Monday, 31 December 2012


There was yet another day of gales exceeding 70mph on he tops yesterday but these had eased to a gentle 30-40mph today thankfully. The temperatures during the last 24 hours have been up and down like a yo-yo too. We had snow down to Aviemore level yesterday morning which turned to rain at higher altitudes by yesterday evening . This mornings wet start became drier and the freezing level dropped once again to around 600m by late afternoon. Family and friends group of Ali, John, Andy and Tom were out with me for their intro to winter walking skills day. We headed up to the Eastern side of the Fiacaill Coire Cais which gave us some shelter from the westerlies and we had plenty of snow to develop the skills of movement on winter terrain. There had been some recent avalanche debris here, probably the cornice of the ridge edge fallen off from yesterdays warmer temps. We found some excellent patches of neve on the Coire an t-sneachda side too to hone some cramponing techniques. We finished the day with some axe arresting. Interesting on the walk back down to the car park that the softer snow we walked up in the morning had actually frozen up hard within only a few hours.  Have a great Hogmanay and best wishes for New Year!

Saturday, 29 December 2012


Hard snow after yesterdays thaw! Mirjam & Thomas happy bunnies
Mirjam getting a good running belay off an icicle or two
Bucket seat & axe belay
We had some nice blue skies today
Team on Savage Slit
Coire an Lochain still well rimed
After a very brief mild  and rainy spell of 24 hours yesterday, it was back to lower temperatures today. The winds had died down and it was a pleasant day on the hill with just a few light snow showers down to 600m. We even had a few bright spells and the tops were all clear. Today Mirjam & Thomas were out with me for some steep ground skills and a brush up on some rope work, managing belays and stances whilst climbing. This is for their forthcoming two day winter climbing over in Lochaber early next year. Today we decided to avoid all the crowds heading into Coire an t-sneachda and instead we headed over to Coire an Lochain. Here we had peace and quiet with only 3 other folk seen all day, one guy soloing  The Couloir and a couple of guys on Savage Slit. We covered rock belays, snow belays and some avalanche awareness as we headed up on the eastern side of the corrie. The snow was excellent, nice and firm with ice around lower down and above about 1100m the crags were still well rimed up. Another wild and cold day tomorrow with some fresh snowfall too.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


The team gearing up below Point Five

Looking across from our gully to The Goat Track & Fluted Buttress
Skiers heading up The Goat Track

Bucket seat & Axe belay's in tandem
Nearing the top. Cairn Gorm in the distance
Invernookie on The Fiacaill Butress looking busy!
Another cracking festive period day here in The Cairngorms. It was probably the best place in the UK to be today, we escaped the approaching weather front and had a dry, bitterly cold day with about a minus 10 C temperature on the tops. Geral, Gail, Dave and Malcolm were out with me again for part two of their winter course and we were again concentrating on moving on steep ground and some rope skills. We headed into Coire an t-sneachda and avoided the crowds by going up Point Five Gully which lies between The Goat Track and The Fiacaill Buttress. Seldom is there anyone here so a great place to practise some snow belays. We made our way up the gully constructing various belays and enjoyed fabulous hard neve. There was some drifting snow blowing down the route but nothing of concern. Indeed it was quite windy this morning walking in and lots of spindrift blowing around from last nights light snow showers.  Looks a tad windy tomorrow with higher temperatures and unfortunately rain on the hills. Saturday and Sunday back to colder and snowier conditions.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012


Hard, untrodden snow and blue skies! Looking over to Beinn Meadhoin
Karen enjoing the sunshine and fab snow
Guess what I got for Christmas?
Loch Avon almost frozen
Looking over to Shelter Stone Crag, Ben Macdui & Braeriach/Cairn Toul
The Cairn Gorm weather station well rimed - The wind isn't always a bad thing!
We've enjoyed beautiful Christmas Day and Boxing Day weather here in The Cairngorms.Today though was an absolute cracker. The two nights of low temperatures have frozen the snow pack solid and it was cramponing all day on the hill. WE wanted a bit of peace and quiet so took a longer, more scenic and quiet route up onto Cairn Gorm. The early morning cloud drifted away and a glorious blue skies day with not a breath of wind. We quickly left the Cairn Gorm summit for even more solitude-descending down to Stag Rocks for some great views out to Loch Avon and the Shelter Stone Crag. Remember this time last year? Torrential rain at all levels and gales. It's a fantastic start to winter!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


A beautiful Christmas Day morning on Meall a' Buachaille! Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, 24 December 2012


What a relief and a welcome change today- the first day since last Tuesday that there was light winds and the mountain tops were clear, well at least in the morning. The temperatures had also dropped over night with the clear skies. I was joined by Dave, Gail, Malcolm and Geral for their two day winter course. They were wanting some instruction and a fun day out so we headed on up to The Fiacaill Ridge. The car park at Coire Cas was busy this morning with a lot of skiers but we didn't see many folk out on the hills and we had the ridge to ourselves. The guys were looking for some instruction in simple rope work and moving together 'on the rope. We had excellent snow conditions with hard snow and the rocks were well rimed making it feel very wintry. Lower down the hill there is a crust on top of still some softer layers. We got to the top of the route when the snow started falling again but toward the end of the afternoon the skies cleared again for a lovely finish to the day.  Tomorrow looks a very nice day too, so maybe sneak in a hill day before the excesses! Merry Christmas Everyone!

