Glen Shee

Woody and I were out today for a quick blow away of the cobwebs and for Woody to get a snow fix. We headed up to Glenshee setting off walking around midday to avoid the worst of the weather and taking in Carn Aosda and The Cairnwell.

Woody on the way up Carn Aosda

There’s patchy snow down to road level although the warm and wet weather overnight and through the morning had significantly reduced the snow pack. Some ski tows open and people were ski-ing and ski-touring. Patches of fresh snow higher up were saturated and relatively well bonded to the older snow. Lots of water in the burns. Turf still fairly firm at height particularly where sheltered from the recent rain. Temperatures dropped during the afternoon and there were snow flurries down to road level as we left.

Loch Vrotachan

Creagan Cha-no

Nettle and I had a quick outing to Creagan Cha-no today overlooking Strath Nethy. The conditions on the crag were excellent with good snow ice and firm snow, well frozen turf, rocks rimed and with cornices reduced by recent thaws and scoured by the Easterly and South-Easterly winds. There were small accumulations of new wind slab developing in sheltered locations, but these were more significant on Northerly and North-Westerly aspects on the approach from Coire na Ciste than at the crag.

Nettle setting off on the 1st pitch of Jenga Buttress

We climbed Jenga Buttress, which has a very good second pitch with fun technical climbing for the grade, and Cutty Sark, which although only a single pitch packs in a lot of good climbing. We descended via Recovery Gully to access the routes. One other team on the crag who I think climbed Duke’s Rib and Fingers and Thumbs. Pamela and B climbed Wavelength in Coire an t-Sneachda today and reported good climbing conditions, but gear difficult to dig out under the firm snow. They also reported significant accumulations of new windslab in the gully exits and a second hand report of an avalanche on Alladins Mirror.

Nettle looking happy near the top of Jenga Buttress

Myself near the start of Cutty Sark. Photo courtesy of J.Foden.

Cam Chreag Topos

A few people have contacted me recently asking if I could put the Cam Chreag, Meall nan Tarmachan, topos up on the blog again. I’d put them up previously, but since the blog has changed format apparently they’ve been difficult to download.

The topos are below, click on them to see a larger version. The majority of climbs on the crag are reliant on turf and the crag needs to be well frozen both to preserve the turf and for an enjoyable climbing experience. A selection of turf protection is very useful for all but the easiest routes. I’ve climbed all the routes shown on the topos and can vouch for the grades with the usual warning that grades can vary significantly with conditions in winter, routes can change over time and anyone climbing the routes shown should have the relevant experience and assess the route themselves on the day. Additionally, if you’re not used to Southern Highland type turfy routes it’s definitely worth dropping a grade or two until you’ve got a feel for the style of climbing. There are other routes on the crag, which can be found in The Arran, Arrochar and Southern Highlands guidebook and in the SMC Journals.

Cam Chreag South Face Topo


Micro navigating towards the summit of The Cairnwell.

Martin, James and I have had a good day out today ski touring in the Glenshee area. We ascended The Cairnwell before enjoying a good ski descent and our second ascent of the day to Carn Aosda. The descent of this peak was more difficult as there was more ice around than on the descent from The Cairnwell. Following a quick coffee stop we crossed the road and skinned up to the top of the chairlift (the lifts were closed today). The descent from here included some excellent powder skiing.The conditions for skiing just now are pretty good. We wore skis for the whole day. The snow was variable but there is some good skiing to be had.

Beinn Ghlas

Up on Beinn Ghlas near Ben Lawyers today with Davy, Glenn, Niall, Nic and Pamela. We were looking at a variety of Winter Skills and how to teach them.

Winter Skills in the back bowl of Beinn Ghlas

There were snow patches from circa 650m and relatively good cover from around 900m. The back bowl of Beinn Ghlas had fairly deep snow pack following the snow on South-Easterly/South-Westerly winds over the weekend. This snow had been saturated by the thaw, but not to full depth and instabilities were found using a variety of test pits. There was also evidence of avalanche activity from the weekend. The turf was still firm at relatively low levels and was well frozen where exposed from around 900m.

Good navigation weather on the summit of Beinn Ghals

Light snow showers during the day on a light Northerly wind giving areas of fresh wind deposits on lee slopes. Freezing level hovering around 950m.

Ski Touring in the Lawers Range

Eilidh practising avalanche rescue techniques.













Today, I have been out with the Falkirk High Tops staff team looking at skills for ski touring and avalanche rescue techniques.We parked at the parking used by teams ascending Meall Nan Tarmachan and headed up onto the flank of this Munro. It was possible to still have skis on from the start of the day and to link areas of snow together for the duration of the four and a half hours we were out. However, heavy rain started as we were walking back along the road. This will further reduce the snowpack in this area.


Coire an t-Sneachda

A short day was required today, so Pamela and I headed to The Mess of Pottage in Coire an t-Sneachda and climbed The Haston Line. Rather than finish via The Slant we cut back right up one of the grooves near the bottom of the upper section of The Slant, which gave a pleasant easy finish to the route.

Pamela enjoying her 1st winter route of the season

The thaw on Saturday followed by the refreeze has left the older snow on the crag well consolidated, this is in contrast to a some of the West Coast areas where the thaw didn’t seem to penetrate as deeply and has left a crust on top of much softer snow. There’s a fair bit of ice around and Alladin’s Mirror Direct was being climbed. The turf on the crag was very well frozen and the rocks were well rimed.

The Mess of Pottage today

Long periods of snow showers during the day on light South-East to South-West winds and wind movement was giving some sizable pockets of soft snow on top of the older firm snow.

Beinn an Dothaidh

Simon and I climbed B.O. Buttress on Creag Coire an Dothaidh today. From a distance the crag looked quite white, but once underneath it all looked a bit black. However, on the route there was enough snow on the ledges and ramp lines, although more wouldn’t have been unwelcome. The steeper sections are all on turf and rock and the turf was well frozen. Pitches 4 and 5 were quite bold and required some delicacy on thinly iced slabs and turf. I was glad we’d carried extra warthogs and placed four as runners on one pitch.

Simon approaching the first belay

Salamander and Fahrenheit 451 are both forming, but could both do with some more freeze thaw.Creag an Socach was looking very black. Lot’s of ice on the approach and below freezing all day at the crag with no precipitaion and no wind to speak of. A glorious day to be out in the hills.

Simon enjoying some sunshine on pitch 2

More Climbing in the Sun

For the last few days I have been in the Costa Blanca area of Spain rock climbing with Ivor, Graham, Pamela, Bomber and Tony. The weather has been excellent with sunshine every day and temperatures peaking on Saturday at twenty degrees. We visited Gandia, Echo Valley, Sella, the Penon and Forada. These venues offer world class rock climbing of all styles. Conditions were good although Forada was a bit on the cold side and maybe best left for the warmer months.


Ivor McCourt crusing ‘Swing Out Sister’ in the Echo Valley




Glen Lyon

Today I was out with a Falkirk High Tops Team of Craig, Alan, Billy, Colin,Craig, Edith, Lorn, Ros, Sue, Willie and Vic on Stuchd an Lochain. The drive down Glen Lyon and up to the Loch an Daimh damn required care due to hard packed snow and black ice in places. There were patches of soft old snow from road level and this increased to almost full cover with height and firmed up to the point where kicking steps was quite hard work. There was icing on paths from road level and the turf was firm above about 700m.

The team approaching the summit

Careful route choice meant we didn’t need to put crampons on, but axes were required.

Alan on the summit

Some very light snow flurries during the day on a strong West then North-West wind. Cloud on and off with some patches of sunshine. Freezing level was around 700m.