Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Cloud down below the snow
What not to wear
A dry-ish day in prospect so I went for a quick blast up on to Carn Mor Dearg this morning. Not much in the way of views over to the north face of  Ben Nevis to see how much and where the snow is. I headed up kitted out like summer today with my hill running shoes, which are fine even in soft snow, which wasn't much in abundance on CMD. There was quite a few cars in both the car parks this morning so lots of folk hopeful for good climbing conditions. Good news on the horizon with  lower temperatures and some white stuff forecast at the weekend. There have been  many years where there has been a poor early/mid season and a good, late snowy end to the season, so don't give up just yet! Nice to get back home dry for a change!

Saturday, 25 February 2012


Consolidated snowpack
Another lunch snowhole this week
11 folk in a hole
A little more cramped, the 'Grave' option
Time for sliding
Time for steep descending
Second day out for my group of 10 assisted by Brian and we headed for the East side of Aonach Mor. We were soon sheltered from the strong Westerly winds and only half an hour after leaving the gondola before we were in the snow. There was some snow showers above 800m but by mid afternoon the temperatures had risen again. Today's skills were focused on avalanche awareness and assessment, snow shelters and more movement on steep ground. The guys were pleased that there wasn't a long walk in today, giving more time and energy for the snow craft. After were analysed the snow pack we converted our avalanche snow pits into an nice snow shelter for lunch. We discussed various forms of shelter including the 'grave' shelter which is the quickest and possibly the most desperate place to spend a night out, but a life saver all the same. After lunch we did an ice axe arresting session and moving up and down steep slopes. So an action packed weekend and good snow to get all the vital skills in, despite the big thaw. The guys are on their own for a hill day tomorrow, putting all their skills into action. 

Friday, 24 February 2012


Good cramponing snow in Coire Leis
Looking down to the Allt a' Mhuillin
NE Buttress & Tower Ridge
Coire Ciste
Thankfully a return to colder weather and some snow showers today. The overnight lower temperatures had frozen the existing snow pack up nicely. I have a large group from Wales & Yorkshire areas the next two days, with Brian assisting me. We tried to get on the gondola to Aonach Mor this morning but not running due to the high winds so plan B to The Ben. We headed up to The Coire Leis area and found good areas of hard snow to go through the basics of movement with axe and crampons. There were a few brief snow showers but by mid afternoon these had eased and a lovely end to the day with the cloud lifting. The winds didn't seem to strong and it was so pleasant to have a dry day for a change.

Thursday, 23 February 2012


Coire Leis
Bob digging emergency shelter
Time for lunch out the rain
Heading out of the drifts in Coire Leis
Last day for Bob on his winter course with me this week. The plan in 'normal' circumstances was a nice mountain day putting all the skills together from the last three days but with weather like we have then plans do change! We set off in the usual theme of warm weather, rain and no views all away up the Allt a' Mhuillin.  We decided to head up into Coire Leis on Ben Nevis and if  the winds weren't too bad then a day up to the abseil post and on to The Ben summit. But near the CIC Hut it was clear that the tops were out of the equation today! So Bob was happy to consolidate is axe and crampon technique on in the coire and then we made a couple of 'emergency' snow shelters with just the axe's this time, giving a better idea of how long and how much energy would be required to get some shelter in a real case scenario. It seemed like everyone else had the same idea to head up to Coire Leis today, it was getting quite busy at one point. There is hope on the way tomorrow with drier and more importantly much colder temperatures. Let's hope this is a halt to the melting and back to winter! A big pat on the back for Bob this week who has endured some pretty awful winter hill conditions and was still smiling through the rain and wind today!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Another day of constant rain and warm temperatures again. Today was winter navigation day as part of Bob's 4 day course with me, well winter navigation may be an exaggeration as we had very little in the way of snow on Aonach Beag today. The hills were white, that is white water. We had fabulous waterfalls all day as we set off up to Steall and onto Aonach Beag's southern slopes. It was sad to see all our snow and ice disappearing into the Nevis River.Surprisingly we saw no one all day. There is hope on the horizon, lower temperatures and fresh snowfall on Friday, thank goodness.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Hasty pits with over 2m of snow
A shear at 10cm
Time for some tunnelling
Our snowhole today
Strolling in the sun
Another day of warmish temperatures but the rain was only a constant drizzle today so things looking up. Bob on his 2nd day out with me, was originally wanting a snow hole night but with the current temperatures as they are I convinced him it may be a bit of a 'damp affair'. As a close alternative we constructed the snow shelter and just had our lunch break in it. We took the gondola up onto Aonach Mor and were soon in a good depth of snow. Today's activities also included avalanche awareness and assessment and we continued with axe and crampon technique. We did various snow pits to analyse the snow pack, finding a shear at around 10cm but the layers were starting to bond in the stable temperatures. Where we dug our snow pits there was over 2m of snow. After elevenses we dug a nice and comfy snow shelter for lunch. A very civilised day indeed and nice to get out of the strengthening SW wind. We just got back to the gondola when they were taking the cars off (again!), due to high winds so we had a stroll back down to the car park. A case for single tickets at Nevis Range?? Looks like another damp day again tomorrow, I'm fast running out of dry gloves! Freezing levels dropping to 800m on Friday.

