Friday, 28 February 2014


Coire an t-sneachda
Atmospheric clouds
Big cornices still on Chais Ridge
How much bigger can it get?
The Cairn Gorm Monster
Shovels at the ready for a cuppa
More sunshine today, we are so privileged! A quick early morning whizz up to Cairn Gorm while it was nice and quiet and lovely cloud formations. A high wind chill above 900m but the sun made up for the cold. The train up Cairngorm is still out of action and you'll need a shovel to get into the café! Looking like a good weekend coming up, lighter winds and even more sunshine! :) Over in the west tonight for two days work on Ben Nevis. Enjoy the sun & snow!

Thursday, 27 February 2014


Northern slopes of Braeriach, Sgor Gaoithe in distance
The beautifully remote Coire Ruadh, fab neve onto the ridge
Coire Ruadh
Lots of snow moving about
Nice clouds today
Another bright and breezy but not gale force day in The Cairngorms. There was  promise of more blue skies than cloud in the afternoon . I headed up to Braeriach and it's northern corries. On of these Corie's, Coire Ruadh, I had never visited before. This and Loch Coire an Lochain are directly below the summit area of Braeriach on it's northern flank and are well seen from Aviemore but these two coire's are remote and seldom visited. After the usual very pleasant bike ride up Glen Einich I was soon into snow at 600m which was still soft until around 800m were the colder overnight temperatures had frozen it up nicely. Lots of snow being transported on strong, gusty SW's. It was a tussle with winds and spindrift along the final ridge to the plateau and summit. Looking like a good weekend with much lighter winds on Fri and Sat and cold temperatures.

Monday, 24 February 2014


Glen Einich, Braeraich & Sgor Gaoithe
Braeriach in sunshine
It was a glorious afternoon in The Cairngorms. Lovely sunshine up Glen Einich with Braeriach looking good. A day for the shades and sunscreen!

Sunday, 23 February 2014


Our lunch snow shelter
A more 'desparate' emergency shelter - The Grave, no explanation needed!
Quite pleasant on the walk out
For Kath & Louis's second day of winter skills we headed into Coire Laoigh Mor which is just a short stroll from the Ciste car park. The weather was back to it's usual tricks with gales up high on a mild SW. We had sleety snow showers in the morning but come the afternoon the winds eased and it dried up. Today's location was a perfect spot, sheltered and not too high. We covered more avalanche awareness, digging various types of snow pits to check out the snow pack. It was clear from the air temperatures today that we are in a spell of thaw and the snow pack was moist but quite stable in our location. From the pits we enlarged them  and built snow shelters for lunch. To finish off the day we had a sliding session - some axe arresting before a glissade out to the bottom of the corrie. Well done to Kath & Loius for their first taste of winter, they really enjoyed it and are keen for more. They still had energy for stroll down to Glenmore for coffee and cake in the cafe. More 'summer' Munros with them in May.

Saturday, 22 February 2014


Kath & Louis admiring the fine views over to Cairngorm & Cairn Lochan
The ascent to Lurchers Crag spiced up with a bit of wind and spindrift
Self belay
Very pleasant on the summit
Coire an Lochain
Wonderful icy plateau area
Regular clients Kath and Louis who have been out with me only in the summer months were today out in the finest time of year. They are both steadily ticking off the Munros outwith the winter season but after some gentle persuasion and my enthusiasm of the white stuff thy unexpectedly booked onto a winter course. The weather forecast wasn't looking that great with a deterioration in the weather as the day went on with high winds and precipitation expected in the afternoon. What we got was a lovely sunny day and only 50mph winds on the summits. After some basic axe and crampon skills at the bottom of the Fiacaill ridge we headed over to Creag an Leth-Choin (Lurchers Crag) and went directly up the Eastern slopes of the hill to the summit. We discussed avalanche awareness through out the day and there were plenty of rocks sticking out on this aspect of the hill to use as islands of safety. It was a beautifully atmospheric day with plenty of snow getting transported in the strong, gusty winds. Great views and we made it to the summit without crawling. The ridge and summit area are well scoured with lots of wonderful water ice to practise more crampon technique. So now Kath and Louis have been converted into winter Munroists -Lurchers was one of  the Munros in his original list so it IS a Munro then :)

