Glen Coe

Euan and I were out today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Mountaineering Team of Alan, Lewis and May. The programmed route was Dinnertime Buttress, as it can be done as a summer or winter scramble. This was definitely a good option early in the season as today it was a sheltered summer scramble with only the very odd patch of snow high up.

Euan, Lewis and Alan on an optional pitch near the top of Aonach Dubh.

The thaw earlier in the week has significantly reduced the snow cover in Glen Coe and views into Stob Coire nan Lochan showed only Broad Gully looking complete at the moment. The turf was firm near the top of Aonach Dubh. There was only light precipitation on a southerly wind whilst we were on the hill, but it was raining hard at road level as we drove south. This will have been falling as snow high up.

Stob Coire nan Lochan

Euan, David and I were in Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe today. There’s been a lot of new snow fall at height over the last few days, we came across new deposits of 40cm and more. Additionally the winds have moved around and there will be old wind slab under new deposits in some locations as well as new, generally soft, wind slab and this is all sitting on an old hard base of snow on lots of aspects. We saw avalanche activity that ranged from spontaneous slab releases, with a very obvious fresh crown wall under the Twisting Gully area; point releases from snow/rime sloughing off the crags in the sun and human triggered releases of slabs. Careful route choice is definitely required in Glen Coe at the moment.

David above the routes.

We took a precautionary approach and followed a low angled line around above the crags and abseiled/lowered in to climb Pinnacle Buttress Groove and a line to the right of Pinnacle Buttress, North-East Face at about Tech 5. I wouldn’t have wanted to approach these routes from below today and access from above required care. There are some very sizable cornices around and these were building with wind blown snow today. There was less fresh snow during the day than forecast and we spent most of the day in glorious sunshine with amazing views across a very snowy West Highlands.

Stob Coire nan Lochan today with avalanche activity visible below much of the crag.

4 Routes in Glencoe

Levin and I have been out in Glencoe for the last two days. Yesterday we climbed Curved Ridge and Crowberry Tower on Buachaille Etive Mor. The route was in excellent condition. We descended via a snow bollard into Coire na Tulaich.

Today we climbed Dinnertime Buttress on Aonach Dubh, Dorsal Arete in SCNL and descended Broad Gully in SCNL. Dinnertime Buttress didn’t require crampons until beyond the crux chimney. Dorsal Arete was in the best condition I have ever seen it in. Broad Gully was descended on good snow (although there was some shallow windslab).

Lots more photos on the facebook page.

Exiting Dorsal Arete.

Pearly Gates and Oganach Chimney

Yesterday a team and I from Ballachulish climbed Pearly Gates in Stob Coire nan Lochan. We climbed the route on good snow ice.

Today, we climbed Oganach Chimney which is on the north side of Am Bodach (the start of the Aonach Eagach). This route was first climbed in December 2017 by Andy Nelson and Andy Hogarth. It gave a nice grade III in the current conditions. The turf was frozen today however the snow was not. It was very, very wet. The route will be excellent once it freezes again.

These two routes have two things in common; very few runners and few belays. If you find a good one, take it!

Climbing on Pearly Gates.

Around about Langsam

Today I have been in Stob Coire nan Lochan with a team from Ballachulish. There is still a good number of routes in condition and today the coire was quiet.

We climbed a line in the area around Langsam. The line we climbed was about IV 4 in standard. The ice was good for the axes but not for screws.

Looking up the ice pitch we climbed.

Boomerang and Broad

Boomerang and Broad Gullies in Stob Coire nan Lochan today. Both routes were in good condition.

Currently there are lots of routes to do up to grade IV in good condition in SCNL.

Starting up Boomerang Gully.

Glen Coe

John and I were out today in Glen Coe with a Falkirk Community Trust Mountaineering team of Devon, Paul, Pete and Pete. We climbed Dinnertime Buttress with a few fun variation pitches before descending via the Stob Coire nan Lochan path.

Paul on the approach to Dinnertime Buttress with the Aonach Eagach behind.

Winds were low during the day with no new fresh snow. The turf was not well frozen until over 800m and we climbed without crampons for the whole route on snowed up rock on the steeper sections. Ice is forming in Glen Coe, but none of it looked climbable as yet. We didn’t encounter any older consolidated snow from before the thaw, there may be some higher up, which will now be under a layer of fresh unconsolidated snow.

Pinnacle Buttress Groove

Today the team and I returned to Stob Coire nan Lochan. Here we climbed Pinnacle Buttress Groove in good conditions with nicely frozen turf. Teams on Summit Buttress also reported the turf to be useable.

Lots of evidence of wind transportation of the recent snowfall. There was some minor releases in the corrie as the temperature rose during the day.

Nearing the top of Pinnacle Buttress Groove.

Nearing the top of Pinnacle Buttress Groove.

Dorsal Arete and Broad Gully

The team from Ballachulish and I headed into Stob Coire nan Lochan today. Here we climbed Dorsal Arete before descending Broad Gully.

The turf on the route improved with height. Broad Gully was full of new powder snow which had not been wind affected.

The winds during the day blew from many different directions, not just westerly as forecast. Therefore windslab may be found on a number of different aspects.

The lads on Dorsal Arete.

The lads on Dorsal Arete.

Cairngorms and Glen Coe

On Saturday and Sunday I was out with Andy and Rob and the weekend proved to be a microcosm of this winter season in that we had cold snowy conditions with quick changes to rain and freezing levels above the summits and back again.

Rob exiting Anvil Gully on Saturday morning.

Rob exiting Anvil Gully on Saturday morning with the Anvil block behind.

We met at Aviemore on Saturday to make the most of the later arrival of the warmer temperatures in the East and headed to Creagan Coire a’Cha-no in cold sunny conditions. After abseiling in we climbed Anvil Gully and as the snow was now starting to get soggy we then climbed the rocky Duke’s Rib before heading down and across to Fort William.

A damp scramble up The Zig Zags late Sunday morning.

A damp scramble up The Zig Zags late Sunday morning.

The weather was then rain above the summits through the night and in to Sunday morning with the freezing level forecast to drop to 800m on Sunday afternoon. Given this we opted for a late start on Sunday and climbed up on to Gearr Aonach via the scramble of The Zig Zags. After this we walked along to Stob Coire nan Lochan and climbed part way up Broad Gully on soft snow. By this time the temperature had dropped and things were starting to firm up and occasional snow showers were falling. We climbed out of Broad Gully on snow to gain Dorsal Arete before it’s crux rocky fin and climbed up this to the top before descending Broad Gully. This worked well as a good mountaineering day and had the added benefit of taking in the fin, which Andy and I had bypassed on a previous occasion due to high winds.

Rob and Andy on the crux fin of Dorsal Arete.

Rob and Andy on the crux fin of Dorsal Arete.

There was a dusting of fresh snow above about 800m as I drove through Glen Coe this morning, but this is likely to change through the day with freezing levels falling and snow forecast to lower levels.