Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Winter has finally made a return!

Hannah and I were out with a group of first year students from the different outdoor degrees from West Highland College today. We weren't sure what conditions were going to be like after the last few days of thaw but we decided to use the gondola to get us up quickly. There wasn't much snow visible from the top station but we kept the faith and carried on round the Nid. Thankfully there was some old snow in patches and ribbons leading up to the Nid, so we spent a very productive day in the area. Fresh snow to about 500m today and it was starting to come down heavily as we made our way down. 

winter skills, Aonach Mor

winter skills, Aonach Mor

winter skills, Aonach Mor

Sunday, 24 January 2016

What a difference a day makes.

Today I was out with Ron, Luc and Miel who are over from Holland and had ambitions to do the CMD arete. Today's forecast was playing ball so we headed for the East ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn to try and seek some shelter from the winds. On the drive over it became very obvious that we had lost A LOT more snow overnight and we hadn't hit the warmest part of the day yet.
We made our way up the East ridge which was just a summer scramble really with some soft old snow holding on in places but we never thought about putting crampons on and only got an axe out for the last 100m. It still gave the guys the 'experience' they were after and topping out right on the summit just finished the route off nicely.

winter mountaineering

Still smiling through the rain.

winter mountaineering

Not a lot of snow visible on the hills above Fersit.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Another day over east.

I'm not going to lie, the idea of going winter climbing in the rain today, did not fill me with joy, especially after all of the fine weather we have had. There was a very obvious east/west split with weather today and when I gave Colin and Alasdair the options, they thankfully choose to go east to the sunshine.
We had a great day climbing Hidden chimney under blue skies and on a quiet crag and in soft shells. There were lots of people out enjoying the sunshine but most were skills groups with very few people climbing. The crags still have a good covering of snow though it is thawing at the moment, the ice is starting to melt out of the cracks giving lots of options for gear.
There might still be a couple of days of thaw left but the Cairngorms will still be great once it all freezes again. I'll find out what things are like over here tomorrow, no photos I'm afraid, my camera was playing up.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Chris Walker Memorial Trust avalanche awareness workshop.

I was over in the Cairngorms today to attend an avalanche awareness workshop being run by the SAIS on behalf of the Chris Walker Memorial trust as part of my continued personal and professional development. A good day with lots of discussion amongst peers and a good refresher for myself about how the guys at SAIS do their forecasting. It started wet today but soon cleared up into a beautiful afternoon, lets see what the weekend brings in terms of weather.

Cairngorms winter climbing

avalanche awareness

northern coires winter climbing

Certainly didn't think we'd get an afternoon like this.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

In the white room.

Today was about Julian and Jelena putting into practise some of the decision making they covered with Dave yesterday. After a good planning session looking at the weather and avalanche forecasts they decided avoidance was the best plan and chose to climb the couple of peaks to the west of the Devil's staircase in Glencoe. This meant they approached from the east and stayed low enough to avoid the forecasted considerable avalanche terrain that started at 800/900m. Even at this height the going was still tough and the visibility was variable which gave us an opportunity to look at winter navigation techniques. The guys did great and after a day off tomorrow they'll be heading out on their own. 

Winter navigation

walking on a bearing.

Winter navigation

There wasn't a lot to see at times today.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

A very sociable day out.

Back out with Angus and Gary today for Abacus Mountain guides and we climbed a very snowy and Alpine feeling East ridge of the North buttress of Stob Ban, it was a stunning day and far better than forecast. The route required a bit of clearing again, the turf was well frozen but still quite a few loose blocks around.
We shared the route with Tom and Gam, who are friends of Angus and Gary's and were being guided by Ken so there was plenty of chat and laughs going round. A big thanks to Ken for looking after them.

Ken coming up the rear.

Not a bad view, hey?

The crux corner

Ken with Tom and Gam.

The final arete. 

Ben Nevis catching the light.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

It got a bit wild on the west.

Gary, Angus and I headed round to the West face of Aonach Mor this morning under quiet sky's and with a track to follow (Thanks whoever put that in). We we're headed for some of the ribs up high but not quite as far as the main summit ribs (Thanks Al, they did the job) to get some leading done on Grade II ground. As soon as we left the main track it became quite hard work through all the deep snow and it was at this point the snow started to fall and kept falling for a good couple of hours on some fresh winds making it feel quite 'Scottish'.
The hard work continued to the top and the gents did well looking after themselves in challenging conditions. There was a lot of snow moving round with more fresh windslab forming on westerly aspects, we set off a very small slide of soft slab even on the ridge and there is a report of more of the same further up the face. This weekend I am working for Abacus mountain guides.

There is turf under there somewhere.

Lots of snow.

And lots of digging.

Is that a smile or a grimace?

Friday, 8 January 2016

A late arrival.

It has been a late start to my winter fun this year, with buying and moving house in December, family up visiting, decorating, looking after the wee one and my other half Gillian changing her job it just hadn't been at the top of the pile, today though was a different matter. I headed out with Steve and Ken for a day up on Bidean nam Bian, unfortunately plan A didn't really work out due to conditions, so we abseiled and headed round the corner to salvage something from the day.
We decided on the line of Closer, even though it was missing the ice at the start of the first pitch but we thought it would go. This gave us two good pitches of sustained IV,5 climbing but the first pitch still wasn't in great condition for it's entirety. Still it was good to be out swinging the axes with friends.

If you're planning on heading out this weekend, I'd suggest picking rockier, steeper mixed routes that aren't so reliant on turf or classic mountaineering routes that will give great days out in this stunning weather.

Morning light on the Aonach Eagach.

The main cliffs of Bidean, above.

Stunning scenery to keep us entertained on the belays.

Ken, questing upwards.

The end to a satisfying day.