I had a very good day today introducing Cristina and Marti to Scottish Winter Climbing. We climbed Stairway to Heaven in the North East Coire of Beinn an Dothaidh. The route was in excellent condition with a good ice pitch leaving West Gully and turf frozen solid throughout.
Ice is forming fast in the coire, but Taxus is still broken low down. There’s a dusting of snow on the hill from the last two days and very little old snow. West Gully only has old snow in it’s last section and there’s some neve around the coire rim. It was snowing lightly, but steadily on a south-west wind as we descended.
On Saturday and Sunday Andy, Rob and I were on Beinn Udlaidh and Ben Nevis. It was thawing with rain at valley level and snow at the top of the crag on Beinn Udlaidh. Cloud meant we were unable to see the top of the crag and sloughs were coming down some of the gullies, so we chose to climb Horny Ridge with a grade III variation start and cutting in to the top of West Gully once we could see the cornices.
On Sunday we walked in to Ben Nevis with Rob deciding to turn around at the CIC Hut and Andy and I continuing on to climb Tower Ridge. It had been snowing on Saturday and overnight on a mostly south-easterly wind, this made the approach up The East Gully of The Douglas Gap easy on soft older snow. However, it meant many of the normally easy angled sections had fresh knife edge snow aretes, which had to be negotiated with care as we were the first team up and breaking trail. Once higher than the Douglas Boulder we were above the cloud and had stunning views with a cloud inversion all day. After the Douglas Gap we took the variation icy groove rather than the right traverse, which was hard (Tech 4/5) but good. Beyond we followed the normal route to the summit and a long standing ambition fulfilled for Andy.
John and I were in Coire Daimh on Beinn Udlaidh today with a Falkirk Community Trust winter climbing team of B, Doug and Sharon. We were hoping some of the easier angled icy routes may have hung on. The freezing level was well above the summits, so we were concerned about cornice collapse. After waiting for a while to see if visibility would clear enough to let us make a judgement on cornices we decided to climb Horny Ridge, which we knew wouldn’t have a cornice above it. B, Sharon and I did a harder start up a short turfy wall and we all finished up a harder turfy ramp line and set of short walls/steps to avoid having to go in to the top of West Gully.
There was lots of cornice collapse avalanche activity in the coire today, with at least four coming down West Gully and others audible elsewhere. Some ice was holding on, but there were also some sizable falls of ice during the day. The snow pack was saturated. Turf where being dripped on was soft, but elsewhere was surprisingly firm. It was dry as we walked in, but we had drizzle for a good part of the afternoon.
Today the team, Matt and I visited the North East Corrie of Beinn an Dothaidh and were pleased to discover on entering the corrie that we were the only climbers there.
Following an assessment of the approach to the routes around the West Gully area of the crag we climbed Stairway to Heaven. The route was very well frozen except from the platform at the top of pitch one where the double warthog belay is. Here the turf has been well insulated by a deep layer of snow and was not as dependable as elsewhere on the route.
Lots more photos from the last two days on the facebook page.
I was out today with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing team of Alistair, Bobbie, Matt and Russell. We headed for the North-East Coire of Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy. After walking in we did a quick session on removing rock and turf gear before heading up the bottom part of West Gully and climbing Stairway to Heaven. This route was in excellent condition with all the turf well frozen, a covering of fresh snow from Saturday and even some ice.
We descended via the ridge west of the coire with light snow cover down to around 500m and the ground being fairly well frozen right back to the car park.
The major gully lines are still very lean with the approach up West Gully on snow covered rock and turf until level with the bottom of Stairway to Heaven, where there was some older firm snow and a building accumulation of wind blown snow on a strong south-easterly wind. Taxus looked very lean with mostly soft snow in the gully. However, the buttress routes that don’t require ice looked in good condition.
It has been an amazing day today in the Scottish Highlands. We visited Beinn an Dothaidh and climbed West Gully. The snow was in good condition. Taxus still appeared climbable and the other ice routes are getting there. The buttresses are out of condition.
John and I were out today with Doug, David and Graham on a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Climbing day. We climbed West Gully on Beinn Udlaidh with one of the left hand finishes to get on to some steeper ice/snow at the top.
The gully still has water running in places and underneath the snow on some of the easier angled sections, but a dry ascent could be made today.
A few other teams out in the coire with one climbing Quartzvein Scoop, which looked thin from a distance. Most of the routes in the coire are forming, but still require some more ice to build. The turf wasn’t frozen at the top of the crag, West Gully doesn’t use turf, so difficult to say whether exposed turf would be frozen on the crag itself. Below freezing at crag height today, but only just and the Northerly winds were relatively light.