The Cairngorms

At some point during most winter seasons I get the urge to go off for a biggish day taking in some easy routes and having a bit of a wander. There’d been low temperatures overnight and so today was the the day and probably a good choice, as there isn’t a lot of winter left unless things change drastically.

Looking down Castlegates Gully to Loch Avon.

Looking down Castlegates Gully to Loch Avon.

Starting from the Cairngorm ski area I went in to Coire an Lochain and climbed The Couloir, which oddly I’d never climbed. I was on hard neve from below The Great Slab and there was some excellent optional ice near the start of the gully proper. However, it did look like the only complete route in the coire. I then dropped down Coire Domhain, had a quick snack in The Shelter Stone, before climbing Castlegates Gully, between Carn Etchachan and The Shelter Stone Crag. Again a route, which I hadn’t done before. From a distance I’d been doubtful as to whether there was snow in the gully, but it was complete from the starting narrows except for a 20m section just below the top, which was low angled scree.

I then followed the Garbh Uisge Mor out towards Coire Sputan Dearg, but none of the main gullies there looked complete, so I headed out to Sron Riach, as I’d never been to this top, before heading back over the summit of Ben Macdui. A good day and it blew the cobwebs away.

Westerly winds on the plateau were about 40mph most of the day and there were showers on and off that were falling as snow above about 800m, but only leaving a fresh dusting in sheltered locations. Winter boots, axe and crampons still useful even for some of the walking routes as although generally avoidable there are patches of hard snow and ice higher up that could be problematic. I’ll put some more photos showing conditions on the ClimbNow Facebook page.

British Mountain Guides Winter Assessment

Over the past few days Paul and I have been assisting on the Guides winter test.

On Thursday and Friday we were in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms. The conditions were pretty good until late afternoon yesterday when the thaw hit hard. Looking up into the mountains this morning there has been noticeable snow loss. Fingers crossed for a refreeze and some cold winds soon.

Max leading Original Route Summer.

Max leading Original Route Summer.

Coire an Lochain

The Falkirk High Tops Team, Craig and I were out in the Cairngorms today looking at winter skills. The snow that remains is all very firm. However, as can be seen from the photo the crags are very black.

Craig with Coire an Lochain beyond.

Craig with Coire an Lochain beyond.

Climbing in the Gorms

Grant and I have just had two excellent days climbing in the Cairngorms. Yesterday we climbed Alladin’s Mirror Direct  and Jacobs Edge in Coire an t-Sneachda. Both routes were in good condition and many others were white. There are large cornices though to be aware of in a number of locations.

Today we visited Coire an Lochain and climbed Iron Butterfly. The route is easier with neve. Today there was just enough good snow to make it fun. Cornices collapsing and avalanches were witnessed in the Number 2 and Number 3 Buttress areas.

Alladin's Mirror Direct.

Alladin’s Mirror Direct.

Coire an Lochain

The team and I had a great day yesterday in the Cairngorms where we climbed Milky Way and The Couloir. Both routes were in excellent condition as were many of the easier buttress routes.

Milky Way was climbed mainly on snow ice. All turf was very well frozen. The coire was quiet with only a couple of other teams around.

Great conditions on the Milky Way.

Great conditions on the Milky Way.

 

Coire an Lochain and Coire an t-Sneachda

Sharon on a tricky corner on the traverse

Sharon on a tricky corner on the traverse of Western Slant

On Monday 10th Euan and I met up with Mac, Sharon and Steve. Euan and I had a brief view of Coire an Lochain the day before and thought Western Slant might be a possibility as it didn’t appear to have the cornices above it that a lot of the routes in the coire currently do. We soloed up to the toe of No. 4 buttress and then pitched across the first bergschrund and up to near the base of the route. A second bergschrund had to be crossed to gain the route, which is currently started direct in to the chimney.

Mac on the traverse on Western Slant

Mac on the traverse on Western Slant

The route was in good condition with the exception of the exit; the crack in the right wall and the chokestone are burried and although there is no cornice the exit is on very steep soft snow requiring an extremely steady approach a long way above gear. There are still sizable cornices threatening a lot of routes and some impressive crevasse features on The Great Slab.

Steve and Mac contemplating the exit of Western Slant

Steve and Mac contemplating the exit of Western Slant

Today Mac, Steve and I were back in Coire an t-Sneachda. We planned to climb Rampant, but I followed my nose and the previous ascensionist’s foot prints and having looked at the guide I think we climbed the first pitch of Rampant and the right-slanting ramp line of Trampled Underfoot. Anyway, this was a great combination in the current conditions and had an excellent steep corner just before the belay.

