Pentlands Navigation

After a few days down in Derbyshire I was out today in the Pentland Hills running a navigation course for The City of Edinburgh Council Adult Education. The weather was relatively kind to us staying largely dry with just the odd wintry shower, but with a fresh south-west to southerly wind.

The team getting to grips with bearings in a sheltered location.

There was a dusting of snow high on the hills this morning and it was snowing at the ski centre when we finished the course. Thanks to all on the course for keeping enthusiastic in the cold.

Glen Coe, Aonach Mor and Glen Feshie

This week I’ve been working on a Winter Mountaineering Foundation course based out of Ballachulish. We visited Stob Mhic Mhartuin on Monday with soft snow on the hill, which we used for movement and arrest teaching. There were graupel showers during the day. On Tuesday we headed to the Nevis Range ski area and looked at crampon work on harder snow and ice and an intro to transceiver searches. Windslab was forming throughout the day.

The team in the white room at the summit of Carn Ban Mor.

On Wednesday we made an ascent of Stob Coire Raineach to use some of the skills we’d learnt and continued the ongoing theme of avalanche awareness and avoidance. It was snowing on strong south-westerlies in the morning with rain above the summits later on. On Thursday we headed over to Glen Feshie and dug snow holes before heading up Carn Ban Mor in driving snow on a south-westerly and poor visibility followed by some night navigation. It was raining heavily as I headed south today. An enthusiastic group who were keen to learn made for a very enjoyable week despite some fairly challenging conditions.

Torridon and The Cairngorms

Craig and I have been based in Torridon for the last few days with the Falkirk Outdoors High Tops and Mountaineering teams. On Wednesday the walkers tackled Sgorr Ruadh and Beinn Liath Mor, whilst Kim, Linda and I climbed the north-east ridge of Beinn Damh (Stuc Toll nam Biast). This proved to be a great climbing way up this hill. There were frequent graupel showers during the day on strong westerly winds adding to a snowpack in sheltered areas that already contained large amounts of graupel.

A happy mountaineering team on Mullach an Rathian with the Liathach ridge behind. Photo credit: K. Hamilton.

On Thursday the mountaineers completed the classic Liathach main ridge traverse in superb conditions with low winds and sunshine. Gaining the ridge was hard going with careful route choice and a fair bit of graupel wading being required, but once on the ridge the snow conditions were excellent. Meanwhile the walkers took in Beinn Alligin getting amazing views to Skye and Harris. Today the forecast was for strong winds and rain above the summits and suggested the best chance of staying vaguely dry was in the rain shadow of the Cairngorms; so the walkers visited Meall a’Bhuacaille and with the ski road being closed the mountaineers practiced some rescue skills in the forest beyond Glenmore. The plan worked and we stayed dry if relatively wind swept.

Monolith Grooves

Monolith Grooves today on Beinn an Lochain. The route was in good condition today with the exclusion of pitch 4 which was not frozen.

Inverness-shire Rock and The Cairngorms

Andy and I were based in Aviemore for the last couple of days. With some sun in the forecast Andy sensibly chose the low level rock climbing option for Saturday to stay below the worst of the wind. We visited Pinnacle Crag (Duntelchaig) and the unusual conglomerate trad crag of Ashie Fort climbing eleven routes. It was wet initially, but the sun and rain dried both crags quickly giving some great pitches climbable in approach shoes.

Andy on Stepped Corner Pinnacle Crag, Duntelchaig.

Today we headed up in to Coire an t-Sneachda and climbed on the sheltered Twin Ribs. It was fairly miserable on the walk in with driving rain and sleet on a strong south-westerly. It was sheltered on the route, with snow falling above about 900m including periods of graupel.

Andy at the top of Twin Ribs with The Mess of Pottage and Aladdin’s Buttress in the background.

We chose not to top out, due to the wind and abseiled down the north side of the rib until we were on scoured ground as there was wind slab around that was releasing fairly easily. Not many parties in the coire, with only a few hardy souls heading further in than us. Care would have been required with snow slopes on and around the main crags as snow has been scouring off the plateau and in to the coires on the very strong winds over the last two days.

Ski Touring, Off Piste Skiing and Scottish Winter Climbing

I have had an interesting couple of weeks with off piste skiing and ski touring in; Val d’Isere, Tignes, La Rosiere and Sainte Foy followed today by winter climbing on Cha-No. All good fun.

Glen Coe

John and I were out in Glen Coe today delivering a Falkirk Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing day. We had a good with Ruth, Stuart and I climbing four pitches on the west face of Gearr Aonach, whilst covering lots new skills. We then descended a Grade I snow gully to practice a bit of downclimbing. John, John H and Rory had an enjoyable time climbing Central Buttress Ordinary Route (Raeburn’s Route) in Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Looking down to Ruth and Stuart on one of the pitches we climbed.

It was thawing conditions today with generally soft snow and some rain towards the end of the day even up at the top of the crags in Stob Coire nan Lochan.

Sgairneach Mhor

John and I were out today with a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering Team of John, Kim, Linda, Olesya, Roddy and Sara. It was programmed for a route in Glen Coe, but conditions and forecasts meant we headed for Sgairneach Mhor near Drumochter instead. There are a number of small crags and gullies in Coire Creagach, most of which have been climbed by Davy Virdee and pals and we gambled that this coire would have held snow and the turf would be frozen.

Sara, Linda and John S on a variation to Lost Chock Gully.

This worked well with us climbing the Grade II Burn’s Supper before taking in the summit. We then descended Easy Gully with lowers/abs off a snow bollard to pass the steep collapsed cornice. Then John and team climbed Lost Chock Gully (Grade III) and my team climbed a variation to the right at Grade III. Additionally, Kenny hitched a ride in the bus and headed out for an enjoyable hill day.

Summit photo.

There was old snow from the bottom of the coire. This had generally refrozen well, but there was the odd soft spot. The cornices had collapsed during the thaw, which meant gully top outs were steep, but on firm refrozen snow. Turf was well frozen except where it was taking drainage. Ice was forming in the coire. There was ice from the road up this morning. It snowed lightly, but steadily on a mostly south-easterly wind for much of the day with snow settling at road level as we left and accumulating in sheltered locations higher up.