On Saturday and Sunday John and I were in the Cairngorms with a Falkirk Community Trust Climbing Team of Andrea, Christine and Marco and Craig was out with a High Tops Team of Alec, Davie and Norrie.
After dropping the walkers off the climbers cycled up Gleann an t-Slugain before putting up tents below Clach a’Cleirich. We had a heavy shower as we arrived at the campsite and when this eased we headed up to Gharbh Coire with thoughts of possibly climbing Squareface that afternoon. However, lots of snow in descent gullies and more rain showers meant we just stashed some gear for the better forecast day on Sunday.
An early start on Sunday saw us climbing the classic Cumming-Crofton Route on Mitre Ridge with Bell’s Variation once the ridge itself was reached. This gave interest all the way, particularly in the bottom three pitches, which were wet and required care.
We then returned to the campsite and the cycled out. A good effort from the team particularly as they’re from a sports climbing background with very limited trad and multi-pitch experience.
The walkers had an excellent two days taking in Beinn Bhreac, Beinn a’Chaorainn, Beinn a’Bhuird and Ben Avon. See Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors facebook page for a report and photos from Craig.
Paul and I were out today on the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. The lower steep section of the ridge was largely snow free and the turf lower down wasn’t fully frozen. However, by climbing the snowy ramp line on the North side of the ridge we were able to stay on old snow joining the ridge higher up where it was snowy and the turf well frozen.
There were a few centimetres of unconsolidated fresh snow on top of the older snow and there were some light snow showers during the afternoon on a Westerly wind. Lots of debris from small snow slides and sun wheels on either side of the ridge.
Yesterday John and I were out in a fairly wild Coire an t-Sneachda with a Falkirk Community Trust winter climbing team of Andy, Graham, Gregor and Pete. We opted for Goat Track Gully, which had some good ice up to the crux corner and was sheltered from the winds in parts. There was a lot of snow being moved around by strong southerly winds; it was difficult to tell how much was new snow, but it was accumulating in sheltered locations. Craig and a winter skills group shared the mini-bus and seemed to have a good day despite the strong winds and spindrift.
Today Andy and I chose The East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn as the winds were due to be strong again and either south-westerly or westerly. It rained below 500m all day and above 800m snow was accumulating fast in sheltered locations.
We climbed the ridge taking in as many of the by-passable difficult sections as possible. The turf was well frozen above 800m and loose blocks generally well frozen in, which allowed us lots of excellent little mixed pitches. We topped out into the wind at the summit cairn and descended quickly on the scoured side of the hill.
I’m just back from an excellent week of winter skills and mountaineering with Ali and Liz. We were based in Glen Nevis, which gave us good access to lots of venues and avoided some of the worst of the weather other areas of Scotland have been having recently.
There wasn’t a huge amount of snow around at the start of the week and on Monday we headed high to Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe and used Broad Gully to look at boot and crampon work. The snow only really started just below the start of the gully proper, but was good firm old snow with just the odd area of new snow on the side of the gully sheltered from the strong East winds.
Tuesday saw us on Ben Nevis and after the thaw of the weekend and then Easterlies we took the opportunity to climb Number Five Gully, which is often best avoided as the upper bowl collects a lot of snow and is prone to avalanche. In the conditions on Tuesday it gave an excellent long climb (460m), through great scenery, on good neve with just the odd delicate step around holes where water was running below.
Ali and Liz had now climbed a lot of metres of snow, so a more mixed route seemed appropriate and on Wednesday we ascended the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. The ridge was scoured and there wasn’t much old snow, but the turf was very well frozen from below the start of the climbing, the rock was rimed and some light fresh snow fell during the day on strong South-Easterlies. The ridge gives plenty of options for variation and tackling harder or easier steps.
A sore foot and a poor forecast for Thursday morning saw us driving across to the Cairngorms to look at navigation, getting shelter in winter and continuing the avalanche awareness and avoidance that was a theme throughout the week. We’d looked at some nav the day before and in winds gusting 60mph, driving snow from the car park and very limited visibility Ali and Liz did a great job of navigating me around the hill.
The winds finally eased today and with a frost overnight and freezing temperatures through the day we had a superb outing on Sron na Lairig. There’d been fresh snow down to around 700m on South-East and then Westerly winds, so a ridge was a good place to be. There was fresh powder on some sections of the ridge and a bit of care and clearing was required. We finished the week with a wander up to the summit of Stob Coire Sgreamhach to get some amazing views, before descending back via the Lairig Eilde. I’ve put some more photos from the week on the Climbnow Facebook page.
I’m just back from three days away with Andrew and Ged. The weather was challenging at times, but we managed to get something good done everyday.
On Friday we climbed the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn in strong South-Westerly/Westerly winds and rising freezing levels. The ridge was a sheltered popular choice for the conditions and it was pleasant to bump in to quite a few folk we knew.
Freezing levels dropped down again for Saturday to around the 500m to 700m level, but there was lots of snow forecast on strong Westerly winds. We opted for Creag Coire an Dothaidh. This again proved a popular choice with the coire as busy as I’ve ever seen it. We climbed the first pitch of Right Guard, a pitch in a similar line parallel to Fahrenheit 451, a short easy rightwards traverse and a dogleg pitch bringing us out on the top section of Centigrade. This gave us some very good climbing at around III,4. The turf on the first pitch was softer than expected, but above this very firm with a lot of ice around. Simon and partner climbed Salamander Gully reporting it good, but with a steep ice bulge and John’s team climbed a hard variation on Centigrade. There were several other teams on the crag, but I’m not sure what else was climbed. Fahrenheit 451 looked fat at the top, but thin and bold on the first pitch.
With a forecast of very high winds from the South-West and rain we headed for the Cairngorms today and spent the day in the shelter of Fiacaill Coire Chais looking at snowpack, snow anchors and emergency shelters. The ski centre closed early due to the wind, but the rain didn’t arrive until late afternoon. With freezing levels above the summits during the day the crags were looking black and ridges were completely scoured, but there were still big depths of snow in sheltered locations.
Just had a couple of good days in some interesting weather. Yesterday, Friday, I was out in Coire an t-Sneachda with Mac and Steve. The wind was forecast to be fairly strong, so we opted for a route where we could abseil off and not have to deal with conditions on the plateau. We climbed the first pitch of The Prodigal Principal via a mixture of good ice, thin delicate ice and some balancy mixed moves.
The ice on this route had significantly reduced from earlier in the week after Thursday’s thaw and it was quite tricky on the day and included getting over a small bergshcrund to access the route. We then moved into the top section of Doctor’s Choice; the lower section from the cave looked delicate on the day, but the upper corner had excellent ice and neve.
From the top of the route we moved left and abseiled down in to Alladin’s Couloir.
On the walk out we were asked to help out with an injured walker, who’d taken a tumble on The Goat Track, so we headed back in and assisted with the evacuation. Great to see a number of teams mucking in to help out and also the guys from Cairngorm Mountain, which made for a fairly swift exit for all concerned.
Today the freezing level was due to head above the summits with rain and strong West and South-West winds. Euan, Duncan, Scott, Steve, Tina and I headed for The East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn. It was a pretty soggy walk in, but there was good firm snow on the ridge and the turf was frozen, which made for a good if damp climb. Visibility on the top was poor, so we dropped West then South-west from the summit and then back along the stream line to Roughburn.
Freezing level above the summits today with rain at summit level. Winds were lower than forecast whilst we were on the hill, but we were back to the car by mid-afternoon. I forgot my camera today, so no photos I’m afraid. At least two other members of the team had cameras with them, but chose not to get them out; it was that sort of day.