The Cairngorms

The last three days John and I have been climbing in the Cairngorms with a Falkirk Outdoors Mixed Climbing Team of Alan, B and Devon with Robin making a guest appearance today. We hit a pretty good weather window and climbed in Coire an t-Sneachda, on Stag Rocks and on Creagan Cha-no. Various teams climbed The Seam; Goat Track Gully and it’s right hand start (on thin but climbable ice); Albino; Purge; Chimney Rib with the alternative start; Anvil Gully; The Blood is Strong and Cutty Sark.

Me, B and Devon on Cutty Sark today.

The turf was well frozen throughout the three days on the routes we climbed. There wasn’t a lot of old snow around, but what was there was good neve. Fresh snow was being moved by strong winds in to sheltered locations, generally north and east facing. The fresh snow was unconsolidated and wind slab was forming in sheltered areas. The lack of much consolidated snow means there are some loose blocks around and care is required. Having said all that the temperatures are warming up, so things will be changing rapidly. There are lots of photos on The ClimbNow Facebook page.

Cairngorms and Duntelchaig

I’m just back from four days based in Aviemore with Alex and Doug. The weather wasn’t particularly helpful, but we got something good done on each day.

On Sunday we headed to Lurcher’s Crag to avoid the crowds and descended South Gully before climbing a thin, but good, ice in Eskimo Gully on Lurcher’s Crag.

Doug and Alex approaching a belay on Eskimo Gully.

On Monday we climbed Captain Fairweather and Flood Warning on Creagan Cha-no to avoid the forecast high winds. Most of the rockier routes were black, but these lines had plenty of soft snow and very hard turf. On Tuesday with the freezing level above the summits and quite a bit of moisture in the air we climbed a somewhat soggy Central Gully and the bottom two pitches of Goat Track Gully in Coire an t-Sneachda.

Alex and Doug in Central Gully.

Today with freezing levels above the summits again we opted for some dry cragging at Pinnacle Crag, Duntelchaig. The guys climbed nine routes up to Severe 4b in big boots and in Doug’s case without removing his gloves!

Coire an t-Sneachda

On Monday and Tuesday this week I had a great couple of days with David in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms. On Monday we climbed Red Gully and Goat Track Gully in sunny and calm conditions with great views.

David and me at the stance below Red Gully on Monday.

On Tuesday we climbed Invernookie and descended Fiacaill Ridge before dropping back in to the coire from the col. There’d been some snow overnight, which continued on and off through the day and careful route choice to and from the route was required. All these routes are getting somewhat chopped out/thin in places, but gave good climbing all be it possibly harder than guidebook grade at times. There was a fair amount of new snow overnight Monday and through Tuesday on south-easterly through south to south-westerly winds. This was forming damp slab lower down, but was dry higher up and was building cornices. There was some avalanche activity in the coire on Tuesday. Despite the new snow steeper buttress routes in the coire were generally fairly black.

Cairngorms and Beinn a’Chaorainn

Yesterday John and I were out in a fairly wild Coire an t-Sneachda with a Falkirk Community Trust winter climbing team of Andy, Graham, Gregor and Pete. We opted for Goat Track Gully, which had some good ice up to the crux corner and was sheltered from the winds in parts. There was a lot of snow being moved around by strong southerly winds; it was difficult to tell how much was new snow, but it was accumulating in sheltered locations. Craig and a winter skills group shared the mini-bus and seemed to have a good day despite the strong winds and spindrift.

Pete collecting spindrift on a belay on Goat Track Gully.

Pete collecting spindrift on a belay on Goat Track Gully.

Today Andy and I chose The East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn as the winds were due to be strong again and either south-westerly or westerly. It rained below 500m all day and above 800m snow was accumulating fast in sheltered locations.

John bridging up an optional groove near the top of Goat Track Gully.

John bridging up an optional groove near the top of Goat Track Gully.

We climbed the ridge taking in as many of the by-passable difficult sections as possible. The turf was well frozen above 800m and loose blocks generally well frozen in, which allowed us lots of excellent little mixed pitches. We topped out into the wind at the summit cairn and descended quickly on the scoured side of the hill.

Andy on The East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn.

Andy on The East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn.

Coire an t-Sneachda

John, Harvey and I were out in Coire an t-Sneachda today. We climbed Fiacaill Couloir descended The Goat Track and climbed Goat Track Gully, before heading around via pt. 1141m and back in to Coire Cas.

Harvey on one of the broken sections of Fiacaill Couloir

Harvey on one of the broken sections of Fiacaill Couloir

Fiacaill Couloir is now broken in a couple of places and a few steps on rock are required. Goat Track Gully, requires care to enter, but there is still good ice most of the way up the corner.

Harvey in Goat Track Gully

Harvey in Goat Track Gully

Temperatures were above freezing all day with a slow thaw ongoing. Snow on the routes was a mixture of firm old snow and a damp, softer more recent layer in sheltered locations. The turf was still well fozen where exposed on both routes. Care is required with loose blocks given the thaw and there are a number of bergschrund features to be negotiated. Cornices are much reduced, but should still be considered in route selection. Fresh South-Easterly winds on the tops today with sunshine and no precipitation.

John and Harvey with Fiacaill Buttress and Ridge behind

John and Harvey with Fiacaill Buttress and Ridge behind

Coire an-t Sneachda

We left the North West Highlands this morning and on the way south stopped off at the Cairngorms for a quick route. After a pleasent walk into Coire an-t Sneachda, we climbed Goat Track Gully before descending the Goat Track. The gully was in good condition with ice bulges on each of the three pitches.

The Coire was very busy. All the gully and fault lines are still complete. Care is required in the current thaw conditions. For example, large amounts of loose rubble are present at the top of Red Gully and there are large wet cornices above the Trident Gullies.

Paul and Neil climbing Goat Track Gully.

Paul and Neil climbing Goat Track Gully.