Northern Lights and Classic Mountaineering

Andrew flew up on Wednesday and I picked him up from EICA Ratho, where he’d visited Alan Lockhart who’s working with him to solve some long term injuries. We then headed North with the aim of four days of mountaineering/climbing. Andrew is planning some long term goals in the Greater Ranges and the idea was to improve Andrew’s efficiency of movement on alpine terrain, look at some specific skills and also have a good time ticking some Scottish classics without aggravating any injuries. As we drove North we were lucky enough to get a great view of the Northern Lights along Glen Dochart and North of Crianlarich. On Thursday we climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor and descended Curved Ridge taking in Crowberry Tower. We had sunshine at times and the rock was surprisingly dry with most of Rannoch Wall looking dry enough for climbing.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

We then headed up to Skye as Andrew had never been in the Black Cuillin and was keen to get a feel for the ridge. The weather on Friday was unfortunately worse than earlier forecasts, so Andrew didn’t get much chance to see the hills. However, we ascended Sgurr Dearg via Coire na Banaichdaich and it’s North-West Flank; climbed the Inaccessible Pinnacle by it’s East Ridge and descended the South-East Flank of Sgurr Dearg to the An Stac Screes. Having been in constant steady rain and cloud for most of the day we then decided to bail down the screes and out via Coire Lagan.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

With the forecast not looking great on Skye for Saturday we had an early start and made for the Cairngorms. Here we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda. After a pleasant chat with Glenn and Euan who were headed for Hell’s Lum Crag we climbed Pygmy Ridge. We approached this via the line of Central Gully Left Hand and it’s worth noting that there a couple of sizable perched blocks in this area at the moment. Once on the plateau we headed down Coire Domhain and around to Stag Rocks where we climbed Afterthought Arete, sticking to the ridge as much as possible to maximise the climbing.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

We had accommodation booked over in the West for Saturday night and needed a shortish day to allow for flights on Sunday, so the final day saw us back in Glen Coe. We climbed Barn Wall Route on the East Face of Aonach Dubh, this requires a steady approach as although there are excellent positive holds throughout there isn’t a lot in the way of gear. We then headed around under Stob Coire nan Lochan, so Andrew could get a look at this as a potential future winter venue, before heading out along Gearr Aonach and descending The Zig-Zags.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Four days of Classic Mountaineering in mostly very good weather for the time of year with the exception of Friday. If you’re heading out it’s worth knowing that we haven’t had a proper frost yet and hence the midges are still around and biting, thankfully for me they seemed to prefer Andrew.

Pygmy Ridge and Afrethought Arete

Yesterday I was out in the Cairngorms with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors team of Alasdair, Alec, Imran and Wilson. We had an excellent day climbing Pygmy Ridge in Coire an t-Sneachda after which we walked over to the Loch Avon Basin and climbed Afterthought Arete on Stag Rocks. We then headed back across the plateau to pt. 1141m and dropped back in to the ski area.

Wilson and Alec on Pygmy Ridge

Wilson and Alec on Pygmy Ridge

This made for a classic circuit taking in two good Moderate rock climbs. Care is required with some loose rock on both climbs and on the approach to Pygmy Ridge. The rock was generally dry and we had one light shower during the day.

John, Imran and Alastair on Afterthought Arete

John, Imran and Alasdair on Afterthought Arete

There are a few snow patches still around, but they didn’t impact the approaches to our routes. Hell’s Lum Crag looked quite damp and still has a significant snow patch underneath it’s right hand side. I’ve put a few more photos from the day on the Climbnow Facebook page.

Buachaille Etive Mor & Stag Rocks

The last two days I’ve been out with Andy & Rob. We were based in Fort William on Saturday night, so headed for Buachaille Etive Mor on Saturday and climbed Curved Ridge. A later start meant we avoided the worst of the wind. It was raining in heavy showers lower down, but on the route it was just the occasional snow/graupel shower and these were only settling from around 850m. An ice axe was useful for the snow field before the Crowberry Tower gap and for the initial lip back in to Coire na Tulaich.

Rob on Curved Ridge

Rob on Curved Ridge

Overnight there were heavy showers in the West and these had fallen as snow down to around 650m. Given the forecast we chose to head over to the Cairngorms and after walking up to pt. 1141m we nipped over to the top of Stag Rocks.

Rob and Andy on snow near Crowberry Tower

Rob and Andy on snow near Crowberry Tower

We descended the left fork of Y-Gully, looking up, with snow at the lip and in the lower section before climbing Afterthought Arete mostly on dry rock, but with the odd graupel shower. The fresh snow wasn’t really settling in the Cairngorms, except in sheltered locations or on existing snow patches.

Descending Y-Gully, Stag Rocks

Descending Y-Gully, Stag Rocks

A couple of good Scottish Mountaineering days in great company. Not really typical May weather, but then what’s typical. The larger North or East facing high gullies in both the West and East are still holding snow and would give good climbing after a frosty night.

Andy on Afterthought Arete

Andy on Afterthought Arete

Pygmy Ridge and Afterthought Arete, Cairngorms

Out today in the Cairngorms with Harry and Fiona. After meeting in the ski centre car park and being pleasantly surprised to find the majority of the cloud below us we headed in to Coire an t-Sneachda and climbed Pygmy Ridge.

Harry & Fiona high on Pygmy Ridge

Harry & Fiona high on Pygmy Ridge

We approached the route via the line of Central Left Hand and then a short traverse, which works well. The rock and turf on Central Left Hand were damp from having been in cloud, but the rock on Pygmy Ridge was dry.

Near the top of Pygmy Ridge

Near the top of Pygmy Ridge

We then headed over to the Loch Avon Basin and climbed Afterthought Arete on Stag Rocks. Again the rock was dry and we enjoyed excellent views from the route.

Harry on Afterthought Arete

Harry on Afterthought Arete

A stroll back over the plateau and a wander down Fiacaill Coire Cas completed a very good day out. Lots of ptarmigan about in their autumn plummage and the odd hare.

Fiona and Harry with Carn Etchachan behind

Fiona and Harry with Carn Etchachan behind

Dry all day with light easterly winds. As we descended the cloud was rolling in over the plateau.