The Cobbler

John and I were out today in Arrochar with a Falkirk Outdoors climbing team of Doug, John, Nigel and Ross. We’d hoped to do a couple of harder variations on the classic Cobbler Traverse, but the cloud was making the rock and more importantly the lichen very slippy so we did the South-East Ridge of the South Peak; abseiled off the South Peak; up the jamming crack of the South-East Arete of the Central Peak and avoided the upper delicate slab; up and down Doorway Route to the Central Peak and then walked up to the North Peak. A good wee adventure in the cloud.

Summit photo of John, Ross and me.

We were in cloud all day, so didn’t see the other hills in the area but we saw no snow on The Cobbler. There was a fresh south-east wind, but no rain, however the moisture in the cloud was making the rock wet.

Buachaille Etive Mor

John and I had a great day today with a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering team of John, Kim, May, Neil and Wilson. We visited Buachaille Etive Mor climbing Lagangarbh Buttress on dry rock and taking in the two good Moderate wall options near the top.

Wilson and Kim near the top of the climbing.

It was dry and sunny all day with light winds and haze building in the afternoon. There were very few remaining snow patches on the hill and only a small section of snow to cross to return in to Coire na Tulaich. There was more snow cover visible on the east facing sides of Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

Coigach, Assynt and Sutherland

I got back late yesterday from four days based at Elphin in North-West Scotland with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors walking and mountaineering team of John, Craig, Gillian, Gillian, Linda, Neil, Olesya and Ruby. It was billed as a winter trip, but there are currently only small amounts of snow in the area mostly on north and east facing aspects above 800m in significant collection features and around coire rims.

Linda and Ruby on the traverse of Stac Pollaidh with Cul Beag behind.

We had generally dry conditions with moderate to strong warm south-east to south-west winds. This meant dry rock away from major seepage lines and we made the most of the distinctly summer conditions.

The climbing team, minus John, at the end of a good day at Reiff. Photo credit: Gillian Millar.

On Thursday a combined group did the classic east to west scramble traverse of Stac Pollaidh to the true west top after driving up from Falkirk. On Friday the mountaineers climbed Lurgainn Edge on Cul Beag including the avoidable Difficult crux at the top, whilst the walkers traversed Cul Beag and Cul Mor covering some rough and remote country and a lot of ascent. On a windy Saturday we headed further north with the mountaineers climbing Dionard Rib on Cranstackie, which gave a very good ascent on excellent rough gneiss, and the walkers visiting Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh (the most northerly Corbett). On Sunday a team had a half day at the Reiff sea cliffs climbing routes on The Pinnacle and Pinnacle Walls area and Craig and Ruby completed an excellent round of Beinn an Eoin. All in all a great trip in good company to an incredibly beautiful area.

Winter Climbing Leader

This week I have been delivering a Winter Climbing Leader course for the Joint Services.

After visiting the Ice Factor on Monday we traversed the Douglas Boulder Gap on Tuesday. We then spent Wednesday climbing The Slant in Coire an t-Sneachda and on Thursday we went ice climbing very near to the Twin Burns in Coire an Lochain.

The conditions on the Douglas Boulder Traverse were fine. It should be noted that in other areas of Coire an Lochain from where we were that large amounts of ice were falling down.

Meall Corranaich

I was in the Ben Lawers area again today with Chris and Kim looking at Ropework for Winter Hill Walkers. After a couple of hours working on knots and skills indoors we braved the improving weather and found enough snow to build, test and use some snow anchors on the north side of Meall Corranaich.

Chris belaying on the north side of Meall Corranaich.

The snow pack in the area has reduced to mostly just patches and ribbons of snow on north and east faces above 900m.  Above this altitude the turf is still remarkably firm where not taking drainage and some ice is still holding on.

Beinn Ghlas

Today Craig was out with a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Skills team and I was out with Michael and Stephen looking at Avalanche Awareness and Safe Travel. We shared transport and visited Beinn Ghlas near Ben Lawers. 

Stephen and Michael inspecting a small cornice near the coire rim.

A little damp on the hill at times today. Not much snow below 950m and that mostly on north and east facing aspects. The snow is generally well saturated. Some ice is holding on and the turf was still firm above 900m and out of drainage lines.

Winter Skills and Avalanche Awareness

Winter skills, avalanche awareness and avalanche rescue techniques this week with the Joint Services. We visited Glencoe Ski Centre, Aonach Dubh, A’Bhuidheanach Bheag and Cairn Gorm.

There is still a lot of wet snow around in a number of locations but a freeze is very much needed.

Lurcher’s Crag (Creag an Leth-Choin)

David and I had a great day climbing K9. It was good value for the grade today (Monday) with a tricky wall on the line we took on the mixed section and the icy corner at the top having a couple of steep sections on good ice.

David at a belay high on K9.

We chose not to climb Window Gully today; it looked in good condition but we decided to minimise time under the right hand end of the icicle fringe, which was catching the sun in the morning. There was quite a lot of soft snow and breakable crust on the less steep sections of the route. A strong south-westerly wind was moving snow on to lee slopes as we left. Looking at the forecasts conditions will be changing considerably tomorrow.

Creag Meagaidh and Beinn and Dothaidh

I’m just back from two days with Andy. On Saturday we chose to start late to make the best of the weather, strong westerlies with snow but both decreasing as the day went on. We chose to hide from the wind on the East Ridge of Meall Coire Choille-rais, which is a top of Creag Meagaidh. This gives a good mountaineering route, similar in several ways to the nearby East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn, but much less frequently climbed. The route worked well on the day, but it was still pretty windy when we topped out. There was a breakable crust on most snow on the route, the turf was solidly frozen and there was some ice around. Cornices were building on easterly aspects and I wouldn’t have wanted to be in or under any of the nearby gullies on the day.

Andy on the East Ridge of Meall Coire Choille-rais.

Today we needed a short walk in, so opted for Creag Coire an Dothaidh, where we climbed The Firebird, before heading to the top of Beinn an Dothaidh. The Firebird required a delicate approach low down, but had some good ice higher up and passed through some great icy scenery. The crag was scoured out after the strong westerlies of Saturday. Older snow had a breakable icy crust. Ice is reforming on Creag Coire an Dothaidh. The upper section of Salamander looked climbable today, however the initial gully was still a stream.

Winter Corrie

Euan and I were out with a Falkirk Outdoors team of Antonia, Kim, Linda, Martin and Wilson today. Based on the forecast we changed from the programmed visit to Arrochar and headed to Glen Clova. This turned out to be a good choice and we had a great day climbing a very icy Central Gully Left Branch in Winter Corrie.

Antonia and Linda enjoying good ice in Central Gully Left Branch.

There were lots of ice lines in condition in the corrie today and it was good to bump in to Nettle who’d soloed a good icy line on Easy Gully Buttress. The turf was well frozen and there’d been very little new snow overnight. Water was running behind the ice in places, but on our route the ice was good enough for screws here required. Conditions are likely to change with precipitation and higher temperatures tomorrow.