I’m just back from three fairly wild days based at Lagangarbh with a Falkirk Outdoors Mountaineering and High Tops Trip. On Wednesday Gillian, Linda, Neil and I ascended a soggy Zig-Zags (crampons not required). Whilst Craig, Mike and Wilson traversed Beinn a’Chrulaiste. On Tuesday the mountaineers adjourned to The Ice Factor for some indoor rock and ice climbing, whilst the walkers took in The Pap of Glencoe and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh. Today the mountaineers made up a couple of routes high on the west face of Gearr Aonach including one, which had an interesting tight through route; meanwhile the walkers visited Beinn Bhan above Ballachulish before deciding the weather was unpleasant enough to make for a short day.
The weather gave significant precipitation on all three days. The freezing level went above the summits on Thursday on a southerly wind and then dropped down to around 600m today with the wind becoming westerly. We only reached circa 700m today, but there was considerable accumulation of fresh wind blown snow at this level. The snow at this height was moist and will firm up with colder temperatures. There are more photos on The ClimbNow Facebook page.
I got back last night from the Falkirk Community Trust CIC Hut trip with John, Andrew, Gary, Linda and Steven. We headed up to Ben Nevis on Wednesday and in the afternoon climbed a soggy upper North Trident Buttress section of Moonlight Gully. The lower section was broken, so we avoided it by a rising traverse line from the left. We then climbed the upper section in two long pitches to the ridge above Number 5 Gully and descended back down by abseil and down climb before traversing out to Coire na Ciste along the ramp.
On Thursday we climbed Tower Ridge, with the difficulties mostly on rock, but with sugary snow on the easier angled sections and firmer snow above Tower Gap. We didn’t put crampons on, but an axe was required. The snow will firm up again with colder temperatures over the weekend. On Friday with a windier wetter forecast we decided to head down and had a good couple of hours climbing in The Ice Factor at Kinlochleven.
The last three days Doug and I have been based in Fort William. On Saturday Doug had a somewhat arduous journey up, but we decided to make the most of the good weather forecast and climbed The Dragon’s Tooth (the traverse of Sgorr a’Chaolais on Sgorr Dhonuill, Beinn a’Bheithir). We chose this as there was a lot of fresh snow, which had fallen mostly on south-westerly or westerly winds and we felt a ridge with a potentially scoured side would be a good option. This proved to be the case, although quite a lot of trail breaking was required to get to the ridge and careful route selection was required along the ridge and in descent.
Overnight and in to Sunday there was an easterly component in the wind and there was redistribution of old snow and fresh snow before the wind swung around towards the west again accompanied by more snow fall. This made for some very tricky snow conditions with very easy shears of wind slab on lots of aspects and in pockets due to cross loading on almost every aspect. Doug and I had two attempts to get in to climbing lines on very different aspects in Glen Nevis, but turned around both times at around 300m as we were not happy with the snow stability on our approaches to the climbs. However, we made the most of the day by going to The Ice Factor to look at steep ice climbing technique, talking a lot about avalanche awareness and avoidance (thanks to Rich for letting us sit in on his avalanche lecture), oh and visiting a couple of cafes.
Today we headed east to the Cairngorms to avoid the worst of the weather and found some good climbing conditions on Haston Line and Hidden Chimney on The Mess of Pottage in Coire an t-Sneachda. The crag was very busy today, but teams were working well together and there was some good climbing to be had. Conditions are changing again tomorrow and over the next few days, so take care with route choice if you’re out and about.