Bridge of Orchy

John and I were out today with Brian, Christoph, Dave and Douglas on Creag Coire an Dothaidh on a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing day. We climbed Centigrade, this gave a good mix of turf, ice and rock which allowed lots of different gear to be looked at whilst climbing the route.

Looking down the easy upper gully of Centigrade to Dave and Brian.

We chose the crag as it was on the scoured side of the hill and had less snow than on other aspects. There’d been rain in the morning almost to the top of the crag and the crag was above freezing most of the day. However, there was quite a lot of ice around and this was generally holding on well. Snow in the coire was saturated.

Creag Coire an Dothaidh

David and I climbed on Creag Coire an Dothaidh today near Bridge of Orchy. It’s low altitude and aspect meant that it wasn’t too buried after the recent snow falls, although there is plenty of snow on the crag. The turf was very well frozen, even where buried. Ice is building, but currently isn’t great for climbing.

David getting ready to belay at the bottom of Centigrade.

We climbed Centigrade and Quick Fire. Both required a careful approach in their current conditions. The later isn’t in the guidebook, but was a new route from 2015. There was very little new snow during the day and winds were generally light. It’s worth noting that Creag an Socach on the other side of the coire was much blacker.

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.

Creag Coire an Dothaidh

With the Avalanche forecast for Glencoe (the nearest forecast location) for today indicating low risk below 850m and moderate above 850m on South-West through West to North-West facing aspects and weather forecasts for the area suggesting only light new snow fall during the daylight hours John, me and a Falkirk Community Trust Introduction to Winter Climbing course of Finlay, Gillian and Kate headed for Creag Coire an Dothaidh above Bridge of Orchy. It’s a west facing crag with it’s base at 750m and top at 850m.

Kate and me approaching the crag. Photo Credit: Gillian Millar.

Kate and me approaching the crag. Photo Credit: Gillian Millar.

However, throughout the walk in the snow fell continuously and on the approach to the crag there was thigh deep unconsolidated snow. We had a quick look at the first pitch of Centigrade, which had been the original plan and decided we’d be much better off on steeper ground, where accumulations of the fresh snow would be less.

We climbed two pitches on independent lines up the buttress between the routes of Fahrenheit 451 and Centigrade. This still required a lot of cleaning of fresh unconsolidated snow, but was a safe option. We then abseiled back down to the base of the crag. This gave lots of opportunity for the team to learn new skills including an abseil retreat and see how decision making has to take account of conditions in winter.

Kate belaying on pitch 2. Photo credit: Gillian Millar.

Kate belaying on pitch 2. Photo credit: Gillian Millar.

There’s ice forming on the crag, but none of the classic lines are formed well enough for climbing yet. Turf was well frozen, where exposed on steeper ground, but soft where insulated by snow on shallower angles. It snowed continuously throughout the day and there’s lots of unconsolidated snow in sheltered locations from 600m. There was fresh snow on the road all the way back to Falkirk. A good day despite the conditions not being quite as expected. I’ll add some more photos to the Climbnow Facebook page.

John and Gillian descending from the crag.

John and Gillian descending from the crag.

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.

Creag Coire an Dothaidh

It was a sociable day in the Bridge of Orchy area today. Cameron and I bumped in to Neil, James and team in the car park. They were heading to Beinn Udlaidh and then on the walk in to Creag Coire an Dothaidh it was great to see Bruce and team. Both Bruce and Neil asked in passing if I’d seen Glenn Gordon’s Facebook post about Fahrenheit 451, being a little bit of a Luddite I hadn’t, which was both a blessing and a curse.

I first looked at climbing this route in 1989. It doesn’t form well often and I’ve never managed to be in the right place at the right time. The top section seems to build fairly regularly, but the bottom often looks lean and sketchy. Today it looked the best I’ve seen it, so Cameron and I decided to go for it.

We climbed the route in 4 pitches, 3 short and 1 long. The bottom was thin in places, there were sections where the ice had built over powdery snow and some of the higher ice, although great to climb, was dripping fairly heavily. However, Cameron and I had a good adventure and a long held itch has been scratched. When I got home I read Glenn’s post, if I’d read it before we probably wouldn’t have got on the route.

After finishing Fahrenheit 451 we nipped back around had a drink and some food and then climbed Centigrade. The middle section of this was fun, but below and above there was a fair bit of soft snow and sections of ice over powder again.

We walked out with Bruce’s team who’d had a good day on Salamander Gully and it was great to catch up with him. Back at the car park Neil, James and team were there again plus Greg. Again brilliant to catch up with him as I don’t see him often enough these days.

Below freezing down to road level all day today. Light winds and no precipitation during the day. There’s still plenty of unconsolidated snow around on lee slopes and areas that have cross loaded.

I’m struggling to upload photos this evening for some reason, so will add some when I get that sorted.

Beinn a’Chaorainn, Creag Coire an Dothaidh and Coire Cas

I’m just back from three days away with Andrew and Ged. The weather was challenging at times, but we managed to get something good done everyday.

Ged and Andrew just topping out on Beinn a'Chaorainn

Ged and Andrew just topping out on Beinn a’Chaorainn

On Friday we climbed the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn in strong South-Westerly/Westerly winds and rising freezing levels. The ridge was a sheltered popular choice for the conditions and it was pleasant to bump in to quite a few folk we knew.

Andrew and Ged on Creag Coire an Dothaidh

Andrew and Ged on Creag Coire an Dothaidh

Freezing levels dropped down again for Saturday to around the 500m to 700m level, but there was lots of snow forecast on strong Westerly winds. We opted for Creag Coire an Dothaidh. This again proved a popular choice with the coire as busy as I’ve ever seen it. We climbed the first pitch of Right Guard, a pitch in a similar line parallel to Fahrenheit 451, a short easy rightwards traverse and a dogleg pitch bringing us out on the top section of Centigrade. This gave us some very good climbing at around III,4. The turf on the first pitch was softer than expected, but above this very firm with a lot of ice around. Simon and partner climbed Salamander Gully reporting it good, but with a steep ice bulge and John’s team climbed a hard variation on Centigrade. There were several other teams on the crag, but I’m not sure what else was climbed. Fahrenheit 451 looked fat at the top, but thin and bold on the first pitch.

Andrew digging an emergency snow shelter

Andrew digging an emergency snow shelter

With a forecast of very high winds from the South-West and rain we headed for the Cairngorms today and spent the day in the shelter of Fiacaill Coire Chais looking at snowpack, snow anchors and emergency shelters. The ski centre closed early due to the wind, but the rain didn’t arrive until late afternoon. With freezing levels above the summits during the day the crags were looking black and ridges were completely scoured, but there were still big depths of snow in sheltered locations.

Climbing near Bridge of Orchy

The Falkrik High Tops Team and I visited Coire an Dothaidh yesterday. Nigel, Jacqueline and I climbed Cenitgrade on Creag Coire an Dothaidh. There was plenty of ice on the route but it was very variable. It will not take ice screws. A team backed off Farenheit 451 due to the quality of the ice.

John, Neil and Niall climbed Kick Start on Creag an Socach reporting good conditions.

It was a very beautiful day with sunshine all day and only light winds. Following a pleasent walk out we stopped off at the friendly Bridge of Orchy Hotel before driving back home.

Hammering a warthog on Centigrade.

Hammering a warthog on Centigrade.