North Craig Mayar

I’d sort of promised Ivor a new route for his birthday last week, so today saw us out on North Craig on Mayar. We walked in from Glen Doll, however with current conditions and a bike an approach from Glen Prosen would be much quicker. From about 700m the Kilbo path has sections of steepish hard neve and walking along the ridge of the Shank of Drumfollow is probably a nicer option; we used this in descent.

Ivor on The Kilbo Path

Ivor on The Kilbo Path

Despite well frozen conditions on the approach, a forecast freezing level 200m below the crag and cloud cover keeping the sun away the crag wasn’t in great condition. There wasn’t a lot of ice around, the turf was variable and the snow soft on the lower sections. We had to settle for an easy line of I/II using soft snow ramps and turf about 50m down left of White Plains Drifter. The ramps led in 55m to a small col on the ridge like left edge of the crag, from where an easy 10m pitch lead to the top. If it’s a new line we’ll call it “68 Guns”, which is too good a name for the line, but fits with the intentions of the day. From the top of the crag we took in the summit of Mayar on the way out. A good day covering plenty of ground, if not quite what I’d hoped for.

Looking down the bottom of the first pitch to Ivor at the belay

Looking down the bottom of the first pitch to Ivor at the belay

Snow from the tree line in Glen Doll (circa 600m). Fresh and wind blown snow accumulating on North and East aspects and in sheltered areas on top of old firm snow. Lots of avalanche debris around, presumably from Sunday. There are still some very large old cornices around on North and East facing aspects and these are building again with fresh snow. Cloud most of the day above 700m. Freezing level circa 750m during the day. Some light snow showers later in the day falling as rain below 600m.

Ivor near the bottom of The Shank of Drumfollow with Dreish behind

Ivor near the bottom of The Shank of Drumfollow with Dreish behind

Five Days Climbing in the Cairngorms

For the past five days I have been at Glenmore Lodge climbing with Paul and Spencer. We had a great week finding some brilliant climbing conditions. These are detailed below. In addition to this report, there are many photos on the ClimbNow facebook page showing the conditions.

Spencer exiting Anvil Gully.

Spencer exiting Anvil Gully.

On Monday, the lads and I climbed a steep rib to the right of Fiacaill Buttress before gaining and climbing Fiacaill Ridge. The ridge was in excellent condition and reports from today suggest it has improved.

The weather on Tuesday was fairly wild. We visited Creagan Cha-no and climbed Anvil Gully in brilliant conditions. Lots of useful ice could be found on the route.

With some sunshine forecast on Wednesday, we decided to visit the west facing Lurcher’s Crag to top up the tans. We descended South Gully before climbing back out of Quinn which was in great condition. A report from today suggests that Central Gully is also still in good shape.

On the way out we could see Coire an Lochain. The cornices still appear to be massive.

Strong winds during the week had moved a lot of snow around to produce unstable windslab in sheltered spots. Therefore, on Thursday, we abseiled down Jenga Buttress on Creagan Cha-no before climbing back out. Dangerous cornices and windslab were present above routes such as Dukes Rib, Recovery Gully and Chimney Rib. Many of the buttresses are now black.

Today, we returned to Coire an t-Sneachda which was very busy. We did however have a great time climbing Terms of Endearment and the upper section of Aladdin’s Mirror on brilliant neve. Many routes on Aladdin’s buttress are in great shape as are a number on Fiacaill Buttress. The cornices on Mess of Pottage, the Trident Gullies and Fluted Buttress are still huge and no teams were on these areas.

Paul abseiling down South Gully on Lurcher's Crag.

Paul abseiling down South Gully on Lurcher’s Crag.

 

 

Winter Skills, Drumochter

Greg, Jilly, Katherine, Mirsie and Sally-Anne from the Glasgow Hill Walking and Mountaineering Club and I were out on Geal-charn, Drumochter, today. We were looking at Winter Skills including a bit of avalanche awareness and safe route selection, movement skills, ice axe arrest and a brief look at emergency shelters. The snow was soft pretty much everywhere, which wasn’t ideal for crampon practice, but we did get them on discuss their use and try them on a few small rock steps.

Sally trying out daggering

Sally trying out daggering

Plenty of snow above 750m; a feature I’ve used before has been completely filled in, which means there’s a depth in that sheltered location of 10m or more. South and south-west slopes are relatively scoured although any gullies on those aspects are subject to cross-loading. Lot’s of avalanche debris around, but there are still some sizable cornices and it will be interesting to see if they survive tomorrow’s thaw.

The group on an East facing slope at 750m with a scoured South facing slope behind

The group on an East facing slope at 750m with a scoured South facing slope behind

The snow pack was moist at all levels today, rain showers on lower slopes falling as damp snow above 700m on a South-Westerly wind.

Mirsie trying ice axe arrest

Mirsie practicing ice axe arrest

 

Winter Mountaineering in the Cairngorms

For the past week I have been winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms. The climbnow facebook page has a large number of images from the last five days which show clearly the conditions at the moment.

