May Update

May has seen a lot of changes, both in weather conditions and Covid restrictions and guidance. The month started with winter still being very present in the Scottish hills, which allowed us to get a couple of last wintery outings.

Looking for new routes on Beinn Fionnlaidh with Mac and Sharon.

Focus changed for us through the month to rock climbing in both North Wales and Scotland; delivering National Governing Body Award training courses, such as Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor, Mountain Leader and Lowland Leader.

Lorna climbing at Hawkcraig with Euan.
Photo taken by Paul while delivering an MCI.
Delivering a Lowland Leader Training.
A Mountain Leader Training expedition in the Southern Cairngorms.

The highlight was probably Paul popping up with Finn to complete a traverse of the Skye Ridge in pretty favourable conditions.

Finn on the Inn Pinn.
Magnificent views on the Skye Ridge.

Small Goals

During the lockdowns I’ve found it really useful to set myself some goals. Having a target, even a small one, definitely makes me more likely to get out and invariably I feel better for doing so.

Over the last few weeks I set myself the goal of visiting/revisiting all the trig points within the City of Edinburgh Council boundary that you are legally able to.

Cliff at the summit of Allermuir Hill after winter climbing on the day the seeds of the challenge were sown.

To stick to the spirit of the restrictions I tried to do this by not making special journeys, but by visiting them after a bouldering/climbing session, as part of a walk with a friend or as a run from home.

On a windy run to an obscure trig point.

If you decide to do something similar many trig points will be on farm land or golf courses. Please do make sure you access land responsibly and don’t disturb livestock, damage crops or interfere with games in progress. Access legislation is different in England and Wales to Scotland and this should also be considered.

The summit of Dalmahoy Hill with Ivor.

Restrictions are hopefully easing up. In Scotland we’re now able to travel from our council area for outdoor work and things should ease further on the 26th April. If you have any climbing or mountaineering goals ClimbNow could help with do get in touch.

Mick on the summit of Arthur’s Seat as I completed the challenge in sunshine on Tuesday.

Local Winter Climbing

Another catch-up post. The cold spell in February allowed some winter climbing local to Edinburgh. On the 11th and 12th of February the low level snow and cold conditions allowed Cliff and I to climb on rarely in condition Green Craig in the Pentlands. We climbed East Gully, Reindeer Cave Gully, Edinburgh Lights and had a look at another line. Harder routes on this crag are fairly bold and the rock is very friable, so take care if heading up to climb. 

Cliff investigating East Gully.
Cliff leading on Green Craig.
Sunset from Allermuir Hill after climbing on Green Craig.

On the 13th February I persuaded Jen to head out in the dark to belay me on an even more rarely in condition short ice route above the River Almond in Cramond. Current Covid-19 restrictions mean some unusual route choices.

Daytime photo showing the River Almond ice route. A diagonal line was taking allowing trees and stumps to be slung for protection.

Local Ski Touring

A few catch up posts. Back in February it was cold and snowy enough for some local ski touring in the Edinburgh area. On the 9th of February I managed a morning tour with Pamela in Dalmeny including the novelty of skiing to the beach for a paddle.

Pamela skiing on to the beach near Hound Point.

On the 14th of February Euan and I had good long tour in the Pentlands just as the thaw was arriving.

Euan happy to be getting some skiing in this odd year.
Me descending from Carnethy Hill.

Avalanche Sites and Snowy Runs in the Pentlands

Last week as well as training at home to keep climbing & hill fitness I also managed to get out with Ivor to visit a significant avalanche site in the Pentlands and with Nettle for a snowy hill run. The avalanche site was from the previous week and a good reminder that avalanches can occur in local relatively low hills.

Me at the avalanche site on the east side of Caerketton Hill. Photo credit: I. McCourt.
Ivor and me at the summit of Allermuir.
Heading across the Torduff reservoir. Photo credit: J. Foden.
Nettle on Harbour Hill.
Traversing around Harbour Hill. Photo credit: J. Foden.

Pentlands Running and Snow Wading

Nettle and I were out for a “run” in the snow in the Pentlands today. We were breaking trail for most of the way and post holing for long sections. Skis or snowshoes would have been very useful. The weather was kind with sunshine most of the time we were out and strong winds only on exposed ridges. There’s been a lot of wind movement of the snow. An avalanche was reported on Turnhouse Hill yesterday and it was easy to see why today with significant drifting, wind slab and some areas of underlying old neve in high sheltered locations. Think about route choice if you are out and about in the Pentlands in these conditions.

On the way in. Photo credit: J. Foden.
There’s a path under here somewhere.
Plenty of evidence of wind movement of snow.
Summit shot.
Happy to be out. Photo credit: J. Foden.
Nettle running from the summit.

Winter Walking and Ski Touring

This week I’ve been lucky enough to get out in the Pentlands again in winter conditions. On Tuesday Ivor and I were out for a walk in glorious sunny weather with a dusting of fresh snow. On Friday Pamela and I managed an opportunistic ski tour. The snow cover was good on paths and tracks where it had a base and had drifted in on top overnight. Away from these there was no real base except in small sheltered locations and care was required. A great fun day, which helped to keep our winter skills ticking over as best we can currently.

Looking to Caerketton Hill on Tuesday.
Pamela near the ski centre on Friday morning.
Quick break and about to remove skins near the summit of Allermuir Hill.
Obligatory selfie.
Looking back to Allermuir. Thin cover away from tracks.
Quite “Scottish” ski touring traversing around the north side of Allermuir Hill.

Winter Walking and Climbing in the Pentlands

Last week saw some good wintery conditions in the Pentland Hills. This meant I was able to get out locally for some winter walking and climbing. The climbing was only in the Grade I to III range and not classics. However, it was great to get out and practice skills I’ll hopefully need later in the season.

Me and Ivor enjoying an easy gully in the Pentlands.
Looking down Right Cleuch (Right Fork) to Ivor belaying from the pinnacle.
Stunning views from Caerketton Hill.
Jen at the summit of Allermuir Hill on a day with less visibility.

Wintery Pentlands and Local Outdoor Training

Well the past couple of days have seen me figuring out how to stay fit and not let skills fade within the new restrictions, so that when I can get out and work again in the bigger hills I’m able to do so confidently. Yesterday Euan and I trained outdoors in a local park. Today I was out in the Pentlands with Ivor. The hard packed snow and ice on paths had refrozen and crampons were very useful for movement with the added benefit of allowing us to practice crampon work. #armadillomerino #usedbyproslovedbyall

Euan working hard.
Ivor, crampons very useful on the compacted and refrozen snow.
View south-west along the Pentlands.
Me happy to be out.
Rime ice on fences indicating precipitation on a north-west wind.

Snowy Pentlands Run

I managed to meet up with Nettle in the Pentlands on the 30th December for an excellent snowy run. It was clear while we were on the hill, but snowing steadily by late afternoon.

Always great to get out with Nettle.
Sun over West Cairn Hill.
View to The Kips and Scald Law.
Low light looking south-west from one of the tops of East Cairn Hill.