Sunday, 29 January 2012


Map reading on the way up to Stob Ban
The beautiful  ridge up onto Stob Ban & time for crampons
The final steep steps up to the summit
The excellent ridge between the summits
Some lovely breaks in the cloud by late afternoon
Jo & Barrie were out with me again today on their second winter skills day. They wanted to brush up on their navigation skills and also bag a Munro or two. So we set off with the plan to get onto Stob Ban and Mullach nan Coirean in The Mamores. It was above freezing at sea level and some light drizzle first thing this morning. The freezing level was around 800m and a good covser of snow on the tops. The SE wind did pick up late in the day and it felt cold once you stopped. We did some basic navigation up to the snowline at around 700m. We then when through using the compass and setting bearings in 'winter conditions' for the rest of the day. En route we consolidated the axe and crampon techniques from yesterday and by the time we got onto the narrower section of the ridge they were really enjoying the whole experience. There was cloud on the tops so great for navigation, we saw no one all day. By the time we got to Mullach nan Coirean there was a few glimpses of blue skies and nice views. The last 40 minutes we were doing some night navigation so once again an action packed day with lots of essential winter skills. Looks like excellent cold, dry and some sunshine for the week ahead. A great spell of weather to get into the hills!

Saturday, 28 January 2012


Barrie & Jo counting how many folk on Ledge Route
A place for ourselves, below NE Buttress
Some steep ground below Zero Gully
Jo & Barrie practising the 'self belay'
Ready? Go!
Jo on the 'head first on your back' axe  arrest position
Barrie & Jo are out with me for a two days winter skills course this weekend. We arrived at the North Face carpark which was completely full and about 20 cars parked down the access track! Is it a public holiday? No, its great snow and weather in Lochaber! So we tried to stay away from the crowds, and succeeded by going around the back of the CIC Hut and made our way to the area below Zero Gully. A great wee place to get all the basic skills of movement  with axe and crampons. We got lots in today including ice axe arresting and some avalanche awareness, moving on steep ground and glassading back down the hill. There was still a few cm's of soft windslab on top of the old frozen snowpack. The temperatures were below freezing above the hut and with very little wind it was so pleasant.

Friday, 27 January 2012


The cloud starts to lift!
Carn Dearg Buttress & looking down to Loch Eil
At last the cloud lifts again and the north face in all it's glory
The sun peeps over the summit of Ben Nevis-days are getting longer!
Back down and the sun in my face
One of those rare days this winter, some lovely sunny skies and hardly a breeze today. I took the opportunity of being in the sun and getting some photos so I avoided the crowds on the north face of Ben Nevis and headed up onto Carn Mor Dearg. There was fresh powder snow to 400m but someone had already broken trail so the going was easy. The cloud soon disappeared and the sun came out. Out to the west were beautiful cloud formations which rolled in onto Ben Nevis so in the cloud for an hour or so but by early afternoon it cleared again. It was so nice on the descent to feel the sun on my face whilst strolling back down the hill at 3pm. I'd imagine it was pretty busy on The Ben today, the top carpark was full once again with mini buses and cars.

Thursday, 26 January 2012


The Comb and Ciste Corrie, looking proper wintry again
Climbers in North Gully, No.4 Gully to the right
Half way up No. 4
The place to myself until shortly after this shot
A few folk heading down
The top, no cornice problems
After the mini intense thaw yesterday it was back to cold and snowy conditions today. Surprisingly there had been quite a bit of fresh snow overnight, down to 500m with  a few cm's higher on the mountain. I headed up to No.4 Gully on The Ben today, the first time this year. There were lots of folk all over the north face today so I thought I had the place to myself  when I started up the gully. There was some soft wind slab in places but higher up beyond the narrows it was all windblown. I was just enjoying the peace and enjoying breaking trail when 5 folk abseiled down into the gully. There is no cornice problem's (today) but there was a steady fall of snow for a couple of hours.

Monday, 23 January 2012


The 5 Minute window of blue skies and sun today! The Ben in all it's glory
Beautiful cornices and snow aretes on the CMD arete
More arete wonderland
Fantastic rime ice
There had been more snowfall overnight down to around 500m. With a decent weather forecast of cold, dry, light winds and even some sunshine I headed up to Carn Mor Dearg for some photo opportunities. Around mid day the sun and blue skies were flirting with Ben Nevis but that only lasted less than 5 minutes. The rest of the day was in cloud. To compensate the conditions along the CMD Arete were fantastic. Lots of beautiful rime ice and good solid snow with just a little fresh stuff. I saw no one all day and no one had been along the arete so a very nice time, just no blue skies. By the time I descended I too had a good coating of rime ice. Great stuff.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Observatory Gully
Trident & Carn Dearg Buttress's
Marcus demonstarting the ice axe arrest down Observatory
Solid snow below Point Five, great for bucket seat belays
Marcus Abseiling off a snow bollard
It was a much better day on the hill with light winds, high cloud base and only a few very brief snow flurries in the morning. Marcus, head instructor at Mixeden Outdoor Centre near Halifax, was out with me today, wanting to brush up on his winter skills. We headed up into a very quiet Observatory Gully and went through cramponing technique, avalanche awareness, snow belays and toward the end of the day some ice axe arresting as we slid back down. The crags looked a bit more wintry today after last nights snow above 700m and the freezing level was lower today. The middle of Point Five Gully looked a bit lean but Zero Gully looked like it was getting there. We saw a team heading up to Tower Scoop and a few folk on Ledge Route but apart from that it seemed much quieter today. It was nice to be talking to one another today and not shouting through a howling wind!

