Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Driving down Glen Briitle this morning with dry conditions, The Cuillin tops clear and lighter winds than forecast gave Ali and I some hope of another day for a Cuillin summit. We headed up to Sgurr na Banachdich which is one of the most straight forward Munros on the ridge and just a walk in summer conditions. We again enjoyed excellent snow cover and it has firmed up from yesterday with some hard frozen stretches in places. It was only around a 40mph wind on the final summit ridge. We saw no one all day and enjoyed a dry day on the whole with just the odd snow shower. Just goes to show that despite a dire forecast a couple of days ago we still had a great two days and two new Munros for Ali. That plus snow on The Cuillin, fab.

Excellent snow cover in the corrie
.......and ice on the final ridge

Ali enjoying some fine snow and sea views

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


Great snow cover

I'm over on Skye for a couple of days with return client Ali who is keen to get up onto some Cuillin  summits. The forecast was looking better early in the day, then deteriorating later in the afternoon. We decided on Bruach na Frithe which is a straightforward Munro giving excellent views in good weather. We had just set off from The Slig when the rain came on. A gusty wind of around 40mph was blowing but once in the Fionn Coire we were well sheltered from the SW winds. Great cover of snow at 500m which is soft and will be fab once we get a good freeze. We hit cloud and poor vis at about 800m. It's a myth that a compass is unreliable in The Cuillin! Even so it needs good prior knowledge of the ridge once high up. On the way to the summit we could hear Mike from Skye Guides and said hello- but we couldn't see each other! We headed back down just has the winds increased and rain lower down really set in. It was snowing to around 700m. The burns were well in spate as we battled our way back to The Slig. A great day and confirms my view that there is no gear which is 'waterproof'.

Fionn Coire and snow at 500m
Ali at the summit ridge
Bit windy at times!

Sunday, 27 January 2013


Hasty pit with easy shear
Fluted Buttress
Fiacaill Buttress
Nice ice
Another excellent mix of varied weather and terrain for Paul & Harvey on day two of their winter skills. We enjoyed plenty of strong winds, spindrift, bright blue skies, snow showers and sunshine. Our original plan was to go onto The Fiacaill Ridge  but the gale force winds put a stop to that so instead we headed into Coire an t-sneachda and below the Fiacaill Buttress for some more steep ground. Before this we examined various slopes and dug several snow pits for avalanche assessment. In one location we found the snow pack  had 30cm of wind slab on top of an old layer of ice which sheared relatively easy. Later on we had wonderful water ice to play on below the Point Five Gully in sneachda. During the middle of the day the sun came out and blue skies, then half an hour later we had the full Scottish mountain experience with heavy spindrift and poor vis with strong gusts. Toward the end of the day we finished off with some ice axe arresting, again in strong gusts and spindrift which almost blew us back up our sliding slope :) . Thanks to Harvey & Paul for a great couple of days and great craic back in town. There were a few places I wouldn't have even contemplated going near, one of these was Aladdin's Couloir, we saw at least two separate parties heading up there today.
I found a bit of climbing gear in the corrie today, if it's yours just drop me a line and the usual description and will return it to it's owner: 077 2000 1326.
Off to Skye tomorrow guiding on a couple of  Munros, hopefully the winds will be kind!

Saturday, 26 January 2013


A fine winter mountain day, all the ingredients for a perfect day. Snow of ever changing type, blue skies, sunshine, views, wind, spindrift a couple of summits and good company. Today Harvey & Paul were out with me on day one of their winter skills course. We escaped the crowds heading into Coire an t-sneachda and travelled just a wee bit further for peace and quiet into Coire an Lochain. We went through the basics of ice axe and crampons then moved onto steeper terrain. Throughout the day the theme was of safe travel in the mountains with the current snow and avalanche conditions. Much windswept terrain leaving plenty of exposed neve and ice to get some good cramponing in. We used 'islands of safety' quite a lot today on the steeper terrain and lots of exposed rocks in the corrie for this. In the afternoon we headed up the twin burns were there was plenty of good ice and then into the strong winds as we headed over the tops of Cairn Lochain. Finally heading down via the Fiacaill Coire Cas were the winds had picked up again.

Thursday, 24 January 2013


Excellent old frozen snow above Coire an Lochain
Almost white out conditions at times today
Snow shelter construction in Coire Domhain
Well banked up snow drifts
15 minutes later and a comfy lunch break
A bit of climbing fun at the drift cornice
Crags well rimed
Andrew is out with me for a two day course and it was a much calmer day with light winds and still very cold with a temperature of below freezing at Aviemore this morning. We headed up to Coire an Lochain and brushed up on some crampon technique on some excellent old refrozen snow. There is plenty of windslab lying on top of this, especially in the corrie below the main crags, we found plenty of exposed, frozen snow to gain the plateau. We then had some excellent poor visibility, verging on white out so excellent for some navigation. Later on we headed to Coire Domhain and dug a couple of snow shelters, some good well banked out drifts here. Finally Andrew bagged another Munro summit as we finished the day on Cairn Gorm before heading down Windy Ridge. A very cold light wind today which was gradually increasing by late afternoon. All change again tomorrow to heavy snowfall and winds increasing.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013


Wonderful winterland scenery
Learning to take bearings with big gloves
Excellent snow cover and lighter winds!

