Torridon and The Cairngorms

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.

A happy mountaineering team on Mullach an Rathian with the Liathach ridge behind. Photo credit: K. Hamilton.

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.

Monolith Grooves

Monolith Grooves today on Beinn an Lochain. The route was in good condition today with the exclusion of pitch 4 which was not frozen.

Inverness-shire Rock and The Cairngorms

Andy and I were based in Aviemore for the last couple of days. With some sun in the forecast Andy sensibly chose the low level rock climbing option for Saturday to stay below the worst of the wind. We visited Pinnacle Crag (Duntelchaig) and the unusual conglomerate trad crag of Ashie Fort climbing eleven routes. It was wet initially, but the sun and rain dried both crags quickly giving some great pitches climbable in approach shoes.

Andy on Stepped Corner Pinnacle Crag, Duntelchaig.

Today we headed up in to Coire an t-Sneachda and climbed on the sheltered Twin Ribs. It was fairly miserable on the walk in with driving rain and sleet on a strong south-westerly. It was sheltered on the route, with snow falling above about 900m including periods of graupel.

Andy at the top of Twin Ribs with The Mess of Pottage and Aladdin’s Buttress in the background.

We chose not to top out, due to the wind and abseiled down the north side of the rib until we were on scoured ground as there was wind slab around that was releasing fairly easily. Not many parties in the coire, with only a few hardy souls heading further in than us. Care would have been required with snow slopes on and around the main crags as snow has been scouring off the plateau and in to the coires on the very strong winds over the last two days.

Ski Touring, Off Piste Skiing and Scottish Winter Climbing

I have had an interesting couple of weeks with off piste skiing and ski touring in; Val d’Isere, Tignes, La Rosiere and Sainte Foy followed today by winter climbing on Cha-No. All good fun.

Glen Coe

John and I were out in Glen Coe today delivering a Falkirk Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing day. We had a good with Ruth, Stuart and I climbing four pitches on the west face of Gearr Aonach, whilst covering lots new skills. We then descended a Grade I snow gully to practice a bit of downclimbing. John, John H and Rory had an enjoyable time climbing Central Buttress Ordinary Route (Raeburn’s Route) in Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Looking down to Ruth and Stuart on one of the pitches we climbed.

It was thawing conditions today with generally soft snow and some rain towards the end of the day even up at the top of the crags in Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Sgairneach Mhor

John and I were out today with a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering Team of John, Kim, Linda, Olesya, Roddy and Sara. It was programmed for a route in Glen Coe, but conditions and forecasts meant we headed for Sgairneach Mhor near Drumochter instead. There are a number of small crags and gullies in Coire Creagach, most of which have been climbed by Davy Virdee and pals and we gambled that this coire would have held snow and the turf would be frozen.

Sara, Linda and John S on a variation to Lost Chock Gully.

This worked well with us climbing the Grade II Burn’s Supper before taking in the summit. We then descended Easy Gully with lowers/abs off a snow bollard to pass the steep collapsed cornice. Then John and team climbed Lost Chock Gully (Grade III) and my team climbed a variation to the right at Grade III. Additionally, Kenny hitched a ride in the bus and headed out for an enjoyable hill day.

Summit photo.

There was old snow from the bottom of the coire. This had generally refrozen well, but there was the odd soft spot. The cornices had collapsed during the thaw, which meant gully top outs were steep, but on firm refrozen snow. Turf was well frozen except where it was taking drainage. Ice was forming in the coire. There was ice from the road up this morning. It snowed lightly, but steadily on a mostly south-easterly wind for much of the day with snow settling at road level as we left and accumulating in sheltered locations higher up.

The Cairngorms

The last three days John and I have been climbing in the Cairngorms with a Falkirk Outdoors Mixed Climbing Team of Alan, B and Devon with Robin making a guest appearance today. We hit a pretty good weather window and climbed in Coire an t-Sneachda, on Stag Rocks and on Creagan Cha-no. Various teams climbed The Seam; Goat Track Gully and it’s right hand start (on thin but climbable ice); Albino; Purge; Chimney Rib with the alternative start; Anvil Gully; The Blood is Strong and Cutty Sark.

Me, B and Devon on Cutty Sark today.

The turf was well frozen throughout the three days on the routes we climbed. There wasn’t a lot of old snow around, but what was there was good neve. Fresh snow was being moved by strong winds in to sheltered locations, generally north and east facing. The fresh snow was unconsolidated and wind slab was forming in sheltered areas. The lack of much consolidated snow means there are some loose blocks around and care is required. Having said all that the temperatures are warming up, so things will be changing rapidly. There are lots of photos on The ClimbNow Facebook page.

Cobbler

Traverse of the Cobbler yesterday. Good fun but very greasy with movement requiring care.

Cairngorms and Duntelchaig

I’m just back from four days based in Aviemore with Alex and Doug. The weather wasn’t particularly helpful, but we got something good done on each day.

On Sunday we headed to Lurcher’s Crag to avoid the crowds and descended South Gully before climbing a thin, but good, ice in Eskimo Gully on Lurcher’s Crag.

Doug and Alex approaching a belay on Eskimo Gully.

On Monday we climbed Captain Fairweather and Flood Warning on Creagan Cha-no to avoid the forecast high winds. Most of the rockier routes were black, but these lines had plenty of soft snow and very hard turf. On Tuesday with the freezing level above the summits and quite a bit of moisture in the air we climbed a somewhat soggy Central Gully and the bottom two pitches of Goat Track Gully in Coire an t-Sneachda.

Alex and Doug in Central Gully.

Today with freezing levels above the summits again we opted for some dry cragging at Pinnacle Crag, Duntelchaig. The guys climbed nine routes up to Severe 4b in big boots and in Doug’s case without removing his gloves!

Glen Coe

I’m just back from three fairly wild days based at Lagangarbh with a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering and High Tops Trip. On Wednesday Gillian, Linda, Neil and I ascended a soggy Zig-Zags (crampons not required). Whilst Craig, Mike and Wilson traversed Beinn a’Chrulaiste. On Tuesday the mountaineers adjourned to The Ice Factor for some indoor rock and ice climbing, whilst the walkers took in The Pap of Glencoe and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. Today the mountaineers made up a couple of routes high on the west face of Gearr Aonach including one, which had an interesting tight through route; meanwhile the walkers visited Beinn Bhan above Ballachulish before deciding the weather was unpleasant enough to make for a short day.

The mountaineering team on the Gearr Aonach ridge today with Beinn Fhada behind.

The weather gave significant precipitation on all three days. The freezing level went above the summits on Thursday on a southerly wind and then dropped down to around 600m today with the wind becoming westerly. We only reached circa 700m today, but there was considerable accumulation of fresh wind blown snow at this level. The snow at this height was moist and will firm up with colder temperatures. There are more photos on The ClimbNow Facebook page.