Saturday, 22 December 2012


Sean demonstrating the bucket seat & axe belay
Looking across to Lurcher's Crag from our sheltered location
Stomper belay
Lunch time snow shelter
Another gale force winds day, with  forecast  wind speeds in excess of 60mph it ruled out getting anywhere near the summits today. Sean, Brodie and I decided on heading up through the Larig Ghru and underneath Lurcher's Crag for their second winter skills day. We were well sheltered in the forest but as we came out onto the open hillside we got the full force of the gales and rain/sleet/snow. After struggling for a while we found a nice sheltered ravine and a good, well banked out steep snow slope near Carn Odhar at a lowly 700m.  We did some basic snow belays and dug ourselves a wee snow hole for lunch. The rain turned to snow above 650m and I'd think some big drifts will be forming high up. Thankfully a wee bit calmer tomorrow and even a bit of sunshine in the afternoon!

Friday, 21 December 2012


Descending steep ground
Our 'sheltered' lunch break
Step cutting

Head foirst axe arrest
tandem arresting
The last few days we have had very high winds here in The Cairngorms but today we managed to get out of the car at Coire Cas carpark and onto the hill. Brodie & Sean are out with me for a two day winter skills course. We battled into 60mph this morning and made our way to Coire an t-schneacda. There was lots of windblown snow and fresh snow fall but the coire as well scoured and some nice frozen snow exposed. The winds died to a steady breeze of 40mph after lunch and we could even have a conversation without shouting. We managed to cover the basics of walking on steeper terrain with axe and crampons, went through some avalanche awareness and finished off with some axe arresting, getting some good slides on the side of the Fiacaill ridge. The main emphasis today was actually looking after yourself in difficult walking conditions, carrying the appropriate clothing including ski goggles, balaclavas, etc. The shortest day of the year turned out to be longer than the end of the world at 11am today!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Wonderful hard snow and fab views across to Sgurr Gaoithe
Loch Coire an Lochain well frozen

Strolling down hard frozen snow and a wonderful crescent moon

Looking into Garbh Coire Mor
Helena is out with me for a couple of days of  walking a few Winter Munros in The Cairngorms. Today was a lovely day, light winds, excellent snow cover and some morning sunshine. We set off early doors and headed into the northern ridges of Braeriach. There is an excellent wee ridge which encircles Loch Coire an Lochain and I never see anyone here, indeed we saw only 1 person all day, at the Braeraich summit. There was just a very light cloud cover on the last 20m, west was best today. We continued along the extensive snow covered plateau to Sgurr an Lochain Uaine. We had some excellent stretches of neve and rimed rocks on the hill today and sub zero temps above 900m A crescent  moon on the descent saw us down without torchlight to Loch Einich. Big day for a couple of big, remote and wonderful Munros.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


The recent milder conditions, coupled with a bit of rain and some windy days thrown in has consolidated the snow pack very nicely. Today the sun came out and the high winds had died to leave a wonderful day on the hill. Karen and I had a nice day on Sgurr Gaoith from Glen Feshie. The cloud formations were wonderful this morning, with the mountains peeping in and out of the banks of cloud rolling in from the west. There is an excellent cover of snow on the plateaux and winter shaping up very nicely. We had an audience all day from the local gliding club in Glen Feshie with several gliders soaring over our heads through out the day. Only a couple of groups out on the hill today, one of which were having great fun doing some ski touring up and down the hill.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


With a few days forecast of very cold,clear and windless conditions I headed to the NW Highlands and a day on An Teallach-the finest mountain on earth, probably. I set off from Dundonnell at 6am under amazing starlight with the initial thought of climbing Hayfork Gully, the classic grade 1 route in the Glas Toll corrie. But I was thinking maybe too early in the season and not enough build up of snow. So plan B was a traverse of the ridge. Hard snow at 500m and boggy ground lower down was frozen hard. I was on Bidean a Glas Toll for the stupendous view of Sgurr Fiona and the Corrag Buidhe pinnacles in a lovely sunrise. I sat and lingered on the summit. Fab snow cover and crampons all day. The snow beautiful hard neve but some areas just a crust with still some softer layers underneath. Rimed rocks and frozen turf. Another glorious view point on Sgurr Fiona and still no one seen all day. There was only two sets of footprints, from yesterday I guess. I wanted to savour the day so headed NW along the seldom visited Sgurr Creag Eich slender ridge. Wonderful cornices along the entire ridge line. There was a beautiful sunset behind The Fisherfield Forest and Torridon hills from the summit of Sgurr Creag Eich. I headed back down to Ardessie in torchlight and another star studded evening. What a day. What a numpty too- my camera had been left on overnight and dead battery! So only mobile phone photos today. I've traversed An Teallach many, many times and today this ranks as one of the best. If you've never been then go!