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.
I have been out today in the North East Corrie of Beinn an Dothaidh looking at winter skills such as cramponing and ice axe arrest.
Plenty of snow still exists in the easy gully lines. However, as the photo shows most routes are out of condition.
Large cornices overhang a number of the easy gully lines.
It has been a very wet and wild day today in the Scottish Highlands. We did however manage to climb Emel Ridge on Beinn an Dothaidh. At the top of the route the winds were very severe. Therefore we descended the ground to the east of the ridge via careful frontpointing at Scottish grade one.
The turf on Beinn an Dothaidh was very well frozen today and there is still plenty of ice around on the buttresses. Large amounts of old avalanche debris are present at the bottom of Central Gully and there has been fresh cornice collapse in the area around East Gully.
Huge amounts of snow arrived last night and this morning in the Glencoe and Bridge of Orchy areas followed by more heavy snow and very strong winds this afternoon. The current weather is creating significant windslab and cornice danger.
The team and I did however still have a great day out on Beinn an Dothaidh. We climbed steep ground near Creag Coire an Dothaidh before using a rope to ensure safe navigation in whiteout conditions on the way to and back from the summit.