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!

Lurcher’s Crag (Creag an Leth-Choin)

David and I had a great day climbing K9. It was good value for the grade today (Monday) with a tricky wall on the line we took on the mixed section and the icy corner at the top having a couple of steep sections on good ice.

David at a belay high on K9.

We chose not to climb Window Gully today; it looked in good condition but we decided to minimise time under the right hand end of the icicle fringe, which was catching the sun in the morning. There was quite a lot of soft snow and breakable crust on the less steep sections of the route. A strong south-westerly wind was moving snow on to lee slopes as we left. Looking at the forecasts conditions will be changing considerably tomorrow.

Gearr Aonach, Lurchers and Ciste

This week I am based at Ballachulish. On Sunday the lads and I climbed Zig Zags before traversing Gearr Aonach and dropping back into the Glen via SCNL. The route was in good condition. Rapid transportation of snow was taking place with large areas of windslab and cornices quickly building.

We have been over in the Cairngorms for the last two days. Yesterday we visited the Southern Sector of Lurchers Crag. After descending South Gully we climbed Pinnacle Ridge. The mixed routes were in good condition being scoured and the turf well frozen.

Today, the ski road was not open. Therefore, we walked from the snowgate to Ciste Crag where we climbed a route at about III 5. A number of teams appeared behind us later in the day and enjoyed a number of different  lines on the crag. The turf was frozen and after last nights weather the crag was holding a good quantity of snow.

Cairngorm Mixed

The last three days John and I have been based in Aviemore with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Cairngorm Mixed Climbing Trip team of Gregor, Linda, Joanne and Tzvetie. The thaws and refreezes over the weekend meant that although a lot of buttress routes were looking black, where old snow remained the climbing was excellent with generally first time placements in snow ice. There were pretty strong mostly south-westerly or westerly winds throughout and there’s been some fresh snow with areas of wind slab developing.

Gregor and Tzvetie on Invernookie in excellent condition on Monday.

On Monday we all climbed Invernookie on the Fiacaill Buttress in Coire an t-Sneachda. On Tuesday John, Linda and Joanne climbed Fingers Ridge, whilst Gregor, Tzvetie and I climbed Spiral Gully with the very good direct finish before battling out in strong winds. Today we headed to Lurcher’s Crag and after descending South Gully Gregor and I climbed the direct version of Drystane Ridge, which gave some interesting climbing for the II in our guide book (further research revealed that it’s only that grade if you avoid the bottom section). John, Linda and Joanne climbed Collie’s Ridge. It’s worth mentioning that none of the ice lines that we could see on Lurcher’s Crag were formed.

A Report from the East and West

I have been out the mountains the last three days. On Tuesday Laura, Euan and I visited Cha-no in the Cairngorms. Conditions were excellent on Anvil Gully and Short Ridge. Some windslab was building in Recovery Gully.

We visited Lurchers Crag on Wednesday. The top of South Gully looked fairly loaded on one side we abseiled into Quinn and climbed back out. The conditions were not as good as on Cha-no. The turf was perfect on Cha-no but suspect on Lurchers.

Laura and Euan at the top of Lurchers.

Laura and Euan at the top of Lurchers.

Today the Falkirk High Tops Team and I were at the Cobbler where we climbed Chockstone Gully and Great Gully. Conditions on Chockstone Gully were Good. Great Gully is currently much harder than the guidebook grade.

The turf on the Cobbler is not frozen apart from where exposed to the wind.

Paul climbing in Great Gully.

Paul climbing in Great Gully.

Lots more photos on the facebook page.

Lurchers Crag

The lads and I had a great day today in the Cairngorms climbing on Lurchers Crag. We descended South Gully before climbing Pinnacle Ridge. The conditions and weather were excellent. This section of the crag was quiet except for one other team. The other section of the crag with the ice routes was however rumoured to be very busy.

Climbing on Pinnacle Ridge.

Climbing on Pinnacle Ridge.

Sneachda and Lurchers

Yesterday I went to a very busy Coire an t-Sneachda. As we arrived late due to our drive from west the popular routes all had team(s) on them. Therefore we climbed a route in the Forty Thieves area. This gave a good sixty metre II/III ice pitch followed by pleasant mixed ground. The crags were white and everything was well frozen.

Today to avoid the crowds we visited Lurchers Crag. After descending South Gully we climbed Pinnacle Ridge in good conditions. We were the only climbers on the crag.

Climbing Pinnacle Ridge.

Climbing Pinnacle Ridge.

Quinn, Lurcher’s Crag

Wilson and Graham climbing the upper section of Quinn.

Wilson and Graham climbing the upper section of Quinn.

Neil at the base of Quinn.

Neil at the base of Quinn.

I have been out today with the Falkirk High Tops Team in the Cairngorms. Neil, Lucy, John, Graham, Wilson and I climbed Quinn on Lurcher’s Crag.

We accessed the route via abseil from anchors I had spotted when I was there last week. The snow and ice in the gully were in excellent condition. Lots of snow has melted from the surrounding ledges leaving loose rocks which require care.

Collies Ridge was also in winter condition. The harder routes such as Irish Wolfhound and Collies Route were black.

Five Days Climbing in the Cairngorms

For the past five days I have been at Glenmore Lodge climbing with Paul and Spencer. We had a great week finding some brilliant climbing conditions. These are detailed below. In addition to this report, there are many photos on the ClimbNow facebook page showing the conditions.

Spencer exiting Anvil Gully.

Spencer exiting Anvil Gully.

On Monday, the lads and I climbed a steep rib to the right of Fiacaill Buttress before gaining and climbing Fiacaill Ridge. The ridge was in excellent condition and reports from today suggest it has improved.

The weather on Tuesday was fairly wild. We visited Creagan Cha-no and climbed Anvil Gully in brilliant conditions. Lots of useful ice could be found on the route.

With some sunshine forecast on Wednesday, we decided to visit the west facing Lurcher’s Crag to top up the tans. We descended South Gully before climbing back out of Quinn which was in great condition. A report from today suggests that Central Gully is also still in good shape.

On the way out we could see Coire an Lochain. The cornices still appear to be massive.

Strong winds during the week had moved a lot of snow around to produce unstable windslab in sheltered spots. Therefore, on Thursday, we abseiled down Jenga Buttress on Creagan Cha-no before climbing back out. Dangerous cornices and windslab were present above routes such as Dukes Rib, Recovery Gully and Chimney Rib. Many of the buttresses are now black.

Today, we returned to Coire an t-Sneachda which was very busy. We did however have a great time climbing Terms of Endearment and the upper section of Aladdin’s Mirror on brilliant neve. Many routes on Aladdin’s buttress are in great shape as are a number on Fiacaill Buttress. The cornices on Mess of Pottage, the Trident Gullies and Fluted Buttress are still huge and no teams were on these areas.

Paul abseiling down South Gully on Lurcher's Crag.

Paul abseiling down South Gully on Lurcher’s Crag.



Lurcher’s Crag

Pamela and I went through to Lurcher’s Crag (Creag an Leth-choin) today to find it surprisingly busy with several teams already on North Gully and Central Gully. It was thawing at crag height, so we decided to nip up the Right Hand Icefall at the North end of the crag rather than do one of the mixed routes. This gave a couple of good pitches seperated by a couple of easier rambling ones and was a good option for the conditions.

Pamela leading the final pitch

Above freezing at crag height all day with a few hours of sleet/drizzle in the morning. The ice on the route was generally good with the odd hollow area. Any unconsolidated snow was becoming saturated. Turf was frozen at crag height, but where exposed to the rain was softening up. Some snow sloughing off the rocks. Very light winds.