Cairngorm Ski Expedition

The Falkirk High Tops Team and I have just completed an awesome ski expedition in the Cairngorms. We began at Coire na Ciste before crossing the plateau and making a steep descent to the Saddle. This slope receives a lot of sun and it is worth being here early in the morning in the current weather conditions. After making a kit drop we descended to Loch Avon before making an ascent of Beinn Mheadhoin. In the fading light we had an excellent descent before returning to our equipment at the Saddle.

Under a clear sky we had an excellent, comfortable bivouac before an early start the next morning. The morning was clear as was the rest of the day with a cloud inversion in the valley. After breakfast we climbed to 1082, Coire Raibert and 1141 before skiing the Coire Cas Headwall. We then climbed back to the Ptarmigan Restaurant before descending the Ciste Gully back to the van.

There is still good cover in the Cairngorms for ski touring and the snow is currently in excellent condition. Lots more photos can be seen on the facebook page.

Pamela enjoying the first rays of sun at the bivouac.

Pamela enjoying the first rays of sun at the bivouac.

Glen Shiel and Skye

I got back late last night from a three day Falkirk Community Trust winter mountaineering and walking trip based in Plockton. We had excellent weather and conditions throughout making for some great days.

Jim, Wilson, Gareth, Joanne and Linda with The Forcan Ridge behind.

Jim, Wilson, Gareth, Joanne and Linda with The Forcan Ridge behind.

Having travelled up on the Thursday evening we headed for Glen Shiel on the first day with mountaineers heading for the classic Forcan Ridge on The Saddle and Craig and the walkers on the North Side of the Glen completing the three Munros of The Five Sisters.

John, climbing the main, but not crux, ice pitch of North Gully.

John, climbing the main, but not crux, ice pitch of North Gully.

On Saturday we made use of the excellent winter conditions on Skye with Craig and the walkers ascending Bruach na Frithe, whilst a team of John, me, Gareth, Jim, Joanne and Linda climbed North Gully on the Glaich Moire Face of Coire a’Mhadaidh. This gave a very good route. We got in at the bottom of the feature and soloed easy angled ground with tricky steps before climbing 7 fairly long pitches. Worth noting the guidebook length is 120m and it may, therefore, bank out lower down sometimes. On the day there was also a very short section of Tech 5, which may also bank out. We descended the open easy gully left of the crag looking up.

Joanne and Gareth with the obvious feature of North Gully between them.

Joanne and Gareth with the obvious feature of North Gully between them.

Yesterday we needed a shorter day before travelling home and gambled on Marsco. This gave a superb day for both teams with Craig and the walkers reaching and returning from the summit via the Eastern Spur of Coire nan Laogh. John, me, Gareth, Joanne, Linda and Lorn were aming for Wooly Gully, the only route in the guidebook in Coire nan Laogh. However, once in the coire this looked banked out and the obvious S-shaped gully feature in the centre of the coire looked too good to miss.

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Linda and Lorn finishing the first pitch in Coire nan Laogh, Marsco.

We soloed easily through dramatic scenery on the lower part of the S before putting ropes on for the last rightwards slant of the S up from the large ledge separating the two left hand crag tiers in the coire. This gave a delightful ice/snow ice pitch. Above this the face could be climbed almost anywhere on ice and snow at about grade II with John and I taking parallel lines, his more rocky and mine more icy, mostly due to the gear we were carrying. The route brought us out about 100m East of the summit. The upper face has a serious feel despite it’s easy angle and warthogs and ice screws were definitely useful. Overall it was about Grade III and possibly a new line on an excellent, although I suspect rarely in condition, face.

The view to the team back along the summit ridge of Marsco with Clach Glas and Blabheinn behind.

The view to the team back along the summit ridge of Marsco with Clach Glas and Blabheinn behind.

A great trip with near Alpine conditions. I’ll put some photos on the ClimbNow facebook page today and Craig will add photos to the Falkirk Community Trust Facebook page.

Cairngorm and Bynack More Ski Touring

Nettle and I were out in the Cairngorms today on skis and foot. We skinned up from the car park keeping on the East side of Fiacaill Coire Cas to just before pt. 1141m. A short walk took us down in to Coire Raibert. Linking snow patches with short walking sections we were able to traverse around above Stac an Fharaidh and had an excellent ski descent to The Saddle. With skis on our packs we headed up the snow free ridge to A’Choinneach and with one easy ski section out to Bynack More whose ridge is also free of snow. Quite a long section of carrying, but a couple of new tops for Nettle. 

Nettle on top of Bynack More

Nettle on top of Bynack More

We then returned to The Saddle ski-ing some good steep snow patches on the West side of A’Choinneach and climbed/skinned up via Ciste Mhearad to the top tow of the ski area.

Bouldering on the Barns of Bynack

Bouldering on the Barns of Bynack

From here we had an excellent ski down through the now empty ski area. We were able to ski all the way to the car park, but only just and I’m not sure how much longer this will be possible.

Nettle on the West side of A'Choinneach

Nettle on the West side of A’Choinneach

Cloud most of the day above 950m, with the odd break to sunshine. Light South-East winds, no precipitation and above freezing at all levels after mid-morning. Excellent ski-ing on spring snow.

Nettle at the top ski tow

Nettle at the top ski tow