During the last five days the team and I visited; Coire Laogh Mor, Coire na Ciste, Coire an t-Sneachda, the plateau area and Stag Rocks.

The buttresses of the Northern Corries remain very white. A large number of cornices persist over the butrresses. However, by Friday the quality of the snow in the corries has improved a lot due to the mid week thaw and refreeze. There is a very large thaw coming tomorrow. Hopefully, this will encourage the cornices to fall down and if we then have a refreeze conditions may be very good.

Approaching Point 1141 with a very snowy Fiacall Buttress in the background.

Approaching Point 1141 with a very snowy Fiacaill Buttress in the background.

Stag Rocks has been busy this week with teams enjoying routes such as Apex Gully and Albino.

Hells Lum is completely buried with a huge cornice covering three quarters of the face. Carn Etchachan and Shelter Stone are very white and need a thaw and refreeze.

Torridon

Poachers Fall Liathach

Poachers Fall Liathach

With all the snow in Lochaber and the Cairngorms Finn and I went to Torridon for a few days.
We stayed in the SMC Ling hut and had great food in the Hotel Bar at Sheildaig.
The Northern Pinnacles and Poachers fall were some of the highlights.

Northern Pinnacles Liathach taken by Fin Curry

Northern Pinnacles Liathach taken by Fin Curry

Creagan Coire Cha-no

I was out with a Falkirk Team today of John, Gayle, Luci and Tam. We headed for Creagan Coire Cha-no in The Cairngorms, which proved a popular choice today.

Tam making light work of Chimney Rib

Tam making light work of Chimney Rib

After descending Recovery Gully, Gayle, Luci and I climbed pitch 1 of Frozen Planet, then bypassed the top pitch as the sun was catching it and making it very soggy. Also, it looked a bit improbable at IV,4, I notice it gets IV,6 on UKC. We then climbed Wile-E-Coyote, which had an excellent steep groove at mid height on well frozen snow, turf and ice. Meanwhile John and Tam climbed Chimney Rib, Frozen Planet (Pitch 1) and Duke’s Rib.

Gayle on the easier upper section of Wile-E-Coyote

Gayle on the easier upper section of Wile-E-Coyote

The sun came out as we walked in and it was a relatively easy walk as the last couple of days had thawed and refrozen the surface of the snowpack. Sunny for the first part of the day with buttresses stripping where in direct sunlight. Winds were low for most of day, but picked up in the afternoon and there was considerable wind movement of snow on a Southerly as we walked out.

The Cairngorms

Skiers enjoying the excellent conditions in Coire Laogh Mor.

Skiers enjoying the excellent conditions in Coire Laogh Mor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week I will be in the Cairngorms. Today I visited Coire Laogh Mor and Coire na Ciste.

The snowpack has improved over the past day. Full details of this can be seen on the SAIS website. The cover for ski touring remains excellent above 550 metres.

A’Bhuidheanach Bheag, Drumochter

Susan and I were out today with a Falkirk High Tops Team of Alasdair, Bob, Lucy, Neil, Patricia, Rebecca and Rich. We were looking at Avalanche Awareness and Safe Route Choice; which felt very relevant given the current conditions on the Scottish hills.

A'Bhuidheanaich Bheag from the Allt a'Chaaorainn

A’Bhuidheanaich Bheag from the Allt a’Chaorainn

After discussing weather and avalanche forecasts over a coffee we headed up to Drumochter and used the slopes north of Allt a’Chaorainn on A’Bhuidheanach Bheag to look at how the forecasts related to what we encountered on the ground and how that might affect our thinking on picking a safe route on the hill.

There are some great features around the streams in this area, which give a range of aspects and hence a good variety of snowpacks.

Patricia taking the opportunity to look at a stable cornice feature

Patricia taking the opportunity to look at a stable cornice feature

Sunny pretty much all day with just the odd light snow shower on a North-Westerly wind. Plenty of wind movement of snow observed at higher elevations, although the winds felt lighter than forecast. Northerly winds overnight had created some unexpected pockets of fresh soft slab on Southerly aspects at relatively low altitudes. Skis or snow shoes would be very helpful for travel above 500m in the current deep and soft snow conditions.

Craigenloch Hill on skis

Yesterday, the Falkirk High Tops Team and I visited Glen Shee. We had hoped to park near the ski centre but the snow gate was closed at the Spittal preventing us going up the hill. Therefore, we parked further down the Glen and completed Craigenloch Hill on skis. This gave a lovely tour with good snow for our descent.

Lots more photos on the facebook page.

Ski touring with Craigenloch Hill beyond.

Ski touring with Craigenloch Hill beyond.

Glen Shee

Ivor and I were out for a quick ski yesterday at Glen Shee to get the ski legs going again and to make use of the better weather, which lasted until late afternoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The snow was good on most of the pistes, though scoured off on unsheltered southerly slopes. Cloud throughout most of the day and the light was flat. Not a day for many photos on the hill, hence the car park shot, which shows the main chairlift on the eastern side. Raining/snowing heavily on South-East/East winds as we drove south; this would have all been falling as snow at the ski area.