West and East

I’ve spent the last four days with Alex and Doug trying to work with the weather rather than against it. We met at the Corran Ferry on Thursday and headed out to Ardnamurchan hoping this would stay under the forecast weather. We climbed the West Flanks of Creag an Airgid and Meall Sanna, both giving good scrambling/easy climbing on rough gabbro buttresses and slabs. We avoided the rain, there was some wet rock but plenty of friction even when wet.

The summit of Creag an Airgid.

The forecast for Friday morning was very wet and windy, so we had a deliberate late start and walked in to the CIC Hut in the afternoon before climbing and descending a soggy East Gully of the Douglas Gap as things started to cool down late afternoon. Friday night saw temperatures drop and some fresh snow. We had a great day on Saturday climbing North Gully, Creag Coire na Ciste, heading over the summit of Ben Nevis and down and along the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.  Bigger gully features that had held snow had firmed up well. Ice was starting to reform above 700m, fresh wind slab was forming on westerly winds.

Doug and Alex on North Gully.

Today we needed a short day and headed east to the Cairngorms to get away from the worst of the weather. We scrambled a couple of the winter lines in Creag na h-Iolaire in summer conditions; I would not recommend this as there is a lot of very loose rock. There were snow/hail showers down to around 600m on a strong westerly, but these were only settling above about 850m.

Cairngorms Ski Mountaineering

It was glorious weather in the Cairngorms today for a Falkirk Outdoors Ski Mountaineering day with John, Holly, Lucy and John. We were able to skin from the car park and up on to Fiacaill Ridge before putting skis on our packs and climbing the ridge. The ridge itself was generally well scoured, but you wouldn’t have had to drop off too far on either side to find areas of unstable snow.

Lucy and Holly near the top of Fiacaill Ridge.

We then skied around over Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and pt. 1141m. The skiing on the plateau was either on scoured icy snow or pleasant hard packed slab. We were able to carefully ski from 1141 around the rim of Coire Cas before dropping down in to the coire from Fiacaill a’Choire Cas before descending through the ski area. The snow was consolidating in the sunny weather, but there are likely to be instabilities in some locations for a while. Climbing teams were reporting having to clear a lot of snow from the buttress routes.

Mam Suim and Meall nan Eagan

Yesterday Andy, Rob and I chose to visit Creag na h-Iolare on Mam Suim in the Cairngorms. This is a rarely visited mica-schist crag about 2km north-east of the Coire na Ciste car park. It’s needs snow low down as the base of the crag is 700m. It’s quite vegetated and loose in places so could have done with a bit more consolidated snow, however it worked pretty well for the conditions on Saturday as many of the routes are on ridges or ribs. I think we climbed Central Ridge and Loose Rib, which I mistook for Picasso. Unsurprisingly Loose Rib has a significant area of loose rock near the top and we chose to move left in to the gully to avoid this. See the SMC journals since 2014 for route descriptions.

Rob and Andy topping out on Central Ridge.

Today I went for a dander up Meall nan Eagan and Carn na Ceardaich near Dalwhinnie. This kept me below the worst of the weather.

Meall nan Eagan summit selfie.

It snowed pretty much all day on Saturday with the wind starting as a south-westerly and moving round through easterly to north-westerly. Even at around 700m there was a marked increase in snow depths through the day and snow was down to Aviemore level on Saturday evening. Today there was less constant snow with periods of sunshine low down followed by squally showers. Above 800m it appeared to be in cloud most of the day. The wind was mostly north-westerly today and there has been a lot of wind movement of snow leading to scoured areas and significant drifting, wind slab and cornice development.

Glen Clova

John and I were in Glen Clova today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors winter climbing team of Amanda, John, Ross and Steven. The decision to visit this area was based on it probably being the best weather option and this worked well as the sun shone for most of the day and the north-west to south-west winds were surprisingly low.

John, John and Ross above the first pitch.

We climbed Boustie Buttress on The Snub side of the Corrie of Clova. This III,4 route isn’t a classic, but has some good climbing and was a sensible choice for the day as it was on a scoured aspect when many of the normal venues in the area were looking loaded with fresh snow. Details of the route can be found in the 2015 SMC Journal or on the SMC Website. Snow was down to around 500m this morning with south through east to northerly aspects looking heavily loaded above 700m. The sun shone all day and by the time we were leaving the snow line had raised to around 600m. Buttresses exposed to the sun were stripping fast and sun wheels were present on many aspects. The turf at crag height was firm, but softening in the sun or where exposed to dripping water. There was very little precipitation during the day. Where exposed to the sun the snow pack had become moist above 800m.

Ben Vrackie

Yesterday Jane, Chris and I took the opportunity of the more settled morning weather to nip up Ben Vrackie.

Chris and Jane at the summit.

There was snow from about 600m, which significantly increased above 750m. Plenty of evidence of wind movement of snow on strong south-westerly to north-westerly winds. Some ice around above 650m, but mostly thawing in the morning sunshine.

Navigation Course

Yesterday I was delivering a Low Level Walking Navigation Course for the City of Edinburgh Council Adult Education. We started from the Midlothian Snow Sports Centre and used the area around Swanston and Dreghorn to stay down below the worst of the cool wind and to maximise the available shelter.

The group planning their next leg in a shelter near the Howden Burn.

The main paths in the Pentlands were still relatively dry, but the recent rain meant there were some boggy areas.

Pentlands Navigation

I was out in the Pentland Hills today delivering a Hill Walking Navigation course for The City of Edinburgh Council Adult Education. Thanks to all the group for their enthusiasm, which made the course work well.

The group with Arthur’s Seat in the distance.

It was dry throughout the day with sunshine and a strong, cold, south-westerly wind, which decreased through the day. Despite yesterday’s rain the ground was very dry underfoot for this time of year and the paths were dry.

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.