Hard work trail breaking today
Wind scoured on the summit area
Nearly there!
Too much hard work, even for the ducks
It snowed steadily overnight in The Cairngorms and with strong winds this lead to more drifting. The Cairngorm ski road was closed this morning so Sareeta & Bhavini and I went for Plan B and a day on Meall a' Buachaille. The plan was for a navigation and mountain day and it was with surprise that we enjoyed sunshine virtually all day with  the hill completely clear of cloud by 11am. The cold easterly winds had eased to a mere 35-40mph and much of the time we were well sheltered. Very hard going in the drifts, we broke trail all day while a few folk followed our footprints, until we went off to find some steeper ground so the ladies could get a bit more experience using the ice axe. Snow up to the knees and beyond at times but apparently we got off lightly, the Southern Cairngorms had a lot more snowfall yesterday and today. Well done to Sareeta & Bhavini for coping with the hard toil in the deep, soft snow and high, cold winds these last two days. All good winter fun! The cloud slowly lifted off the main Cairngorm plateau and looking across there are big areas of blown snow. Lots of folk out skiing in the tracks around Glen More. Looks like much, much lighter winds tomorrow and dry!

Monday, 21 January 2013


Sareet & Bavhini digging for a lunch spot
'Joining' the holes for  decent shelter
Careful route choice today
A wild, snowy and very cold day for Sareet and Bahvini on their first day of a two day winter skills course. We headed up to Coire Cas with poor visibility, and car park with a good covering of snow, no skiing today but just bearable for getting a wee bit higher up the mountain. We went through some basic axe techniques and even found some wind scoured old, hard snow to practice on. Later on we moved down the hill, below the car park and found some good drifts to get a simple snow shelter constructed for lunch time and a relief from the wind and cold. We also covered avalanche awareness, and assessing slopes today A major part of toady's skills though was just keeping warm and dry and coping with the bitter cold wind.

Sunday, 20 January 2013


The snow shoes are great on frozen burns too
Karen heading up Creag Liath's ridge
and descending
It was a dry day, with lighter winds and staying just above freezing at glen level. Karen and I headed over to the Monadhliath hills which are just that bit lower than the main Cairngorm hills and lying to the west of Strath Spey they were clear of cloud today. I decided to dig the  snow shoes out  but the snow is still quite powder like and so not ideal but always good fun and just a wee less tiring in the deep, soft snow which is lying in the glens. We decided on heading up a lovely wee hill which neither of us had ventured up before- Creag Liath. It gives great views of the bigger hills and also boasts a nice ridge. Looks like were in for two full days of heavy snow on Monday & Tuesday, coupled with strong winds. Should be testing conditions and hard work. Busy period of work coming up for me from tomorrow and running right through till Mid March!

Thursday, 17 January 2013


The Barns of Bynack
The many Tors on Bynack Mor
Looking across to Cairn Gorm from the summit
Barns of Bynack and Ben Avon in the distance
A long walk for some bouldering
Plenty of snow getting blown today
Another glorious winter's day in The Cairngorms. The high, thin cloud soon broke up by mid day and then we were treated to blue skies and sunshine. I was up on Bynack Mor today and there was quite a stiff, cold SE wind which was blowing all the fresh powder snow from a couple of days ago, this hadn't had chance to adhere to the bare ground and gave a wonderful sea of loose snow flowing over the plateau area just before the rocky section to the summit. There was a great mix of snow conditions, loose powder, rimed rocks and old neve which gave great cramponing. The finest feature of the mountain is The Barns of Bynack which is the finest and biggest tor in The Cairngorms. There are lots of nooks and crannies here to shelter from the wind, as well as a very photogenic place with Ben Avon in the background. The skies cleared completely by afternoon and a glorious sunset. Looking pretty wild tomorrow, how much new snow we will get is anyone's guess-the weather forecasts keep changing their minds on the amount of snow we will end up with.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


Nichole & Winston enjoying the sun and snow
Everywhere views
Breaking trail on the zig-zags
The hills of Ardgour looking great too
It's going to look a lot more snowier than this by the weekend!

Over in the west today and out with Nichole & Winston from Malaysia on Ben Nevis. They chose a cracker of a day to get to the summit in fine winter splendour. The last few days have seen plenty of cold weather and snow showers which have transformed the hills through out The Highlands and are now looking in fine winter fettle. We enjoyed blue skies, bright sunshine, hardly a breath of wind and snow down to 500m. It was hard going in drifts on the zig-zags and we were breaking trail today. Very surprised to see only 6 folk all day on the hill. What a day NOT to get out! Staying cold and sunny till end of the week and then more heavy snow forecast everywhere on Friday. Winter is well and truly back.