Tuesday, 20 February 2018

WELCOME BACK THE COLD

Firm snow
Ice back
Coire an Lochain 
Quiet in the coire
Cliffs of Coire an Lochain summit 
Poor visibility,  great for Navigation 
The temperatures dropped overnight and into today. The most snow pack had firmed up nicely above 900m. Charlotte out with me on day 2 of her 4 day course. The beauty of going on a bespoke 1:1 course with Tarmachan Mountaineering is the flexibility, non right itinerary and going at the pace that is comfortable with the individual.  Charlotte has gained confidence very quickly and wanted to step up the skills with axe and crampons today.  We found some nice steep sections of snow and ice in Coire an Lochain. As well as the core movement skills we also combined navigation into the day. Charlotte did all the navigation on our way up to Cairn Lochan from the carpark. Perfect timing with the cloud shrouding the hill for some poor visibility to get us back into the coire. Another brilliant day out.
I found a bit of climbing kit down in the coire today. If you recently lost something it may be yours. Drop me a line with it's description and I'll get it posted to you.

Monday, 19 February 2018

SHORT THAW

No crampons needed!
Crampons needed!
Fiacaill Buttress 
Avalanche debris,  Alladin's Buttress 
Snow Shelters 
Nice afternoon 
Descending Windy Col 
For the first time since about Christmas it rained up on the mountain tops. Temperatures rose during the night and into today. Summit temperatures were well above freezing. Despite this there is plenty of deep snow in the Cairngorms to survive a thaw. Charlotte is out with me this week on a 4 Day Winter Course. Today we walked into a misty and drizzly Coire an t-Sneachda. By the time we arrived at the Moraines the rain had ceased and the cloud lifted above the tops. We looked at the snowpack and made some Avalanche assessment in the coire.  After digging a snow Pit we made a snowshelter for elevenses.  Later we went up to Windy Col , going through good footwork and axe placements.  We went up, across and back down into the coire.  Of course the snowpack is soft with the warm temperatures and rain. By the afternoon there was some bright spells and blue skies. We finished off the day at the Flat Iron with some crampon techniques on the ice. Getting cold tonight and temperatures dropping. The snowpack should be nicely firmed up tomorrow.  Cold continues into most of this week with light winds.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

SNOWCRAFT, NAVIGATION & SNOWSHELTERS

Stunning morning in Sneachda 
Coire an t-Sneachda 

Mess of Potage 
Windy Col 
Ciste Mhearad 
Navigation off Cairn Gorm 
Cairn Gorm summit 
Snow Shelters 
Second day out with David & Harry on their winter course. Another beautiful morning with lots of blue skies and sun. Winds were light. A fantastic day to be out . Today we headed into Sneachda.  Much quieter on Sunday. The boys led the way and we made our way up to Windy Col. Perfect timing when we reached the plateau, some cloud rolled in. Perfect for some navigation. We walked over Cairn Gorm summit and then down to Ciste Mhearad.  It was poor visibility as we made our way to Ciste Mhearad,  AKA Snow hole City. Some big, beautiful cornices in the Corrie. After some fun digging some shelters and finding some old ones, we descended Windy Ridge. Another brilliant day.  Great fun with these guys. They're off to the west coast with James tomorrow who's guiding for me.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

ANOTHER FINE DAY IN THE CAIRNGORMS

Lunch at Hell's Lum
Cairn Lochan
A lot of windslab at Hell's Lum Crag
Harry & David on the Fiacaill 
Mess of Potage
Great views
Cornices, Hell's Lum

Ptarmigan
Afternoon light on Coire an Lochain
We're doing well, another lovely day to be out on the Cairngorms. Light winds and bags of sunshine by the afternoon after a breezy early morning. This weekend I have Harry and David out on a two day course. Harry has been out with me last winter and his friend has no winter experience but both enjoy lots of summer scrambling and climbing. With the weather being so fine we decided on a day to be out over the mountain tops. We ascended the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda and were on the top by lunch time. We then escaped the crowds and headed over to the top of Hell's Lum, one of the finest view points in The Cairngorms. Lunch with a view. The plateau has a wonderful covering of snow for ski touring. It is also becoming much easier for walking. Some scouring across the tops making for good, solid walking and cramponing. The western slopes are well windblown too. Lots of wind slab around the Hell's Lum area. Another top day and the boys taking to winter like a duck to water. Or a ptarmigan to snow.

Friday, 16 February 2018

SUNSHINE AND LIGHT WINDS AT LAST

Harry on the Teeth
The team in the sun & snow
Near the top
Fiacaill Buttress
Adam breezing along
Great day for it
Coire an t-Sneachda
The Team on Top
Fiacaill Buttress
Moving together 
Hard snow for cutting steps
The high winds finally eased overnight. It was a beautiful clear morning with bags of sunshine. Even by 10am there was a well trodden trail into Coire an t-Sneachda, well done folks. I think I've done my share of trail breaking this winter, ha ha! What a great day to be out. Today I had a fun group of 6 guys who have been on holiday all week, based in Braemar. They all have some basic winter skills, having done some long days out over Lochnagar area and a wild camp thrown in. So a good opportunity to step up their skills set and tackle some steeper terrain. We headed to the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. A good choice in the current avalanche conditions. Route choice and awareness where the themes of the walk in to the ridge. We found some nice hard , windswept snow at the foot of the Fiacaill. Good spot for some axe swinging skills, cutting steps. We had some great snow conditions on the steeper section of the Fiacaill. Well trodden and a great build up of snow. The guys loving the exposure (sometimes) and the awesome mountain architecture. There was a few folk heading up the Goat Track today. Not a place I would have been in the current conditions! On the top we found great walking with a scoured plateau. Winds had picked up a wee bit in the afternoon. Great day out and a brilliant day for the guys on their final day in The Cairngorms.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

SNOW PLOUGHING & NAVIGATION

The road up Glen Banchor, quite pleasant
Poor visibility at 700m
'Leep frogging'
Windy and ploughing, no so pleasant
Snow showers
Far more wildlife than humans today
Which is snow and which are rocks?
Last blizzard before the road
Glen Banchor in sun
Another snowy, cold an windy ole day in The Cairngorms. A lot of snow has been falling over the ast couple of days. When the weather clears it should look fabulous! But until then it's more battling in the elements and deep snow ploughing in the unconsolidated snow. Last day on Debbi & Alex's course this week. Today it was the number 1 'Winter essential skills'. Navigation. The Monadhliath hills are perfect terrain for honing in on your map and compass skills. Much of this vast areais featureless in summer and even more so in winter. With high winds forecasts for the bigger Cairngorm mountains it made good sense to visit these hills today, being that bit lower. Even so it was a struggle in the winds above about 600m. Gusting over 50mph, coupled with deep snow made for another challenging day out. The guys did a great job of getting to the lower summit of about 800m. We descended the eastern slopes in almost white out conditions. All good for that number 1 skill in winter. Did I mention that already? Yes it's not all about axes and crampons. We saw no other humans on the hill today but plenty of red deer and mountain hare. Top day out. Less windy tomorrow!