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.
I’m just back from two days with Andy. On Saturday we chose to start late to make the best of the weather, strong westerlies with snow but both decreasing as the day went on. We chose to hide from the wind on the East Ridge of Meall Coire Choille-rais, which is a top of Creag Meagaidh. This gives a good mountaineering route, similar in several ways to the nearby East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn, but much less frequently climbed. The route worked well on the day, but it was still pretty windy when we topped out. There was a breakable crust on most snow on the route, the turf was solidly frozen and there was some ice around. Cornices were building on easterly aspects and I wouldn’t have wanted to be in or under any of the nearby gullies on the day.
Today we needed a short walk in, so opted for Creag Coire an Dothaidh, where we climbed The Firebird, before heading to the top of Beinn an Dothaidh. The Firebird required a delicate approach low down, but had some good ice higher up and passed through some great icy scenery. The crag was scoured out after the strong westerlies of Saturday. Older snow had a breakable icy crust. Ice is reforming on Creag Coire an Dothaidh. The upper section of Salamander looked climbable today, however the initial gully was still a stream.
I had a very good day today introducing Cristina and Marti to Scottish Winter Climbing. We climbed Stairway to Heaven in the North East Coire of Beinn an Dothaidh. The route was in excellent condition with a good ice pitch leaving West Gully and turf frozen solid throughout.
Ice is forming fast in the coire, but Taxus is still broken low down. There’s a dusting of snow on the hill from the last two days and very little old snow. West Gully only has old snow in it’s last section and there’s some neve around the coire rim. It was snowing lightly, but steadily on a south-west wind as we descended.
This week I have been instructing on a Winter Mountain Leader training course for Ballachulish. We have visited; Stob Mhic Mhartuin, Beinn an Dothaidh, the Cairngorms, the Nid on Aonach Mor and tomorrow we are going to Beinn Dorain.
It has been a week of mixed weather with the first half as good as it gets and the last couple of days less so! 80mph winds, rain and very poor visibility. All good training though for those aiming to complete this award.
Yesterday in the strong winds I was out on Emel Ridge. This ridge is located on Beinn an Dothaidh and is a good option in less than perfect conditions. The line taken can be varied as required from grade I to III. Or, like yesterday, be taken very direct to give short sections of IV and V.
Despite the weather the ridge provided us the appropriate terrain to practise skills such as short roping, guiding in parallel and descending steep snow.
Mac, Sharon and I were out climbing in the North-East Coire of Beinn an Dothaidh today. There was a lot of unconsolidated snow at crag height and we switched to a Plan B of Stairway to Heaven with it’s Direct Start. The direct start ups the grade a bit, but means starting low on the ridge rather than in West Gully, which was a good option today.
We had a great day, but even on a ridgey route a lot of clearing was required, which made for slowish going. The turf at crag height was frozen solid even where it was buried. There’s not a huge amount of ice in the coire at the moment, so routes that require ice in quantity are currently best avoided. Good route, approach and descent choices are essential as there are sizable amounts of wind slab around.
For the past two days I have been out with a team from Ballachulish. Yesterday we were out in Glencoe and today we were on the flank of Beinn an Dothaidh. The focus of the two days has been on avalanche avoidance, avalanche rescue techniques and winter skills.
Large amounts of snow remain. The gully lines are still full on Beinn an Dothaidh with snow on the ledges. However the turf at 650 metres was not frozen and therefore may not be frozen on the routes.
John and I were out today on Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Mountaineering team of Andy, Ben, Devon and Siobhan. We climbed Emel Ridge on good snow and turf once above the initial step on to the ridge. This 200m route is mostly easy Grade I, but with a couple of harder steps which we roped up for, and brings you out close to the summit of the hill, which we took in before descending.
The major gullies in the North-East coire currently have good snow cover, but some sizable cornices. The steeper lines could do with a freeze and aren’t currently in condition. We were treated to some sunshine today and cloud above the summits giving great views and a very pleasant day to be on the hill. I’ll put some more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page.
Today the team, Matt and I visited the North East Corrie of Beinn an Dothaidh and were pleased to discover on entering the corrie that we were the only climbers there.
Following an assessment of the approach to the routes around the West Gully area of the crag we climbed Stairway to Heaven. The route was very well frozen except from the platform at the top of pitch one where the double warthog belay is. Here the turf has been well insulated by a deep layer of snow and was not as dependable as elsewhere on the route.
Lots more photos from the last two days on the facebook page.
It has been a busy few days on the Winter Mountain Leader course with a visit to the North East corie of Beinn an Dothiadh, a snowhole expedition on the Cairngorm plateau and a visit to Coire na Tulaich to build emergency snow shelters.
The big gully lines are still complete in Beinn an Dothiadh and will be good given a freeze. The Cairngorm plateau still has good cover for ski touring although it is currently very firm.