West and East

The last three days Doug and I have been based in Fort William. On Saturday Doug had a somewhat arduous journey up, but we decided to make the most of the good weather forecast and climbed The Dragon’s Tooth (the traverse of Sgorr a’Chaolais on Sgorr Dhonuill, Beinn a’Bheithir). We chose this as there was a lot of fresh snow, which had fallen mostly on south-westerly or westerly winds and we felt a ridge with a potentially scoured side would be a good option. This proved to be the case, although quite a lot of trail breaking was required to get to the ridge and careful route selection was required along the ridge and in descent.

Doug topping out on Hidden Chimney today.

Overnight and in to Sunday there was an easterly component in the wind and there was redistribution of old snow and fresh snow before the wind swung around towards the west again accompanied by more snow fall. This made for some very tricky snow conditions with very easy shears of wind slab on lots of aspects and in pockets due to cross loading on almost every aspect. Doug and I had two attempts to get in to climbing lines on very different aspects in Glen Nevis, but turned around both times at around 300m as we were not happy with the snow stability on our approaches to the climbs. However, we made the most of the day by going to The Ice Factor to look at steep ice climbing technique, talking a lot about avalanche awareness and avoidance (thanks to Rich for letting us sit in on his avalanche lecture), oh and visiting a couple of cafes.

Today we headed east to the Cairngorms to avoid the worst of the weather and found some good climbing conditions on Haston Line and Hidden Chimney on The Mess of Pottage in Coire an t-Sneachda. The crag was very busy today, but teams were working well together and there was some good climbing to be had. Conditions are changing again tomorrow and over the next few days, so take care with route choice if you’re out and about.

 

The Mamores

Ivor, Nettle and I spent today in The Mamores taking in some of their remaining Munros. We started from Glen Nevis and went up Mullach nan Coirean via it’s long and pleasant North-East Ridge. After taking in it’s South-East Top we then headed over Stob Ban, Stob Coire a’Mhail and The Devils Ridge to Sgurr a’Mhaim before dropping down it’s North-East Ridge to return to Glen Nevis.

Ivor and Nettle on the summit of Mullach nan Coirean.

Ivor and Nettle on the summit of Mullach nan Coirean.

The wind was a strong South-Westerly and mostly at our backs although care was required on exposed ground and particularly on The Devil’s Ridge. The forecast was for snow and sleet at height, but we only experienced some hail and a little sleet, but plenty of rain particularly later in the day, and we didn’t need axes or crampons. Not the most pleasant of conditions, but good to be out on the excellent ridges of The Mamores.

Polldubh

This week I am rock climbing with a team from Ballachulish. After spending yesterday at the Ice Factor, today we visited Glen Nevis and climbed at Polldubh.

We spent the day looking at trad climbing and lead climbing skills on routes such as The Gutter and Tear before, during and after heavy rain showers. Many of the routes in the Alp area of Polldubh were drying quickly during the dry periods and  some were possible during the rain.

Stacey and Mark belaying on The Gutter.

Stacey and Mark belaying on The Gutter.

Lochaber High Tops Weekend

On Saturday and Sunday Steve and I were out in Lochaber with a Falkirk Community trust high tops team of Alec, Bear, Isobel, Linda, Lorn and Sandra . On Satuday we drove up to the road end in Glen Nevis and headed up Aonach Beag. Recent rockfall has lead to the closure of the Nevis Gorge path ( more information can be found on the John Muir Trust website here:  https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/assets/000/001/867/JMT_Steall_path_closed_red_v2_original.pdf ). Therefore, we had to change our planned route slightly and climbed up to the bealach north of Meall Cumhann, dropping down to the Allt Coire Guibhsachan, which was easily crossed, and then ascending the South-West ridge of Aonach Beag.

The team in sunshine on top of Aonach Mor.

The team in sunshine on top of Aonach Mor.

We walked on from Aonach Beag to Aonach Mor before retracing our steps a short way and then descending steeply west to the bealach at the head of Coire Guibhsachan. From there we descended the coire and returned over the Bealach Cumhann. The weather was glorious on Saturday with only light winds, sunshine and a little high cloud.