Saturday, 21 January 2012


Battling with the wind in Ciste Corrie
Emily sporting essential eyewear
Windblown snow & ice in the Ciste Corrie
It was a very wild day on Ben Nevis with very strong westerly winds blowing all day but there wasn't too many snow showers, just a lot of blowing snow most of the day. I have a group of staff from Mixeden Outdoor Centre near Halifax out with me this weekend on their annual winter skills with me. My group of 4 coped well with the winds and cold as went through basic movement on snow and ice. Lots of wind blown areas in the Ciste Corrie to run through crampon technique as we progressed up the hill as far as the wee lochan at 900m. We also covered avalanche awareness today, there was quite a sizable drift of soft windslab just at the bottom of No.5 Gully. Today was a good test of clothing and coping with the weather, a main ingredient of going out in the winter mountains. Tomorrow is hopefully a little less windy! I found some spiky climbing gear at the North Face carpark when we got down. If it's yours then let me know what it looks like and I'll post it on, or come and collect it if your in FW. contact me on 077 2000 1326.

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Tower Ridge & Ciste Corrie
Heading up to No.4 Gully
North Gully on the left, No.4 Gully to the right
Windslab banked up in the gully
Graupel from last nights showers
The forecast for the next few days is looking like a lot of snow coming our way, along with high winds. Today I set of early to beat the increasing windspeds and snow showers forecast for this afternoon. There had already been some overnight snow showers down to 500m or so, including some groupel which was covering the path on the approach to the CIC Hut this morning. I headed up to No.4 Gully on Ben Nevis and there was fresh snow in The Ciste Corrie. At the foot of No.4 Gully there was quite a depth of fresh, soft windslab, around 10cm and some drifts in the gully. I decided on backing off. Plenty of ice about and under the fresh slab plenty of  hard snow. There were a few groups out today, some heading over to The Comb area and on Creag Corrie na Ciste.

Monday, 16 January 2012


Nicely frozen terrain
Dumgoyne summit
It's been very fine weather since last Friday with cold, calm and sunny conditions across the Highlands. Ice forming in many places and snow in excellent condition judging by many reports. I've been down in Glasgow last few days and today I took a short bus ride to the foot of The Campsies-the nearest hills to Glasgow. Within half an hours travel from a major city you can enjoy some very peaceful hills. Plenty of summits under 600m so not a long day, I raced round most of them in under 5 hours. All the terrain was frozen so not a bit of bog to contend with. There is also a very nice distillery ( Glengoyne)  at the bottom of the hill while you're waiting for the bus back! Looks like some fresh snow later this week and cold again through to the weekend.

Friday, 13 January 2012


Emerging from our cosy home in the snow

The North Face of Snow Hole
Early morning and on the summit of Creag Meagaidh

Breakfast on Creag Meagaidh

Looking toward the Inner Coire Face of Creag Meagaidh from S.P.C. Ardair summit
Two Munro's and a lovely ridge walk back to (un) civilisation
Final day on Jim's 4 day winter skills course and what a stunning day! We emerged from our luxurious snow hole into still air, blue skies and a full moon. Within no time we were cramponing up neve and on the summit of Creag Meagaidh by early morning. Fab views all around and not a breath of wind. We headed back to our snow hole and collected the bivvy gear and so onto the Munro summits of Stob Puist Coire Ardair and Carn Liath. This long ridge gives fantastic views back to The Post Face of Creag Meagaidh. It was wall to wall blues skies and sunshine right through the day. What a way to end Jim's 4 day course. He had such a variety of snow and weather conditions since Tuesday. Mild weather, high winds, soft snow, clear skies, excellent neve, sunshine and living inside a snow hole. All the magic of what the Scottish winter mountains has to offer. For three of the days we saw no one on the hills.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


The Post Face of Creag Meagaidh
The walk up beside The Inner Coire
The digging begins
Nothing nicer than a cuppa after a few hours of tunneling
Nothing on TV tonight
Third day out for Jim on his winter skills and Jim fancied the delights of a couple of days out with a snow hole thrown in. With a good weather forecast and much colder temperatures, day and night, we headed over to Creag Meagaidh. With all the luxuries on our back we headed up into Coire Ardair with the tops of the mountains clear for a change. There was a stiff NW wind blowing and by the time we reached the lochan there was some snow showers. Excellent hard snow leading up to what's commonly known as 'The Window', a bealach between Creag Meagaidh and the neigbouring  Munro of Stob Puist Coire Ardair. There is an excellent steep bank of snow here and perfect for our overnight snow shelter. We had the luxury of time and so had a good size snow hole with room to stand up and all mod cons. The wind was blowing still into the night and some light snow showers. A hard frost overnight.