Cairngorms and Glen Coe

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.

Rob exiting Anvil Gully on Saturday morning.

Rob exiting Anvil Gully on Saturday morning with the Anvil block behind.

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.

A damp scramble up The Zig Zags late Sunday morning.

A damp scramble up The Zig Zags late Sunday morning.

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.

Rob and Andy on the crux fin of Dorsal Arete.

Rob and Andy on the crux fin of Dorsal Arete.

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.

 

Zig Zags

I have been out today on the Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach. After lasts nights deep freeze the terrain was well frozen and heavily verglassed. Crampons were useful from the first ‘Zig’ upwards. We descended via Stob Coire nan Lochan. The crags were white.

There are lots more photos on the facebook page.

Walking towards SCNL.

Walking towards SCNL.

Northern Lights and Classic Mountaineering

Andrew flew up on Wednesday and I picked him up from EICA Ratho, where he’d visited Alan Lockhart who’s working with him to solve some long term injuries. We then headed North with the aim of four days of mountaineering/climbing. Andrew is planning some long term goals in the Greater Ranges and the idea was to improve Andrew’s efficiency of movement on alpine terrain, look at some specific skills and also have a good time ticking some Scottish classics without aggravating any injuries. As we drove North we were lucky enough to get a great view of the Northern Lights along Glen Dochart and North of Crianlarich. On Thursday we climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor and descended Curved Ridge taking in Crowberry Tower. We had sunshine at times and the rock was surprisingly dry with most of Rannoch Wall looking dry enough for climbing.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

Andrew exiting one of the chimneys on North Buttress.

We then headed up to Skye as Andrew had never been in the Black Cuillin and was keen to get a feel for the ridge. The weather on Friday was unfortunately worse than earlier forecasts, so Andrew didn’t get much chance to see the hills. However, we ascended Sgurr Dearg via Coire na Banaichdaich and it’s North-West Flank; climbed the Inaccessible Pinnacle by it’s East Ridge and descended the South-East Flank of Sgurr Dearg to the An Stac Screes. Having been in constant steady rain and cloud for most of the day we then decided to bail down the screes and out via Coire Lagan.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

Approaching the top of the Inn Pinn in the rain and cloud.

With the forecast not looking great on Skye for Saturday we had an early start and made for the Cairngorms. Here we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda. After a pleasant chat with Glenn and Euan who were headed for Hell’s Lum Crag we climbed Pygmy Ridge. We approached this via the line of Central Gully Left Hand and it’s worth noting that there a couple of sizable perched blocks in this area at the moment. Once on the plateau we headed down Coire Domhain and around to Stag Rocks where we climbed Afterthought Arete, sticking to the ridge as much as possible to maximise the climbing.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

Andrew on Afterthought Arete.

We had accommodation booked over in the West for Saturday night and needed a shortish day to allow for flights on Sunday, so the final day saw us back in Glen Coe. We climbed Barn Wall Route on the East Face of Aonach Dubh, this requires a steady approach as although there are excellent positive holds throughout there isn’t a lot in the way of gear. We then headed around under Stob Coire nan Lochan, so Andrew could get a look at this as a potential future winter venue, before heading out along Gearr Aonach and descending The Zig-Zags.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Andrew tired, but smiling, at the bottom of the Zig Zags on the last day.

Four days of Classic Mountaineering in mostly very good weather for the time of year with the exception of Friday. If you’re heading out it’s worth knowing that we haven’t had a proper frost yet and hence the midges are still around and biting, thankfully for me they seemed to prefer Andrew.

The Zig-Zags and Stob Mhic Mhartuin

Yesterday morning I drove from South Queensferry to Glencoe. This took five hours including two hours stuck in the snow on the A82 in Glencoe. This hopefully gives a good idea of how much new snow has arrived in the area over the last couple of days.

Once I arrived in Glencoe I met the team and headed out to the Zig-Zags on Gearr Aonach. We climbed and descended the route looking at short roping and abseiling skills. The route was a popular option with quite a few teams around trying to avoid the worst of the weather by staying at lower altitudes.

Today I have been out on Stob Mhic Mhartuin looking at winter skills such as ice axe arrest and emergency snow shelters. There is a lot of new snow around making movement  time consuming and significant wind transportation increasing the avalanche risk on certain aspects.

Unfortunately my camera broke on Sunday and so my blog posts will be without photos until the weekend.

Ben Nevis and Glen Coe

I’ve just spent an excellent weekend based in Fort William with Rachel and Sabine.

Tower Ridge in early morning light

Tower Ridge in early morning light

On Saturday we had an early start to walk up to Ben Nevis and climb Tower Ridge in time to be off the ridge and summit well before the forecast thunder storms.

Sabine and Rachel just above The Douglas Boulder

Sabine and Rachel just above The Douglas Boulder

The thunder storms never appeared as they tracked further East, but we did have the best of the weather on the day, only encountering cloud on the upper part of the ridge and some light showers on the way down.

In cloud above the through-route on the Great Tower

In cloud above the through-route on the Great Tower

Today we were out in Glen Coe climbing Barn Wall Route on the East Face of Aonach Dubh. After the overnight rain and early low cloud the rock was initially very wet, but dried with height and rising cloud levels. The route gives a good long climb at the grade, but is fairly sparse on protection.

Which way? High on Barn Wall Route

Which way? High on Barn Wall Route

We then headed up to the summit of Aonach Dubh before traversing underneath Stob Coire nan Lochan and descending Gearr Aonach and The Zig-Zags.

Gearr Aonach

Gearr Aonach

Zig Zags, Glencoe

I have been back out today in Glencoe. We made an ascent of the Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach. The first ‘zig’ did not require axe and crampons but they were useful after this.

We continued along the ridge before using a steep gully line to look at snow anchors. The day was finished by traversing into Stob Coire nan Lochan and descending back to the bus.

The snow was wet and heavy at all levels. During the day there was a mixture of snow, rain and sleet at all levels. The buttresses of SCNL are very white.

Percy trusting the rope while being lowered on a stomper belay.

Percy trusting the rope while being lowered on a stomper belay.

Gearr Aonach and Beinn an Dothaidh

Yesterday I was out on the Zig Zags in Glencoe which lead to Gearr Aonach. After the first ‘Zig’ all the ramps had good snow. After we finished the route we traversed Gearr Aonach and descended back to the bus via Stob Coire nan Lochain. The buttresses were white. Things however have changed rapidly overnight.

We drove through Glencoe today on the way to Beinn an Dothaidh. There has been large amounts of snow loss which will have put a number of the buttress routes out of condition. On Beinn an Dothaidh we climbed Emel Ridge. There was some ice around, still a good quantity of snow and the turf was frozen above 750 metres. There is still large amounts of snow in the easy gulllies. Avalanche debris was visible in Central Gully.

The North East Face of Beinn an Dothaidh at 12.30pm today. West Gully is in the middle of the photo.

Zig Zags

The heavy snow arrived in Glencoe today mid morning along with strong winds and poor visibility. We visited the Zig Zags on Gearr Anoach to look at short roping skills. This gave us a good safe route in the current weather and snow conditions.

The Zig Zags today from the approach path.