Beinn Chuirn

Sharon, Mac and I had a great day in Coire na Saobhaidhe on Beinn Chuirn today. After walking in with the coire in cloud we got a view of the crags that revealed that the routes from the SMC Journal 2009 still had very large cornices over them. We’d walked in with the idea of doing a new route and this helped our decision. We climbed an excellent natural line on the left hand side of the coire, which gave an enthralling long first pitch followed by a shorter easy top out with no cornice issues. The usual grade discussions settled on IV,4, but we had pretty much perfect conditions with very well frozen turf and neve.

Sharon nearing the belay at the top of our enthralling first pitch of the day.

We then descended via the main central Grade I gully after passing the cornice with a lower/abseil from a snow bollard. The day felt like it needed a second route and an ice line on the lower tier below Silver Star caught the eye. This gave a circa 30m pitch on ice that required a delicate approach in places in current conditions. With good ice taking screws this would make a very pleasant direct start to Silver Star at III,4.

Mac above the steep ice on our second route, but still on calf burning terrain.

It’s worth noting that everything in this coire seems to be steeper than it looks from below, with both routes being at least a grade harder than we’d guessed and the approach slopes below the crag requiring respect and possibly an approach pitch or two.

An “awesome” day with no one else in the coire and book ended by pleasant stops in the Real Food Café as we’d parked in Tyndrum before walking in.

Am Bodach

Today Sharon, Steve and I visited the crag on the North side of Am Bodach (the start of the Aonach Eagach) that Euan went to on Tuesday. We climbed Oganach Chimney and as he predicted it was in excellent condition after a refreeze. On the first ascent in December 2017 Andy Nelson and Andy Hogarth were able to pass under the enormous chockstone, the through route is currently blocked and it is bypassed on the right. Above the original pitches we cut left up a snow/ice/turf groove that gave a good finish in keeping with the lower pitches. This was further left than the line taken by Euan judging by the footprints.

Me, Steve and Sharon with the crags of Am Bodach behind.

We needed a quick second route so climbed the obvious snowy ramp line leading up left from the toe of the buttress left of chockstone of Oganach Chimney. This gave a very pleasant 50m Grade I. The older snow was generally firm in the morning except for the odd area of breakable crust. There was a thin layer of fresh snow, which was being moved in the winds that came around to easterly. Where exposed to the sun the snow was softening during the day. The buttresses were quite dry/black and we felt the line of Bodach Buttress wouldn’t have been justifiable today although all turf at crag height was very well frozen and there was snow on the ledges.

Golden Oldie and Ben Nevis

Yesterday the team and I visited the West Face of Aonach Mor where we climbed Golden Oldie. The route was in good condition with frozen turf, some excellent neve and some interesting fresh snow arête’s following the recent weather.

Today we spent some time on Ben Nevis climbing ice pitches in Coire na Ciste and the CIC Hut Cascades.

Snow arête on Golden Oldie.

Coire an t-Sneachda

On Monday and Tuesday this week I had a great couple of days with David in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms. On Monday we climbed Red Gully and Goat Track Gully in sunny and calm conditions with great views.

David and me at the stance below Red Gully on Monday.

On Tuesday we climbed Invernookie and descended Fiacaill Ridge before dropping back in to the coire from the col. There’d been some snow overnight, which continued on and off through the day and careful route choice to and from the route was required. All these routes are getting somewhat chopped out/thin in places, but gave good climbing all be it possibly harder than guidebook grade at times. There was a fair amount of new snow overnight Monday and through Tuesday on south-easterly through south to south-westerly winds. This was forming damp slab lower down, but was dry higher up and was building cornices. There was some avalanche activity in the coire on Tuesday. Despite the new snow steeper buttress routes in the coire were generally fairly black.

Pearly Gates and Oganach Chimney

Yesterday a team and I from Ballachulish climbed Pearly Gates in Stob Coire nan Lochan. We climbed the route on good snow ice.

Today, we climbed Oganach Chimney which is on the north side of Am Bodach (the start of the Aonach Eagach). This route was first climbed in December 2017 by Andy Nelson and Andy Hogarth. It gave a nice grade III in the current conditions. The turf was frozen today however the snow was not. It was very, very wet. The route will be excellent once it freezes again.

