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.
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.
Yesterday John and I were out with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors team of Andrew, Chris, Emily and Martin. It was an Introduction to Winter Climbing day. It’s been thawing for the last few days, so our options were a little limited. We headed to Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms. There were still some large and droopy cornices over the area from Jacob’s Ladder to Aladdin’s Mirror, so we opted for Central Left Hand as it wasn’t threatened by cornices. This proved a good choice as a sizable collapse did happen further left during the day.
The route was climbed on soft snow, rock, well frozen turf and even some good ice near the top. However, it was thawing fast during the day.
Andrew flew up on Wednesday and I picked him up from EICA Ratho, where he’d visited Alan Lockhart who’s working with him to solve some long term injuries. We then headed North with the aim of four days of mountaineering/climbing. Andrew is planning some long term goals in the Greater Ranges and the idea was to improve Andrew’s efficiency of movement on alpine terrain, look at some specific skills and also have a good time ticking some Scottish classics without aggravating any injuries. As we drove North we were lucky enough to get a great view of the Northern Lights along Glen Dochart and North of Crianlarich. On Thursday we climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor and descended Curved Ridge taking in Crowberry Tower. We had sunshine at times and the rock was surprisingly dry with most of Rannoch Wall looking dry enough for climbing.
We then headed up to Skye as Andrew had never been in the Black Cuillin and was keen to get a feel for the ridge. The weather on Friday was unfortunately worse than earlier forecasts, so Andrew didn’t get much chance to see the hills. However, we ascended Sgurr Dearg via Coire na Banaichdaich and it’s North-West Flank; climbed the Inaccessible Pinnacle by it’s East Ridge and descended the South-East Flank of Sgurr Dearg to the An Stac Screes. Having been in constant steady rain and cloud for most of the day we then decided to bail down the screes and out via Coire Lagan.
With the forecast not looking great on Skye for Saturday we had an early start and made for the Cairngorms. Here we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda. After a pleasant chat with Glenn and Euan who were headed for Hell’s Lum Crag we climbed Pygmy Ridge. We approached this via the line of Central Gully Left Hand and it’s worth noting that there a couple of sizable perched blocks in this area at the moment. Once on the plateau we headed down Coire Domhain and around to Stag Rocks where we climbed Afterthought Arete, sticking to the ridge as much as possible to maximise the climbing.
We had accommodation booked over in the West for Saturday night and needed a shortish day to allow for flights on Sunday, so the final day saw us back in Glen Coe. We climbed Barn Wall Route on the East Face of Aonach Dubh, this requires a steady approach as although there are excellent positive holds throughout there isn’t a lot in the way of gear. We then headed around under Stob Coire nan Lochan, so Andrew could get a look at this as a potential future winter venue, before heading out along Gearr Aonach and descending The Zig-Zags.
Four days of Classic Mountaineering in mostly very good weather for the time of year with the exception of Friday. If you’re heading out it’s worth knowing that we haven’t had a proper frost yet and hence the midges are still around and biting, thankfully for me they seemed to prefer Andrew.
Out today in the Cairngorms with Harry and Fiona. After meeting in the ski centre car park and being pleasantly surprised to find the majority of the cloud below us we headed in to Coire an t-Sneachda and climbed Pygmy Ridge.
We approached the route via the line of Central Left Hand and then a short traverse, which works well. The rock and turf on Central Left Hand were damp from having been in cloud, but the rock on Pygmy Ridge was dry.
We then headed over to the Loch Avon Basin and climbed Afterthought Arete on Stag Rocks. Again the rock was dry and we enjoyed excellent views from the route.
A stroll back over the plateau and a wander down Fiacaill Coire Cas completed a very good day out. Lots of ptarmigan about in their autumn plummage and the odd hare.
Dry all day with light easterly winds. As we descended the cloud was rolling in over the plateau.
Out in Coire an t-Sneachda both yesterday and today. On Monday afternoon I went for a journey around the coire going up to the col on the Fiacaill Ridge, up the ridge, down The Goat Track, up Central Left-Hand, down Jacob’s Ladder and up the Slant. Snow conditions were generally very good with firm/well consolidated snow. There is the odd crusty area and a few small patches where a weaker unconsolidated layer still exists within the snow pack. Fiacaill Ridge had lost a lot of snow low down, but there’s hard ice/snow on the upper section. Very light winds, some sunshine and temperature below freezing out of the sun on Monday.
Today I was out with Al, Peter and Sarah. We climbed the bottom section of Central Gully, before breaking out left on to the rib for a pitch or so and then finishing up the nice water ice near the top of Central Left-Hand and a steep snow exit on the right. The ice seemed to be the highlight of the day with a line of about III being taken. We then descended Fiacaill Ridge keeping to it’s easier West side near the top.
Snow conditions again were generally very good, with just the odd patch of crust and a notable hollow/weak area around the rib between Central and Central-Left Hand (probably a hangover from the facetted layer talked about in earlier avalanche forecasts). Overcast today, with very light winds and temperatures below freezing at crag height all day.
Many thanks to Al, Peter and Sarah for making the day as stress free as possible.