John and I were in Coire Daimh on Beinn Udlaidh today with a Falkirk Community Trust winter climbing team of B, Doug and Sharon. We were hoping some of the easier angled icy routes may have hung on. The freezing level was well above the summits, so we were concerned about cornice collapse. After waiting for a while to see if visibility would clear enough to let us make a judgement on cornices we decided to climb Horny Ridge, which we knew wouldn’t have a cornice above it. B, Sharon and I did a harder start up a short turfy wall and we all finished up a harder turfy ramp line and set of short walls/steps to avoid having to go in to the top of West Gully.
There was lots of cornice collapse avalanche activity in the coire today, with at least four coming down West Gully and others audible elsewhere. Some ice was holding on, but there were also some sizable falls of ice during the day. The snow pack was saturated. Turf where being dripped on was soft, but elsewhere was surprisingly firm. It was dry as we walked in, but we had drizzle for a good part of the afternoon.
John and I were out in Coire Fee Glen Clova today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Climbing team of Brian, Calum, Derry and Jim. We had a great day climbing two of the coire’s classic routes. John, Calum and Jim climbed Look C Gully, whilst Brian, Derry and I climbed B Gully Chimney. Both routes had water running behind the ice in places and required a delicate approach, but gave some excellent climbing. We then descended A Gully.
There’s unconsolidated snow in sheltered locations and although the crag was being scoured during the day there are significant areas of wind slab. We were very careful with our route selection in to A Gully to avoid crossing areas of firm wind slab and be on the scoured side of the gully.
John and I were out today with Brian, Christoph, Dave and Douglas on Creag Coire an Dothaidh on a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing day. We climbed Centigrade, this gave a good mix of turf, ice and rock which allowed lots of different gear to be looked at whilst climbing the route.
We chose the crag as it was on the scoured side of the hill and had less snow than on other aspects. There’d been rain in the morning almost to the top of the crag and the crag was above freezing most of the day. However, there was quite a lot of ice around and this was generally holding on well. Snow in the coire was saturated.
The last two days Euan, Paul and I have managed to get together for the ClimbNow “annual” winter climbing meet up. It’s a great chance for us to catch up, share ideas and climb some winter routes.
Weather, conditions and time constraints pointed us in the direction of the beautiful Glen Clova in the Angus Glens and we’ve had a couple of excellent days climbing in Winter Coire and Coire Farchal. On Tuesday we climbed Sun Rock Blues. This has a steep technical crux on the first pitch and we varied the third pitch by traversing right at the small cave, which involved a precarious and inelegant belly flop move by me on the lead before reaching easy ground.
Today we visited Coire Farchal with the intention of climbing Silver Threads Among the Gold, but the sun on Tuesday and Wednesday morning meant the initial buttress was looking very black. However, the area around Coffin Dodger and Over the Hill was holding some good ice and we climbed a line starting around Over The Hill and then climbing icy steps on it’s left, a steep ice shield left of the “slot” and finishing up Coffin Dodger. This gave a good line on the day and had some excellent climbing between relaxed belay stances.
Both routes were made easier to protect by carrying a few ice screws and a couple of warthogs. There’s been a fair bit of wind movement of snow and there are some pockets of very firm wind slab around, which should be taken in to account when choosing routes and approaches/descents. It was snowing lightly on a fairly strong south-westerly as we left the glen at mid afternoon. Both days were rounded off with a very pleasant coffee and scone in The Glen Clova Hotel.
John and I were in Arrochar today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Mountaineering Team of Andrew, Devon, Douglas, Innes, Olesya and Peter.
We had a great day climbing Chockstone Gully and Great Gully to reach the North Peak before walking over to the Centre Peak and the team climbing Doorway Route to the summit of The Cobbler. The views were great. We had no precipitation during the day. The freezing level was up near the summit of the hill, so harder routes would generally have been stripped. However, there was good build up in the gullies with the chockstones at the bottom of Great Gully being banked out to a short step.
Mac, Sharon and I were out climbing in the North-East Coire of Beinn an Dothaidh today. There was a lot of unconsolidated snow at crag height and we switched to a Plan B of Stairway to Heaven with it’s Direct Start. The direct start ups the grade a bit, but means starting low on the ridge rather than in West Gully, which was a good option today.
