Cairngorm Mixed Trip

John and I have been away with the Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Cairngorm Mixed Climbing trip for the last three days. The lack of good winter conditions has meant it’s been a very mixed trip, but a good one.

On Monday we walked in to Coire an Spreidhe and climbed the Central Couloir (SMC Journal 2011) starting on dry rock and then putting on crampons for the majority of this good 300m mountaineering route. The snow was firm and made for easy progress between good stances.

The rope running down to Tony on the snowfields of Central Couloir.

The rope running down to Tony on the snowfields of Central Couloir.

On Tuesday we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda with the hope of an easy gully or possibly heading over to the Loch Avon basin. However, the very black state of the crags (even Fiacaill Couloir was very broken) made for a quick rethink and we walked out and drove to Duntelchaig, where we had an excellent afternoon’s rock climbing on Pinnacle Crag.

Me trying not to push to hard on the pinnacle of Pinnacle Crag. Photo Credit: J. Jackson.

Me trying not to push to0 hard on the pinnacle of Pinnacle Crag. Photo Credit: J. Jackson.

Today there was a forecast for very high winds at height and freezing levels well above the summits, so we drove south and spent the morning rock climbing at Creag na h-Eighe and the afternoon dry tooling at Newtyle.

Linda dry tooling at Newtyle.

Linda dry tooling at Newtyle.

A very mixed trip, but some good stuff done on each day and thanks to Graeme, Linda, Joanne and Tony for being open to suggestions to fit the unusual conditions.

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

Coire an t’Sneachda and Creag Meagaidh

Jol and I have been based in Aviemore for the last two days for some winter climbing. On Wednesday we headed in to Coire an t’Sneachda. North and West facing slopes were looking pretty loaded with fresh snow, so we headed over to the Fiacaill Buttress area and climbed Fiacaill Couloir. This was approached and climbed on mostly scoured neve with the odd patch of generally avoidable fresh soft snow. We then descended the easier West side of Fiacaill Ridge to the col before climbing the more fun direct line and then redescending. This gave us a chance to look at moving together as a technique as well as the avalanche avoidance/gear placement/belay building we’d covered earlier. There was more snow than forecast in the area during the day with fairly continuous light snow above 650m on a light Easterly wind. This was forming considerable depths of fresh soft snow in sheltered locations. Ski touring looks excellent, but good route choice is required to avoid loaded slopes.

On Wednesday we headed across to Creag Meagaidh looking for slightly better weather, less new snow and some ice. We had a great day climbing Diadem. The two main ice pitches were in excellent condition with Jol describing the long icey corner pitch as “hoofing”. Including the approach pitches up The Sash and the easier exit ground it gave seven pitches and a superb day out. Again more falling snow than I’d expected and we climbed mostly in the cloud. Light snow on and off on a light South-Easterly wind. Some accumulation of fresh snow on the approach and exit pitches, but generally avoidable or soft and not deep. Cornices on the South and East facing aspects were old and solid, but I’d expect considerable fresh snow depths and fresh cornices developing on North and West facing aspects. We exited via the Window, which is relatively well scoured and not currently threatened from above.

Apologies for the lack of photos. I’ve managed to misplace my camera, hopefully it’s only temporarily. A wee update: Many thanks to Carlos for sending through the photo below of The Wand and Diadem, with me just visible leading the second ice pitch of Diadem. We bumped in to him around the top of The Wand/Diadem and he’d had what sounded like a great day soloing I think Smith’s Route, Last Post and The Wand.

The Wand & Diadem

The Wand & Diadem. Photo Credit: Carlos