Saturday 26th February 2011 Ben Lawers Area

Out today with Pamela and the Adventure Edinburgh Winter Walkers on Beinn Ghlas (near Ben Lawers). The warm/wet weather on Wednesday and Thursday has stripped back a lot of the snow. There are snow patches from about 550m, but even at summit height the cover wasn’t full. The turf was firm from 850m, with icey areas. Patchy sunshine during the day, with some snow showers above 650m on a fresh westerly breeze.

Friday 25th February Coire an Lochain

Doug looking happy above the steep section of Oesophagus

Out with John and a Falkirk team of Alan, Archie, Doug and Graeme today. Choosing a location today wasn’t easy. We needed to get high, the weather on the east was better that the west, getting over the Cairngorm plateau to avoid the remaining cornices would be difficult due to the wind. We decided to head in to Coire an Lochain, with the plan of heading up to No. 4 Buttress via ground that wasn’t exposed to any cornice collapse from above and doing Sidewinder if it was in. Unfortunately, once up there, it was obvious Sidewinder wasn’t in condition. However, a little more sneaking up under the buttress revealed Oesophagus to still be holding plenty of ice and not exposed to any significant cornice, a nice bonus.

Coire an Lochain showing the "bergschrund"

The temperatures were above freezing all day at crag level, although some light precipitation was falling as snow. Strong south-west winds were moving some ice/snow across the plateau. The buttresses are pretty balck, snow has been stripped back and the remaining snowpack is saturated. Plenty of recent avalanche activity with sizeable debris below the twin burns, a large bergschrund crack below Ewen Buttress and still some very droopy cornices around.

24th February Coire an t’Sneacdha

Holding falls on a body belay.

I was out today with the Falkirk High Tops Team in Sneacdha looking at lead climbing skills. The snow is all very soft with cornice collapse visible during the day.

Tuesday 22nd February Stac an Fharaidh and Stag Rocks

Euan high on Rectangular Rib

Out with Euan today in the Loch Avon Basin, we headed first for Stac an Fharaidh. We approached down the stream area to the east of the crag. Unfortunately the sun was stripping the ice and rime from our intended route with the remaining ice looking a bit thin, so we climbed Rectangular Rib, which gave a good route even with some soft snow/hollow ice.

Euan on the 1st pitch of Final Selection

We then headed across to Stag Rocks and descended part way down Diagonal Gully to climb the Final Selection. The first pitch of Final Selection gave excellent, technically sustained climbing.

Euan approaching a very cool mantelshelf move on the 1st pitch of Final Selection

Both these south/south-east facing crags have been scoured by the recent winds. There is some soft snow around on these aspects, but no cornices to speak of. However, they are catching the sun and ice/rime was stripping throughout the day. Large cornices and loaded slopes were observed on the walk back out on northerly aspects (Coire an t-Sneachda).

Above freezing at crag height in the sun. Light southerly winds. Cloud building towards the end of the day.

20th February Meall nan Tarmachan

I was out with Martin today going over some snow/ice movement skills and some rope work ahead of his planned trip to the Greater Ranges. Given the conditions we also covered some avalanche awareness/avoidance and a little navigation. We were out on Cam Chreag and as part of the day we went up a line on the easy angled buttress right of Carlin’s buttress to get on to some steeper more scoured terrain.

Martin checking out a "mini-cornice" on a small west facing aspect below Cam Chreag

Visibility was very poor during the day and navigation required care. The southerly aspect of Cam Chreag proved a good choice as although the approach was through deepish soft snow (thanks to whoever had put a trail in), the crag was relatively well scoured. The turf was generally well frozen and the rocks were heavily rimed. Although there was little if any precipitation during the day the fresh southerly wind was transporting considerable quantities of existing snow.

Sunday 20th February East Ridge Beinn a’Chaorainn

John, Paul and Tam on the East Ridge

Today I was out with the Falkirk High Tops Team on the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. This is an excellent mountaineering day out. The route was busy today (probably due to the avalanche risk on northerly aspects). The rocks were well rimed, the turf was good and there was some useful snow.

Friday 18th February Albino, Stag Rocks

Ian and Steve on the first pitch of Albino.

Ian on the third pitch of Albino.

Ian, Steve and I headed to Stag Rocks today. Careful navigation was required to find the crag in todays whiteout conditions. We descended Diagonal Gully and climbed back out via Albino.

This route gives excellent, varied mixed climbing. The route (and others in this area) was in excellent condition. Well rimed, frozen turf and snow on ledges.

Thursday 17th February Loch Avon Basin

Bruce, Ali and I headed over to The Loch Avon Basin today with the intention of climbing on Hell’s Lum. However, by the time we arrived the sun was catching the crag and a fair amount of ice/sun wheels were coming down from the crag. There were two parties who looked to be heading for Deep Cut Chimney and a party further right on Kiwi Gully I think.

Ali with Coire an t-Sneachda behind showing the depth of the recent snow

We headed over to Stag Rocks and climbed something around The Accidental Tourist (a line between that and Truly Madly Chimbley). Starting as for The Accidental Tourist the 1st pitch followed a steep groove and small chimney (rather than heading left) to belay on a rib just left and below the chimney of T.M.C. ; the 2nd pitch moved through a v-notch and up slabs/overalps and the 3rd pitch was up easy snow slopes. Overall about tech 4 on the day, but quite bold in places with some relatively cruddy snow and ice.

Party on Afterthought Arete, Stag Rocks

North facing crags have large build ups of wind slab (see photo of Coire an t-Sneachda). The south facing crags still had a layer of fresh snow on top of older snow. The sun was stripping ice/snow from the south facing crags during the day with water running behind ice on rocks. The turf was well frozen. Light winds and no precipitation during the day.

Thursday 17th February Spaewife

Alex approaching Cam Chreag with Ben Lawers behind.

The team below Carlin Buttress.

The Falkirk High Tops Team and I headed into Cam Chreag on Meall Nan Tarmachan today to enable us to avoid northerly aspects. The crag has lots of good routes from grade II-IV.

Alan, Michelle and I climbed Spaewife on Carlin Buttress. John and Alex climbed Mackays Gully. The approach was very hard today but now there is a trail in place which will make things much easier. The turf was in excellent condition. This crag needs lots of warthogs.

Tuesday 15th February Cairngorms

Andy on the first pitch of Albino.

Andy on the second pitch of Bambi.

This report is for monday the 14th of February. For an update from today see Martins report below.

On the 14th of February Andy Houseman and i headed into Stag Rocks. We abseiled down Diagonal Gully to check the snow conditions and climbed Albino. We then descended Diagonal Gully again and climbed Bambi. Both routes were in good condition. The turf was in good condition for climbing. We did not see any other party’s on the crag.