Glen Coe

This week I’ve been based in Glen Coe. I was delivering a Winter Mountaineering Foundation week for Joint Services at Ballachulish, this was curtailed early on Thursday for obvious reasons. Thanks to the group for a great few days, always good to be out with an enthusiastic team.

Summit photo on Stob Coire Raineach.

Over the three days we visited Meall a’Bhuiridh, Stob Coire Raineach and Aonach Mor. There was precipitation on all three days with snow at height and snow being moved around on strong westerly and south-westerly winds. It was frosty overnight in to Thursday and Friday with lots of sunshine softening the snow pack during the day. There are some huge cornices around, which require thought and care as well as some wind slab at height on mostly north-west to east facing slopes.

Solar radiation affecting the snow pack an lots of cornices.

Meall nan Tarmachan, Cairngorms and Glen Shee

On Wednesday I was out with John and a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering team of Alan, John and Neil climbing McKay’s Gully and descending Easy Gully on Cam Chreag. Older snow on the crag was refreezing, but windslab was building throughout the day on a strong south-westerly. Unfortunately, due to a user error on my part with my camera I don’t have any photos from Cam Chreag.

Looking down the lower part of Anvil Gully to Jim.

I then headed to Aviemore and met up with the Ashbourne/Balfron/Stonehaven team. On Thursday Jim and I headed to Creagan Cha-no and climbed Anvil Gully and True Blood, whilst Chicken, Murray, Nick and Rob ski toured in the Lurcher’s Burn area. Strong winds and snow on Thursday morning was forming windslab on North and East facing slopes and cornices were building noticeably.

The team above The Tiger this afternoon at Glen Shee.

Today, having been joined by Andy, we had a very pleasant day ski-ing at Glen Shee mostly in sunshine with low winds and generally good snow on the pistes. Away from pisted areas there was an icy crust on scoured slopes and windslab in sheltered areas.

Bridge of Orchy and the Cairngorms

The last three days I’ve been climbing with Gregor as part of a Falkirk Outdoors trip for climbers, skiers and walkers based in Newtonmore. On the way up we climbed the classic Salamander Gully in Creag Coire an Dothaidh before taking in the summit of Beinn an Dothaidh. Although the crag is west facing it still had a fair depth of soft snow on easier angled ground.

Gregor high on Whaleback Ridge.

Yesterday we chose a low venue to avoid the winds and headed for Creag na h-Iolaire. The main crag was bare of snow and we climbed a short, but good, winter line on the north facing side of he coire before climbing a summer version of the winter line Left Flank, Right Ridge. This gave some very good climbing, but unfortunately with a lot of loose rock. Today we headed for Creagan Cha-no. The thaw and rain overnight had stripped most of the buttresses, but there was plenty of snow on easier angled routes and on northern aspects and the turf was frozen solid. We climbed Whaleback Ridge and Plasma Gully with a left hand finish. The snow was firming up whilst we were there and we had a number of snow showers during the day on a strong south-westerly wind.

Creag Coire an Dothaidh

John and I headed to Creag Coire an Dothaidh today with a Falkirk Outdoors climbing team of Doug, Kim, Merelle and Steven. Even this relatively low west facing coire had a fair amount of soft snow and approaches required a degree of wading.

Steven on an optional icy step near the top.

The coire was busy, with Salamander Gully being the popular choice. We climbed Centigrade with a little optional step of Grade IV ice near the top. There was soft semi consolidated snow on easier angles, some good icy sections, turf was well frozen and there was rime on the rocks although this was stripping when in direct sunlight. East and North facing slopes were holding large amounts of snow.

Glen Clova

John and I were out today with a Falkirk Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing team of Cat, Kieran, Olesya and Tam. We headed to Glen Clova to find some scoured west facing crags and to get away from the snowier weather in the west. This worked almost too well with the bright sun stripping the rock on our intended route of Boustie Buttress on the west/south-west facing side of the The Snub. Instead we climbed the easier route to the right called The Snub, which was holding more snow. We took harder variations where possible. See the SMC 2015 Journal for more information on both routes.

The team in sunshine on the walk in.

East and north facing slopes in the area were holding plenty of snow and cornices were visible above coire rims on these aspects. There were quite a few sun wheels around with the warm sun melting snow of rocks and causing small cornice releases. See the ClimbNow Facebook page for more photos.

Pentlands Navigation

After a few days down in Derbyshire I was out today in the Pentland Hills running a navigation course for The City of Edinburgh Council Adult Education. The weather was relatively kind to us staying largely dry with just the odd wintry shower, but with a fresh south-west to southerly wind.

The team getting to grips with bearings in a sheltered location.

There was a dusting of snow high on the hills this morning and it was snowing at the ski centre when we finished the course. Thanks to all on the course for keeping enthusiastic in the cold.

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.