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.

Beinn an Dothaidh

I was out today with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing team of Alistair, Bobbie, Matt and Russell. We headed for the North-East Coire of Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy. After walking in we did a quick session on removing rock and turf gear before heading up the bottom part of West Gully and climbing Stairway to Heaven. This route was in excellent condition with all the turf well frozen, a covering of fresh snow from Saturday and even some ice.

Matt, Bobbie and John on the bely below the rock walls on stairway to Heaven.

Matt, Bobbie and John on the belay below the rock walls on stairway to Heaven.

We descended via the ridge west of the coire with light snow cover down to around 500m and the ground being fairly well frozen right back to the car park.

The major gully lines are still very lean with the approach up West Gully on snow covered rock and turf until level with the bottom of Stairway to Heaven, where there was some older firm snow and a building accumulation of wind blown snow on a strong south-easterly wind. Taxus looked very lean with mostly soft snow in the gully. However, the buttress routes that don’t require ice looked in good condition.

Four Days Based in Lochaber

I got back last night from four days based in Fort William with Andy and Rob. On the way up on Friday we stopped off at Bridge of Orchy and headed in to Creag Coire an Dothaidh. We’d been aiming for Salamander Gully, but a team diverted on to it just before we got to the crag, so we headed up Centigrade. The ice was a bit hollow in places and required a delicate approach, but gave a good sheltered climb.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Saturday saw us head up to Ben Nevis and climb Ledge Route in excellent conditions. We were the first team up on the day, which required a bit of trail breaking and some careful route choice in sheltered spots with pockets of unconsolidated snow. We saw lots of teams out on The Curtain, Vanishing Gully and heading up towards Harrison’s and Castle Ridge.

On Sunday we needed a shorter day with options to cut off early if required as Rob’s foot was playing up a little. This made me think of Masa and Yuki Sakano’s routes on the North-West Ridge of Binnein Shuas. It’s a short walk in and the routes are on small buttresses up the ridge. I’d climbed Location, Location, Location last year with Jim Bayliss and spotted an option for an alternative start; the cave mentioned in Masa’s description is actually a through route. This gave an hilarious squeeze/thrutch with rucksacks needing to be removed part way up. Rob described it as “like being a kid again”.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Higher up we climbed Bogle Eyed, which gives a short, but excellent quality, ice pitch and seems to form quite readily. We then aimed for what I thought was Summit North-West Buttress. We climbed what looked like the “obvious zig-zag snow line”, however, it felt somewhat nippy for a II and we popped out about 20m North of the summit rather than “80m West”; so not the same line, but a good pitch direct to the summit. If you want more information for routes on Binnein Shuas search on Scottishwinter.com.

Yesterday we climbed Dinnertime Buttress finishing via No. 2 Gully on Aonach Dubh West Face in Glen Coe. The ground was hard frozen from the glen up and the weather was glorious. There are still areas of unconsolidated snow and slab around, so route choice requires thought.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

We then drove back down and as the guys were flying out this morning we had time for a meal in Edinburgh and a couple of drams in The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which made Rob very happy. I think Andy was just happy the weather was a vast improvement on when he was up earlier in the season. I’ve added some photos to the ClimbNow Facebook page.

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.

A’Bhuidheanach Bheag on skis and Taxus

Yesterday, the Falkirk High Tops Team and I visited the Drummochter Pass where we ski toured on A’Bhuidheanach Bheag. We skied three different descents on the mountain. All of these were on south to south easterly aspects and all gave excellent skiing on spring snow.

There was still enough snow on the mountain to wear skis for the whole day.

Today, I visited Beinn an Dothaidh with Andy. We traversed the mountain climbing Taxus on the way. The route remains complete but could now do with a refreeze to bring it back into good condition. The ice that remains was still good enough for screws.

Photos on the facebook page.

Bridge of Orchy

A frustrating day today, as John, myself and a group of climbers from Falkirk Community Trust had planned to take a look at the West facing crags near Bridge of Orchy. However, snowy road conditions on the way up and finally a lorry partially off the road on the A82 just North of Tyndrum, meant we never actually got out of our vehicle.

Visibility wasn’t great, but the odd glimpse showed the West facing crags to be pretty scoured. There was lots of fresh snow during the morning on a West or South-Westerly wind and this would have been leading to high avalanche risks on lee slopes. More snow is forecast overnight tonight with the winds being more Southerly.

Beinn an Dothaidh

Using a rope for protection against cornices!

Using a rope for protection against cornices!

The lads from Ballachulish and I have been back out today to practise more winter skills. We visited Beinn an Dothaidh at the Bridge of Orchy to practise navigation skills in difficult conditions. As well as contour interpretation, pacing and the use of the compass, we also looked at using a rope to protect the lead navigator from falling through cornices.

Masses of new snow fell today. There was fresh snow at all levels. Blue ice is forming on Fahrenheit 451. It s hard to tell exact quantities due to the snow on top. False Rumour Gully is full of snow and will be good after a thaw and refreeze.