Four Days on the West

I have been on the West for four days with Joint Services. On Monday we climbed a wet Dinnertime Buttress before visiting the Ice Factor on Tuesday.

Yesterday we climbed the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn under the new fresh snow. The turf underneath was variable.

Today we climbed the East Ridge of Stob Ban. The turf improved with height and was firm near the top.

 

Beinn a’Chaorainn

It has been another fantastic day in the Scottish Highlands with heavy snow showers this morning and brighter spells this afternoon.

The team and climbed the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. The route was in good condition. However, windslab was forming on the sides of the ridge and it is therefore worth sticking to the crest. Cornices were forming on the ridge at a number of locations.

Using a rope to safeguard navigation.

Using a rope to safeguard navigation.

Beinn a’Chaorainn

Paul and I were out today on the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. The lower steep section of the ridge was largely snow free and the turf lower down wasn’t fully frozen. However, by climbing the snowy ramp line on the North side of the ridge we were able to stay on old snow joining the ridge higher up where it was snowy and the turf well frozen.

Paul on the snowy ramp on the North side of the ridge.

Paul on the snowy ramp on the North side of the ridge.

There were a few centimetres of unconsolidated fresh snow on top of the older snow and there were some light snow showers during the afternoon on a Westerly wind. Lots of debris from small snow slides and sun wheels on either side of the ridge.

Cairngorms and Beinn a’Chaorainn

Yesterday John and I were out in a fairly wild Coire an t-Sneachda with a Falkirk Community Trust winter climbing team of Andy, Graham, Gregor and Pete. We opted for Goat Track Gully, which had some good ice up to the crux corner and was sheltered from the winds in parts. There was a lot of snow being moved around by strong southerly winds; it was difficult to tell how much was new snow, but it was accumulating in sheltered locations. Craig and a winter skills group shared the mini-bus and seemed to have a good day despite the strong winds and spindrift.

Pete collecting spindrift on a belay on Goat Track Gully.

Pete collecting spindrift on a belay on Goat Track Gully.

Today Andy and I chose The East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn as the winds were due to be strong again and either south-westerly or westerly. It rained below 500m all day and above 800m snow was accumulating fast in sheltered locations.

John bridging up an optional groove near the top of Goat Track Gully.

John bridging up an optional groove near the top of Goat Track Gully.

We climbed the ridge taking in as many of the by-passable difficult sections as possible. The turf was well frozen above 800m and loose blocks generally well frozen in, which allowed us lots of excellent little mixed pitches. We topped out into the wind at the summit cairn and descended quickly on the scoured side of the hill.

Andy on The East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn.

Andy on The East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn.

A Week of Winter Skills and Mountaineering

I’m just back from an excellent week of winter skills and mountaineering with Ali and Liz. We were based in Glen Nevis, which gave us good access to lots of venues and avoided some of the worst of the weather other areas of Scotland have been having recently.

Ali and Liz topping out of Broad Gully in strong winds.

Ali and Liz topping out of Broad Gully in strong winds.

There wasn’t a huge amount of snow around at the start of the week and on Monday we headed high to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe and used Broad Gully to look at boot and crampon work. The snow only really started just below the start of the gully proper, but was good firm old snow with just the odd area of new snow on the side of the gully sheltered from the strong East winds.

Liz and Ali above a steeper section of Number 5 Gully.

Liz and Ali above a steeper section of Number 5 Gully.

Tuesday saw us on Ben Nevis and after the thaw of the weekend and then Easterlies we took the opportunity to climb Number Five Gully, which is often best avoided as the upper bowl collects a lot of snow and is prone to avalanche. In the conditions on Tuesday it gave an excellent long climb (460m), through great scenery, on good neve with just the odd delicate step around holes where water was running below.

Learning the joys of turfy mixed climbing on the East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn.

Learning the joys of turfy mixed climbing on the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn.

Ali and Liz had now climbed a lot of metres of snow, so a more mixed route seemed appropriate and on Wednesday we ascended the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. The ridge was scoured and there wasn’t much old snow, but the turf was very well frozen from below the start of the climbing, the rock was rimed and some light fresh snow fell during the day on strong South-Easterlies. The ridge gives plenty of options for variation and tackling harder or easier steps.

