Glencoe and Aonach Mor

This week I am instructing on a Winter Mountain Leader course. Yesterday we were at Glencoe ski centre looking at teaching winter skills. Large patches of snow still exist but not enough for skiing.

Today we were at Aonach Mor looking at leading groups in steep ground. We completed the session on the east side of the mountain were large patches of snow can still be found.

Steep ground training on Aonach Mor.

Steep ground training on Aonach Mor.

Coire an Lochain

The Falkirk High Tops Team, Craig and I were out in the Cairngorms today looking at winter skills. The snow that remains is all very firm. However, as can be seen from the photo the crags are very black.

Craig with Coire an Lochain beyond.

Craig with Coire an Lochain beyond.

Winter Mountain Leader

This week I am instructing on a Winter Mountain Leader course. Yesterday we were at the White Corries looking at the teaching of winter skills. Today we were on the Nid at Aonach Mor looking at managing groups on steep ground and snow anchors.

Lots of snow remains in the high corries and gullies. However, a refreeze is now required to bring the majority of routes back into condition with rockfall currently an issue.

Using stompers on the Nid.

Using stompers on the Nid.

Stob Mhic Mhartuin, Mess of Pottage and SCNL

On Friday the lads from Ballachulish and I finished our winter mountaineering course by ascending Stob Mhic Mhartuin in Glencoe and then on the steep northerly aspect completed some training on abseiling in winter using bollards.

Tina, Scott, Steve, Martin and I met in the Cairngorm car park on Saturday morning with the hope of doing some winter climbing. We chose to go east rather than west to avoid the rain. We were rewarded with a dry day and two routes; Haston Line and Hidden Chimney (both are on the Mess of Pottage in Coire an t-Sneachda). Both routes were still holding good snow ice although this may be gone now.

We returned west on Saturday evening and on Sunday climbed Dorsal Arete in Stob Coire nan Lochan. The route still has lots of useable snow on it although the fin is now mostly dry.

There are lots more photos from the last week on the climbnow facebook page.

The team on SCNL.

The team on SCNL.

Four Days and a One Night Exped

For the past four days I have been based in Ballachulish. On Monday the team and I completed a winter skills session at the Glencoe ski centre. The cover for skiing is currently excellent.

We went to Aonach Mor on Tuesday to complete a micro navigation session on the plateau in winds gusting up to 60mph and whiteout conditions. These conditions were perfect for what we wanted to achieve. The snow cover in the ski area was good although the plateau was mostly bare nice.

For the past two days we have been snowholing in the Creag Meagaidh massif climbing Na Cnapanan, Meall an t-Snaim and Carn Liath. The cover on the ridges of the massif is currently excellent for ski touring. There was two large avalanches in Coire Ardair either during last night or early this morning.

The Buachaille on Monday.

The Buachaille on Monday.

Nearing the summit of Carn Liath.

Nearing the summit of Carn Liath.

Cairngorms and Beinn a’Chaorainn

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.

Pete collecting spindrift on a belay on Goat Track Gully.

Pete collecting spindrift on a belay on Goat Track Gully.

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.

John bridging up an optional groove near the top of Goat Track Gully.

John bridging up an optional groove near the top of Goat Track Gully.

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.

Andy on The East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn.

Andy on The East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn.

Glenfinnan and Glencoe

On Wednesday a team from Ballachulish and I walked into Corryhully Bothy before traversing Sgur an Fhuarain Duibh finishing in the dark so we could practice our night navigation skills. Of note is that the 1:50000 OS map of this hill shows no crags on the southerly aspect. This is incorrect and worth remembering when route planning.

We overnighted at the bothy before climbing Stob Coire nan Cearc the next day. There was fresh avalanche debris on this hill at 720 metres on a North Easterly aspect.

The weather warmed considerably on Thursday with rain at all levels. We did however manage to find enough snow on Stob Mhic Mhartuin in Glencoe on Friday to build emergency snow shelters and complete some ice axe arrest practice. The crags of Stob Coire nan Lochan are now black.

More photos on the facebook page.

The summit of Sgurr an Fhuarain Duibh.

The summit of Sgurr an Fhuarain Duibh.

Winter Skills and Avalanche Awareness

Over the past couple of days I have been out with a team looking at essential winter skills, micro navigation, avalanche awareness and avalanche rescue techniques.

Yesterday we visited Glencoe ski area and today we ascended Aonach Mor. There is good cover for skiing at both areas.

Of note is that there was significant spontaneous avalanches in Glencoe today.

Bill navigating in the white room.

Bill navigating in the white room.

Overnight in Lochaber and a Day Out in the Cairngorms

I have just had a great three days out with the Falkirk High Tops Team. On Thursday we walked to the CIC Hut before traversing the West and East Gullies of the Douglas Boulder. The route was in good condition. Of note is that the abseil tat at the top of East Gully is not currently present.

We then ovenighted at the hut before ascending Carn Mor Dearg early next morning. After descending to the base of the West Face of Aonach Mor, we then climbed Western Rib to the summit of this mountain. The routes was very white but the turf was variable.

Today I have been in the Cairngorms teaching winter skills. We found good hard snow for sliding and managed to cover lots of useful techniques. The buttresses looked very white. We came accross new windslab on a number of aspects.

Descending towards the West Face of Aonach Mor with the NEB in the background.

Descending towards the West Face of Aonach Mor with the NEB in the background.

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Ice axe arrest practice in the Cairngorms.

Snowhole Expedition

When thoroughly planned, snowholing expeditions can be brilliant fun. I am just back from another successful overnight stay on Geal-charn in the Drummochter Pass. As can be seen from the photo, one of the great benefits of sleeping out in the mounatins is sunrises like we saw this morning!

There is still large quantities of snow in the Drummochter Pass giving plenty of opportunites for winter sports.

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