We had a great day, but even on a ridgey route a lot of clearing was required, which made for slowish going. The turf at crag height was frozen solid even where it was buried. There’s not a huge amount of ice in the coire at the moment, so routes that require ice in quantity are currently best avoided. Good route, approach and descent choices are essential as there are sizable amounts of wind slab around.
The last three days John and I have been based in Aviemore with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Cairngorm Mixed Climbing Trip team of Gregor, Linda, Joanne and Tzvetie. The thaws and refreezes over the weekend meant that although a lot of buttress routes were looking black, where old snow remained the climbing was excellent with generally first time placements in snow ice. There were pretty strong mostly south-westerly or westerly winds throughout and there’s been some fresh snow with areas of wind slab developing.
On Monday we all climbed Invernookie on the Fiacaill Buttress in Coire an t-Sneachda. On Tuesday John, Linda and Joanne climbed Fingers Ridge, whilst Gregor, Tzvetie and I climbed Spiral Gully with the very good direct finish before battling out in strong winds. Today we headed to Lurcher’s Crag and after descending South Gully Gregor and I climbed the direct version of Drystane Ridge, which gave some interesting climbing for the II in our guide book (further research revealed that it’s only that grade if you avoid the bottom section). John, Linda and Joanne climbed Collie’s Ridge. It’s worth mentioning that none of the ice lines that we could see on Lurcher’s Crag were formed.
It was a pretty wild day in Coire an t-Sneachda with rain from the carpark, 50mph+ gusts on the walk in, the freezing level blipping above the summits before wet snow arriving down to 800m and increasing gusts.
Euan and Laura wanted a teaching day, so we headed for the relative shelter of The Twin Ribs given the increasing westerly component in the wind as the day progressed. This worked pretty well and we were able to look at some winter only protection, axe techniques for technical mixed climbing, leading for Laura and retreating from routes. Euan and Laura kept focused and organised given the conditions. This in itself is a key skill for Scottish Winter climbing when the weather turns a bit less than ideal.
Mac, Sharon and I were out climbing in the Cairngorms yesterday. We had a great day climbing Grandee Grooves and Wile-E-Coyote on Creagan Coire a’Cha-no.
This crag faces east and was sheltered from the wind, but this also meant that care was required in route approach and selection given the current conditions. Cornices are present over quite a lot of routes and wind slab was building during the day with wind movement of snow; we chose to abseil in to the climbs. It’s also worth noting that some of the buttress routes were looking fairly bare of snow and would have been hard to justify as in condition e.g. Jenga Buttress. The recent thaw had stabilised older snow, generally making it a pleasure to climb with just the odd bit of breakable crust although ice in cracks had built up, which meant a good bit of clearing was required to find gear placements.
The last three days Doug and I have been based in Fort William. On Saturday Doug had a somewhat arduous journey up, but we decided to make the most of the good weather forecast and climbed The Dragon’s Tooth (the traverse of Sgorr a’Chaolais on Sgorr Dhonuill, Beinn a’Bheithir). We chose this as there was a lot of fresh snow, which had fallen mostly on south-westerly or westerly winds and we felt a ridge with a potentially scoured side would be a good option. This proved to be the case, although quite a lot of trail breaking was required to get to the ridge and careful route selection was required along the ridge and in descent.
Overnight and in to Sunday there was an easterly component in the wind and there was redistribution of old snow and fresh snow before the wind swung around towards the west again accompanied by more snow fall. This made for some very tricky snow conditions with very easy shears of wind slab on lots of aspects and in pockets due to cross loading on almost every aspect. Doug and I had two attempts to get in to climbing lines on very different aspects in Glen Nevis, but turned around both times at around 300m as we were not happy with the snow stability on our approaches to the climbs. However, we made the most of the day by going to The Ice Factor to look at steep ice climbing technique, talking a lot about avalanche awareness and avoidance (thanks to Rich for letting us sit in on his avalanche lecture), oh and visiting a couple of cafes.
Today we headed east to the Cairngorms to avoid the worst of the weather and found some good climbing conditions on Haston Line and Hidden Chimney on The Mess of Pottage in Coire an t-Sneachda. The crag was very busy today, but teams were working well together and there was some good climbing to be had. Conditions are changing again tomorrow and over the next few days, so take care with route choice if you’re out and about.