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.




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.


Today Ivor and I managed our first day of winter climbing this season with a trip to Creagan Coire a’Cha-no in the Cairngorms. We climbed “The Blood is Strong” on the Blood Buttress. This was good value for the grade on the day with lot’s of interest in the many short corners. After this the spindrift got the better of us and we headed for home.

Ivor abseiling in to the crag. The notch to his right is the top of Anvil Gully.

The wind was transporting lots of snow around and there were a couple of hours of snow showers during the day. It was relatively sheltered down on the crag, but this shelter meant lots of soft snow building on the ledges, which had to be cleared and some sizable cornices developing, particularly above Wide Gully. The turf was frozen on the route. Slopes at height that were being scoured by the wind had very little snow on them.

Ivor belaying on “The Blood is Strong”.


Cairngorms and Glencoe

Yesterday the team and I travelled from Ballachulish to the Cairngorms in search of dry weather. We were rewarded with a beautiful day and evening. Throughout the day we visited; Coire an-t Sneachda, the Goat Track, Coire Domhain, Feith Buidhe and Cairn Lochan.

Wherever we encountered snow it was firm and crampons were required on all steeper sections.

Today the rain was torrential on the west coast. We visited Glencoe ski centre and spent the day doing avalanche rescue techniques. The snow was disappearing fast.

The team in Coire Domhain.

The team in Coire Domhain.

Cairngorms and Glen Coe

On Saturday and Sunday I was out with Andy and Rob and the weekend proved to be a microcosm of this winter season in that we had cold snowy conditions with quick changes to rain and freezing levels above the summits and back again.

Rob exiting Anvil Gully on Saturday morning.

Rob exiting Anvil Gully on Saturday morning with the Anvil block behind.

We met at Aviemore on Saturday to make the most of the later arrival of the warmer temperatures in the East and headed to Creagan Coire a’Cha-no in cold sunny conditions. After abseiling in we climbed Anvil Gully and as the snow was now starting to get soggy we then climbed the rocky Duke’s Rib before heading down and across to Fort William.

A damp scramble up The Zig Zags late Sunday morning.

A damp scramble up The Zig Zags late Sunday morning.

The weather was then rain above the summits through the night and in to Sunday morning with the freezing level forecast to drop to 800m on Sunday afternoon. Given this we opted for a late start on Sunday and climbed up on to Gearr Aonach via the scramble of The Zig Zags. After this we walked along to Stob Coire nan Lochan and climbed part way up Broad Gully on soft snow. By this time the temperature had dropped and things were starting to firm up and occasional snow showers were falling. We climbed out of Broad Gully on snow to gain Dorsal Arete before it’s crux rocky fin and climbed up this to the top before descending Broad Gully. This worked well as a good mountaineering day and had the added benefit of taking in the fin, which Andy and I had bypassed on a previous occasion due to high winds.

Rob and Andy on the crux fin of Dorsal Arete.

Rob and Andy on the crux fin of Dorsal Arete.

There was a dusting of fresh snow above about 800m as I drove through Glen Coe this morning, but this is likely to change through the day with freezing levels falling and snow forecast to lower levels.