good gear where required.
The “steep turf wall” on pitch three was buried under snow and the older snow hadn’t consolidated; this forced a traverse right to reach a break with some frozen turf.
A great day out in good company in a quiet coire.
I have been out in the Cairngorms today with the Falkirk High Tops Team. We had intended on going to Glencoe but the forecast of torrential rain changed our minds.
We walked into a quiet Coire an t-Sneachda before linking together the very bottom of Central Gully, the middle section of Central Buttress and the icefall finish to Central Left Hand. This gave us a safe option out of the way from any potential cornice collapse and rock fall in the mild conditions.
The snow was soft at all levels. The turf was frozen and the icefall was in good condition. Most buttress routes are black with Fiacaill Buttress the only possible option although I am unsure what the snow will be like. Today we had rain at all levels.
We drove through the Drummochter Pass to get to the Cairngorms. Options still exist for ski touring on the Munros to the west of the A9.
The last two days I’ve been working with John on a Lowland Leader Award Assessment for Falkirk Community Trust. Based from Falkirk we used the Devilla Forest area on Saturday and the Carron Valley area on Sunday.
Well done to all those being assessed for dealing with the weather conditions, particularly today when we had steady rain and strong winds for a large part of the day. Sizable snow patches were visible on the nearby Meikle Bin today, but there was very little snow remaining below 400m.
When we were flying back in to Edinburgh yesterday we were able to see that there was a fair bit of snow in Southern Scotland, so Euan and I headed out for a quick ski tour today.
We started from Wanlockhead and were able to skin from the road up to the summit of Lowther Hill mostly on the snow on the access road and tracks. We then had an excellent run back to about 500m. We skinned back up near the line of the Lowther Hills Ski Club ski tow, which is under construction. This area then gave a good run back down although care was required in the limited visibility as there are already some sizable cornices forming.
Cloud from road height most of the day with a fresh West/North-West wind. Some fresh snow was falling and there was plenty of wind movement. Where snow had drifted there were excellent ski-ing conditions, however the weather was warming up as we left with the snow turning to rain at road level.
Euan, Ivor and I are just back from five days sport climbing in the Tarragona region of Spain. There are thousands of excellent routes in the area on limestone/limestone conglomerate. We climbed at Vilanova de Prades, Margalef and Siurana.
The weather was cold and frosty at night, but generally dry and sunny during the days with just one cloudy day. This made for pleasant climbing conditions.
Euan will put more photos of the trip on the Facebook page in the next few days.
Nettle and I were out for a bit of a leg stretch today. We parked at Old Bridge of Tilt and headed up the glen before branching off to take in the long ridge of Beinn Mheadhonach.
After the summit we continued North along the ridge over Carn a’Chiaraidh before swinging around via Elrig ‘ic Toisich and then West onto the North Ridge of Beinn Dearg. We took in the summit and then headed down to the bothy to get out of the weather before walking back along the tracks via Old Blair. Thanks to the Mountain Bothy Association for maintaining the excellent bothy.
A good long day out for the time of year, with headtorches being required for the last few kilometres. There was fairly constant snow falling above about 900m on a South-Westerly wind.
Yesterday Glenn & I were out in the Pentlands with a group from the Quickdraw Club looking at navigation and orienteering. We made use of the orienteering course at Hillend before taking in Caerketton and Allermuir Hills.
The weather remained fine all day with light Westerly winds and great views. The group were excellent and put in to practice the skills learnt in a classroom session with Glenn on Friday.
On Thursday evening I was working with Davy Virdee delivering lectures on Scottish Winter and Avalanche Awareness and Avoidance. It was a good excuse to relive a few winter adventures and to get your mind back in to a more wintery mode. Thanks to everyone who attended, Davy for organising it and Alan for all his help on the evening.
Yesterday I was up at St Andrews with the Falkirk Community Trust Team doing some staff training on Blo-Karts and X-Sails with Tom from X-sail. These things aren’t my normal medium, but it was a fun and informative day.