Winter Mountain Leader

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.

Beinn Dorain and Ben Nevis

Yesterday I was out on Beinn Dorain with a team from Ballachulish looking at skills required for guiding on grade I/II ground. There was a good covering of firm snow on many aspects above 500 metres and ice still present on the crags.

Today we have been on Ben Nevis climbing routes in the CIC Hut cascades area and an ice flow below the Curtain. The ice was in good condition today. However, things will be different tomorrow if the forecast is correct but should improve again towards the weekend.

Climbing an ice flow below the Curtain.

Winter Mountain Leader

Today I have been out assessing on a Winter Mountain Leader course. We visited the flank of Beinn Dorain. It was a beautiful day with the odd snow shower.

Beinn Dorain

Today I have been out on the flank of Beinn Dorain. Here we climbed some mountaineering terrain at around grade I/II focusing on skills such as short roping, snow anchors and transitions between techniques.

The surface of the snow was firm. This is however a surface layer with soft snow present 6 inches down. Therefore, the correct snow anchor has to be chosen. The turf was frozen and there was some ice surviving. The crags of Coire an Dothaidh are not in condition.

On the flank of Beinn Dorain.

Bridge of Orchy

John and I were in the Bridge of Orchy area today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Climbing team of Devon, Jacob, Jim and Ross.

Jim, Ross and I climbed Kick Start on Creag an Socach on Beinn Dorain. This had a couple of distinct cruxes and requires care to protect the seconds on the traverse left after the junction with The Glass Bead Game (small to medium cams useful for this). The turf was well frozen, but buried under crusty soft snow. There’s isn’t a lot of ice around on the crag, so lines which require ice are probably best avoided at the moment. The crag was busy with teams on The Glass Bead Game, Second Coming and I think The Sting.

Jim and Ross looking relaxed at the belay before the traverse pitch.

John, Devon and Jacob headed over to Creag Coire an Dothaidh and climbed Salamander Gully as a snow route, the ice hasn’t formed or was buried except near the top. There was a lot more snow on this crag and their route choice was in part due to a convenient set of steps up the line. There is wind slab around on top of the crusty layer and this should be borne in mind for route choice.

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.

Beinn an Dothaidh & Beinn Dorain

Nic and I were out today with Mark doing a combined basic winter skills/introduction to winter climbing day for Ratho. We headed in to Coire an Dothaidh and did some movement skill work on the way in and looked at safe route choice. Plan A was to climb a route on Creag Coire an Dothaidh, but the rain on a fresh Westerly wind was stripping the crag of ice quickly and the turf was softening up so we changed to Plan B and nipped on to Beinn Dorain and used an excellent little ice outcrop to climb ice pitches of about 25m in length. Mark took to this quickly and climbed steps of 4 within his first couple of pitches of ice climbing.

Ice Outcrop

Fresh Westerly winds with rain up to circa 800m at least. This was stripping the snowpack particularly on west facing aspects. Turf softening up at crag height where saturated. The remaining snowpack was becoming saturated to full depth.

Mark topping out on one of the ice lines