Mac on the first pitch of Rampant, steeper than it looks

Mac on the first pitch of Rampant, steeper than it looks

The ice on Rampant was generally very good for climbing, but not great for ice screws.

Steve and Mac on the top ramp of Trampled Underfoot

Steve and Mac on the top ramp of Trampled Underfoot

Sunny just about all day today with no new snow and a very Alpine feel.

Mac topping out in style

Mac topping out in style

Out and About in the Cairngorms

Over the last few days I have climbed Invernookie and Western Slant. For full details on the conditions we found please read Martins reports and view the photographs on the ClimbNow facebook page.

Today, Mike and I had a great days ski touring. We toured from Coire Laogh Mor past Ciste Mhearad before having a brilliant descent to the Saddle. We then ascended close to the summit of Cairngorm before another excellent descent to the main ski car park. We encountered excellent snow throughout.

Mike looking out over the plateau.

Mike looking out over the plateau.

Five Days Climbing in the Cairngorms

For the past five days I have been at Glenmore Lodge climbing with Paul and Spencer. We had a great week finding some brilliant climbing conditions. These are detailed below. In addition to this report, there are many photos on the ClimbNow facebook page showing the conditions.

Spencer exiting Anvil Gully.

Spencer exiting Anvil Gully.

On Monday, the lads and I climbed a steep rib to the right of Fiacaill Buttress before gaining and climbing Fiacaill Ridge. The ridge was in excellent condition and reports from today suggest it has improved.

The weather on Tuesday was fairly wild. We visited Creagan Cha-no and climbed Anvil Gully in brilliant conditions. Lots of useful ice could be found on the route.

With some sunshine forecast on Wednesday, we decided to visit the west facing Lurcher’s Crag to top up the tans. We descended South Gully before climbing back out of Quinn which was in great condition. A report from today suggests that Central Gully is also still in good shape.

On the way out we could see Coire an Lochain. The cornices still appear to be massive.

Strong winds during the week had moved a lot of snow around to produce unstable windslab in sheltered spots. Therefore, on Thursday, we abseiled down Jenga Buttress on Creagan Cha-no before climbing back out. Dangerous cornices and windslab were present above routes such as Dukes Rib, Recovery Gully and Chimney Rib. Many of the buttresses are now black.

Today, we returned to Coire an t-Sneachda which was very busy. We did however have a great time climbing Terms of Endearment and the upper section of Aladdin’s Mirror on brilliant neve. Many routes on Aladdin’s buttress are in great shape as are a number on Fiacaill Buttress. The cornices on Mess of Pottage, the Trident Gullies and Fluted Buttress are still huge and no teams were on these areas.

Paul abseiling down South Gully on Lurcher's Crag.

Paul abseiling down South Gully on Lurcher’s Crag.

 

 

Winter Mountaineering in the Cairngorms

For the past week I have been winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms. The climbnow facebook page has a large number of images from the last five days which show clearly the conditions at the moment.

During the last five days the team and I visited; Coire Laogh Mor, Coire na Ciste, Coire an t-Sneachda, the plateau area and Stag Rocks.

The buttresses of the Northern Corries remain very white. A large number of cornices persist over the butrresses. However, by Friday the quality of the snow in the corries has improved a lot due to the mid week thaw and refreeze. There is a very large thaw coming tomorrow. Hopefully, this will encourage the cornices to fall down and if we then have a refreeze conditions may be very good.

Approaching Point 1141 with a very snowy Fiacall Buttress in the background.

Approaching Point 1141 with a very snowy Fiacaill Buttress in the background.

Stag Rocks has been busy this week with teams enjoying routes such as Apex Gully and Albino.

Hells Lum is completely buried with a huge cornice covering three quarters of the face. Carn Etchachan and Shelter Stone are very white and need a thaw and refreeze.

Winter Climbing in the Cairngorms

Sharon enjoying the technical first pitch of Central Crack Route.

Sharon, Ian, Steve, Martin and I have had a great day out today in Coire an Lochain (Cairngorms). We climbed the classic Central Crack Route. This excellent climb gives varied mixed climbing with a number of variations possible in the upper section.

The conditions on the route were good. The turf was frozen and the buttress was very white. Lots of ice is forming including unhelpful verglas in the cracks. It should be noted that the approach to all routes at the moment requires care. This is due to there being no build up on the crag aprons giving difficult cramponing conditions.