Beinn an Dothaidh

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.

Mac and Sharon contemplating a traverse section.

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.

Glencoe and Bridge of Orchy

Practising crampon skills.

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.

Beinn an Dothaidh

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.

Siobhan and Andy above the crux of Emel Ridge with views to the west.

Siobhan and Andy above the crux of Emel Ridge with views to the west.

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.

 

Stairway to Heaven

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.

Great positons on Stairway to Heaven.

Great positons on Stairway to Heaven.

Southern Highlands, Cairngorms and Coire na Tulaich

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.

Andy Hogarth making a brew in our snowhole.

Andy Hogarth making a brew in our snowhole.

North East Corrie Beinn an Dothaidh

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.

The corrie today.

The corrie today.

Emel Ridge

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.

In amongst the debris at the bottom of Central Gully.

In amongst the debris at the bottom of Central Gully.

Beinn an Dothaidh

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.

The 1000m summit of Beinn an Dothaidh in less than perfect conditions.

The 1000m summit of Beinn an Dothaidh in less than perfect conditions.

Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag and Beinn an Dothaidh

Yesterday with the team I went to Nevis Range and used the Gondola to access Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag.The conditions underfoot were good with the ground well scoured. This has however led to significant cornicing on easterly aspects and required us to use a rope to safeguard our navigation to the summit of Aonach Beag in whiteout conditions.

Today I drove through Glencoe to Bridge of Orchy. Significant avalanche activity was clearly visible from last nights thaw and recent avalanche activity was noted on Beinn an Dothaidh which we climbed. The crags of Creag Coire an Dothaidh are now all black.

Creag Coire an Dothaidh

John and I were out with a Falkirk Community Trust climbing team of Doug, Graham and Tam today. We were looking for a scoured crag, given all the new snow, and headed to Creag Coire an Dothaidh. Creag an Socach actually looked more scoured, but with the turf feeling variable on the walk in we headed for the less turf dependent lines on Creag Coire an Dothaidh. Big thanks to the soloist and the team of walkers heading for Beinn Dorain who put a trail in for us.

Graham about to move through the first narrows on our 2nd route

Graham about to move through the first narrows on our 2nd route

John, Doug and Tam climbed Salamander Gully, which they described as “climbable, but with the ice thin in places”. Graham and I climbed Centigrade, which had some thick ice, but required a delicate approach on some sections where the ice was good, but not extensive. Graham and I then nipped round and climbed a line between Centigrade and the col, which started just left of a steep 5m wall and followed a gully/groove line through a couple of narrow sections on good featured ice at about tech III . I’ve vague memories of a line being recorded in one of the SMC Journals here, but now can’t find it. Anyway it gave a good quick second route for the day.

Graham pulling round some ice "cauliflowers" on the 2nd route

Graham pulling round some ice “cauliflowers” on the 2nd route

A lot of soft fresh snow around in sheltered locations. Turf frozen where exposed, but soft where insulated. Ice around on the crag, but not extensive. The crag was well rimed, but was loosing some of this during the day. Above freezing level at crag height most of the day after an overnight frost and temperature rising as we left with rain showers starting to move in.