These two routes have two things in common; very few runners and few belays. If you find a good one, take it!

Climbing on Pearly Gates.

Glen Clunie and Glen Callater

The last two days Mike and I have been out in the Glen Shee area with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors combined ski touring and walking team of Anna, Jenny, Lesley, Nicola and Norrie. On Friday Mike and the skiers skinned up Carn an Tuirc and descended to Loch Callater on soft thawing snow. Norrie and I walked in to Loch Callater via Creag nan Gabhar and after dumping some gear in the Callater Stables bothy we walked up Jock’s Road and round to the summit of Tolmount before returning to the bothy. We’d carried tents and bivvy gear, but there was no one else at the bothy, so we were all able to have a pleasant night inside.

Norrie at the summit of Cairn of Claise today.

Today we awoke to bright sunny conditions, low winds and an overnight frost, which had firmed up the snow and made for much easier walking and skiing conditions. The skiers reclimbed Carn an Tuirc and found some excellent conditions for a number of descents, before skiing out to the road. Norrie and I headed over Carn an Tuirc and Cairn of Claise before descending via the first part of the Sron na Gaoithe ridge then dropping down to the Allt a’Garbh Coire. A beautiful blue sky day today with excellent ski touring and walking conditions and lots of teams out enjoying the snow. There are still some large cornices and these need to be considered in route choice on thawing and sunny days.

Winter Mountain Leader

This week I have been instructing on a Winter Mountain Leader training course for Ballachulish. We have visited; Stob Mhic Mhartuin, Beinn an Dothaidh, the Cairngorms, the Nid on Aonach Mor and tomorrow we are going to Beinn Dorain.

It has been a week of mixed weather with the first half as good as it gets and the last couple of days less so! 80mph winds, rain and very poor visibility. All good training though for those aiming to complete this award.

Carn an Tuirc

Today Nettle and I visited Coire Kander on Carn an Tuirc near Glen Shee with a Falkirk Community Trust Ski Mountaineering team of Angus, Emanuelle and James. We skied from the road near where the Clunie Water passes underneath and up over the northern shoulder of Carn an Tuirc. The snow down in to Coire Kander had been catching the sun, so we dumped skis and walked down in to the coire before climbing a pleasant Grade I rib back to our skis.

Emanuelle, Angus, James and Nettle skinning up Carn an Tuirc.

We then skinned up to the summit of Carn an Tuirc before enjoying an excellent ski right back to the road. There was good cover from the road, although some eastern aspects are very scoured. Over 900m some very icy areas are present and there is some wind slab around. There are cornices over lots of aspects and good route choice is required, particularly in thawing conditions. The turf was well frozen on the crag. Snow and rime ice was very soft where it had been exposed to the sun, however it was generally very firm. It was sunny all day with light winds. A glorious day to be out in the hills and a great way to access Coire Kander.

Beinn Udlaidh

John and I went to Beinn Udlaidh today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors climbing team of Patricia, Doug and Gregor. The east side of the coire was looking quite banked out and had sizable cornices, so we stayed on the west side. John and Patricia climbed Doctor’s Dilemma, which had some soft snow but also lots of climbing on good ice. Doug, Gregor and I climbed Tinkerbell on good ice; a short line over two ice steps at about Tech 4 circa 100m right of Tinkerbell and a two pitch Grade II snow/ice gully line immediately left of Tinkerbell.

Gregor and Doug above Tinkerbell with the banked out/corniced eastern sector visible behind.

Sunny in the coire all day and this lead to a number of cornices on the sunnier east side of the coire dropping sizable sections in the afternoon. No significant wind in the coire during the day. Northerly and westerly aspects had soft snow and wind slab from the weekend overlying harder old snow. Central Gully, Organ Pipe Wall and Quintet also saw ascents today with the later two both being described as “steep”.

Emel Ridge

Yesterday in the strong winds I was out on Emel Ridge. This ridge is located on Beinn an Dothaidh and is a good option in less than perfect conditions. The line taken can be varied as required from grade I to III. Or, like yesterday, be taken very direct to give short sections of IV and V.

Despite the weather the ridge provided us the appropriate terrain to practise skills such as short roping, guiding in parallel and descending steep snow.

Mixed terrain on Beinn an Dothaidh.