On Wednesday I was out with John and a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering team of Alan, John and Neil climbing McKay’s Gully and descending Easy Gully on Cam Chreag. Older snow on the crag was refreezing, but windslab was building throughout the day on a strong south-westerly. Unfortunately, due to a user error on my part with my camera I don’t have any photos from Cam Chreag.
I then headed to Aviemore and met up with the Ashbourne/Balfron/Stonehaven team. On Thursday Jim and I headed to Creagan Cha-no and climbed Anvil Gully and True Blood, whilst Chicken, Murray, Nick and Rob ski toured in the Lurcher’s Burn area. Strong winds and snow on Thursday morning was forming windslab on North and East facing slopes and cornices were building noticeably.
Today, having been joined by Andy, we had a very pleasant day ski-ing at Glen Shee mostly in sunshine with low winds and generally good snow on the pistes. Away from pisted areas there was an icy crust on scoured slopes and windslab in sheltered areas.
Today Linda, Graeme and I headed to Cam Chreag on Meall nan Tarmachan’s west top, Meall Garbh. We were hoping some of the bigger gullies had collected and held on to enough snow to give us a mountaineering day.
We soloed Cauldron Gully on broken snow patches and grass, dropped down the easy descent line to the east of the main crag and then soloed Easy Gully, which had one minor break. After that we walked up the ridge to Meall Garbh before taking in the narrow section of the Tarmachan Ridge and on to Beinn nan Eachan and Creag na Caillich.
There were soft snow patches from circa 450m, but none were extensive and snow cover even at over 1000m was limited to collection features. Snow in the gullies was generally uniform soft and sugary with just the odd patch of harder old snow around. We didn’t need crampons at any point. No significant precipitation whilst we were out, but damp in the cloud and a fresh south-westerly/westerly wind.
The Falkirk High Tops Team and I have had a great day out today in the Lawers Range. From the high parking, we climbed to the base of Cam Chreag with the intention of climbing one of the gully routes on this buttress. However, as lots of debris was falling off the crag, we decided not to do this. Instead, we climbed steeply via a gully to the east of the crag to gain the ridge and summit of Meall Garbh.
After a lunch break on the summit, we had a brilliant descent on powder of Coire Riadhailt to the 650 metre contour. We then ascended back to the ridge before skiing back to the van.
We observed lots of recent avalanche activity on easterly and southerly aspects. Many more photos of the day can be seen on the facebook page.
I was out today with Michael and Ronan who have plenty of hill walking background and are looking to get the skills to climb some winter gullies.
We headed to Meall nan Tarmachan as parts of Cam Chreag have a Southerly aspect and stood a chance of being relatively scoured. The approach was quite hard with areas of deep snow. Firstly we climbed Cauldron Gully finishing on to the lefthand ridge and looking at snow anchors and belays; turf pegs (Warthogs) and some rock gear. We then descended the easy angled gully from the Meall Garbh/Meall nan Tarmachan col taking the opportunity to build a snow bollard and practice abseiling off it. We then climbed a quick Grade III turf/rock pitch on the left of the descent gully and abseiled from an excellent thread to look at abseiling on a more realistic angle.
Lots of fresh snow on top of the older consolidated snow and it was snowing steadily above 600m as we left. Winds were light Southerlies and snow was accumulating even on Southerly aspects. Skis or snow shoes would definitely have speeded the approach and descent.
Out with Nettle yesterday, 16/02/12, on Cam Chreag. We climbed climbed a line in the area of Spaewife. Having started up Spaewife to the belay at the wall we moved “up and left” as per the second pitch description. However, this didn’t lead to the corner and it seems like the description should say “up and right”. The moves up and left involved an exciting rising leftwards traverse using two parallel turf ledges and was very worthwile. We finished up and slightly left joining a steepening groove line to finish. Hard to grade, but we felt about V,4. We walked out via Meall Garbh and Meall nan Tarmachan.
The turf was very well frozen at crag height and warthogs were required for both runners and belays. The snow was firmish at the start of the day, but softened up throughout in the thawing conditions. There’s pretty good snow cover from just above the carpark height. By the end of the day the snow was soft and saturated at all levels.
Today I visited Stob Coire Nan Lochain in Glencoe with my team of trainee Winter Climbing Instructors. We spent the day climbing Wandering Wombat looking at guiding skills such as short roping, parallel roping and the use of a magic plate. The buttress routes were in good condition. Teams were out on a number of routes including Tilt and Central Grooves.
Yesterday we attempted to climb on Cam Chreag in the Ben Lawers area. We did not manage to get to the crag as there is so much snow in this area. Teams attempting hills in this area would be advised to have skis, snowshoes or a good headtorch and a lot of time.
A few people have contacted me recently asking if I could put the Cam Chreag, Meall nan Tarmachan, topos up on the blog again. I’d put them up previously, but since the blog has changed format apparently they’ve been difficult to download.
The topos are below, click on them to see a larger version. The majority of climbs on the crag are reliant on turf and the crag needs to be well frozen both to preserve the turf and for an enjoyable climbing experience. A selection of turf protection is very useful for all but the easiest routes. I’ve climbed all the routes shown on the topos and can vouch for the grades with the usual warning that grades can vary significantly with conditions in winter, routes can change over time and anyone climbing the routes shown should have the relevant experience and assess the route themselves on the day. Additionally, if you’re not used to Southern Highland type turfy routes it’s definitely worth dropping a grade or two until you’ve got a feel for the style of climbing. There are other routes on the crag, which can be found in The Arran, Arrochar and Southern Highlands guidebook and in the SMC Journals.