Monadh Liath

With a forecast of low winds, sunshine and a frost I decided to go for a run up some hills behind Kingussie today. I took in Beinn Bhreac; the Corbett of Carn an Fhreiceadain; Carn Coire na h-Inghinn; Creag Dhubh and Creag Mhor. They’re not the most dramatic hills, but with superb views in today’s low sunlight and long shadows.

Summit of Beinn Bhreac with the view west behind.

Beinn Bhreac and Carn an Fhreiceadain are now tracked right over their summits and could potentially be a good choice if the grounds very wet or for a mountain bike or ski touring ascent (as the tracks will tend to hold snow). There was a frost from the valley up today with ice on the tracks. The thaw of the last week or so has severely reduced the snow cover with only patches above about 700m and continuous snow only visible in major features and around coire rims above about 900m. The turf had a surface freeze, but wasn’t fully frozen at around 880m (my highpoint for the day). The best snow cover I could see today appeared to be on the Fannichs, which were visible in the distance. There are more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page. Happy New Year! Wilf.

Loch Treig

Sometimes at this time of year when winter conditions have temporarily disappeared it’s good to just get out to blow some cobwebs away and get some hill miles into the legs. That’s what I was up to today.

Stob Coire Sgriodain from pt. 958m.

Stob Coire Sgriodain from pt. 958m.

I headed to Fersit near Loch Treig and ascended Stob Coire Sgriodain via Sron na Garbh-bheinne. I then continued on to Meall Garbh before heading back north to Chno Dearg. Rather than head straight back towards Fersit I decided to complete the watershed by taking in Meall Chaorach and Creag Dhubh before returning to Fersit. The going was quite rough and boggy in places, particularly after Chno Dearg.

There were just a few patches of old snow around and a little wet fresh snow above 950m. Winds were westerly around 40mph in the morning, but dropping during the day and there were showers on and off falling as rain to above 1050m during the day.

Geal-charn, Drummochter

John and I were out today with a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Climbing Team of Gregor, Linda, Patricia and Tony. We were heading for Creag Dhubh on the North-West side of Drummochter. However, approaching from the col between Geal-charn and Creagan Mor, we weren’t happy with snow conditions above the crag particularly as we’d set off a couple of very easily triggered slabs in innocuous looking locations below 700m. We, therefore, headed for the two crags that lie North-East of the main crag.

John on the ice pillar of Flight of the Navigator.

John on the ice pillar of Flight of the Navigator with Tony belaying. Photo credit, Patricia Enot.

After some scanning of SMC Journals I think John, Patricia and Tony climbed Flight of The Navigator IV,5, which involves a short, steep ice pillar and Map and Compass III,4.

Me looking at the straight up start on our line. I decided the ice wasn't quite good enough and came in on the ramp just above this in the end.

Me looking at the straight up start on our line. I decided the ice wasn’t quite good enough and came in on the ramp just above this in the end. Photo credit: Gregor Ewing.

Linda, Gregor and I climbed a line on the crag 500m further North-East, which I can’t find in the Journals. It involved an initial steep ice and turf pitch, which required a delicate approach and then an easier angled pitch on much thicker ice.

Looking up the second pitch on the abseil.

Looking up the second pitch on the abseil.

We abbed back down to our bags in one long abseil. On the day it went at V,5, but would probably be IV,5 or even IV,4 in thicker conditions.

Linda and Gregor happy after the second pitch.

Linda and Gregor happy after the second pitch.

The snow conditions changed dramatically through the day. It rained briefly and this transformed the snow at heights of at least up to about 750m, with the snowpack becoming more uniform with a crust. There was then some fresh snow. It had been thawing at crag height, circa 500m, but was cooling down as we left. I’ll add some more photos to the Climbnow Facebook page.

Creag Dhubh and Geal-charn

The last two days I’ve been based in the Aviemore area working for EICA Ratho. Pamela and Claire, Jacqueline and Paul and I have been looking at some winter mountaineering skills.

The weather has been pretty wild with high winds and a plenty of new snow above about 600m, with rain below that today. The Cairngorm ski road was closed today and yesterday. Claire, Jacqueline and Paul did a great job of coping with the conditions and managed to keep smiling throughout.

The team on the summit of Creag Dhubh

The team on the summit of Creag Dhubh

On Saturday we chose to stay beneath the worst of the weather and climbed Creag Dhubh (756m) near Newtonmore. This worked well and we were able to use a sheltered crag to look at using crampons on rock and frozen turf; use of an ice axe and also take in the summit. The snow at this level on the hill was all soft, with no real old snow around and only limited accumulations of fresh snow even on the North side of the hill.

Jacqueline abseiling from a snow bollard

Jacqueline abseiling from a snow bollard

Today we headed up to the area between Geal-charn and A’Mharconaich off Drumochter. Here we found some snow to look at boot work, ice axe arrest and some snow anchors, including abseiling off a snow bollard. Even the scoured snow we came across today was relatively soft. There was snow fall on and off all day on strong Southerly/South-Westerly winds and just the odd break in the clouds. Sheltered areas were building large accumulations of fresh and wind blown snow.

A rare break in the cloud today giving stunning views

A rare break in the cloud today giving stunning views