Glen Ogle

In winter it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B and sometimes a C, D, E, F and G. Today I was out with a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Climbing Team of John, Robin, Alan, Derry, Doug and Paul. Our Plan A was Bridge of Orchy, but snow on the road and falling steadily at Tyndrum this morning forced a change and we headed for Burger Van Falls at Glen Ogle. This gave us a good day and by climbing multiple lines on each fall allowed plenty of climbing on ice and a good opportunity to concentrate on technique.

Doug setting off on one of the falls. There is a rope above, but it’s hard to see.

The falls weren’t thick and generally weren’t taking screws in many places, so we led some sections and top/bottom roped others. The main fall hadn’t touched down and was still running and not climbable today. It was snowing at crag height when we arrived, which changed to rain in the morning, this stopped by early afternoon, but the falls were thawing fast as we left.

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.

Beinn Dorain and Ben Nevis

Yesterday I was out on Beinn Dorain with a team from Ballachulish looking at skills required for guiding on grade I/II ground. There was a good covering of firm snow on many aspects above 500 metres and ice still present on the crags.

Today we have been on Ben Nevis climbing routes in the CIC Hut cascades area and an ice flow below the Curtain. The ice was in good condition today. However, things will be different tomorrow if the forecast is correct but should improve again towards the weekend.

Climbing an ice flow below the Curtain.

Bridge of Orchy

John and I were out today with Brian, Christoph, Dave and Douglas on Creag Coire an Dothaidh on a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing day. We climbed Centigrade, this gave a good mix of turf, ice and rock which allowed lots of different gear to be looked at whilst climbing the route.

Looking down the easy upper gully of Centigrade to Dave and Brian.

We chose the crag as it was on the scoured side of the hill and had less snow than on other aspects. There’d been rain in the morning almost to the top of the crag and the crag was above freezing most of the day. However, there was quite a lot of ice around and this was generally holding on well. Snow in the coire was saturated.

Bridge of Orchy

John and I were in the Bridge of Orchy area today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Winter Climbing team of Devon, Jacob, Jim and Ross.

Jim, Ross and I climbed Kick Start on Creag an Socach on Beinn Dorain. This had a couple of distinct cruxes and requires care to protect the seconds on the traverse left after the junction with The Glass Bead Game (small to medium cams useful for this). The turf was well frozen, but buried under crusty soft snow. There’s isn’t a lot of ice around on the crag, so lines which require ice are probably best avoided at the moment. The crag was busy with teams on The Glass Bead Game, Second Coming and I think The Sting.

Jim and Ross looking relaxed at the belay before the traverse pitch.

John, Devon and Jacob headed over to Creag Coire an Dothaidh and climbed Salamander Gully as a snow route, the ice hasn’t formed or was buried except near the top. There was a lot more snow on this crag and their route choice was in part due to a convenient set of steps up the line. There is wind slab around on top of the crusty layer and this should be borne in mind for route choice.

Creag Coire an Dothaidh

David and I climbed on Creag Coire an Dothaidh today near Bridge of Orchy. It’s low altitude and aspect meant that it wasn’t too buried after the recent snow falls, although there is plenty of snow on the crag. The turf was very well frozen, even where buried. Ice is building, but currently isn’t great for climbing.

David getting ready to belay at the bottom of Centigrade.

We climbed Centigrade and Quick Fire. Both required a careful approach in their current conditions. The later isn’t in the guidebook, but was a new route from 2015. There was very little new snow during the day and winds were generally light. It’s worth noting that Creag an Socach on the other side of the coire was much blacker.

Beinn an Dothaidh

John and I were out today on Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Mountaineering team of Andy, Ben, Devon and Siobhan. We climbed Emel Ridge on good snow and turf once above the initial step on to the ridge. This 200m route is mostly easy Grade I, but with a couple of harder steps which we roped up for, and brings you out close to the summit of the hill, which we took in before descending.

Siobhan and Andy above the crux of Emel Ridge with views to the west.

Siobhan and Andy above the crux of Emel Ridge with views to the west.

