Tuesday, 30 December 2014

FINAL FLING OF 2014

Ian enjoying the views over to Ben Lawers and An Stuc
North East facing corries and slopes holding plenty of snow
Great views of Glen Lyon from Meall a' Choire Leith
Despite a thaw its still winter up here!
Meall Corranaich in late afternoon sun
Nice sunset over Tarmachan to end the day
The temperatures were above the summits during the night and into this morning. Much snow soon stripped off the hills with the warm front and a cloudier day than late with the SW winds. Ian and I had no real plan of where to head, just some snow and sun! Amazing temperature differences as we drove south, then west. Some areas still with frost coated trees and icy roads and then areas of Spring like temperatures! Not sure how but we finally parked up on the Lochan an Lairig road above Loch Tay in deepest Perthshire! Was it because Ian had a sneaky Munro he hadn't bagged? Meall a' Choire Leith. The two Munros of Meall Corranaich & Meall a' Choire Leith are a couple of hills which I know very well having lived in Killin for over 7 years and nice to visit again. We set off in warm temperatures and low cloud on snow free ground which wasn't too inspiring. Our first summit of Meall Corranaich  was gained in a bubble of cloud and a cold, strong wind. Shortly after leaving the summit the cloud suddenly blew away and for the rest of the day we were walking in sunshine with great views! Despite the rapid thaw there are still big areas of snow and all the NE corries and slopes have huge amounts of snow still. The traverse  to Meall a Choire Leith is over long easy angled slopes and the light was just wonderful as we reached the summit after 3pm. Another glorious sunset and a Broken Spectre on the top. A grand day out and my final jaunt in the hills for 2014.
Best wishes from Tarmachan Mountaineering for a very Happy and safe  New Year. Thanks to all who joined me on the hills this year!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

SLIOCH

Coire an Tuill Bhain, Slioch
Hard going in the soft snow above 400m

Sliochs summit clearing at the end of the day


The lonely Loch Fada
The Fisherfield Forest and Loch Fada

The weather forecast a couple of days prior to our trip to the North West Highlands was looking superb, wall to wall sun. Unfortunately weather forecasts change and our trip up to one of the Torridon Munros was mostly cloud and some short, sharp showers of rain below 400m and snow higher up the hill. Slioch is a spectacular hill and enjoys fine views from its summit over to The Fisherfield forest. We did have a few glimpses of the distant hills so not all bad, maybe were getting too used to fine weather! It was great to be back here after so long (another 10 years!) Seems like I'm on a journey of doing all the Munro summits I haven't done for over 10 year again. Slioch is also a Munro I've never done under winter conditions. Today Karen and I certainly had a quality winter day, donning crampons to get up the ice covered road from Kinlochewe to Incheril! Another first. We concluded that the folk of Incheril never bother venturing out over Christmas when its icy. Its a gorgeous walk along the river and Lochside before the climbing into Sloichs eastern corrie, Coire na Sleaghaich. The plan was to do a circuit of the corries ridges but after the long walk in and hard work up the soft snow from 400m this was never going to happen. We settled on the ridge from Sgurr an Tuill Bhain to the summit. The cloud was down to around 900m so views disappeared. Our descent was in darkness from the snowline back along the lochside to make a good 10 hour day, made more beautiful with the crescent moon and clear skies, almost mocking us! The ice was still on the road at Incheril on the way out and by the looks of it the locals hadn't left their cosy houses!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

FIONN BHEINN, NW HIGHLAND MAGIC

Off up to the magical NW Highlands and the Torridon/Strathcarron area. Karen and I had a lateish start up Fionn Bheinn, 12.40pm to be precise! Jumping off at Achnasheen train station and straight off up the hill. This solitary Munro is actually grouped with The Fannaichs but its a long descent to Loch Fannich if you'd ever contemplate doing all of these hills in one go, especially in winter! Its a straightforward route to the summit of Fionn Bheinn and I've only ever been up this hill in summer so it was great to walk it again after 10 years and in full winter conditions with ice in its lower altitudes and soft snow the rest of the way. A beautiful crescent moon on the descent and it only took us around one hour to descend.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

A WHITE CHRISTMAS (AND BLUE SKIES)

Lurchers Crag, Larig Ghru & Braeriach
The sun coming up over Braeriach
Karen & I enjoying Christmas Day, Strathspey and Monadliath in the distance
My kind of Christmas tree
Fresh snow on Meall a' Bhuachaille
Karen and I had our usual Christmas Day walk in The Cairngorms. It was one of those Christmas Days that was perfect weather and snow, quite a rarity. Sub zero temperatures, blue skies, firm snow. A wonderful combination and a lovely walk from our house in Aviemore into the Lairig Ghru and some lovely views of Braeriach. Back home for Christmas dinner and not feeling guilty with all the food and drink! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

