Cairngorm Winter Skills

Robin and I were out in the Cairngorms today delivering a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Skills Course for Donald, Emma, Maria and Sheena. We had an excellent day despite slightly thawing conditions with lots of skills being learnt or refreshed. There weren’t any ice patches at the elevations we reached, but we did find firm old snow  for crampon work.

Sheena finishing and ice axe arrest with skiers below in the Ciste Gully.

Starting from the Ciste car park we used snow in and around the Ciste Gully from an altitude of about 700m to 950m. There were firm old snow patches in collection features, with some areas of newer wind blown snow on top. All the snow we were on had moisture in it and will consolidate well with a freeze. The snow started to firm up considerably above 900m. Turf was not frozen at the heights we reached and streams were running under the snow. Good awareness and route choice is required if you’re heading across stream lines. There was no significant precipitation whilst we were out and the strong west to north-westerly winds eased during the day.


Glen Lyon

Pamela and I were out for a dander on the south side of Glen Lyon yesterday. We headed up Beinn nan Oighreag from the east crossing the north ridge of Beinn nan Eachan and the Lairig Breisleich, which wasn’t as bad a “villainous bog” as advertised. This route kept us out of the worst of the wind until the summit ridge of Beinn nan Oighreag. We then descended its north-east ridge and made a couple of stream crossings to regain the road. It’s worth noting there is now a bridge just below the junction of the Allt Baile a’Mhuilinn and the Allt Breisleich.

Crossing a snow patch near the summit of Beinn nan Oighreag with the Lawers range behind.

It was above freezing all day with rain showers in the morning and gusts of 50mph+ on the summit. There were snow patches above 850m, particularly on north-east aspects, and some remaining ice patches above about 800m.


The Lowther Hills

The days I’ve had pencilled in for possible early winter climbing don’t seem to be lining up with conditions at the moment, so I’m trying to take opportunities to keep hill fit wherever I can.

The summit of Louise Wood Law.

Today I broke a dreich journey back up from Derbyshire by stopping at Elvanfoot and walking/running around some of the eastern Lowther Hills. The route took in Louise Wood Law, White Law, Dun Law and Glen Ea’s Hill. There was a scattering of snow above 600m although this may disappear tomorrow.

Manor Valley

At this time of year when it’s very windy in the higher hills or it’s not been cold enough for winter routes it’s always good to get out for something a bit random to keep hill fitness up. After a couple of days this week where I’ve ended up at the climbing wall it was great to get out with Nettle today as he’s usually up for the more esoteric option. We headed out fell running around some of the hills above the Manor Valley near Peebles today as a way of keeping under the worst of the wind. It also worked well as the weather was coming across the higher hills before it reached us, taking out some of the sleet showers.

Me and Nettle in the wind on top of Notman Law.

Our route took in Notman Law, Greenside Law, Deer Law, Conscleuch Head, Black Law and Black Cleuch Hill. The going was on tussocky grass, heather and bog and was often trackless, making for a good work out. We also managed to find a bit of scrambling/bouldering, which provided amusement given the conditions. Rain/sleet showers on and off with a dusting of snow settling above about 650m and winds of circa 40mph+ on the tops.

The Cairngorms

Matt and I had an excellent day in The Cairngorms today. We made for the east facing Creagan Cha-no as the cold winds had been blowing on to the crag for the last few days. Exposed turf was frozen, but snow covered turf was still soft and route and placement choice required some care.

Matt nearing the top of the Right-Hand Finish of Anvil Gully.

After abseiling to check the turf we climbed Anvil Gully with Matt lowering down and climbing the Right Hand Finish as well. We then descended Recovery Gully before climbing Kerplunk with a couple of variations on to rock including the gully slot and steep leftwards pull on Fast and Furry-ous. To finish we nipped back down and climbed a quick Grade II line just left of Quiet Corner.

Matt on the walk in at about 850m. Snow continued to build all day on this NW aspect.

East faces were generally scoured and rimed with developing accumulations of snow on west and north-west aspects particularly above about 800m.

RCI Assessment

RCI assessment last couple of days. It was a bit damp at Blackford and Rosyth!

Loch Goil

With very strong easterly winds forecast at height today B and I headed west of Lochgoilhead to take in some lower hills. We visited Stob na Boine Druim-fhinn, Beinn Tharsuinn, Beinn an Lochain and it’s East Top. This avoided the worst of the precipitation and we only had a couple of showers although it was pretty windy even on these 2000ft hills.

B hanging on at the summit of Stob na Boine Druim-fhinn.

There was a covering of snow above about 800m visible on the hills further east and north; as we drove back through Arrochar Beinn Ime and The Cobbler had a good dusting high up.

The Borders

At this time of year I’m always keen to get some days in to maintain hill fitness ahead of the winter season. When winds are forecast to be strong on the higher hills or there’s rain further north it’s always worth giving The Borders a thought. Mick and I had a good day today on a circuit of hills south of Drumelzier. Although we encountered some pretty strong winds it would have been worse higher up and we were in sunshine all day, but could see rain clouds further north and west.

Mick at a cairn on Drumelzier Law.

Our circuit included The Scrape, Pykestone Hill, Grey Weather Law, Long Grain Knowe, Middle Hill, Taberon Law, Drumelzier Law and Logan Head. The walking was excellent and generally on small tracks and paths with very little boggy ground or deep heather. Visibility was good with views to Arthur’s Seat, The Eildon Hills, The Cheviot, The Lowthers and Tinto.

Pentlands and Blackford Glen

This morning I delivered the final session of a four week navigation course for the City of Edinburgh Council Adult Education. We did a loop from the Hillend Ski Centre. The group navigated me around the hill using the skills they’d learnt in the previous weeks before wrapping up in the warmth of the ski centre café. It’s been a great course with everyone keen to learn to navigate and hopefully there have been a few lightbulb moments.

The group developing a plan for the next leg.

I then met up with Euan and Ivor for a bouldering session at Agassiz Rock in Blackford Glen. The rock was sheltered from the wind and warm in the sunshine. It’s worth noting there’s some loose rock high up on the right at Agassiz at the moment.

Ivor making short work of an easy problem at Agassiz Rock.

Lowland Leader Assessment

The last two days I’ve been delivering a Lowland Leader Assessment for Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors. Based from Action Outdoors we used the Union Canal, Callendar Wood and Callendar Park areas on Saturday. Today we walked mostly in farmland and forestry south of the Falkirk Wheel on a good route planned by the candidates.

Fraser, Sara and Stan near the Falkirk Wheel today.

It was an enjoyable couple of days with well prepared candidates despite a good amount of rain falling over the two days.