Curved Ridge

I was out on Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors team of John, Robin, Kim, Phillipa, Oleysa and Roddy. We had amazing weather with an inversion, brocken spectres and no wind. Thanks to Robin for taking my camera and getting some great shots, see the ClimbNow Facebook page for more photos.

Above the inversion with the Buachaille’s shadow on the cloud.

There was ice on paths from valley level. and a good dusting of snow on the route, but none of it is consolidated. This made for tricky conditions with icy rock often best being climbed in gloves with an ice axe handy for the odd icy section or hook. Turf on the route was solid.

 

Newtyle and Beinn Ime

The last two days John and I have been out with Falkirk Outdoors Winter Climbing Teams. On Wednesday with an Introduction to Winter Climbing Group we visited Newtyle for some dry tooling as this allowed lots of teaching and coaching opportunities given conditions in the hills, which were only just getting cold after a significant thaw the previous two days. Yesterday we went to Beinn Ime in Arrochar and climbed variations on Forked Gully/Forked Gully Buttress before taking in the summit.

Alan and Derry on a stance.

There was a good dusting of snow in Arrochar above about 500m. Some ground was frozen from the valley and paths were icy, but turf remained variable right to summit height. The main area of crags on Beinn Ime were catching the sun, looking fairly black and the turf would have been softening up. We chose to climb in the Forked Gully area as this remained in the shade. We traversed in above the ice pitch, as it wasn’t formed. Ice is forming in the coire and icy smears on rock were helpful in places yesterday.

Drumochtor and AMI AGM

Over the weekend I was up at Glenmore Lodge for the Association of Mountaineering Instructors Annual General Meeting. Thanks to all those who made this and the associated training workshops very successful and enjoyable.

Nettle and I shared transport to the event and on Friday took the opportunity for a fell run up Creag Ruadh and Druim nan Sac near Dalwhinnie. There were very limited snow patches at height on Friday and Saturday. However, there was some fresh snow in the Cairngorms on Sunday and through last night.

Nettle at the summit of Creag Ruadh on Friday.

Farragon Hill

Pamela and I were out for a walk up Farragon Hill today. The hill lies between the Tay and the Tummel and we chose to approach from the south. This avoided passing through the barytes mine on Meall Tairneachan, which lies on the western approach, on a working day.

Pamela at the summit of Farragon Hill.

It’s worth noting there’s a lot of forestry and forestry tracks on this approach, which aren’t shown on older maps although OS Maps online seems to be pretty much up to date. The hill stayed below the cloud all day. There are currently no snow patches or frozen ground on the hill, which is just under 800m high. Some very limited snow patches were visible on higher hills nearby.

Beinn Ime

B, Robin and I went for an exploratory trip up the North-East ridge of Beinn Ime today, as none of us had climbed the ridge before. This felt like a good option for conditions as it’s described as both a summer scramble and a winter route. Today it was a summer scramble.

Robin and B at the summit of Beinn Ime.

An approach from Glen Croe via the Bealach a’Mhaim worked well for us, but did involve some steep traversing and avalanche risk would need to be considered if there was snow around. We soloed the lower section of the ridge avoiding the damp rocky sections, which would be fun in dry conditions. After roping up the final tower was climbed it in two pitches. The turf firmed up near the top of the ridge and there was some old thawing ice. We continued up to the summit of Beinn Ime. Above 900m the ground was hard frozen, the verglas and rime covered rocks were very slippy and there was plenty of ice on the paths. Very limited snow patches in the area, but I was definitely glad to have crampons on for the initial part of the descent.

Arrochar

B, Pamela and I were out in Arrochar today. Despite the cold temperatures and the frozen ground winter climbing wasn’t an option as nothing was white, so we’d planned a day of rock climbing high up on Beinn Narnain. The forecast sun didn’t really materialise and there was high cloud all day, however the plan worked well as there was no real wind and we had a fun day climbing Spearhead Arete and Restricted Crack. Scottish mountain trad in January anyone?

Pamela and B at the summit trig point of Beinn Narnain after climbing Spearhead Arete.

The ground was frozen from the valley up with some rime on the highest rocks. Water ice is starting to from, but all the burns we crossed were still running. Snow in the area is restricted to a very few limited patches with even the east face of Beinn Ime being snow free.

Glen Lochay (Breadalbane)

It’s been mild in Scotland for the last few days with a big reduction in snow cover. Today Pamela and I decided to head up Meall nan Subh, a Corbett neither of us had visited before, to burn off some Christmas excess and keep hill fitness up for when winter returns.

Pamela on the summit with snow patches on Beinn Heasgarnaich behind.

If you have an old Corbett or Munro book it’s worth noting that you’re now asked to park just before Kenknock, which makes this a longer outing. We walked up the road from there and returned south from the summit taking in many of the cairns on the multiple tops before a steep descent on the east side of the deer fence, which brings you out near the parking. This descent would be through deep bracken in summer. There’s patchy snow above 800m on north and east facing slopes. Most of this has now consolidated very well.

Coire an t-Sneachda

A Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Climbing team of John, Robin, Tam and I had a very good day climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms today. The coire was busy by the time we arrived, so to avoid being under other parties we decided on Central Left-Hand & then jumped in to the gully on the left to climb a nice short ice section before finishing up the top pitch or so of Pygmy Ridge. This allowed some nice varied climbing with progressing difficulty and teaching opportunities.

Robin and Tam near the top of Pygmy Ridge.

Older snow from before Tuesday’s thaw had remained in larger collection features and refrozen well. There was a dusting of fresh snow down to the coire entrance and this had built up some significant accumulations on some approach slopes, in gullies and at the coire rim. There was good ice build up in places and we placed full depth screws in the icy section. Any turf we encountered was very well frozen. Rocks were well rimed, but cracks were generally fairly dry. There are some loose blocks near the top of Pygmy Ridge, which aren’t yet fully frozen in place and care was required with these.

 

 

 

Glen Coe

Euan and I were out today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Mountaineering Team of Alan, Lewis and May. The programmed route was Dinnertime Buttress, as it can be done as a summer or winter scramble. This was definitely a good option early in the season as today it was a sheltered summer scramble with only the very odd patch of snow high up.

Euan, Lewis and Alan on an optional pitch near the top of Aonach Dubh.

The thaw earlier in the week has significantly reduced the snow cover in Glen Coe and views into Stob Coire nan Lochan showed only Broad Gully looking complete at the moment. The turf was firm near the top of Aonach Dubh. There was only light precipitation on a southerly wind whilst we were on the hill, but it was raining hard at road level as we drove south. This will have been falling as snow high up.

Drumochter

Pamela hasn’t been out winter climbing for over 3 years, so the aim of today was a nice, fun and relaxed reintroduction. We decided on Coire Creagach, a minor crag near Drumochter developed by Davy Virdee and pals. Additionally, we didn’t top out in order to stay in the shelter of the coire and below the very cold south-east wind.

Pamela approaching a belay.

A pleasant day was had climbing Easy Gully and a steep icy step on it’s side wall; Gully II and Lost Chock Groove descending each time via Easy Gully. The ground was frozen from the road with ice in any boggy sections. Some good ice was developing on the crag. The snow level in the coire started on the slope below the crag, circa 850m. The snow was all very solid refrozen old snow. The snow forecast tomorrow will load in to the coire on top of this layer and is likely to represent an avalanche risk. There are already big cornices above north and east facing slopes, this is worth bearing in mind if there’s a thaw or additional loading. There was existing avalanche debris in the coire from cornice collapse earlier in the week.