Monday, 20 February 2012


Ciste Corrie &No.5 Gully
We found ice!
Avalanche debris from No.5 Gully
Ice still hanging on, just!
A big contrast today  in conditions and weather from the weekend with high temperatures, constant rain and high winds. Bob  was out with me today for the start of 4 days of winter skills. With a dismal forecast we set off to the north side of Ben Nevis in search of ice before it all disappeared. The car parks were almost empty this morning and a very quiet Ciste Corrie. No.5 Gully had avalanched recently, no surprise there with the HIGH avalanche forecast. The end of the debris was much lower than normal. At least in the Ciste we got some shelter from the SW's and it wasn't all that bad. Still some big areas of ice and hard snow at lower levels to go through the basics of axe and crampon technique. We also covered axe arresting toward the end of the day. If we weren't already damp then the crossing of the Allt a' Mhuillin on the walk out saw to that, it had risen quickly since the morning. A good day to test out the gear as they say, most of the day I was wearing a pair of £2.99 gloves, perfect! There have been worse days this winter-cast your mind back to Christmas!

Sunday, 19 February 2012


Sgorr an Iubhair and the beautiful wee lochan picnic spot
The east face of Stob Ban
Looking across to The Devil's Ridge & Sgurr a' Mhaim from near the summit
Day two for Christina & Justin and they were keen to have a summit day. It was a fabulous morning with lots of blue skies, snow down to low levels and very little wind. It was lovely to feel the warmth of sun and snow, just what it should be in late February. We headed for the 'demoted' Munro summit of Sgorr an Iubhair in The Mamores which gives fantastic views of the east face of Stob Ban and down to The Devils Ridge. Being a 'non Munro' we had the mountain to ourselves. Some high level cloud creeped in in the afternoon and it was chilly on the tops. Such a shame that we are back to 'tropical' weather next week!

Saturday, 18 February 2012


Fantastic snow/ice in Observatory Gully
Point Five Gully in the background
Smith's Route looking good up above
At last, temperatures dropped today and snowfall, so more like winter. Christina and Justin are out on a two day winter skills with me this weekend. We went up to the north face of The Ben and into a quieter Observatory Gully. The overnight low temperatures had frozen the snow pack superbly and  it was great for cramponing. There was snow showers through the day but we had a couple of hours of dry weather, the cloud lifted too for some good views. We had some shelter from the winds which had eased through the day. Looks like a good day tomorrow, lighter winds , drier and even some sunshine.

Friday, 17 February 2012


A few mild days is always disappointing but have faith, snow and high winds forecasted for tomorrow :)
A busy week coming up for me with 8 days work including one night snow holing expedition, now that's a winter skill in these conditions! Watch this space.

