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.

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.

Northern Lights and Classic Mountaineering

Andrew flew up on Wednesday and I picked him up from EICA Ratho, where he’d visited Alan Lockhart who’s working with him to solve some long term injuries. We then headed North with the aim of four days of mountaineering/climbing. Andrew is planning some long term goals in the Greater Ranges and the idea was to improve Andrew’s efficiency of movement on alpine terrain, look at some specific skills and also have a good time ticking some Scottish classics without aggravating any injuries. As we drove North we were lucky enough to get a great view of the Northern Lights along Glen Dochart and North of Crianlarich. On Thursday we climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor and descended Curved Ridge taking in Crowberry Tower. We had sunshine at times and the rock was surprisingly dry with most of Rannoch Wall looking dry enough for climbing.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

We then headed up to Skye as Andrew had never been in the Black Cuillin and was keen to get a feel for the ridge. The weather on Friday was unfortunately worse than earlier forecasts, so Andrew didn’t get much chance to see the hills. However, we ascended Sgurr Dearg via Coire na Banaichdaich and it’s North-West Flank; climbed the Inaccessible Pinnacle by it’s East Ridge and descended the South-East Flank of Sgurr Dearg to the An Stac Screes. Having been in constant steady rain and cloud for most of the day we then decided to bail down the screes and out via Coire Lagan.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

With the forecast not looking great on Skye for Saturday we had an early start and made for the Cairngorms. Here we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda. After a pleasant chat with Glenn and Euan who were headed for Hell’s Lum Crag we climbed Pygmy Ridge. We approached this via the line of Central Gully Left Hand and it’s worth noting that there a couple of sizable perched blocks in this area at the moment. Once on the plateau we headed down Coire Domhain and around to Stag Rocks where we climbed Afterthought Arete, sticking to the ridge as much as possible to maximise the climbing.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

We had accommodation booked over in the West for Saturday night and needed a shortish day to allow for flights on Sunday, so the final day saw us back in Glen Coe. We climbed Barn Wall Route on the East Face of Aonach Dubh, this requires a steady approach as although there are excellent positive holds throughout there isn’t a lot in the way of gear. We then headed around under Stob Coire nan Lochan, so Andrew could get a look at this as a potential future winter venue, before heading out along Gearr Aonach and descending The Zig-Zags.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Four days of Classic Mountaineering in mostly very good weather for the time of year with the exception of Friday. If you’re heading out it’s worth knowing that we haven’t had a proper frost yet and hence the midges are still around and biting, thankfully for me they seemed to prefer Andrew.