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.

Coire an t-Sneachda

John, Harvey and I were out in Coire an t-Sneachda today. We climbed Fiacaill Couloir descended The Goat Track and climbed Goat Track Gully, before heading around via pt. 1141m and back in to Coire Cas.

Harvey on one of the broken sections of Fiacaill Couloir

Harvey on one of the broken sections of Fiacaill Couloir

Fiacaill Couloir is now broken in a couple of places and a few steps on rock are required. Goat Track Gully, requires care to enter, but there is still good ice most of the way up the corner.

Harvey in Goat Track Gully

Harvey in Goat Track Gully

Temperatures were above freezing all day with a slow thaw ongoing. Snow on the routes was a mixture of firm old snow and a damp, softer more recent layer in sheltered locations. The turf was still well fozen where exposed on both routes. Care is required with loose blocks given the thaw and there are a number of bergschrund features to be negotiated. Cornices are much reduced, but should still be considered in route selection. Fresh South-Easterly winds on the tops today with sunshine and no precipitation.

John and Harvey with Fiacaill Buttress and Ridge behind

John and Harvey with Fiacaill Buttress and Ridge behind

Two Days out on the Skis

For the past two days, I have been in the Cairngorms with the Falkirk High Tops Team. Some of the team were completing a ski touring introductory course while the rest of the team were completing a winter skills weekend.

The team on the ascent of Lurchers Gully.

The team on the ascent of Lurchers Gully.

Yesterday, the skiers and I ascended Lurchers Gully. On the way up we looked at the use of avalanche transceivers, the use of ski touring equipment and skills such as skinning. The descent was on good snow and we managed to ski all the way to the burn exiting Coire an t-Sneachda leaving only a fifteen minute walk back to the bus.

Today, the weather conditions were particularly difficult resulting in the ski centre being closed. We still had a good day out though looking at more important topics. We climbed high into Coire Cas looking at skills such as; searching with transceivers, shovel and probe, kick turning on steep ground in ascent and kick turning in descent. Following a lunch stop with Craig and his team in their newly built shelter, we made the ascent to the Ptarmigan restaurant.

The precipitation during the ascent was rain below 800 metres and snow above. This new snow gave us a great run down the M1 piste and due to the resort being closed we had it all to ourselves. The snow continued all the way to the car park meaning no walking was required.

We left the ski car park at 2pm. The rain had turned to snow at this level by this time.

Craig exiting the improvised snow shelter built by him and his team.

Craig exiting the improvised snow shelter built by him and his team.