Meanwhile on 6th March I'll be giving a one day navigation/familiarisation course on Ben Nevis for Ric who was out on a two day course with me last year. Ric and  team mate Ross will be raising funds for his charity : . His challenge will be to go up and down Ben Nevis over six continuous days. This is the equivalent of ascending Everest from sea level! This is just one of many challenges Ric has embarked upon for 2012. If you'd like to support him check out the website. He has already got a couple of major companies on board to sponsor him. Check out his facebook page for all his training endeavours too!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Heading up wonderful snow in the Allt Sloc nan Eun
Aonach Beag behind
Near the top with Coire Guisachan and upper Glen Nevis below
Second day for Linda & Chris on their winter course. An easier day today and somewhere away from the honey pots was in need. We headed up Glen Nevis to Steall  Meadows then up into the beautiful and wild Coire Giubhsachan which lies to the SW of the Carn Mor Dearg arete. We expected to see no one and that's exactly what happened. Most snowfields are on the Northern and  Eastern flanks of the  hills just now and I spotted a nice ribbon and big snowfield that is running down the Allt Sloc nan Uan. The snow was great, all the way up to the ridge which runs south from the abseil posts on the CMD arete. The high winds forecasted didn't really happen and the drizzle forecasted never came either. In fact we had nice views of The Mamores where most summits were cloud free. We descended into the lovely and unfrequented Coire Eoghainn and finished in style down the Waterslide back to the car park. A nice day out in a very quiet area of Ben Nevis, try it-get the map and use some imagination and you'll enjoy a nice day out in peace!

Monday, 13 February 2012


Linda & Chris enjoying Broad Gully
Near the top of Broad Gully
Bidean nam Bian
Sliding back down
Coire an Lochan
Return clients Linda & Chris are out with me for two days again this winter. This is their third time out with me so they were keen to up their skills level and get stuck into a grade 1 winter climb. We headed over to Glencoe and onto Broad Gully, one of the easiest graded climbs in Scotland. It was another dry and overcast day, the overnight temps had dropped again so the snow was icy in places, especially were it was well trodden, and as it's schools half tern fortnight it certainly was! Another day of trains of folk up the hills, all good stuff this active lark, who said the UK was a lazy nation?! Linda & Chris loved the route onto Stob Coire an Lochan. The cloud base lifted above the tops and we had great views from the top. There was a breeze today but not a strong wind as forecasted, so another dry and pleasant day

Sunday, 12 February 2012


Busy on the Ben! No.3 Gully and cloud thining
Creag Corrie na Ciste and No4 Gully
Dominique enjoying the excellent conditions
Helen in the sun at the top of the gully
Ann nagotiating the cornice
The top and in the sun
What a busy day on Ben Nevis's north face today, lots of folk everywhere!  Helen, Dominique, Ann and Janet were keen to have some more adventurous winter skills so we decided on No,4 Gully. It was another overcast and mildish start. By the time we got to the snowline at 800m the cloud was thinning and some views. The freezing level had lowered and all snow had an excellent hard crust, fantastic cramponing. We just got to the foot of No4 when there was a big hole in the cloud once again this week. Beautiful blue skies above 1000m. Fab snow all the way up the gully and we topped out into lovely sunshine. Perfect day and the ladies loved the day, beyond what they expected for only their second day out in snow!. Never seen so many folk, even at this time of year. So many folk around it was difficult even finding a private spot for a pee!

Saturday, 11 February 2012


Crampon technique on ice
And with ice axe
Plenty of snow on the Nid
Descending the Nid
And finally axe arrest session to enfd the day
Helen, Dominique, Janet and Ann are out with me this weekend on their winter skills course. We took the 'easy' option today and rode the gondola on Aonach Mor to get us quickly into the snow. Quite mild temperatures and overcast but no wind. Plenty of snow on the eastern side of the hill, we went round to the Nid area and went through basic boot, axe and crampon skills with some axe arresting toward the end of the day. Even though the temperatures are relatively mild and the freezing level was probably above 1000m today we still found plenty of ice to practise crampon technique. In fact there is quite a bit of ice even in the turfy areas. Looking similar tomorrow but with the freezing level slightly lower and maybe a bit brighter, so were off To The Ben Sunday.