The Cairngorms

Chris and I had planned a couple of days climbing classic rock climbs in the Cairngorms. However, the weather forecast precipitated a change in our plans. On Monday we climbed the good mountaineering line of The Stuic with snow underfoot and well frozen turf before taking in Carn a’Choire Bhoidheach and Carn an t-Sagairt Mor.

The Stuic

There were a few snow and graupel showers during the day. It was quite sunny later on and the snow line rose to the base of The Stuic.

Chris topping out on Anvil Gully.

With more snow in the northern Cairngorms, today we visited Creagan Cha-no and climbed Anvil Gully via it’s left hand start to avoid softer insulated turf in the bottom section and then the lower corners of Frozen Planet before traversing in to Recovery Gully as the upper rocky section was looking pretty black. There was snow down to the Ciste carpark this morning with the snow line rising to about 850m during the day. There were deep accumulations of fresh unconsolidated snow in sheltered locations. Snow and graupel showers fell throughout the day. The turf was frozen where exposed, but variable where insulated. Not what I was expecting to be doing in early May, but good fun.

Final Week of the Season

A nice final week of the season at Ballachulish; Curved Ridge, Dorsal Arête, West Gully Beinn an Dothaidh and snow anchors at the ski centre.

Glen Orchy

A late change of plan meant I was out on my own today. I decided on a couple of hills I’d not visited before and the opportunity to check out a small crag shown on the map I hadn’t heard anything about. Starting from the Eas Urcaidh car park I went up Beinn Mhic Mhonaidh traversing around after the forestry to cross it’s east ridge in order to take in the north-east coire, Garbh Choirean. To my surprise I found enough old snow and thin ice in the coire to climb a short, but good, gully just to the right of the coire’s central rib.

Looking down the gully climbed on hard neve, thin ice on rocks and well frozen turf.

After heading up to the summit I went on to the south-east top before retracing my steps a little and dropping down to the watershed before nipping up Beinn Donachain. I descended via Cruach nan Nighean and pt. 563m to reach the forestry track at Lochan Coire Thoraidh. A pleasant descent on tracks, part of which was through some delightful old forest, brought me back to the start. A dry morning was followed by an afternoon of heavy showers on strong easterly winds. These fell as snow above about 500m, but was only settling above 700m. The turf was firm above 700m and some ice was forming above 700m. Older snow in significant collection features was good neve. Higher hills in the area had good snow cover above 750m although crags looked fairly black. See the ClimbNow Facebook page for more hill/crag photos.

Glen Coe

B, Lance and I were out in Glen Coe today enjoying the sunshine. Only major north and east facing features are holding snow, but what snow is there was very firm neve today unless it was in direct sunlight all day. There’d been a frost from the valley up and turf was hard and ice was forming in places.

B and Lance at a stance on Dorsal Arete.

We climbed Dorsal Arete on hard neve and dry rock and then took in the summits of Stob Coire nan Lochan, Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach before descending via the Lost Valley. A great day to be out.

Lance and B on the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

Ben Nevis and Kinlochleven

I got back last night from the Falkirk Community Trust CIC Hut trip with John, Andrew, Gary, Linda and Steven. We headed up to Ben Nevis on Wednesday and in the afternoon climbed a soggy upper North Trident Buttress section of Moonlight Gully. The lower section was broken, so we avoided it by a rising traverse line from the left. We then climbed the upper section in two long pitches to the ridge above Number 5 Gully and descended back down by abseil and down climb before traversing out to Coire na Ciste along the ramp.

The team below the upper section of Moonlight Gully.

On Thursday we climbed Tower Ridge, with the difficulties mostly on rock, but with sugary snow on the easier angled sections and firmer snow above Tower Gap. We didn’t put crampons on, but an axe was required. The snow will firm up again with colder temperatures over the weekend. On Friday with a windier wetter forecast we decided to head down and had a good couple of hours climbing in The Ice Factor at Kinlochleven.

Linda enjoying The Ice Factor.

West Coast

This week I have been working out of Ballachulish. We completed; Curved Ridge, Dorsal Arête, Broad Gully, Douglas Gap Traverse and Pink Rib.

Many easy gully lines are still complete but in the current conditions great care should be taken due to issues of rock fall.

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.

Winter Mountain Leader Training

This week I have been helping to deliver a Winter Mountain Leader Training course. There is large accumulations of snow in many locations. Careful studying of the avalanche forecasts and careful route choice is necessary in the current conditions.