Argyll and Appin

The last three days Jen and I have been based south of Oban with B, Butch, Jen, Patrick, Rachael, Tom and Wilmot. On Friday we had a pleasant half day walking in the Knapdale Forest starting from the visitor centre for the Scottish Beaver Trial and walking down to Rubha na Stiure. This gave a sheltered walk with plenty of interest looking for signs of the reintroduced beavers.

Descending Beinn Fhionndlaidh towards Glen Creran.

On Saturday we headed up Bienn Fhionndlaidh from Glen Creran. This worked well on a day of sunshine and showers falling as snow or hail above about 750m on a south-westerly wind. Congratulations to the two team members for whom it was their first Munro.

A zoomed in view of Ben Cruachan showing the snow level on Sunday.

On Sunday after dropping some of the team at the station in Oban a reduced group caught the short ferry to Kerrera for a delightful wander around the southern loop of the island. It was cold and sunny with great views out to the islands and back to the hills where a dusting of snow had settled down to around 700m.

Impressive Performance at Kirriemuir

Today Martin, Ivor and I climbed at Kirriemuir. The condtions were excellent being dry and cold with autumn sunshine making the sandstone perfect to climb on. We climbed a number of routes including; ‘Slim Pickins’, ‘Flyboy’ and ‘By Hook or by Crook’. However, the stand out event of the day was Ivor climbing ‘A Touch too Much’ (F7A).

At the age of 70 Ivor climbed his first F7A at Rob’s Reed.. Last season as a team of four (Graham, Martin, Ivor and I), we concentrated on continental ice and mixed routes. We climbed sensational routes such as La Catterdale (WI5/WI5+) on Ivor’s 71st birthday. The autumn was spent in the USA climbing desert towers.

Ivor below La Cattedrale.

This year Martin, Ivor and I have been back in the gym lots as well as climbing on crags when the weather allows. Ivor, now 72 has climbed F7A again today at Kirriemuir. Very inspirational and all down to very hard work and determination.

Ivor showing great technique today at Kirriemuir.


The Cairngorms

At some point during most winter seasons I get the urge to go off for a biggish day taking in some easy routes and having a bit of a wander. There’d been low temperatures overnight and so today was the the day and probably a good choice, as there isn’t a lot of winter left unless things change drastically.

Looking down Castlegates Gully to Loch Avon.

Looking down Castlegates Gully to Loch Avon.

Starting from the Cairngorm ski area I went in to Coire an Lochain and climbed The Couloir, which oddly I’d never climbed. I was on hard neve from below The Great Slab and there was some excellent optional ice near the start of the gully proper. However, it did look like the only complete route in the coire. I then dropped down Coire Domhain, had a quick snack in The Shelter Stone, before climbing Castlegates Gully, between Carn Etchachan and The Shelter Stone Crag. Again a route, which I hadn’t done before. From a distance I’d been doubtful as to whether there was snow in the gully, but it was complete from the starting narrows except for a 20m section just below the top, which was low angled scree.

I then followed the Garbh Uisge Mor out towards Coire Sputan Dearg, but none of the main gullies there looked complete, so I headed out to Sron Riach, as I’d never been to this top, before heading back over the summit of Ben Macdui. A good day and it blew the cobwebs away.

Westerly winds on the plateau were about 40mph most of the day and there were showers on and off that were falling as snow above about 800m, but only leaving a fresh dusting in sheltered locations. Winter boots, axe and crampons still useful even for some of the walking routes as although generally avoidable there are patches of hard snow and ice higher up that could be problematic. I’ll put some more photos showing conditions on the ClimbNow Facebook page.

Cairngorms and Glencoe

Yesterday the team and I travelled from Ballachulish to the Cairngorms in search of dry weather. We were rewarded with a beautiful day and evening. Throughout the day we visited; Coire an-t Sneachda, the Goat Track, Coire Domhain, Feith Buidhe and Cairn Lochan.

Wherever we encountered snow it was firm and crampons were required on all steeper sections.

Today the rain was torrential on the west coast. We visited Glencoe ski centre and spent the day doing avalanche rescue techniques. The snow was disappearing fast.

The team in Coire Domhain.

The team in Coire Domhain.

Buachaille Etive Mor

Today we visited Buachaille Etive Mor. It was another stunning day in Glencoe.

The snow was mostly soft at all altitudes with the odd patch of firmer neve.

Descending from the col at the top of Coire na Tulaich

Descending from the col at the top of Coire na Tulaich

Winter Skills

It was a glorious day again today in Glencoe. I was out with a new team from Ballachulish looking at winter skills such as ice axe arrest.

The highest altitude we reached was 750 metres. The snow was soft at this elevation.

A beautiful day to be out in the snow.

A beautiful day to be out in the snow.

Glencoe Ski Centre

Today we visited Glencoe Ski centre. We spent the day looking at avalanche rescue techniques and snow anchors.

A number of pistes were open today and from a distance the skiing looked good.

Buachaille Etive Mor.

Buachaille Etive Mor this morning.

Pinnacle Buttress Groove

Today the team and I returned to Stob Coire nan Lochan. Here we climbed Pinnacle Buttress Groove in good conditions with nicely frozen turf. Teams on Summit Buttress also reported the turf to be useable.

Lots of evidence of wind transportation of the recent snowfall. There was some minor releases in the corrie as the temperature rose during the day.

Nearing the top of Pinnacle Buttress Groove.

Nearing the top of Pinnacle Buttress Groove.

Buachaille Etive Mor

Yesterday John and I climbed on Buachaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors winter climbing team of Doug, Gregor, Lewis and Steve. We had a great day climbing North Buttress with excellent views and relatively low winds. After taking in the summit of Stob Dearg we were able to descend via Coire na Tulaich, but care and good route choice is required here with current snow conditions.

Gregor and Lewis near the bottom of the chimneys.

Gregor and Lewis near the bottom of the chimneys.

The recent snow isn’t consolidated, is deep in sheltered locations and contains a fair amount of graupel. There is very little old snow on The Buachaille, but where new snow overlies old snow there are very easy shears. A North-East wind was redistributing snow throughout the day meaning there will be potential for avalanches on lots of aspects today and until the snow consolidates. Higher up on the route, above the chimneys, there is a thin layer of generally crusty snow ice, which isn’t very helpful for climbing and it’s worth allowing extra time in your planning for this. I’ll put some more photos on The ClimbNow Facebook page.

Gregor high on North Buttress with the expanse of Rannoch Moor behind.

Gregor high on North Buttress with The Kingshouse and the expanse of Rannoch Moor behind.

Aonach Eagach

Today the team and I visited Glencoe and traversed the Aonach Eagach in good conditions. There is a video on the facebook page which shows the conditions on the pinnacles.

There was significant redistribution of snow and graupel today in strong winds. This will have created significant avalanche hazard in many locations and it is worth visiting the SAIS website before heading out.

At the start of the ridge.

At the start of the ridge.