This week I’ve been based in Glen Coe. I was delivering a Winter Mountaineering Foundation week for Joint Services at Ballachulish, this was curtailed early on Thursday for obvious reasons. Thanks to the group for a great few days, always good to be out with an enthusiastic team.
Over the three days we visited Meall a’Bhuiridh, Stob Coire Raineach and Aonach Mor. There was precipitation on all three days with snow at height and snow being moved around on strong westerly and south-westerly winds. It was frosty overnight in to Thursday and Friday with lots of sunshine softening the snow pack during the day. There are some huge cornices around, which require thought and care as well as some wind slab at height on mostly north-west to east facing slopes.
On Wednesday I was out with John and a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering team of Alan, John and Neil climbing McKay’s Gully and descending Easy Gully on Cam Chreag. Older snow on the crag was refreezing, but windslab was building throughout the day on a strong south-westerly. Unfortunately, due to a user error on my part with my camera I don’t have any photos from Cam Chreag.
I then headed to Aviemore and met up with the Ashbourne/Balfron/Stonehaven team. On Thursday Jim and I headed to Creagan Cha-no and climbed Anvil Gully and True Blood, whilst Chicken, Murray, Nick and Rob ski toured in the Lurcher’s Burn area. Strong winds and snow on Thursday morning was forming windslab on North and East facing slopes and cornices were building noticeably.
Today, having been joined by Andy, we had a very pleasant day ski-ing at Glen Shee mostly in sunshine with low winds and generally good snow on the pistes. Away from pisted areas there was an icy crust on scoured slopes and windslab in sheltered areas.
The last three days I’ve been climbing with Gregor as part of a Falkirk Outdoors trip for climbers, skiers and walkers based in Newtonmore. On the way up we climbed the classic Salamander Gully in Creag Coire an Dothaidh before taking in the summit of Beinn an Dothaidh. Although the crag is west facing it still had a fair depth of soft snow on easier angled ground.
Yesterday we chose a low venue to avoid the winds and headed for Creag na h-Iolaire. The main crag was bare of snow and we climbed a short, but good, winter line on the north facing side of he coire before climbing a summer version of the winter line Left Flank, Right Ridge. This gave some very good climbing, but unfortunately with a lot of loose rock. Today we headed for Creagan Cha-no. The thaw and rain overnight had stripped most of the buttresses, but there was plenty of snow on easier angled routes and on northern aspects and the turf was frozen solid. We climbed Whaleback Ridge and Plasma Gully with a left hand finish. The snow was firming up whilst we were there and we had a number of snow showers during the day on a strong south-westerly wind.
John and I headed to Creag Coire an Dothaidh today with a Falkirk Outdoors climbing team of Doug, Kim, Merelle and Steven. Even this relatively low west facing coire had a fair amount of soft snow and approaches required a degree of wading.
The coire was busy, with Salamander Gully being the popular choice. We climbed Centigrade with a little optional step of Grade IV ice near the top. There was soft semi consolidated snow on easier angles, some good icy sections, turf was well frozen and there was rime on the rocks although this was stripping when in direct sunlight. East and North facing slopes were holding large amounts of snow.
John and I were out today with a Falkirk Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing team of Cat, Kieran, Olesya and Tam. We headed to Glen Clova to find some scoured west facing crags and to get away from the snowier weather in the west. This worked almost too well with the bright sun stripping the rock on our intended route of Boustie Buttress on the west/south-west facing side of the The Snub. Instead we climbed the easier route to the right called The Snub, which was holding more snow. We took harder variations where possible. See the SMC 2015 Journal for more information on both routes.
East and north facing slopes in the area were holding plenty of snow and cornices were visible above coire rims on these aspects. There were quite a few sun wheels around with the warm sun melting snow of rocks and causing small cornice releases. See the ClimbNow Facebook page for more photos.
This week I’ve been working on a Winter Mountaineering Foundation course based out of Ballachulish. We visited Stob Mhic Mhartuin on Monday with soft snow on the hill, which we used for movement and arrest teaching. There were graupel showers during the day. On Tuesday we headed to the Nevis Range ski area and looked at crampon work on harder snow and ice and an intro to transceiver searches. Windslab was forming throughout the day.
On Wednesday we made an ascent of Stob Coire Raineach to use some of the skills we’d learnt and continued the ongoing theme of avalanche awareness and avoidance. It was snowing on strong south-westerlies in the morning with rain above the summits later on. On Thursday we headed over to Glen Feshie and dug snow holes before heading up Carn Ban Mor in driving snow on a south-westerly and poor visibility followed by some night navigation. It was raining heavily as I headed south today. An enthusiastic group who were keen to learn made for a very enjoyable week despite some fairly challenging conditions.
Craig and I have been based in Torridon for the last few days with the Falkirk Outdoors High Tops and Mountaineering teams. On Wednesday the walkers tackled Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mor, whilst Kim, Linda and I climbed the north-east ridge of Beinn Damh (Stuc Toll nam Biast). This proved to be a great climbing way up this hill. There were frequent graupel showers during the day on strong westerly winds adding to a snowpack in sheltered areas that already contained large amounts of graupel.
On Thursday the mountaineers completed the classic Liathach main ridge traverse in superb conditions with low winds and sunshine. Gaining the ridge was hard going with careful route choice and a fair bit of graupel wading being required, but once on the ridge the snow conditions were excellent. Meanwhile the walkers took in Beinn Alligin getting amazing views to Skye and Harris. Today the forecast was for strong winds and rain above the summits and suggested the best chance of staying vaguely dry was in the rain shadow of the Cairngorms; so the walkers visited Meall a’Bhuacaille and with the ski road being closed the mountaineers practiced some rescue skills in the forest beyond Glenmore. The plan worked and we stayed dry if relatively wind swept.