Cairngorm Winter Skills

Robin and I were out in the Cairngorms today delivering a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Skills Course for Donald, Emma, Maria and Sheena. We had an excellent day despite slightly thawing conditions with lots of skills being learnt or refreshed. There weren’t any ice patches at the elevations we reached, but we did find firm old snow  for crampon work.

Sheena finishing and ice axe arrest with skiers below in the Ciste Gully.

Starting from the Ciste car park we used snow in and around the Ciste Gully from an altitude of about 700m to 950m. There were firm old snow patches in collection features, with some areas of newer wind blown snow on top. All the snow we were on had moisture in it and will consolidate well with a freeze. The snow started to firm up considerably above 900m. Turf was not frozen at the heights we reached and streams were running under the snow. Good awareness and route choice is required if you’re heading across stream lines. There was no significant precipitation whilst we were out and the strong west to north-westerly winds eased during the day.


Glen Lyon

Pamela and I were out for a dander on the south side of Glen Lyon yesterday. We headed up Beinn nan Oighreag from the east crossing the north ridge of Beinn nan Eachan and the Lairig Breisleich, which wasn’t as bad a “villainous bog” as advertised. This route kept us out of the worst of the wind until the summit ridge of Beinn nan Oighreag. We then descended its north-east ridge and made a couple of stream crossings to regain the road. It’s worth noting there is now a bridge just below the junction of the Allt Baile a’Mhuilinn and the Allt Breisleich.

Crossing a snow patch near the summit of Beinn nan Oighreag with the Lawers range behind.

It was above freezing all day with rain showers in the morning and gusts of 50mph+ on the summit. There were snow patches above 850m, particularly on north-east aspects, and some remaining ice patches above about 800m.


The Cairngorms

Matt and I had an excellent day in The Cairngorms today. We made for the east facing Creagan Cha-no as the cold winds had been blowing on to the crag for the last few days. Exposed turf was frozen, but snow covered turf was still soft and route and placement choice required some care.

Matt nearing the top of the Right-Hand Finish of Anvil Gully.

After abseiling to check the turf we climbed Anvil Gully with Matt lowering down and climbing the Right Hand Finish as well. We then descended Recovery Gully before climbing Kerplunk with a couple of variations on to rock including the gully slot and steep leftwards pull on Fast and Furry-ous. To finish we nipped back down and climbed a quick Grade II line just left of Quiet Corner.

Matt on the walk in at about 850m. Snow continued to build all day on this NW aspect.

East faces were generally scoured and rimed with developing accumulations of snow on west and north-west aspects particularly above about 800m.

Cairngorms in Winter Condition

The Falkirk High Tops Team and I were out in the Cairngorms today. We ascended Twin Ribs before continuing along the ridge and dropping back into Coire an t-Sneachda.

The conditions were wintry requiring crampons and ice axe. I don’t know however how well the turf is frozen.

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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.