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.

Glen Coe

Today Ivor and I headed to Glen Coe to catch the good weather and climbed Fracture Route on the North-East Face of Crowberry Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mor. We then continued on up Crowberry Ridge to the top of Crowberry Tower before heading to the summit of Stob Dearg and descending via Coire na Tulaich.

Ivor approaching the top of the first pitch of Fracture Route.

Ivor approaching the top of the first pitch of Fracture Route.

The rock was dry and we had sunshine for most of the day with clouds building a little later on. Teams were out on Agag’s Groove, January Jigsaw, Direct Route and lots of folk on Curved Ridge.

Aonach Eagach

John and I were out with a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Scrambling team today of Alasdair, Gregor, Ken, Linda and Nathalie on the Aonach Eagach in Glen Coe.

Nathalie and Ken amongst the pinnacles.

Nathalie and Ken amongst the pinnacles.

As well as the ridge we took in both the Munros of Meall Dearg and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. There is quite a lot of fresh soft snow on the ridge at the moment, but also a fair amount of bare rock. We had good weather most of the day, but some snow showers late in the afternoon on a southerly wind. I’ll add some more photos to the ClimbNow Facebook page for a better idea of conditions.

Stob Coire nan Lochan

I was out today with a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Climbing team of John, Gillian, Helen, Kate and Ken in Stob Coire nan Lochan, Glen Coe. We climbed Dorsal Arete in quite Alpine conditions; the fin was bare rock, but the rest of the route was climbed on good refrozen snow and the fin could be bypassed on snow if desired.

Gillian and Helen with John behind approaching the fin.

Gillian and Helen with John behind approaching the fin.

We then descended Broad Gully again on firm refrozen snow. There was sunshine most of the day in Glen Coe and no precipitation. A cloud inversion rolled in late in the day. Big easier gully lines are still intact in the coire, but most buttress routes are now very bare of snow and ice. I’ll add some photos to the ClimbNow Facebook page.

Four Days Based in Lochaber

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.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

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”.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

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.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

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.