BEST SNOW & ICE OF THE SEASON SO FAR IN COIRE AN LOCHAIN

Ian and I had a great day out in Coire an Lochain today. Despite the recent heavy rain and mild temperature last Sunday the snowpack is intact in all the major Cairngorm Corries. We found excellent hard snow, ice and frozen turf. There was some unconsolidated areas but these were easily avoided and the snow is well bonded overall. It was good to feel the calf muscles on the steeper frozen terrain, wonderful cramponing snow. The sun shone in the morning with some cloud later in the afternoon. Temperatures on the plateau were around minus 4 degrees. We saw more ptarmigan than people today, a couple of folk climbing near The Vent. A grand day out!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

WINTER SOLSTICE, ALMOST, ON MEALL A' BHUACHAILLE

Officially the 21st Of December is the Winter Solstice but the afternoon/early evening light we had yesterday on Meall a' Bhuachaille will do for me! After a showery morning Karen, John & I had a liesurly 11.30am start up onto Meall a' Bhuachaille. Its a nice wee hill with fab views of The Cairngorms and only a short day so its perfect if you want that lazy start to a hill day. Fresh snow down to all levels again but unlike last week the going was much, much easier now there is a well trodden trench through the soft snow. Higher up the tops have been windblown but no crampons required today. The great thing about starting so late meant were walking into beautiful sunset views all the way back down. Wet and warm tomorrow but colder and more snow Monday onwards and a white Christmas looking likely in Aviemore and The Cairngorms!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

SNOW SHOEING IN THE CAIRNGORMS

Loch Avon basin, wonderful snow for snow shoeing
Castlegates Gully well filled with snow
Coire an Lochain
Cairn Toul, Sgurr an Lochan Uanie & Braeriach
Stag Rocks and Loch Avon
Hells Lum Crag
Its been a very nice couple of days with light winds and sub zero temperatures on the mountain. There has also been some melt freeze going on last Sunday so conditions for walking and climbing are improving but still plenty of avalanche terrain around so careful route choice should be borne in mind. Today was great conditions for snow shoeing with a breakable crust in many places and os  a breeze to walk on compared to last Thursday and Friday. Some nice weather too and very cold on the Cairngorm plateau. Over at the Shelterstone Crag the gullies of Castlegates & Pinnacle are filling up nicely and would be good to climb once the snow has settled down. Hells Lum crag is well plastered with snow and Stag Rocks looks great too with the two big easy graded gullies well filled with snow. A great day to be out and about, especially with the snow shoes on :)

Sunday, 14 December 2014

WINTER SKILLS, FINAL DAY

Axe arresting - head first, on the back
Here we go!
A bit faster/steeper
Stomper belay
Classic abseil off a snow bollard
Bucket seat and axe belay
Last of four day winter skills with Paul. Today we had an easy walk into Coire Cas for some axe arresting (stopping a slip/fall) and some basic snow belays for covering steeper ground. It had been a mild spell of weather overnight with rain and a freezing level above the tops, which was evident by the amount of snow that was stripped off some areas. It was mostly dry during the day with strong winds high up. The temperature did drop again in the afternoon and there was the odd snow shower. Snow showers in Aviemore late afternoon. Good to see some melt freeze going on! More cold/snowy/milder/windy spells ahead. Well done to Paul and a great 4 days despite the very hard going snow conditions and high winds but we managed to cover a good deal this week.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

NO SWIMMING TODAY! WE MADE IT TO CAIRN GORM!

Paul enjoying the 'great s**t'! His name for neve
Crampons up to Windy Gap
Morning coffee at the Moraines
Ok, we still have a wee bit of knee deep stuff!
Spot the climbers on Mess of Potage
Pauls first winter Munro, Cairn Gorm very busy
After two days of hard ploughing through knee high snow drifts and high winds, we were blessed with a much better day today. There is skiing now at Cairngorm and it was very busy for the first skiing of the season. Good for Paul and I as we made it to the Cairngorm carpark! We set off for the Fiacaill Ridge area for some steep ground but we were being followed in the trench heading into Coire an t-sneachda by about 35 Uni folk on a winter course - I really do mean 35, at least! All walking one behing another. So Paul and I changed plan and or route for the day, walking into the coire and round to Windy Gap. Lots of folk climbing on the Mess of Pottage. After a wee bit of ploughing in soft snow again we eventually got onto more icy terrain to give Paul his first taste of cramponing this week. Windy Gap lived up to its name but a bearable 40mph. Some light snow showers as we headed to the summit of Cairn Gorm (busy again!).  Paul renamed the hard snow/ice we found today has 'this is great s**t' that's a new name for neve! He even persuaded me to have a coffee at the Ptarmigan cafĂ© (or is it just a number now?) on the way back down. Great day out and good to get high today.