In cloud on the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

In cloud on the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

After a good night at the very well appointed Glen Nevis Campsite we returned over the Bealach Cumhann again to the head of Coire Guibhsachan, where we were treated to a view of a Golden Eagle. From here we climbed the fine East Ridge of Carn Mor Dearg. Unfortunately the cloud rolled in at this point and the views disappeared for most of the rest of the day. We then descended to the Carn Mor Dearg Arête and followed this to Ben Nevis. A descent of the normal route with the rain arriving for the last hour or so brought us down to the Youth Hostel where Steve picked us up.

Two excellent days in Lochaber walking up four of the ten highest Munros by interesting routes.

Three Days Out West

I am just back from an excellent three days on the West Coast with John and Harvey.

On Thursday we traversed the Aonach Eagach looking at skills that allow us to move quickly on this type of terrain. We still needed crampons for the whole route.

After staying in Glen Nevis on Thursday night we climbed on Ben Nevis on Friday. We had a good long day first climbing Fawlty Towers before descending Tower Ridge and East Gully to our lunch stop. After a quick bite to eat we climbed the Waterfall Gully icefall which was in great condition before making an abseil descent. The Ben was busy with lots of teams having a great time.

Yesterday we climbed on the West Face of Aonach Mor. We climbed Western Rib starting direct via an icefall at about IV 4. The route was in excellent condition. Lots of teams were enjoying Golden Oldie.

John below the icefall we climbed on Western Rib.

John below the icefall we climbed on Western Rib.

John climbing ice on Fawlty Towers.

John climbing ice on Fawlty Towers.

Two days in Lochaber

I have been out in the Lochaber area for the last two days with the Falkirk High Tops Team. Yesterday, we began at the top of the Aonach Mor gondola station before traversing underneath the west face and climbing towards Carn Dearg Meadhonach. To gain the summit we climbed part of the East Ridge but also a snow gully on its north flank to make the most of the snow conditions. From the summit we descended to the CIC hut to overnight.

Overnight, heavy snow fell on strong winds. Therefore, we chose not to climb Ledge Route but instead traversed the CMD Arete before summiting the Ben and descending the Glen Nevis. This two day expedition gives a great route which is achievable in a variety of conditions.

A short video will soon be posted of the CMD Arete on the climbnow facebook page,

Tom climbing on Carn Dearg Meadhonach.

Tom climbing on Carn Dearg Meadhonach.

Bob, Linda and John on the CMD Arete.

Bob, Linda and John on the CMD Arete.

Stob Coire nan Lochan

Neil, Patricia and I headed up in to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe today whilst John and Iona went for some rock climbing in Glen Nevis.

The visibility in the coire was very poor and I think we climbed one of the direct starts to Dorsal Arete before abbing down the right hand side of the buttress and back in to the coire although I’m still not 100% sure. Anyway we climbed a couple of good pitches at about grade III before going through how to abseil off a route.

Neil and Patricia somewhere in the clag

Neil and Patricia somewhere in the clag

There was some fresh wet snow above 800m and this had drifted to give 10 to 15cm of new snow on top of the older firmer snow in sheltered locations. Above freezing and cloudy in the coire, although exposed turf was still generally well frozen.

East Ridge of Stob Ban

A narrow section on the East Ridge of Stob Ban.

A narrow section on the East Ridge of Stob Ban.

The team and I headed to Glen Nevis today and climbed the East Ridge of Stob Ban. The snow underfoot on the approach to this route was safe. However, it is worth choosing a suitable line to avoid being exposed to cornice collapse from the corrie to the south of the ridge.

The ridge itself was in excellent condition. The turf was useable above 800 metres and the snow was in good condition. The exit slope was well scoured.

There is more than one way to descend from the top of the ridge. Thought should be given beforehand to this as at the moment there are very large cornices on a number of aspects. These could be difficult to negotiate in poor visibility.