Boomerang and Broad

Boomerang and Broad Gullies in Stob Coire nan Lochan today. Both routes were in good condition.

Currently there are lots of routes to do up to grade IV in good condition in SCNL.

Starting up Boomerang Gully.

Beinn Dorain

Today I have been out on the flank of Beinn Dorain. Here we climbed some mountaineering terrain at around grade I/II focusing on skills such as short roping, snow anchors and transitions between techniques.

The surface of the snow was firm. This is however a surface layer with soft snow present 6 inches down. Therefore, the correct snow anchor has to be chosen. The turf was frozen and there was some ice surviving. The crags of Coire an Dothaidh are not in condition.

On the flank of Beinn Dorain.

Pink Rib and Stob Ban

This week I am out with a team from Ballachulish looking at the skills required for guiding one climber on grade 2 winter routes. Yesterday, we visited the Pink Rib in Glencoe to look at short roping skills, the construction of belays and stance management. Today we put these skills into practice on the East Ridge of Stob Ban.

The East Ridge was in good condition with a good quantity of snow on it. The firmness of the snow improved with height. The turf was frozen.

Climbing into the sun on the East Ridge of Stob Ban.

Beinn Udlaidh

John and I were in Coire Daimh on Beinn Udlaidh today with a Falkirk Community Trust winter climbing team of B, Doug and Sharon. We were hoping some of the easier angled icy routes may have hung on. The freezing level was well above the summits, so we were concerned about cornice collapse. After waiting for a while to see if visibility would clear enough to let us make a judgement on cornices we decided to climb Horny Ridge, which we knew wouldn’t have a cornice above it. B, Sharon and I did a harder start up a short turfy wall and we all finished up a harder turfy ramp line and set of short walls/steps to avoid having to go in to the top of West Gully.

B and Sharon at the belay below Horny Ridge.

There was lots of cornice collapse avalanche activity in the coire today, with at least four coming down West Gully and others audible elsewhere. Some ice was holding on, but there were also some sizable falls of ice during the day. The snow pack was saturated. Turf where being dripped on was soft, but elsewhere was surprisingly firm. It was dry as we walked in, but we had drizzle for a good part of the afternoon.

Creag Coire an Dothaidh

Today we visited Creag Coire an Dothaidh and climbed Martins route ‘Quick fire’ along with another ice route further right. Ice is building well in this coire and a good number of the mixed routes are in excellent condition.

There are lots more photos on the facebook page.

An icy bulge on Quick fire.

Quickfire marked in red.

Gearr Aonach, Lurchers and Ciste

This week I am based at Ballachulish. On Sunday the lads and I climbed Zig Zags before traversing Gearr Aonach and dropping back into the Glen via SCNL. The route was in good condition. Rapid transportation of snow was taking place with large areas of windslab and cornices quickly building.

We have been over in the Cairngorms for the last two days. Yesterday we visited the Southern Sector of Lurchers Crag. After descending South Gully we climbed Pinnacle Ridge. The mixed routes were in good condition being scoured and the turf well frozen.

Today, the ski road was not open. Therefore, we walked from the snowgate to Ciste Crag where we climbed a route at about III 5. A number of teams appeared behind us later in the day and enjoyed a number of different  lines on the crag. The turf was frozen and after last nights weather the crag was holding a good quantity of snow.

Coire Fee

John and I were out in Coire Fee Glen Clova today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Climbing team of Brian, Calum, Derry and Jim. We had a great day climbing two of the coire’s classic routes. John, Calum and Jim climbed Look C Gully, whilst Brian, Derry and I climbed B Gully Chimney. Both routes had water running behind the ice in places and required a delicate approach, but gave some excellent climbing. We then descended A Gully.

Brian and Derry on a belay stance in B Gully Chimney.

There’s unconsolidated snow in sheltered locations and although the crag was being scoured during the day there are significant areas of wind slab. We were very careful with our route selection in to A Gully to avoid crossing areas of firm wind slab and be on the scoured side of the gully.

Bridge of Orchy

John and I were out today with Brian, Christoph, Dave and Douglas on Creag Coire an Dothaidh on a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing day. We climbed Centigrade, this gave a good mix of turf, ice and rock which allowed lots of different gear to be looked at whilst climbing the route.

Looking down the easy upper gully of Centigrade to Dave and Brian.

We chose the crag as it was on the scoured side of the hill and had less snow than on other aspects. There’d been rain in the morning almost to the top of the crag and the crag was above freezing most of the day. However, there was quite a lot of ice around and this was generally holding on well. Snow in the coire was saturated.

Ski Touring in the Drummochter Pass

The Falkirk High Tops Team and I have been out today ski touring in the Drummochter Pass. We completed The Boar of Badenoch and A’Mharconaich.

We had a thirty minute ski carry to where we started skinning and a twenty five minute carry out. The rest of the time we had skis on our feet. There was excellent snow above 500 metres for downhill skiing on south, south east and easterly aspects.

Significant redistribution of snow was taking place.

Above the clouds.

Glen Clova

The last two days Euan, Paul and I have managed to get together for the ClimbNow “annual” winter climbing meet up. It’s a great chance for us to catch up, share ideas and climb some winter routes.

Euan and Paul at the cave belay on Sun Rock Blues.

Weather, conditions and time constraints pointed us in the direction of the beautiful Glen Clova in the Angus Glens and we’ve had a couple of excellent days climbing in Winter Coire and Coire Farchal. On Tuesday we climbed Sun Rock Blues. This has a steep technical crux on the first pitch and we varied the third pitch by traversing right at the small cave, which involved a precarious and inelegant belly flop move by me on the lead before reaching easy ground.

Today we visited Coire Farchal with the intention of climbing Silver Threads Among the Gold, but the sun on Tuesday and Wednesday morning meant the initial buttress was looking very black. However, the area around Coffin Dodger and Over the Hill was holding some good ice and we climbed a line starting around Over The Hill and then climbing icy steps on it’s left, a steep ice shield left of the “slot” and finishing up Coffin Dodger. This gave a good line on the day and had some excellent climbing between relaxed belay stances.

Euan enjoying the ice in Coire Farchal.

Both routes were made easier to protect by carrying a few ice screws and a couple of warthogs. There’s been a fair bit of wind movement of snow and there are some pockets of very firm wind slab around, which should be taken in to account when choosing routes and approaches/descents. It was snowing lightly on a fairly strong south-westerly as we left the glen at mid afternoon. Both days were rounded off with a very pleasant coffee and scone in The Glen Clova Hotel.