On Saturday and Sunday I was out with Andy and Rob and the weekend proved to be a microcosm of this winter season in that we had cold snowy conditions with quick changes to rain and freezing levels above the summits and back again.
We met at Aviemore on Saturday to make the most of the later arrival of the warmer temperatures in the East and headed to Creagan Coire a’Cha-no in cold sunny conditions. After abseiling in we climbed Anvil Gully and as the snow was now starting to get soggy we then climbed the rocky Duke’s Rib before heading down and across to Fort William.
The weather was then rain above the summits through the night and in to Sunday morning with the freezing level forecast to drop to 800m on Sunday afternoon. Given this we opted for a late start on Sunday and climbed up on to Gearr Aonach via the scramble of The Zig Zags. After this we walked along to Stob Coire nan Lochan and climbed part way up Broad Gully on soft snow. By this time the temperature had dropped and things were starting to firm up and occasional snow showers were falling. We climbed out of Broad Gully on snow to gain Dorsal Arete before it’s crux rocky fin and climbed up this to the top before descending Broad Gully. This worked well as a good mountaineering day and had the added benefit of taking in the fin, which Andy and I had bypassed on a previous occasion due to high winds.
There was a dusting of fresh snow above about 800m as I drove through Glen Coe this morning, but this is likely to change through the day with freezing levels falling and snow forecast to lower levels.
I got back last night from four days based in Fort William with Andy and Rob. On the way up on Friday we stopped off at Bridge of Orchy and headed in to Creag Coire an Dothaidh. We’d been aiming for Salamander Gully, but a team diverted on to it just before we got to the crag, so we headed up Centigrade. The ice was a bit hollow in places and required a delicate approach, but gave a good sheltered climb.
Saturday saw us head up to Ben Nevis and climb Ledge Route in excellent conditions. We were the first team up on the day, which required a bit of trail breaking and some careful route choice in sheltered spots with pockets of unconsolidated snow. We saw lots of teams out on The Curtain, Vanishing Gully and heading up towards Harrison’s and Castle Ridge.
On Sunday we needed a shorter day with options to cut off early if required as Rob’s foot was playing up a little. This made me think of Masa and Yuki Sakano’s routes on the North-West Ridge of Binnein Shuas. It’s a short walk in and the routes are on small buttresses up the ridge. I’d climbed Location, Location, Location last year with Jim Bayliss and spotted an option for an alternative start; the cave mentioned in Masa’s description is actually a through route. This gave an hilarious squeeze/thrutch with rucksacks needing to be removed part way up. Rob described it as “like being a kid again”.
Higher up we climbed Bogle Eyed, which gives a short, but excellent quality, ice pitch and seems to form quite readily. We then aimed for what I thought was Summit North-West Buttress. We climbed what looked like the “obvious zig-zag snow line”, however, it felt somewhat nippy for a II and we popped out about 20m North of the summit rather than “80m West”; so not the same line, but a good pitch direct to the summit. If you want more information for routes on Binnein Shuas search on Scottishwinter.com.
Yesterday we climbed Dinnertime Buttress finishing via No. 2 Gully on Aonach Dubh West Face in Glen Coe. The ground was hard frozen from the glen up and the weather was glorious. There are still areas of unconsolidated snow and slab around, so route choice requires thought.
We then drove back down and as the guys were flying out this morning we had time for a meal in Edinburgh and a couple of drams in The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which made Rob very happy. I think Andy was just happy the weather was a vast improvement on when he was up earlier in the season. I’ve added some photos to the ClimbNow Facebook page.
The last two days I’ve been out with Andy & Rob. We were based in Fort William on Saturday night, so headed for Buachaille Etive Mor on Saturday and climbed Curved Ridge. A later start meant we avoided the worst of the wind. It was raining in heavy showers lower down, but on the route it was just the occasional snow/graupel shower and these were only settling from around 850m. An ice axe was useful for the snow field before the Crowberry Tower gap and for the initial lip back in to Coire na Tulaich.
Overnight there were heavy showers in the West and these had fallen as snow down to around 650m. Given the forecast we chose to head over to the Cairngorms and after walking up to pt. 1141m we nipped over to the top of Stag Rocks.
We descended the left fork of Y-Gully, looking up, with snow at the lip and in the lower section before climbing Afterthought Arete mostly on dry rock, but with the odd graupel shower. The fresh snow wasn’t really settling in the Cairngorms, except in sheltered locations or on existing snow patches.
A couple of good Scottish Mountaineering days in great company. Not really typical May weather, but then what’s typical. The larger North or East facing high gullies in both the West and East are still holding snow and would give good climbing after a frosty night.
The last few days Jen, Ray and I have been aboard the yacht Mystic Sun with Bruce and Dave. On the way up from Edinburgh on Friday Jen and I stopped off and stretched our legs on Carn na h-Easgainn near Tomatin. This hill gives excellent views South and West and is a quick outing from the A9, particularly given the new tracks which go via the summit and allow for a pleasant circuit suitable for mountain bikes.
Jen, Ray and I then met up with Bruce and Dave, who are on an amazing trip which started in Loch Linnhe and has taken in lots of the West Coast, out to St Kilda, Cape Wrath, The Orkneys, Shetland and down the East Coast to Inverness. After seeing dolphins upstream of the Kessock bridge we took the boat in to the Caledonian Canal and on to sail in Loch Ness.
The next day whilst the rest of the team dealt with the locks at Fort Augustus I nipped off for a run up Carn a’Chuilinn descending via the Blackburn bothy to Bridge of Oich to rejoin the boat.
On Monday after going through Loch Oich and Loch Lochy we were delayed by up coming traffic at Neptune’s Staircase. This allowed me to sneak off again for a run up Stob a’Ghrianain (Druim Fada). This is a long ridge North of Loch Eil and gives great views to Ben Nevis.
This morning after exiting the Caledonian Canal at Corpach we headed up Loch Eil before Ray and I were dropped at Fort William to catch the bus back to Inverness.
Generally dry weather with only light showers over the last few days and the hills are relatively dry.