Glen Lochay (Breadalbane)

It’s been mild in Scotland for the last few days with a big reduction in snow cover. Today Pamela and I decided to head up Meall nan Subh, a Corbett neither of us had visited before, to burn off some Christmas excess and keep hill fitness up for when winter returns.

Pamela on the summit with snow patches on Beinn Heasgarnaich behind.

If you have an old Corbett or Munro book it’s worth noting that you’re now asked to park just before Kenknock, which makes this a longer outing. We walked up the road from there and returned south from the summit taking in many of the cairns on the multiple tops before a steep descent on the east side of the deer fence, which brings you out near the parking. This descent would be through deep bracken in summer. There’s patchy snow above 800m on north and east facing slopes. Most of this has now consolidated very well.

Coire an t-Sneachda

A Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Climbing team of John, Robin, Tam and I had a very good day climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms today. The coire was busy by the time we arrived, so to avoid being under other parties we decided on Central Left-Hand & then jumped in to the gully on the left to climb a nice short ice section before finishing up the top pitch or so of Pygmy Ridge. This allowed some nice varied climbing with progressing difficulty and teaching opportunities.

Robin and Tam near the top of Pygmy Ridge.

Older snow from before Tuesday’s thaw had remained in larger collection features and refrozen well. There was a dusting of fresh snow down to the coire entrance and this had built up some significant accumulations on some approach slopes, in gullies and at the coire rim. There was good ice build up in places and we placed full depth screws in the icy section. Any turf we encountered was very well frozen. Rocks were well rimed, but cracks were generally fairly dry. There are some loose blocks near the top of Pygmy Ridge, which aren’t yet fully frozen in place and care was required with these.




Glen Coe

Euan and I were out today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Mountaineering Team of Alan, Lewis and May. The programmed route was Dinnertime Buttress, as it can be done as a summer or winter scramble. This was definitely a good option early in the season as today it was a sheltered summer scramble with only the very odd patch of snow high up.

Euan, Lewis and Alan on an optional pitch near the top of Aonach Dubh.

The thaw earlier in the week has significantly reduced the snow cover in Glen Coe and views into Stob Coire nan Lochan showed only Broad Gully looking complete at the moment. The turf was firm near the top of Aonach Dubh. There was only light precipitation on a southerly wind whilst we were on the hill, but it was raining hard at road level as we drove south. This will have been falling as snow high up.


Pamela hasn’t been out winter climbing for over 3 years, so the aim of today was a nice, fun and relaxed reintroduction. We decided on Coire Creagach, a minor crag near Drumochter developed by Davy Virdee and pals. Additionally, we didn’t top out in order to stay in the shelter of the coire and below the very cold south-east wind.

Pamela approaching a belay.

A pleasant day was had climbing Easy Gully and a steep icy step on it’s side wall; Gully II and Lost Chock Groove descending each time via Easy Gully. The ground was frozen from the road with ice in any boggy sections. Some good ice was developing on the crag. The snow level in the coire started on the slope below the crag, circa 850m. The snow was all very solid refrozen old snow. The snow forecast tomorrow will load in to the coire on top of this layer and is likely to represent an avalanche risk. There are already big cornices above north and east facing slopes, this is worth bearing in mind if there’s a thaw or additional loading. There was existing avalanche debris in the coire from cornice collapse earlier in the week.


Euan and I were out personal climbing yesterday. This gave the chance for something a bit unusual. Knowing we’d have to go high to get crags looking properly white we decided on the high and remote Coire Brochain on Braeriach, a good four hour walk in. The crag was very white, however the snow was only partially consolidated. After four somewhat harrowing pitches on snow covered granite slabs and grooves on an alternative line on Domed Ridge we chose to escape in to Campion Gully and descend. Both the original line on Domed Ridge and the line to the left we climbed would definitely be much better with good neve/ice on the slabby sections. On the day what gear was found was usually after a lot of clearing and many of the cracks were blind.

Euan carefully leading the lower granite slabs on semi consolidated snow.

In the early morning there was a dusting of snow and frozen ground at the Sugar Bowl car park. Most of the day freezing levels were above the summit and snow had disappeared below 850m by the time we walked out, unless it was old patches in collection features. Lurcher’s crag was looking fairly black on the rocky lines when we passed through in the morning. There was a good depth of snow in Coire Brochain and the odd glimpse through the mist showed large cornices have already developed above the coire.

Cairngorm Winter Skills

Robin and I were out in the Cairngorms today delivering a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Skills Course for Donald, Emma, Maria and Sheena. We had an excellent day despite slightly thawing conditions with lots of skills being learnt or refreshed. There weren’t any ice patches at the elevations we reached, but we did find firm old snow  for crampon work.

Sheena finishing and ice axe arrest with skiers below in the Ciste Gully.

Starting from the Ciste car park we used snow in and around the Ciste Gully from an altitude of about 700m to 950m. There were firm old snow patches in collection features, with some areas of newer wind blown snow on top. All the snow we were on had moisture in it and will consolidate well with a freeze. The snow started to firm up considerably above 900m. Turf was not frozen at the heights we reached and streams were running under the snow. Good awareness and route choice is required if you’re heading across stream lines. There was no significant precipitation whilst we were out and the strong west to north-westerly winds eased during the day.


Glen Lyon

Pamela and I were out for a dander on the south side of Glen Lyon yesterday. We headed up Beinn nan Oighreag from the east crossing the north ridge of Beinn nan Eachan and the Lairig Breisleich, which wasn’t as bad a “villainous bog” as advertised. This route kept us out of the worst of the wind until the summit ridge of Beinn nan Oighreag. We then descended its north-east ridge and made a couple of stream crossings to regain the road. It’s worth noting there is now a bridge just below the junction of the Allt Baile a’Mhuilinn and the Allt Breisleich.

Crossing a snow patch near the summit of Beinn nan Oighreag with the Lawers range behind.

It was above freezing all day with rain showers in the morning and gusts of 50mph+ on the summit. There were snow patches above 850m, particularly on north-east aspects, and some remaining ice patches above about 800m.


The Lowther Hills

The days I’ve had pencilled in for possible early winter climbing don’t seem to be lining up with conditions at the moment, so I’m trying to take opportunities to keep hill fit wherever I can.

The summit of Louise Wood Law.

Today I broke a dreich journey back up from Derbyshire by stopping at Elvanfoot and walking/running around some of the eastern Lowther Hills. The route took in Louise Wood Law, White Law, Dun Law and Glen Ea’s Hill. There was a scattering of snow above 600m although this may disappear tomorrow.