Glen Coe

B, Lance and I were out in Glen Coe today enjoying the sunshine. Only major north and east facing features are holding snow, but what snow is there was very firm neve today unless it was in direct sunlight all day. There’d been a frost from the valley up and turf was hard and ice was forming in places.

B and Lance at a stance on Dorsal Arete.

We climbed Dorsal Arete on hard neve and dry rock and then took in the summits of Stob Coire nan Lochan, Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach before descending via the Lost Valley. A great day to be out.

Lance and B on the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

A Week of Winter Skills and Mountaineering

I’m just back from an excellent week of winter skills and mountaineering with Ali and Liz. We were based in Glen Nevis, which gave us good access to lots of venues and avoided some of the worst of the weather other areas of Scotland have been having recently.

Ali and Liz topping out of Broad Gully in strong winds.

Ali and Liz topping out of Broad Gully in strong winds.

There wasn’t a huge amount of snow around at the start of the week and on Monday we headed high to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe and used Broad Gully to look at boot and crampon work. The snow only really started just below the start of the gully proper, but was good firm old snow with just the odd area of new snow on the side of the gully sheltered from the strong East winds.

Liz and Ali above a steeper section of Number 5 Gully.

Liz and Ali above a steeper section of Number 5 Gully.

Tuesday saw us on Ben Nevis and after the thaw of the weekend and then Easterlies we took the opportunity to climb Number Five Gully, which is often best avoided as the upper bowl collects a lot of snow and is prone to avalanche. In the conditions on Tuesday it gave an excellent long climb (460m), through great scenery, on good neve with just the odd delicate step around holes where water was running below.

Learning the joys of turfy mixed climbing on the East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn.

Learning the joys of turfy mixed climbing on the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn.

Ali and Liz had now climbed a lot of metres of snow, so a more mixed route seemed appropriate and on Wednesday we ascended the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. The ridge was scoured and there wasn’t much old snow, but the turf was very well frozen from below the start of the climbing, the rock was rimed and some light fresh snow fell during the day on strong South-Easterlies. The ridge gives plenty of options for variation and tackling harder or easier steps.

Liz and Ali navigating around in the white room.

Liz and Ali navigating around in the white room.

A sore foot and a poor forecast for Thursday morning saw us driving across to the Cairngorms to look at navigation, getting shelter in winter and continuing the avalanche awareness and avoidance that was a theme throughout the week. We’d looked at some nav the day before and in winds gusting 60mph, driving snow from the car park and very limited visibility Ali and Liz did a great job of navigating me around the hill.

Sron na Lairig and Stob Coire Sgreamhach in morning sunshine.

Sron na Lairig and Stob Coire Sgreamhach in morning sunshine.

The winds finally eased today and with a frost overnight and freezing temperatures through the day we had a superb outing on Sron na Lairig. There’d been fresh snow down to around 700m on South-East and then Westerly winds, so a ridge was a good place to be. There was fresh powder on some sections of the ridge and a bit of care and clearing was required. We finished the week with a wander up to the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach to get some amazing views, before descending back via the Lairig Eilde. I’ve put some more photos from the week on the Climbnow Facebook page.

Liz and Ali on top of Stob Coire Sgreamhach.

Liz and Ali on top of Stob Coire Sgreamhach.