White Caterpillar Direct

The team and I have been out at Beinn Udlaidh today where we climbed White Caterpillar Direct. As well as climbing the route described in the guidebook we climbed a direct start via a nice blue ice bulge.

The route was in good condition but the cornice is worth mentioning. To finish the route I made a thirty metre traverse with no protection to find an easy way through. I then redirected the ropes above the lads who climbed over the cornice directly. It was overhanging and more than one body length.

The corie was busy with many of the classics getting climbed.

Snow being transported behind the lads in the strong winds.

Sgairneach Mhor

I was out today near Drumochter with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Ski Mountaineering team of Fergus, Stephen and Stuart. We skied in to Coire Creagach and climbed on a small crag developed by Davy Virdee and friends. We’d intended to climb either Easy Gully or Burns Supper. However, both had solid, but very large cornices, so we climbed a grade II line that brought us out about 100m east of the summit. We then had a delightful ski back down the North-East ridge.

Stephen, Fergus and Stuart having changed from ski-ing to climbing mode below the crag.

We couldn’t quite ski from/to the road, but were able to ski from about 500m. Snow cover was mostly hard old snow. There was some fresh snow from overnight and in to the morning, but this was only in pockets on Northern through to Eastern aspects. Most of the day we had broken cloud and sunshine with an easterly wind that was moving the fresh snow around.

Winter Mountain Leader

Today I have been out assessing on a Winter Mountain Leader course. We visited the flank of Beinn Dorain. It was a beautiful day with the odd snow shower.

Around about Langsam

Today I have been in Stob Coire nan Lochan with a team from Ballachulish. There is still a good number of routes in condition and today the coire was quiet.

We climbed a line in the area around Langsam. The line we climbed was about IV 4 in standard. The ice was good for the axes but not for screws.

Looking up the ice pitch we climbed.

Skye

The last three days I’ve been on Skye with John, Craig and Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors climbing and walking teams. We’ve had amazing conditions and will have memories that will last a long time.

Gregor in the open book corner of The Breadline.

On Friday the walkers headed to Bruach na Frithe whilst the climbing team of John, Gregor, Joanne, Linda and me went to Am Bastier and climbed The Breadline. This route isn’t in the guidebook, but breaks out up an open book corner after two pitches of The Deadline. The corner gave an excellent pitch on snow ice, which was sparse on protection, before easier ground to the ridge.

Linda and Joanne at the Bealach a’Bastier with Sgurr nan Gillean behind.

On Saturday both teams headed for Blabheinn. The climbing team climbed North Face Direct. This is a major undertaking as it’s a 470m route and the approach is up and over The Putting Green, the bealach between Clach Glas and Blabheinn, before descending to the route. Much of the route is easy climbing, but there is a significant crux on the fourth pitch. We topped out on the summit of Blabheinn to a stunning sunset and a descent in the dark.

Linda and Joanne below the crux of North Face Direct.

On Sunday we needed a shorter day as we were travelling back to Falkirk. The walkers ascended Sgurr na Banachdaich. We joined them for the approach and then broke out across Coire an Eich to a gully line on the North Face of the Sgurr nan Gobhar ridge, which topped out near pt. 776m as marked on the Harvey’s map. This gave an easy grade I route up on to the ridge, which allowed us to take in the summit of Sgurr na Banachdaich and some incredible views, before catching up with the walking team on the descent for a sociable walk out.

Joanne, Linda, Gregor and me on the summit of Sgurr na Banachdaich.

The crags were generally pretty black/dry unless they’re riming in the wind and not catching the sun. Any major feature that was holding snow has very firm neve, good crampon work is currently required on approaches, descents and if climbing unroped as a slip would be very hard to stop. The ground was frozen from the valley up in the mornings. There’s not a huge amount build up on icier climbing lines, so significant features holding snow are likely to be a better option. We were based at Skye Basecamp; thanks to Mike and Lucy for their generous local and current conditions knowledge, which helped make for an excellent trip. I’ll put up more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page. Craig was carrying his big camera, so I’d expect some very good pictures from the walking team on the Falkirk Outdoors page.

 

 

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.