Loch Etive and Creach Bheinn

Jen & I are just back from a few days staying near Taynuilt with friends. On Sunday the two Jens and I went for a low level walk in the Inverawe/Loch Etive area, whilst the rest of the group went up on to Ben Cruachan encountering snow from around 700m.

Looking towards the summit of Creach Bheinn on Monday.

On Monday I had a bimble up Creach Bheinn in Glen Creran. The new hydro access track along the Allt Buidhe made for a quick approach. I was on hard old snow from around 700m and descended via Meall Garbh and a Grade I gully in the coire to the west of Meall Garbh’s summit, which made for a quick day. Various road cycling and low level walking also went on. It snowed overnight on strong east/north-east winds and there was a dusting of fresh down to about 300m near the coast this morning.

Cam Chreag and the Tarmachan Ridge

Today Linda, Graeme and I headed to Cam Chreag on Meall nan Tarmachan’s west top, Meall Garbh. We were hoping some of the bigger gullies had collected and held on to enough snow to give us a mountaineering day.

Graeme and Linda in Easy Gully Cam Chreag.

Graeme and Linda in Easy Gully Cam Chreag.

We soloed Cauldron Gully on broken snow patches and grass, dropped down the easy descent line to the east of the main crag and then soloed Easy Gully, which had one minor break. After that we walked up the ridge to Meall Garbh before taking in the narrow section of the Tarmachan Ridge and on to Beinn nan Eachan and Creag na Caillich.

There were soft snow patches from circa 450m, but none were extensive and snow cover even at over 1000m was limited to collection features. Snow in the gullies was generally uniform soft and sugary with just the odd patch of harder old snow around. We didn’t need crampons at any point. No significant precipitation whilst we were out, but damp in the cloud and a fresh south-westerly/westerly wind.

Loch Treig

Sometimes at this time of year when winter conditions have temporarily disappeared it’s good to just get out to blow some cobwebs away and get some hill miles into the legs. That’s what I was up to today.

Stob Coire Sgriodain from pt. 958m.

Stob Coire Sgriodain from pt. 958m.

I headed to Fersit near Loch Treig and ascended Stob Coire Sgriodain via Sron na Garbh-bheinne. I then continued on to Meall Garbh before heading back north to Chno Dearg. Rather than head straight back towards Fersit I decided to complete the watershed by taking in Meall Chaorach and Creag Dhubh before returning to Fersit. The going was quite rough and boggy in places, particularly after Chno Dearg.

There were just a few patches of old snow around and a little wet fresh snow above 950m. Winds were westerly around 40mph in the morning, but dropping during the day and there were showers on and off falling as rain to above 1050m during the day.

Meall nan Tarmachan Ski Mountaineering

John, Emanuelle, Alan and I had a great day out ski-mountaineering with Falkirk Community Trust today. I’d been on the Tarmachan Ridge earlier in the week and new what snow conditions were like, so we headed to Meall nan Tarmachan.

Skinning up the East face of Meall nan Tarmachan

Skinning up the East face of Meall nan Tarmachan

A twenty minute walk took us from the minibus to snow patches on the East face, which we were able to link together for some steep skinning to gain the higher bowl. We skinned up through this and eventually had to don crampons and put skis on our back for an easy gully that lead to the North-East ridge, which we followed to the summit.

John, Alan and Emanuelle ascending the easy gully

John, Alan and Emanuelle ascending the easy gully

A short walk from the summit allowed us to ski excellent spring snow towards Meall Garbh. From the col a traversing descent on the North side of the ridge allowed us to ski the bowl immediately North of Meall Garbh, which gave a superb descent to around 700m. After skinning back up we skied the gully on the South side of the col until we were able to traverse around to the col between Meall nan Tarmachan and pt. 923m. From here we were able to access the bowl on the East face, which gave another good descent finishing via the line of our initial skin up.

The initial easy ski descent from Meall nan Tarmachan

The initial easy ski descent from Meall nan Tarmachan

The snow on the South side of the hills and below 750m was soft and heavy. Above 750m and on the North and East side of the hill the ski-ing was on great spring snow, The turf on the ridge and high in the shade was very firm. Fresh South-Westerly winds, no precipitation whilst we were on the hill, good visibility and some sunny spells made for an excellent ski-mountaineering day.

Tarmachan Ridge

A great day on the Tarmachan Ridge above Loch Tay today with Billy, Cath, Derek, Duncan, Mary and Sarah from Falkirk High Tops Team. We joined the ridge East of Beinn nan Eachan and walked clockwise in order to ascend rather than descend the steepest section up on to Meall Garbh. We finished on Meall nan Tarmachan before descending it’s South Ridge.

The team with Meall Garbh behind

The team with Meall Garbh behind

Western slopes were largely scoured and bare, but East and North facing slopes are still holding a lot of snow above 600m. The snow was generally well consolidated and any areas of more recent accumulations encountered were beginning to bond well to the older snow.

Happy on the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan

Happy on the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan

The turf on the ridge was frozen hard and any high paths icy; crampons and axe were a definite requirement today. There are still some impressive cornice features and glide cracks around, which would need to be considered in thawing conditions. Just above freezing level at the summits today, with a very light Westerly breeze and no precipitation whilst we were out.

Cam Chreag, Meall nan Tarmachan

I was out today with Michael and Ronan who have plenty of hill walking background and are looking to get the skills to climb some winter gullies.

Michael topping out on Cauldron Gully

Michael topping out on Cauldron Gully

We headed to Meall nan Tarmachan as parts of Cam Chreag have a Southerly aspect and stood a chance of being relatively scoured. The approach was quite hard with areas of deep snow. Firstly we climbed Cauldron Gully finishing on to the lefthand ridge and looking at snow anchors and belays; turf pegs (Warthogs) and some rock gear. We then descended the easy angled gully from the Meall Garbh/Meall nan Tarmachan col taking the opportunity to build a snow bollard and practice abseiling off it. We then climbed a quick Grade III turf/rock pitch on the left of the descent gully and abseiled from an excellent thread to look at abseiling on a more realistic angle.

Ronan seconding the top pitch of Cauldron Gully

Ronan seconding the top pitch of Cauldron Gully

Lots of fresh snow on top of the older consolidated snow and it was snowing steadily above 600m as we left. Winds were light Southerlies and snow was accumulating even on Southerly aspects. Skis or snow shoes would definitely have speeded the approach and descent.