Glen Feshie Ski Tour

Nettle and I were out for a ski tour in the hills above Glen Feshie yesterday. From the parking before Auchlean we carried our skis up to about 850m. There was good cover on the plateau and once on the skis stayed on except to nip a few metres to the odd scoured summit. Our tour took in the tops of Meall Dubhag, Mullach Clach a’Bhlair, Tom Dubh, Monadh Mor and Carn Ban Mor before a delightful descent of Coire Gorm down to around 600m. The descent of Coire Gorm was paid for by some trackless heather bashing to regain the path, but was well worth it.

Nettle at the summit of Mullach Clach a’Bhlair with Sgor Gaoith to Cairn Toul behind.

It was a general light thaw with sunshine to begin, then cloud, mostly above the tops, and a little rain/sleet towards the end of the day. The snow underfoot was damp and soft with skis definitely aiding travel on the plateau. There will still be some snow instabilities on steep slopes and there are large cornices around, which need to be considered in the thawing conditions.

Stob Coire nan Lochan

Euan, David and I were in Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe today. There’s been a lot of new snow fall at height over the last few days, we came across new deposits of 40cm and more. Additionally the winds have moved around and there will be old wind slab under new deposits in some locations as well as new, generally soft, wind slab and this is all sitting on an old hard base of snow on lots of aspects. We saw avalanche activity that ranged from spontaneous slab releases, with a very obvious fresh crown wall under the Twisting Gully area; point releases from snow/rime sloughing off the crags in the sun and human triggered releases of slabs. Careful route choice is definitely required in Glen Coe at the moment.

David above the routes.

We took a precautionary approach and followed a low angled line around above the crags and abseiled/lowered in to climb Pinnacle Buttress Groove and a line to the right of Pinnacle Buttress, North-East Face at about Tech 5. I wouldn’t have wanted to approach these routes from below today and access from above required care. There are some very sizable cornices around and these were building with wind blown snow today. There was less fresh snow during the day than forecast and we spent most of the day in glorious sunshine with amazing views across a very snowy West Highlands.

Stob Coire nan Lochan today with avalanche activity visible below much of the crag.

Loch Etive and Creach Bheinn

Jen & I are just back from a few days staying near Taynuilt with friends. On Sunday the two Jens and I went for a low level walk in the Inverawe/Loch Etive area, whilst the rest of the group went up on to Ben Cruachan encountering snow from around 700m.

Looking towards the summit of Creach Bheinn on Monday.

On Monday I had a bimble up Creach Bheinn in Glen Creran. The new hydro access track along the Allt Buidhe made for a quick approach. I was on hard old snow from around 700m and descended via Meall Garbh and a Grade I gully in the coire to the west of Meall Garbh’s summit, which made for a quick day. Various road cycling and low level walking also went on. It snowed overnight on strong east/north-east winds and there was a dusting of fresh down to about 300m near the coast this morning.

4 Routes in Glencoe

Levin and I have been out in Glencoe for the last two days. Yesterday we climbed Curved Ridge and Crowberry Tower on Buachaille Etive Mor. The route was in excellent condition. We descended via a snow bollard into Coire na Tulaich.

Today we climbed Dinnertime Buttress on Aonach Dubh, Dorsal Arete in SCNL and descended Broad Gully in SCNL. Dinnertime Buttress didn’t require crampons until beyond the crux chimney. Dorsal Arete was in the best condition I have ever seen it in. Broad Gully was descended on good snow (although there was some shallow windslab).

Lots more photos on the facebook page.

Exiting Dorsal Arete.

Beinn Chuirn

Sharon, Mac and I had a great day in Coire na Saobhaidhe on Beinn Chuirn today. After walking in with the coire in cloud we got a view of the crags that revealed that the routes from the SMC Journal 2009 still had very large cornices over them. We’d walked in with the idea of doing a new route and this helped our decision. We climbed an excellent natural line on the left hand side of the coire, which gave an enthralling long first pitch followed by a shorter easy top out with no cornice issues. The usual grade discussions settled on IV,4, but we had pretty much perfect conditions with very well frozen turf and neve.

Sharon nearing the belay at the top of our enthralling first pitch of the day.

We then descended via the main central Grade I gully after passing the cornice with a lower/abseil from a snow bollard. The day felt like it needed a second route and an ice line on the lower tier below Silver Star caught the eye. This gave a circa 30m pitch on ice that required a delicate approach in places in current conditions. With good ice taking screws this would make a very pleasant direct start to Silver Star at III,4.

Mac above the steep ice on our second route, but still on calf burning terrain.

