Stob Coire nan Lochan

Euan, David and I were in Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe today. There’s been a lot of new snow fall at height over the last few days, we came across new deposits of 40cm and more. Additionally the winds have moved around and there will be old wind slab under new deposits in some locations as well as new, generally soft, wind slab and this is all sitting on an old hard base of snow on lots of aspects. We saw avalanche activity that ranged from spontaneous slab releases, with a very obvious fresh crown wall under the Twisting Gully area; point releases from snow/rime sloughing off the crags in the sun and human triggered releases of slabs. Careful route choice is definitely required in Glen Coe at the moment.

David above the routes.

We took a precautionary approach and followed a low angled line around above the crags and abseiled/lowered in to climb Pinnacle Buttress Groove and a line to the right of Pinnacle Buttress, North-East Face at about Tech 5. I wouldn’t have wanted to approach these routes from below today and access from above required care. There are some very sizable cornices around and these were building with wind blown snow today. There was less fresh snow during the day than forecast and we spent most of the day in glorious sunshine with amazing views across a very snowy West Highlands.

Stob Coire nan Lochan today with avalanche activity visible below much of the crag.

Glen Coe

John and I were out in Glen Coe today with a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Mountaineering Team of Alan, Antonia, Ben, Jacob, Peter and Tom. We climbed a very wintery Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor before descending via Coire na Tulaich.

Jacob, Antonia and Peter happy with the amazing views on top of Stob Dearg.

Views were excellent with clear cold weather. There was a strong South-East wind and there was plenty of wind movement of snow during the day with wind slab forming in sheltered locations. A great day to be out in the hills.

Crypt Route

Euan and I headed up to Church Door Buttress in Glen Coe today to climb Crypt Route. This was in good condition with rime and powder, but with some verglas in the cracks. The route went very well for two and three quarter pitches until I encountered the “small hole” described in the Scottish Winter Climbs route description. After a considerable number of attempts in different orientations and with all gear removed and eventually stripped down to a thermal and thin fleece it became apparent I wasn’t getting through the hole. Thankfully, I’d led this pitch, so I retreated back to Euan using a number of small abseils to reduce the chances of the rope getting stuck in the through routes and chockstones. From the belay at the end of the second pitch we were able to abseil back to Central Gully in a single abseil.

Diamond and Church Door Buttresses as we descended.

For what it’s worth, it seemed to be a combination of shoulder width and chest depth that caused the problem in fitting through. It will obviously depend on how compressible your chest is and to some degree how long you are from shoulder to hip; but if you’re thinking of doing it and want a comparison I have a 40″ (102cm) chest and am 45″ (115cm) around the shoulders.

Euan about to start the steep section on pitch 2.

The climbing to this point was very good particularly the second pitch, so a bit disappointing to be defeated by my dimensions.

Glen Coe

John and I were out today in Glen Coe with a Falkirk Community Trust Mountaineering team of Devon, Paul, Pete and Pete. We climbed Dinnertime Buttress with a few fun variation pitches before descending via the Stob Coire nan Lochan path.

Paul on the approach to Dinnertime Buttress with the Aonach Eagach behind.

Winds were low during the day with no new fresh snow. The turf was not well frozen until over 800m and we climbed without crampons for the whole route on snowed up rock on the steeper sections. Ice is forming in Glen Coe, but none of it looked climbable as yet. We didn’t encounter any older consolidated snow from before the thaw, there may be some higher up, which will now be under a layer of fresh unconsolidated snow.

Aonach Eagach

Today John and I were out with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors winter mountaineering team of David, Emanuelle, Ross and Tzvetie. We traversed the classic Aonach Eagach in Glen Coe from East to West in superb spring conditions taking in the Munros of Meall Dearg and Sgurr nam Fiannaidh.

David and Ross in the pinnacles on The Aonach Eagach.

David and Ross in the pinnacles on The Aonach Eagach with another team behind.

The weather was very kind and we had low winds, excellent views, soft snow and dry rock on the ridge. Where the recent snow is catching the sun on West and South aspects it is disappearing fast, but it is holding on in the shade on North and East facing slopes at height. I’ll put some more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page.

Buachaille Etive Mor

Yesterday John and I climbed on Buachaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors winter climbing team of Doug, Gregor, Lewis and Steve. We had a great day climbing North Buttress with excellent views and relatively low winds. After taking in the summit of Stob Dearg we were able to descend via Coire na Tulaich, but care and good route choice is required here with current snow conditions.

Gregor and Lewis near the bottom of the chimneys.

Gregor and Lewis near the bottom of the chimneys.

The recent snow isn’t consolidated, is deep in sheltered locations and contains a fair amount of graupel. There is very little old snow on The Buachaille, but where new snow overlies old snow there are very easy shears. A North-East wind was redistributing snow throughout the day meaning there will be potential for avalanches on lots of aspects today and until the snow consolidates. Higher up on the route, above the chimneys, there is a thin layer of generally crusty snow ice, which isn’t very helpful for climbing and it’s worth allowing extra time in your planning for this. I’ll put some more photos on The ClimbNow Facebook page.

Gregor high on North Buttress with the expanse of Rannoch Moor behind.

Gregor high on North Buttress with The Kingshouse and the expanse of Rannoch Moor behind.

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.

 

Curved Ridge

John and I were out with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors team of Devon, Emanuelle, Linda, Tzvetie and Wilson today climbing Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe.

Devon just above the first steep section low down on Curved Ridge.

Devon just above the first steep section low down on Curved Ridge.

There was fresh snow down to around 450m and it snowed fairly continuously throughout the day. There was some north-westerly in the wind and no real base, so there was no problem descending in to Coire na Tulaich after we’d summited Stob Dearg. The conditions made for relatively slow progress as there was a lot of clearing required to find rock holds. There’s some ice around, but not much of it was useful on the route. I’ll put some more photos / videos of conditions on the ClimbNow Facebook page.

Glen Coe

Robin and I were out today with a Falkirk Community Trust scrambling Team of Devon, Jack, Janice, Mary and Sarah on the Aonach Eagach in Glen Coe. We went along the ridge from East to West taking in Am Bodach, Meall Dearg, Stob Coire Leith and Sgurr nam Fiannaidh.

Janice, Mary and Sarah moving through The Pinnacles with Robin behind.

Janice, Mary and Sarah moving through The Pinnacles with Robin behind.

The weather was excellent with high broken cloud making for great views; a light breeze and the rock was generally dry, which gave great scrambling conditions.

Glen Coe

John and I were out today in Glen Coe with a Falkirk Community Trust team of Andrea, Gregor, Helen and Marco. There were rain showers as we drove across Rannoch Mor and cloud down to about 400m , so we opted for an ascent of North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor.

Andrea in the cloud high on North Buttress.

Andrea in the cloud high on North Buttress.

The rock was drier than expected and we only had very minor rain showers; this made for a pleasant day although unfortunately no real views. We climbed to the summit of Stob Dearg and descended via Coire na Tulaich.