Overnight in Lochaber and a Day Out in the Cairngorms

I have just had a great three days out with the Falkirk High Tops Team. On Thursday we walked to the CIC Hut before traversing the West and East Gullies of the Douglas Boulder. The route was in good condition. Of note is that the abseil tat at the top of East Gully is not currently present.

We then ovenighted at the hut before ascending Carn Mor Dearg early next morning. After descending to the base of the West Face of Aonach Mor, we then climbed Western Rib to the summit of this mountain. The routes was very white but the turf was variable.

Today I have been in the Cairngorms teaching winter skills. We found good hard snow for sliding and managed to cover lots of useful techniques. The buttresses looked very white. We came accross new windslab on a number of aspects.

Descending towards the West Face of Aonach Mor with the NEB in the background.

Descending towards the West Face of Aonach Mor with the NEB in the background.

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Ice axe arrest practice in the Cairngorms.

Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg

Tom, Neil and I have been staying up at the CIC hut for the last two nights as part of a Falkirk Community Trust trip.

Smiling in the clag on the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach

Smiling in the clag on the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach

On Monday we walked in to find a lot of fresh snow being blown around on strong gusting winds, which varied from South through East to North-East. We opted for a quick hit in the relative shelter of the Douglas Boulder and climbed an approach pitch, which was something of a wade followed by the first pitch of Gutlass. This required a fair bit of clearing of soft powder, but had a nice wee corner on it with just enough ice. We then abbed off and retired to the hut for tea.

Tom and Neil approaching the West Gully of the Douglas Boulder

Tom and Neil approaching the West Gully of the Douglas Boulder

 Tuesday the freezing level was above the summits and there was fairly continuous drizzle throughout the day. We decided on a mountaineering day, which would keep us out of the way of potential avalanches and so headed up the relatively scoured slopes to just South of Carn Mor Dearg Meadhonach; along the ridge to Carn Mor Dearg; down the ridge to the bealach with Aonach Mor and then up the East Ridge of Carn Mor Dearg Mheadhonach. This East ridge gives a good Grade II outing although some care was required with loose rock in the thawing conditions. There were several avalanches during the day on Ben Nevis with fresh debris visable on Wednesday morning and much reduced snow and ice cover particularly on lower level buttress routes.. However, there are still huge cornices in a lot of places.

Neil and Tom today with Coire na Ciste behind

Neil and Tom today with Coire na Ciste behind

There was no significant refreeze of the snow pack overnight on Tuesday and we needed a short day today, so we headed up the West Gully of the Douglas Boulder and down the East Gully. This gave a pleasant day out in great scenery, sunny conditions and low winds. The freezing level was high and there was a slow thaw at most elevations on the hill. This was most noticable on The Curtain, which was just about formed at the start of the day and had gone by lunchtime.

A good three days in excellent company and some challenging conditions.