It’s worth noting that everything in this coire seems to be steeper than it looks from below, with both routes being at least a grade harder than we’d guessed and the approach slopes below the crag requiring respect and possibly an approach pitch or two.

An “awesome” day with no one else in the coire and book ended by pleasant stops in the Real Food Café as we’d parked in Tyndrum before walking in.

Am Bodach

Today Sharon, Steve and I visited the crag on the North side of Am Bodach (the start of the Aonach Eagach) that Euan went to on Tuesday. We climbed Oganach Chimney and as he predicted it was in excellent condition after a refreeze. On the first ascent in December 2017 Andy Nelson and Andy Hogarth were able to pass under the enormous chockstone, the through route is currently blocked and it is bypassed on the right. Above the original pitches we cut left up a snow/ice/turf groove that gave a good finish in keeping with the lower pitches. This was further left than the line taken by Euan judging by the footprints.

Me, Steve and Sharon with the crags of Am Bodach behind.

We needed a quick second route so climbed the obvious snowy ramp line leading up left from the toe of the buttress left of chockstone of Oganach Chimney. This gave a very pleasant 50m Grade I. The older snow was generally firm in the morning except for the odd area of breakable crust. There was a thin layer of fresh snow, which was being moved in the winds that came around to easterly. Where exposed to the sun the snow was softening during the day. The buttresses were quite dry/black and we felt the line of Bodach Buttress wouldn’t have been justifiable today although all turf at crag height was very well frozen and there was snow on the ledges.

Golden Oldie and Ben Nevis

Yesterday the team and I visited the West Face of Aonach Mor where we climbed Golden Oldie. The route was in good condition with frozen turf, some excellent neve and some interesting fresh snow arête’s following the recent weather.

Today we spent some time on Ben Nevis climbing ice pitches in Coire na Ciste and the CIC Hut Cascades.

Snow arête on Golden Oldie.

Coire an t-Sneachda

On Monday and Tuesday this week I had a great couple of days with David in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms. On Monday we climbed Red Gully and Goat Track Gully in sunny and calm conditions with great views.

David and me at the stance below Red Gully on Monday.

On Tuesday we climbed Invernookie and descended Fiacaill Ridge before dropping back in to the coire from the col. There’d been some snow overnight, which continued on and off through the day and careful route choice to and from the route was required. All these routes are getting somewhat chopped out/thin in places, but gave good climbing all be it possibly harder than guidebook grade at times. There was a fair amount of new snow overnight Monday and through Tuesday on south-easterly through south to south-westerly winds. This was forming damp slab lower down, but was dry higher up and was building cornices. There was some avalanche activity in the coire on Tuesday. Despite the new snow steeper buttress routes in the coire were generally fairly black.

Pearly Gates and Oganach Chimney

Yesterday a team and I from Ballachulish climbed Pearly Gates in Stob Coire nan Lochan. We climbed the route on good snow ice.

Today, we climbed Oganach Chimney which is on the north side of Am Bodach (the start of the Aonach Eagach). This route was first climbed in December 2017 by Andy Nelson and Andy Hogarth. It gave a nice grade III in the current conditions. The turf was frozen today however the snow was not. It was very, very wet. The route will be excellent once it freezes again.

These two routes have two things in common; very few runners and few belays. If you find a good one, take it!

Climbing on Pearly Gates.

Glen Clunie and Glen Callater

The last two days Mike and I have been out in the Glen Shee area with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors combined ski touring and walking team of Anna, Jenny, Lesley, Nicola and Norrie. On Friday Mike and the skiers skinned up Carn an Tuirc and descended to Loch Callater on soft thawing snow. Norrie and I walked in to Loch Callater via Creag nan Gabhar and after dumping some gear in the Callater Stables bothy we walked up Jock’s Road and round to the summit of Tolmount before returning to the bothy. We’d carried tents and bivvy gear, but there was no one else at the bothy, so we were all able to have a pleasant night inside.

Norrie at the summit of Cairn of Claise today.

Today we awoke to bright sunny conditions, low winds and an overnight frost, which had firmed up the snow and made for much easier walking and skiing conditions. The skiers reclimbed Carn an Tuirc and found some excellent conditions for a number of descents, before skiing out to the road. Norrie and I headed over Carn an Tuirc and Cairn of Claise before descending via the first part of the Sron na Gaoithe ridge then dropping down to the Allt a’Garbh Coire. A beautiful blue sky day today with excellent ski touring and walking conditions and lots of teams out enjoying the snow. There are still some large cornices and these need to be considered in route choice on thawing and sunny days.