Meall nan Tarmachan, Cairngorms and Glen Shee

On Wednesday I was out with John and a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering team of Alan, John and Neil climbing McKay’s Gully and descending Easy Gully on Cam Chreag. Older snow on the crag was refreezing, but windslab was building throughout the day on a strong south-westerly. Unfortunately, due to a user error on my part with my camera I don’t have any photos from Cam Chreag.

Looking down the lower part of Anvil Gully to Jim.

I then headed to Aviemore and met up with the Ashbourne/Balfron/Stonehaven team. On Thursday Jim and I headed to Creagan Cha-no and climbed Anvil Gully and True Blood, whilst Chicken, Murray, Nick and Rob ski toured in the Lurcher’s Burn area. Strong winds and snow on Thursday morning was forming windslab on North and East facing slopes and cornices were building noticeably.

The team above The Tiger this afternoon at Glen Shee.

Today, having been joined by Andy, we had a very pleasant day ski-ing at Glen Shee mostly in sunshine with low winds and generally good snow on the pistes. Away from pisted areas there was an icy crust on scoured slopes and windslab in sheltered areas.

Meall nan Tarmachan

Mike and I were out on Meall nan Tarmachan today with a Falkirk Outdoors Ski Touring team of Alan and Caroline. We shared the minibus with Craig and the High Tops team who changed their objective for the day based on the condition of the road above the Ben Lawers parking and took in Meall Corranaich and Meall a’Choire Leith.

Mike, Alan and Caroline just before starting to skin up on the ascent.

There was snow cover down to 400m. We parked at the parking area at 470m and the road had hard pack snow and ice at this level. We were able to skin up from near where the Meall nan Tarmachan path leaves the track and skinned up east of the path before cutting back to the ridge and heading up to pt. 923m. We skied down a short way on to the east face on deep, but heavy wet snow, before returning to the col north of pt. 923m. A good descending traverse on the west face allowed us to return to the ridge, which we then skied down to the track.

Alan descending in poor visibility.

The snow (and turf) was saturated at all levels. Generally good cover on most aspects above 700m with North and East slopes having deep accumulations. Much easier travelling on skis today than on foot, but the wet and heavy snow made turning difficult.

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.

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.

Ski Mountaineering in the Lawers Range

The Falkirk High Tops Team and I have had a great day out today in the Lawers Range. From the high parking, we climbed to the base of Cam Chreag with the intention of climbing one of the gully routes on this buttress. However, as lots of debris was falling off the crag, we decided not to do this. Instead, we climbed steeply via a gully to the east of the crag to gain the ridge and summit of Meall Garbh.

After a lunch break on the summit, we had a brilliant descent on powder of Coire Riadhailt to the 650 metre contour. We then ascended back to the ridge before skiing back to the van.

We observed lots of recent avalanche activity on easterly and southerly aspects. Many more photos of the day can be seen on the facebook page.

Relaxing in the sun following a brilliant ski descent of Coire Riadhailt.

Relaxing in the sun following a brilliant ski descent of Coire Riadhailt.

 

 

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.

Cam Chreag, Meall nan Tarmachan

Out with Nettle yesterday, 16/02/12, on Cam Chreag. We climbed climbed a line in the area of Spaewife. Having started up Spaewife to the belay at the wall we moved “up and left” as per the second pitch description. However, this didn’t lead to the corner and it seems like the description should say “up and right”. The moves up and left involved an exciting rising leftwards traverse using two parallel turf ledges and was very worthwile. We finished up and slightly left joining a steepening groove line to finish. Hard to grade, but we felt about V,4. We walked out via Meall Garbh and Meall nan Tarmachan.

Nettle above the rising traverse

Nettle above the rising traverse

The turf was very well frozen at crag height and warthogs were required for both runners and belays. The snow was firmish at the start of the day, but softened up throughout in the thawing conditions. There’s pretty good snow cover from just above the carpark height. By the end of the day the snow was soft and saturated at all levels.

The final steepening groove. Photo courtesy of J.Foden.

The final steepening groove. Photo courtesy of J.Foden.

East Ridge of Beinn a’ Chaorainn

Today I have been out with Neil, Peter, Linda, John, Tom, Doug and Gary from the Falkirk High Tops Team. We climbed the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. There is still large amounts of snow on the ridge and the turf is well frozen above 800 metres. From the top of the ridge, large wet cornices were visible around the corries.

Craig Mclaren was out in the Meall nan Tarmachan area. He reports that there is still plenty of snow for ski touring but it is currently very wet.

Neil and Peter climbing on the East Ridge.

Neil and Peter climbing on the East Ridge.

Cam Chreag Topos

A few people have contacted me recently asking if I could put the Cam Chreag, Meall nan Tarmachan, topos up on the blog again. I’d put them up previously, but since the blog has changed format apparently they’ve been difficult to download.

The topos are below, click on them to see a larger version. The majority of climbs on the crag are reliant on turf and the crag needs to be well frozen both to preserve the turf and for an enjoyable climbing experience. A selection of turf protection is very useful for all but the easiest routes. I’ve climbed all the routes shown on the topos and can vouch for the grades with the usual warning that grades can vary significantly with conditions in winter, routes can change over time and anyone climbing the routes shown should have the relevant experience and assess the route themselves on the day. Additionally, if you’re not used to Southern Highland type turfy routes it’s definitely worth dropping a grade or two until you’ve got a feel for the style of climbing. There are other routes on the crag, which can be found in The Arran, Arrochar and Southern Highlands guidebook and in the SMC Journals.

Cam Chreag South Face Topo