Coire an t-Sneachda

A Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Climbing team of John, Robin, Tam and I had a very good day climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms today. The coire was busy by the time we arrived, so to avoid being under other parties we decided on Central Left-Hand & then jumped in to the gully on the left to climb a nice short ice section before finishing up the top pitch or so of Pygmy Ridge. This allowed some nice varied climbing with progressing difficulty and teaching opportunities.

Robin and Tam near the top of Pygmy Ridge.

Older snow from before Tuesday’s thaw had remained in larger collection features and refrozen well. There was a dusting of fresh snow down to the coire entrance and this had built up some significant accumulations on some approach slopes, in gullies and at the coire rim. There was good ice build up in places and we placed full depth screws in the icy section. Any turf we encountered was very well frozen. Rocks were well rimed, but cracks were generally fairly dry. There are some loose blocks near the top of Pygmy Ridge, which aren’t yet fully frozen in place and care was required with these.

 

 

 

Cairngorm Winter Skills

Robin and I were out in the Cairngorms today delivering a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Skills Course for Donald, Emma, Maria and Sheena. We had an excellent day despite slightly thawing conditions with lots of skills being learnt or refreshed. There weren’t any ice patches at the elevations we reached, but we did find firm old snow  for crampon work.

Sheena finishing and ice axe arrest with skiers below in the Ciste Gully.

Starting from the Ciste car park we used snow in and around the Ciste Gully from an altitude of about 700m to 950m. There were firm old snow patches in collection features, with some areas of newer wind blown snow on top. All the snow we were on had moisture in it and will consolidate well with a freeze. The snow started to firm up considerably above 900m. Turf was not frozen at the heights we reached and streams were running under the snow. Good awareness and route choice is required if you’re heading across stream lines. There was no significant precipitation whilst we were out and the strong west to north-westerly winds eased during the day.

 

Cairngorms in Winter Condition

The Falkirk High Tops Team and I were out in the Cairngorms today. We ascended Twin Ribs before continuing along the ridge and dropping back into Coire an t-Sneachda.

The conditions were wintry requiring crampons and ice axe. I don’t know however how well the turf is frozen.

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Edinburgh and the Cairngorms

This week I’ve been working with Peter and Tommy delivering a Gold DofE training for The City of Edinburgh Council based out of their outdoor centres at Bangholm and Lagganlia.

One of the groups walking towards Meall a’Buachaille.

Tuesday to Thursday was a practice expedition in the Cairngorms, where we changed the planned route to a lower one to avoid the very high winds forecast for Wednesday & Thursday. This worked well and we missed the worst of the wind and rain.

Aonach Eagach and Ski Touring in the Cairngorms

Jon, Mikey and I have been out over the last couple of days. On Sunday we visited Glencoe and traversed the Aonach Eagach. We wore crampons for the whole ridge. Some sections are dry but not enough to warrant taking crampons off.

Yesterday we visited the Cairngorms and traversed Cairn Lochain and Cairn Gorm via Lurchers Gully, a descent into Coire Domhain and a final descent of the pistes. We wore skis for the whole journey excluding two minutes on the approach to Lurchers Gully and one minute on around Point 1083m.

More photos on the facebook page.

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.

British Mountain Guides Winter Assessment

For the past week I have been assisting on the British Mountain Guides Winter Test. Teams visited Ben Nevis, Torridon and the Cairngorms throughout the week. Congratulations to all the candidates for their efforts during what is a very physically and mentally tough assessment.

More photos can be seen on the facebook page.

Climbing a steep chimney during a storm.

 

 

Cairngorms

Mac, Sharon and I were out climbing in the Cairngorms yesterday. We had a great day climbing Grandee Grooves and Wile-E-Coyote on Creagan Coire a’Cha-no.

Sharon and Mac above the crux section of Grandee Grooves.

This crag faces east and was sheltered from the wind, but this also meant that care was required in route approach and selection given the current conditions. Cornices are present over quite a lot of routes and wind slab was building during the day with wind movement of snow; we chose to abseil in to the climbs. It’s also worth noting that some of the buttress routes were looking fairly bare of snow and would have been hard to justify as in condition e.g. Jenga Buttress. The recent thaw had stabilised older snow, generally making it a pleasure to climb with just the odd bit of breakable crust although ice in cracks had built up, which meant a good bit of clearing was required to find gear placements.

West and East

The last three days Doug and I have been based in Fort William. On Saturday Doug had a somewhat arduous journey up, but we decided to make the most of the good weather forecast and climbed The Dragon’s Tooth (the traverse of Sgorr a’Chaolais on Sgorr Dhonuill, Beinn a’Bheithir). We chose this as there was a lot of fresh snow, which had fallen mostly on south-westerly or westerly winds and we felt a ridge with a potentially scoured side would be a good option. This proved to be the case, although quite a lot of trail breaking was required to get to the ridge and careful route selection was required along the ridge and in descent.

Doug topping out on Hidden Chimney today.

Overnight and in to Sunday there was an easterly component in the wind and there was redistribution of old snow and fresh snow before the wind swung around towards the west again accompanied by more snow fall. This made for some very tricky snow conditions with very easy shears of wind slab on lots of aspects and in pockets due to cross loading on almost every aspect. Doug and I had two attempts to get in to climbing lines on very different aspects in Glen Nevis, but turned around both times at around 300m as we were not happy with the snow stability on our approaches to the climbs. However, we made the most of the day by going to The Ice Factor to look at steep ice climbing technique, talking a lot about avalanche awareness and avoidance (thanks to Rich for letting us sit in on his avalanche lecture), oh and visiting a couple of cafes.

Today we headed east to the Cairngorms to avoid the worst of the weather and found some good climbing conditions on Haston Line and Hidden Chimney on The Mess of Pottage in Coire an t-Sneachda. The crag was very busy today, but teams were working well together and there was some good climbing to be had. Conditions are changing again tomorrow and over the next few days, so take care with route choice if you’re out and about.

 

West and East

Martin and I have been out the last couple of days. On the 2nd January we climbed on the Cobbler completing Right Angled Gully and Right Angled Chimney. The routes were both heavily rimed and it snowed throughout the day. The turf was variable.

Martin coming under the roof on Right Angled Chimney.

Yesterday we went to Craig Raibert in the Cairngorms. This crag is featured in the guidebook, ‘Chasing the Ephemeral’. The turf was well frozen, the climbing excellent but it should be noted that some of the routes are stiff for the grade.

There are more photos on the facebook page.