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.

Snowhole Expedition

When thoroughly planned, snowholing expeditions can be brilliant fun. I am just back from another successful overnight stay on Geal-charn in the Drummochter Pass. As can be seen from the photo, one of the great benefits of sleeping out in the mounatins is sunrises like we saw this morning!

There is still large quantities of snow in the Drummochter Pass giving plenty of opportunites for winter sports.

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Snowholing in the Drummochter Pass

On Thursday and Friday I was out building and staying in snowholes in the Drummochter Pass. There is still plenty of snow available for winter activities in the Pass and with careful route choice some great ski touring could still be had.

On the second day of our trip we climbed Geal-charn before practising slope stability tests and ice axe arrest.

The view from Geal-charn. Some great conditions still exist for ski touring.

The view from Geal-charn. Some great conditions still exist for ski touring.

Life in a snowhole. Inside the sleeping bag at 18.15!

Life in a snowhole. Inside the sleeping bag at 18.15!

Geal-charn

With the weather forecast to be very wet and windy on the west today the team and I opted to drive east to the Drummochter Pass. We were rewarded with a dry day and good periods of brightness.

During the day we covered skills such as the construction of snowholes and slope stability tests.

There is still excellent snow cover in the Drummochter Pass for ski touring.

Moving towards the summit of Geal-charn.

Moving towards the summit of Geal-charn.

Creagan Mor & Geal-charn Photos

A couple of photos from Friday’s ski tour from Drumochter as promised.

Andy, Murray, Jim, Derek and an airborne Nettle on the summit of Geal-charn

Andy, Murray, Jim, Derek and an airborne Nettle on the summit of Geal-charn

 

Andy and Jim descending the North side of the North-East ridge of Geal-charn

Andy and Jim descending the North side of the North-East ridge of Geal-charn

Creagan Mor & Geal-charn

Out today with a big combined Ashbourne & Stonehaven team of Andy, Derek, Jim, Murray, Nettle and Nick. We were ski touring in Drumochter. We skinned from Balsporran Cottages up Creagan Mor before a traversing descent and then up Geal-charn. We then had a good descent on the North side of the North-East ridge of Geal-charn.

Areas are quite scoured and skis were removed for the last 100m or so of both hills. Ski-ing was either on icy old snow or fresh soft slabby snow. Care is required on choice of aspect and angle at the moment as there’s considerable wind slab building on lee slopes. Some fresh snow today on a strong North-West wind. I’ll post some photos once I’m back home.

The Drummochter Pass

I have been out ski touring today with the Falkirk High Tops Team. We visited the Drummochter Pass and began our tour at the Balsporran Cottages. From here we toured with skis on from the start into Coire Fhar via the land rover track before continuing to the summit of Geal-charn.

Our descent was made via the north east ridge of the mountain. We managed to ski within 20 minutes walk of the minibus.

A short video showing the current conditions will shortly be posted on the climbnow facebook page.

Gayle, Wilson and Tam ski touring on Geal-charn.

Gayle, Wilson and Tam ski touring on Geal-charn.

 

Glenmore Lodge and Geal Charn

Since Saturday I’ve been based up at Glenmore Lodge. On Saturday I was attending the Mountain Training Scotland Lowland Leader Provider/Director Induction and on Monday and Tuesday it was Mountain Training Scotland Train the Trainers and Assessors courses.

Rainbow from An Lurg

Rainbow from An Lurg

On Sunday I had a day off from inductions and courses and headed off for a run from Glenmore Lodge. I followed the Lairig an Laoigh path up on to the shoulder of Bynack More and then left the path to take in An Lurg, Carn Bheadhair, Carn Tarsuinn and Bile Buidhe on the way to Geal Charn. This was a new Corbett for me and I’d hoped for good views of Beinn a’Bhuird and Ben Avon, but unfortunately the weather had other ideas with the cloud staying around the 900m level most of the day. From Geal Charn I retraced my route towards Bile Buidhe before picking up the track dropping down past Loch a’Chnuic and through the Abernethy Forest to the Ryvoan Bothy and back to Glenmore Lodge.

Summit shot Geal Charn

Summit shot Geal Charn

The slow thaw is ongoing in the Cairngorms with snow pack reducing. There’s still piste ski-ing and ski-touring to be enjoyed although carrying of skis is likely to be required. Major gullies are still holding plenty of snow, with some cornices still looking pretty large.

Winter Skills, Drumochter

Greg, Jilly, Katherine, Mirsie and Sally-Anne from the Glasgow Hill Walking and Mountaineering Club and I were out on Geal-charn, Drumochter, today. We were looking at Winter Skills including a bit of avalanche awareness and safe route selection, movement skills, ice axe arrest and a brief look at emergency shelters. The snow was soft pretty much everywhere, which wasn’t ideal for crampon practice, but we did get them on discuss their use and try them on a few small rock steps.

Sally trying out daggering

Sally trying out daggering

Plenty of snow above 750m; a feature I’ve used before has been completely filled in, which means there’s a depth in that sheltered location of 10m or more. South and south-west slopes are relatively scoured although any gullies on those aspects are subject to cross-loading. Lot’s of avalanche debris around, but there are still some sizable cornices and it will be interesting to see if they survive tomorrow’s thaw.

The group on an East facing slope at 750m with a scoured South facing slope behind

The group on an East facing slope at 750m with a scoured South facing slope behind

The snow pack was moist at all levels today, rain showers on lower slopes falling as damp snow above 700m on a South-Westerly wind.

Mirsie trying ice axe arrest

Mirsie practicing ice axe arrest

 

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