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


Jon, John & Mike digging away at Hasty Pits  below The Fiacaill Buttress
Beautiful light and unexpected blue skies today
Fiacaill Buttress well rimed
John testing our  Rutchblock below Windy Col
Coire an t-sneachda
Coire an t-sneachda quiet
Fiacaill Buttress
John, Jon B and Mike were out with me today on a one day avalanche awareness course. The guys from N. Ireland are regular winter visitors to the Scottish Highlands and wanted some more knowledge of this essential winter skill. The snow cover as gone through some consolidation over the last few days and with the milder weather yesterday and an overnight cooling last night this as improved the snow pack considerably. The guys did however find some weaknesses but the various layers are starting to bond. We headed below the Fiacaill Buttress this morning in glorious sunshine, a pleasant surprise as the weather forecast was indicating a mostly cloudy day. The crags in Sneachda are wonderfully rimed and the whole corrie is looking fantastic. Many parties climbing on the Fiacaill Buttress & along the ridge. In the afternoon we walked across to the other side of Sneachda and found a similar story below Windy Col. There was still evidence of avalanche debris below Alladin's Couloir and the area between there and the Mess of Pottage, some big chunks of ice probably from a couple of days ago. After digging another Rutchblock pit and finding quite good bonding the guys made evaluated that it was fine to head on up to Windy Col. We finished the day talking over cornice dangers as we headed down from 1141m top and into another busy day at Coire Cas ski area. The guys are off to Torridon for a couple of days hoping for a ridge traverse of Liathach. Weather looking very windy and more precipitation tomorrow. An excellent day with a great bunch of guys.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


Rhys abseiling off a snow bollard
Our  test  pit showed signs of good consoldation
Emergency snow shelters
Big drifts at low altitudes
A very calm day, hardly a breeze which was a bit of a shock to the system! The temperatures were also milder and with low cloud, a very benign sort of day. For Chris & Rhys's second skills day we stayed lower down the mountain and headed toward the Chalamain Gap. We covered avalanche awareness for much of the day, emergency shelters and moving on steeper ground. There is so much depth of snow at the moment that we easily covered all this at a much lower altitude. There a big snow drifts with two metres depth in the many burns near the Chalamain Gap and Allt Mor. The snow pack is slowly consolidating at lower altitudes and with a good freeze it should become great walking and climbing conditions. Looking like another benign day tomorrow, how lucky are we?

Monday, 17 February 2014


It was clear early morning
Soon time to check the map

Then it was accurate compass bearings for the rest of the day
Well done Chris & Rhys, they got to the summit with all their own work
And pacing/timing on the way down too
Return clients Chris & Rhys are out with me again this winter for two more days of skills. Today was perfect conditions for some winter navigation on Ben Macdui. The guys navigated in some demanding conditions with white out much of the time above about 1000m. The day started dry and the tops were clear, we even had some sunshine at the top of Lurchers Gully. There was a keen wind which was blowing lots of loose snow about but this died back after mid day. We saw no one after leaving the ski area at Coire Cas. The guys were excellent and all their bearings, pacing and timing were spot on, made a nice change for me not doing all the navigation :) Excellent cover of snow on the plateau and will be superb with a bit of melt/freeze but it's near perfect for ski touring (or snow shoeing!).

Sunday, 16 February 2014


Beautiful afternoon light across The Loch Avon Basin
Loch Avon & Shelter Stone Crag
Pinnacle Gully, Shelter Stone Crag & Stag Rocks
Carn Etchacan
Top of Castlegates Gully & Loch Avon
Carn Toul & Sgurr an Lochan Uaine
Lunch stop - snowshoes THE way to go at the moment
A stunning day in The Cairngorms. The winds dropped, the skies cleared and the sun shone most of the day. The ski area car parks were soon full to capacity and the crowds headed for the hills, walking, skiing, climbing. I donned the snow shoes again in near perfect conditions for them. I soon escaped the crowds and headed over to a wonderful and always quiet part of The Cairngorms, the Carn Etchacan summit MUST be THE best view point in the Cairngorms so why do I never see anyone? I ain't complaining! Huge amounts of snow on the plateau and it was magic walking, hardly any rocks and boulder poking through. There was still a stiff breeze which was transporting a fair bit of snow into the Loch Avon basin and it was a beautiful scene with The Shelter Stone Crag and Beinn Mheadoin in the background blazing in the afternoon sun. The day flashed by and it was time to turn around and face the crowds! Best weather day so far?

Saturday, 15 February 2014


Avery common scene this winter
Debbie admiring the views on the way down
Great views out to Abernethy
Fresh snow on Meall a' Buachaille
Return client Debbie was out with me for her third time in winter conditions. Her two previous trips to the  Highlands in winter have been glorious bluebird days. Third time unlucky, today we were engulfed in whiteness and once more my eyes were fixed upon the compass for most of the day as we entered the white room above 800m on Bynack Mor. There was fresh snow right down to Aviemore level this morning. The winds were light up to mid day when they increased to around 40mph from the north, this started blowing all yesterday's snowfall  all over the show and the wind chill kicked in. It was a goggle day again high up. A lot of wind slab on the east side of the ridge line. We saw no one all day apart from the final hour down by Ryvoan. The cloud did lift at the end of the day and a few holes in the cloud. Looks like a nicer day tomorrow.