Cairngorms and Glencoe

Yesterday the team and I travelled from Ballachulish to the Cairngorms in search of dry weather. We were rewarded with a beautiful day and evening. Throughout the day we visited; Coire an-t Sneachda, the Goat Track, Coire Domhain, Feith Buidhe and Cairn Lochan.

Wherever we encountered snow it was firm and crampons were required on all steeper sections.

Today the rain was torrential on the west coast. We visited Glencoe ski centre and spent the day doing avalanche rescue techniques. The snow was disappearing fast.

The team in Coire Domhain.

The team in Coire Domhain.

Aonach Mor

The team and I were out today on Aonach Mor. After completing a micro navigation session on the plateau we descended the Nid Ridge. At a safe point we built snow bollards and practised abseiling.

The snow on the surface was soft and heavy. However, there is an icy layer underneath and crampons were essential. Cornices were visible at points on the ridge.

Abseiling on a snow bollard reinforced with shovels.

Abseiling off a snow bollard reinforced with shovels.

Buachaille Etive Mor

Today we visited Buachaille Etive Mor. It was another stunning day in Glencoe.

The snow was mostly soft at all altitudes with the odd patch of firmer neve.

Descending from the col at the top of Coire na Tulaich

Descending from the col at the top of Coire na Tulaich

Winter Skills

It was a glorious day again today in Glencoe. I was out with a new team from Ballachulish looking at winter skills such as ice axe arrest.

The highest altitude we reached was 750 metres. The snow was soft at this elevation.

A beautiful day to be out in the snow.

A beautiful day to be out in the snow.

Cairngorms

Today Craig and I have been out in the Cairngorms working for Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors. Craig was out with a team of four delivering a winter skills day and I was out with Doug and Gregor winter climbing. Given the recent thaw and then the fresh snow over the last 24 hours the climbers were going to be looking for snowed up rock and the winter skills team was going to need to head high to find some older snow for kicking and cutting steps, hence our choice of the Cairngorms.

Gregor just above the slabby crux.

Gregor just above the slabby crux.

Driving conditions meant we arrived relatively late, which worked out well for the climbers; as we walked in we met lots of teams who’d been in to climb on Mess of Pottage, Aladdin’s and Fluted Buttress areas and were walking out reporting spontaneous avalanches occurring. This meant we could change plans early and head to the Fiacaill Ridge area. The wind has been pretty much around the clock face in the last 24 hours and it had been snowing fairly continuously for long periods. As the wind had come through the North this morning it hadn’t moved as much snow off the North facing aspects as expected and these slopes were still being loaded with fresh snow.

Gregor and Doug taking a break on the way down Fiacaill Ridge.

Gregor and Doug taking a break on the way down Fiacaill Ridge.

As we could see the East facing aspect of Fiacaill Ridge was bouldery and relatively clear of snow we headed for the area below the small buttress just North of the col on Fiacaill Ridge and climbed here. There are lots of options (pretty much all of which will have been climbed before) on short ribs and grooves in this area. We climbed 4 pitches on snowed up rock and frozen turf. Three of the pitches were circa II/III and one was a short slabby pitch of tech 5 or 6. We descended Fiacaill Ridge. Not a guidebooked route, but a good safe day in the conditions. It was still snowing as we left, good route choice will be required over the next few days for safe travel.

Winter Mountain Leader Training

As I reported on the 17th January, this week I have been involved in delivering a Winter Mountain Leader training course.

On Wednesday we had another day out in Glencoe before spending Thursday and Friday in the Cairngorms. In both areas the snow that remains is very firm and crampons are essential.

More photos can be seen on the facebook page.

A beautiful evening in the Cairngorms.

A beautiful evening in the Cairngorms.

Glencoe and Aonach Mor

This week I am instructing on a Winter Mountain Leader course. Yesterday we were at Glencoe ski centre looking at teaching winter skills. Large patches of snow still exist but not enough for skiing.

Today we were at Aonach Mor looking at leading groups in steep ground. We completed the session on the east side of the mountain were large patches of snow can still be found.

Steep ground training on Aonach Mor.

Steep ground training on Aonach Mor.

Coire an Lochain

The Falkirk High Tops Team, Craig and I were out in the Cairngorms today looking at winter skills. The snow that remains is all very firm. However, as can be seen from the photo the crags are very black.

Craig with Coire an Lochain beyond.

Craig with Coire an Lochain beyond.

Winter Mountain Leader

This week I am instructing on a Winter Mountain Leader course. Yesterday we were at the White Corries looking at the teaching of winter skills. Today we were on the Nid at Aonach Mor looking at managing groups on steep ground and snow anchors.

Lots of snow remains in the high corries and gullies. However, a refreeze is now required to bring the majority of routes back into condition with rockfall currently an issue.

Using stompers on the Nid.

Using stompers on the Nid.

Stob Mhic Mhartuin, Mess of Pottage and SCNL

On Friday the lads from Ballachulish and I finished our winter mountaineering course by ascending Stob Mhic Mhartuin in Glencoe and then on the steep northerly aspect completed some training on abseiling in winter using bollards.

Tina, Scott, Steve, Martin and I met in the Cairngorm car park on Saturday morning with the hope of doing some winter climbing. We chose to go east rather than west to avoid the rain. We were rewarded with a dry day and two routes; Haston Line and Hidden Chimney (both are on the Mess of Pottage in Coire an t-Sneachda). Both routes were still holding good snow ice although this may be gone now.

We returned west on Saturday evening and on Sunday climbed Dorsal Arete in Stob Coire nan Lochan. The route still has lots of useable snow on it although the fin is now mostly dry.

There are lots more photos from the last week on the climbnow facebook page.

The team on SCNL.

The team on SCNL.