The major gullies in the North-East coire currently have good snow cover, but some sizable cornices. The steeper lines could do with a freeze and aren’t currently in condition. We were treated to some sunshine today and cloud above the summits giving great views and a very pleasant day to be on the hill. I’ll put some more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page.


Stairway to Heaven

Today the team, Matt and I visited the North East Corrie of Beinn an Dothaidh and were pleased to discover on entering the corrie that we were the only climbers there.

Following an assessment of the approach to the routes around the West Gully area of the crag we climbed Stairway to Heaven. The route was very well frozen except from the platform at the top of pitch one where the double warthog belay is. Here the turf has been well insulated by a deep layer of snow and was not as dependable as elsewhere on the route.

Lots more photos from the last two days on the facebook page.

Great positons on Stairway to Heaven.

Great positons on Stairway to Heaven.

Beinn an Dothaidh

I was out today with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors Introduction to Winter Climbing team of Alistair, Bobbie, Matt and Russell. We headed for the North-East Coire of Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy. After walking in we did a quick session on removing rock and turf gear before heading up the bottom part of West Gully and climbing Stairway to Heaven. This route was in excellent condition with all the turf well frozen, a covering of fresh snow from Saturday and even some ice.

Matt, Bobbie and John on the bely below the rock walls on stairway to Heaven.

Matt, Bobbie and John on the belay below the rock walls on stairway to Heaven.

We descended via the ridge west of the coire with light snow cover down to around 500m and the ground being fairly well frozen right back to the car park.

The major gully lines are still very lean with the approach up West Gully on snow covered rock and turf until level with the bottom of Stairway to Heaven, where there was some older firm snow and a building accumulation of wind blown snow on a strong south-easterly wind. Taxus looked very lean with mostly soft snow in the gully. However, the buttress routes that don’t require ice looked in good condition.

Four Days Based in Lochaber

I got back last night from four days based in Fort William with Andy and Rob. On the way up on Friday we stopped off at Bridge of Orchy and headed in to Creag Coire an Dothaidh. We’d been aiming for Salamander Gully, but a team diverted on to it just before we got to the crag, so we headed up Centigrade. The ice was a bit hollow in places and required a delicate approach, but gave a good sheltered climb.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Saturday saw us head up to Ben Nevis and climb Ledge Route in excellent conditions. We were the first team up on the day, which required a bit of trail breaking and some careful route choice in sheltered spots with pockets of unconsolidated snow. We saw lots of teams out on The Curtain, Vanishing Gully and heading up towards Harrison’s and Castle Ridge.

On Sunday we needed a shorter day with options to cut off early if required as Rob’s foot was playing up a little. This made me think of Masa and Yuki Sakano’s routes on the North-West Ridge of Binnein Shuas. It’s a short walk in and the routes are on small buttresses up the ridge. I’d climbed Location, Location, Location last year with Jim Bayliss and spotted an option for an alternative start; the cave mentioned in Masa’s description is actually a through route. This gave an hilarious squeeze/thrutch with rucksacks needing to be removed part way up. Rob described it as “like being a kid again”.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Higher up we climbed Bogle Eyed, which gives a short, but excellent quality, ice pitch and seems to form quite readily. We then aimed for what I thought was Summit North-West Buttress. We climbed what looked like the “obvious zig-zag snow line”, however, it felt somewhat nippy for a II and we popped out about 20m North of the summit rather than “80m West”; so not the same line, but a good pitch direct to the summit. If you want more information for routes on Binnein Shuas search on

Yesterday we climbed Dinnertime Buttress finishing via No. 2 Gully on Aonach Dubh West Face in Glen Coe. The ground was hard frozen from the glen up and the weather was glorious. There are still areas of unconsolidated snow and slab around, so route choice requires thought.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

We then drove back down and as the guys were flying out this morning we had time for a meal in Edinburgh and a couple of drams in The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which made Rob very happy. I think Andy was just happy the weather was a vast improvement on when he was up earlier in the season. I’ve added some photos to the ClimbNow Facebook page.