Monday, 17 December 2018

GRAND DAY ON THE TOPS

The cliffs of Cairn Lochan

Beautiful day in Strathspey
A day out in the Cairngorms isn't a day out unless you have ptarmigan

Looking good

Climbers, Core an Lochain

Fiacaill Coire Sneachda ridge

Plenty of these guys today
Cairn Lochan

Lochan frozen

Fiacaill Coire Sneachda


Top of Alladin's Gully

Ben Macdui and plateau

Coire an Lochain
The last 4 days we've had some very different weather and snow conditions. A typical winter period as always. This is what makes the Scottish mountains so special, rarely are there two days the same. It was nice to stroll along the plateau today with just moderate winds and great views. The Northern Corries walk is a great half day, even in winter. There is snow down to 400m or so. Quite thin cover below 700m. A great mix of wind slab, refrozen snow (neve), rime ice and water ice. The old snow pack has a covering of wind slab in places, especially on western aspects. The SAIS (Scottish Avalanche Information Service) started up again at the weekend. Essential reading when planning your days out in the winter mountains. There were plenty of folk climbing in Coire an Lochain today but the hills were quite quiet, the Cairngorms are so vast you can easily escape the crowds. The winds just started to pick up again as I headed off the tops. Unfortunately another temperature rise as the Atlantic front makes another appearance. Plenty of snow and ice high up that will survive so not to worry!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

AFTER THE STORMS, COMES THE SUN

Fresh snow on Meall a Bhuachaille 

Lovely day of sun and cloud

A taste of useing axes

Harriet & Tom on the summit 

Nice to see the sun

The Northern Corries looking whiter

Up for the 3 Peaks
The winds had eased right down after yesterday's stormy conditions. Fresh snow down to 300m this morning. Harriet & Tom out with me today for a taster of winter walking. The snow gates were closed at Glenmore so we decided on a day up Meall a Bhuachaille instead of the planned Northern Corries. Meall a Bhuachaille is one of the finest viewpoints of the Northern Cairngorms and for such a short day out you get brilliant viewpoints. After our visit to the summit we walked over the two other lower summits of Creagan Gorm and Craiggowrie. The only steep ground on these hills is on the North side of Creagan Gorm.  So we traversed round to this seldom visited spot for Harriet and Tom to have some experience of using their ice axes. We retraced our steps back along the ridge after the third summit of Craiggowrie,  to savour the sun and views again! 

Saturday, 15 December 2018

COLD, FROZEN & A BIT WINDIER!

Intimidating conditions for novices 

Ian's smiling underneath

A deserted Coire an t-Sneachda 

Neve heaven

Time to head down

High winds and boulders 

Still smiling

A team abseiling off a route

A two pint end of day
Over the years I have taken many folk out in winter to skill up for bigger mountains in The Alps or great rangers. The Cairngorms and other Scottish mountains in winter offer amazing weather and snow conditions to cover a wide range of skills. We may not have high altitude or glaciated terrain but every other mountain aspect we have in abundance and beyond! Today the skills required to tackle the conditions was no exception . High winds, frozen snow and steep terrain are quite intimidating for a novice. Ian was out with me to gain some of these skills we encountered today. He's off to climb Aconcagua in a couple of weeks time and wanted to get some experience with ice axe, crampons and brutal weather! We certainly got the later. With wind speeds of 60mph even at lower altitudes made for a challenging day. Coire an t-Sneachda was deserted today. A few folk heading back down from the coire and only two other teams seen climbing.  Just like yesterday it was relatively sheltered high up in Sneachda.  After mid day the winds increased,  as forecasted,  to around 80mph guests. Time to head home. Back at Coire Cas carpark it was wild and deserted.  Fun day out and Ian gained loads of vital skills and experience of what a Cairngorm wind is like. All good for Aconcagua, another windy mountain!  Good luck to Ian on the highest peak in the Western hemisphere.
A footnote on yesterday's unfortunate climber. He's doing well with only minor injuries.  Great to hear.

Friday, 14 December 2018

WINDY AND FROZEN

Ice blastered boulders

Wind clouds over Coire an lochain

Coire an t-Sneachda 

A challenging day for wildlife photography

Winds no bother for these guys

Nature is wonderful

Mess of Pottage

Most things white are frozen

Goat Track and Fiacaill Buttress

Wind resistance ptarmigan style
It was unfortunate that we had quite a warm spell of weather last couple of days. Last night the temperatures were much lower. Most of what is left of the snow in The Cairngorms is solid and frozen. It was a glorious blue skies day today, just a shame it was a tad breezy. Even at lower altitudes the winds were a bit challenging. At around 800m into the Northern Corries it was probably gusting around 70mph at times and bitterly clod SE winds. Once up into Coire an t-Sneachda and the boulder field area it was far more pleasant. Still a challenge to photograph the ptarmigan mind. Still got a few decent shots. Sometimes when your photographing into a head wind and your eyes are watering you never know what the camera will actually produce! Unfortunately some poor chap had an accident, climbing nearby and took a fall. Thankfully a lot of folk around to help in the mountain rescue and I went over to lend a helping hand. Hopefully a speedy recovery.

Monday, 10 December 2018

A PERFECT WINTER'S DAY

Stunning morning in Coire an t-Sneachda
Lovely conditions on the Fiacaill

Quiet

Bags of blue skies above 

Ian going for the harder moves!

Fabulous traverse
A bit busier on the buttress
Plenty of climbers out today
Loch Morlich from the Fiacaill
Fingers Ridge
Good snow cover for touring

…...and dropping into Alladin's
Nearing the top of the ridge

afternoon weather front
If you like your mountains with good snow cover, no wind, blue skies and lovely sunshine then The Cairngorms was the place to be today. In just a couple of days of light snowfall the Northern Corries have been transformed. The plateau now has excellent snow cover, good enough for ski touring judging by the amount of skiers out today. Indeed it was very busy for a Monday on the hills. Coire an t-Sneachda was crawling with folk and there seemed to be a queue on one of the routes on the Fiacall Buttress, Belhaven? The Fiacall a Coire Sneachda though was much quieter and great fun as always. Not a breath of wind all day and an absolute stunner of a day to be out and about.