Liz and Ali navigating around in the white room.

Liz and Ali navigating around in the white room.

A sore foot and a poor forecast for Thursday morning saw us driving across to the Cairngorms to look at navigation, getting shelter in winter and continuing the avalanche awareness and avoidance that was a theme throughout the week. We’d looked at some nav the day before and in winds gusting 60mph, driving snow from the car park and very limited visibility Ali and Liz did a great job of navigating me around the hill.

Sron na Lairig and Stob Coire Sgreamhach in morning sunshine.

Sron na Lairig and Stob Coire Sgreamhach in morning sunshine.

The winds finally eased today and with a frost overnight and freezing temperatures through the day we had a superb outing on Sron na Lairig. There’d been fresh snow down to around 700m on South-East and then Westerly winds, so a ridge was a good place to be. There was fresh powder on some sections of the ridge and a bit of care and clearing was required. We finished the week with a wander up to the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach to get some amazing views, before descending back via the Lairig Eilde. I’ve put some more photos from the week on the Climbnow Facebook page.

Liz and Ali on top of Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

Liz and Ali on top of Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

East Ridge Beinn a’Chaorainn

Yesterday, I visited the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn with the Falkirk High Tops Team. We started the route further right of the normal start. This meant we put crampons on 100 vertical metres below the start of the climbing, climbed a steep snow gully rather than the normal buttress and could wear crampons for the whole route.

The turf on the route is not frozen and care is required with loose rock. However, the route has a lot of snow still on it and in yesterdays winds, it provided a sheltered route to the summit. Following a bit of micro navigation on the plateau, the clouds cleared and the sun came out to give beautiful views of the Grey Corries.

Wilson and Alistair low down on the East Ridge.

Wilson and Alistair low down on the East Ridge.

The lads high on the East Ridge.

The lads high on the East Ridge.

 

Coire an t-Sneachda and Beinn a’Chaorainn

Just had a couple of good days in some interesting weather. Yesterday, Friday, I was out in Coire an t-Sneachda with Mac and Steve. The wind was forecast to be fairly strong, so we opted for a route where we could abseil off and not have to deal with conditions on the plateau. We climbed the first pitch of The Prodigal Principal via a mixture of good ice, thin delicate ice and some balancy mixed moves.

Mac nearly finished on the tricky section of The Prodigal Principal

Mac nearly finished on the tricky section of The Prodigal Principal

The ice on this route had significantly reduced from earlier in the week after Thursday’s thaw and it was quite tricky on the day and included getting over a small bergshcrund to access the route. We then moved into the top section of Doctor’s Choice; the lower section from the cave looked delicate on the day, but the upper corner had excellent ice and neve.

Mac smiling through the spindrift at the top of Doctor's Choice

Mac smiling through the spindrift at the top of Doctor’s Choice

From the top of the route we moved left and abseiled down in to Alladin’s Couloir.

Steve abseiling in to Alladin's Couloir

Steve abseiling in to Alladin’s Couloir

On the walk out we were asked to help out with an injured walker, who’d taken a tumble on The Goat Track, so we headed back in and assisted with the evacuation. Great to see a number of teams mucking in to help out and also the guys from Cairngorm Mountain, which made for a fairly swift exit for all concerned.

Today the freezing level was due to head above the summits with rain and strong West and South-West winds. Euan, Duncan, Scott, Steve, Tina and I headed for The East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. It was a pretty soggy walk in, but there was good firm snow on the ridge and the turf was frozen, which made for a good if damp climb. Visibility on the top was poor, so we dropped West then South-west from the summit and then back along the stream line to Roughburn.

Freezing level above the summits today with rain at summit level. Winds were lower than forecast whilst we were on the hill, but we were back to the car by mid-afternoon. I forgot my camera today, so no photos I’m afraid. At least two other members of the team had cameras with them, but chose not to get them out; it was that sort of day.