Monday, 31 March 2014

HIGHLAND HEATWAVE CONTINUES

Braeriach from the summit of Sgor Gaoithe
Cornices still hanging on
Much snow loss on Braeriach
The view north
Another dry, warm day in the Highlands and some pleasant sunshine this morning, high cloud later on and strong winds. Very hazy again but can't complain. I set off on a bike ride up Glen Feshie and ended up on Sgor Gaoithe, as you do. Not a soul to be seen yet again. A great deal of snow loss since just one week ago when I was last here. No ironmongery required today and any snow patches easily avoided. Big glide cracks in the cornices as elsewhere.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

HAYFORK GULLY, AN TEALLACH

Ian enjoying the amazing scenery in Hayfork Gully
Hayfork Gully is well hidden until you get right under it
Only half way up and it just gets better and better
Ian at the top
What a view at the top of the route
Down North Gully?
The Corrg Bhuidhe Pinnacles and Sgurr Fiona of An Teallach from Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill Munro
And a rare one of me (photo thanks to Ian Herd)



My favourite mountain has been sizzling in the NW heat wave this last week with some of the finest weather all winter in this part of the Highlands. So before the winter warmth finishes this season off Ian and I headed over to An Teallach to climb the classic big 300m Hayfork Gully. I've wanted to climb this grade I line for some time and with the settled snow conditions and no cornice problems we had a fantastic day  of mountaineering in some of the finest scenery you could wish for. The snow was variable from soft to spring snow to some firm sections and around two thirds the way up a small crevasse! From here the final section steepens up to well over 50 degrees so getting on to serious ground. The view at the top of the main face of An Teallach is stunning and then a short stroll to the Munro summit of Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill for the classic view.  A superb day out, we saw no one all day! More settled weather conditions this week with light winds but temperatures starting to stay on the mild side. Plenty of snow in the corries still, winter here if you want it!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

WINTER SKILLS IN GLORIOUS AFTERNOON SUNSHINE

The guys in  the heat, descending from Windy Gap
Looking across to the Mess of Pottage
Virtually full snow cover on the plateau
Coire an Lochain
Snow shelters in Core Domhain
Alpine Coire an t-sneachda
Unfortunately it's time to go home and leave it all behind
The locals getting into Spring mode
Alladins Couloir
Andrew, Iain , Donald & Mike were out with me in The Cairngorms for a one day winter skills course. Just like previous days this week it started off dull but by early afternoon the cloud burnt off and we had glorious sunny skies and light winds. We got lots of skills into just one day, we started at the foot of the Fiacaill Ridge were we went through basic boot, axe and crampon techniques. After mid morning we headed on a mountain journey and over to Coire an Lochain getting onto some steeper terrain and covering avalanche awareness. The sun cam out after lunch and we got to the summit of Cairn Lochain. Descending to Coire Domhain and covered snow shelters. We then entered the 'furnace' dropping down from Windy Col into Sneachda, covering descending on steep ground and more avalanche awareness. The cornices here were staring to melt in the heat and fluffing. To round off an excellent day we went through some axe arresting. Well done the guys, lots of good craic and fab day out.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

SGORR RUADH, CENTRAL COULOIR

The fabulous Munro of Sgorr Ruadh
Central Couloir is the big obvious gully splitting the two buttresses
Alpine in so many ways
Near the top with Beinn Liath Mhor in the distance
The fine view of Liathach and Loch Torridon from the summit
Looking down one of the steeper gully lines
The north ridge of Sgorr Ruadh makes a fine circuit
Fuar Toll
Probably the best day this week and with fine weather I headed to the NW to one of the finest mountain areas in the UK, Torridon. Well strictly speaking Coire Lair, between Glen Carron and Glen Torridon. If you ever tire of walking up from Achnashellach train station into Coire Lair then I'm sorry to say you should just give up hillwalking! I was down to just a base layer for most of today, it was summer like but winter is not over and I had plans for a snowy gully, Central Couloir which is an easy graded I gully, the obvious big fault line splitting the main buttress of Sgorr Ruadh. You don't get to see it until well up into  Coire Lair. It was soft snow  all the way up and didn't require crampons. Spectacular scenery either side and nothing falling off in the warm temperatures. No cornice problems at the top and  back into hot sun  with magnificent views from the summit looking over to the big Torridon peaks and just a light breeze on top. The north ridge down gives beautiful views  and eventually back to the stalkers path in Coire Lair. Stunning day.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

LAZY DAY UP LURCHERS CRAG

Excellent hard snow on the north aspect of Lurcher's Crag
Atmospheric clouds
Braeriach trying to peep out
The summit ridge clear of snow
The top of South Gully
I love this time of year with the long days, snow on the hills and some warmth when the sun does eventually make an appearance. So a midday start up to Creag an Leth-Choinn  (Lurcher's Crag) from The Lairig Ghru side. Cycling from the house and the excellent path up through the forest that eventually brings you into The Lairig Ghru. Setting off later with the promise of the winds dying and more sun, which is exactly what happened. This hill often is free of cloud while all the other major Cairngorm mountains are clagged in, which was the case today. I think it was the first time this year that I have been on a summit with no gloves on and just a gentle Cairngorm  breeze sitting in sunshine. Looking even better tomorrow! :)

Monday, 24 March 2014

A BEAUTIFUL DAY, FROM BELOW!

video
Looking toward Sgor Gaoithe from the west
Excellent neve in places with windslab forming rapidly
In the snowstorm!
Ice back at low levels
It can only be a Scottish mountain day when it is completely clear skies and bright sunshine but you end up with a coating of rime ice on your sun glasses! That summed today up really, a cold, crisp morning but it was looking ominous when the trees were swaying in Glen Feshie. Starting early to beat the forecasted 45-50mph winds later in the day I thought I would enjoy a traverse from GlenFeshie to Sgor Gaoithe-Cairn Toul- Sgurr an Lochain Uaine-Braeriach but the 60-70mph winds above 900m had other ideas for me. It was very atmospheric watching (feeling) huge plumes of snow being hurled from what seemed like all the mountains east of Sgor Gaoithe. It was so bad I couldn't see half the time despite crystal blue skies. So in the end I just struggled to the summit of Sgor Gaoithe and made a rapid retreat, not even able to get the classic view over to Braeriach. Back on the bike in Glen Feshie and it was like a glorious Spring afternoon and hardly a breeze!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

WINTER RETURNS

The Northern Corries from Windy Ridge
Shower clouds & Blue skies
Windy & snowy on the summit of Cairn Gorm
It started to clear again on the way down
Plenty of graupal in the howers this morning

The weekend brought a colder flow of air from the west then north and with it snow showers, feeling and looking more like winter again. Today Karen and I headed up to Cairn Gorm with snow showers down to low levels but with lighter winds it was a great day to be out. We had graupal in the showers this morning which is a weak layer if buried in the snow pack. Above 1000m we were in the cloud and it was deserted on Cairn Gorm summit. We had just got back down  mid afternoon when the skies cleared and blues skies reigned with bright sun, typical! Looking like excellent cold, clear, sunny weather tomorrow and into next week. Looking good at last.

Friday, 21 March 2014

RETURN OF WINTER & GLACIAL DEBATES



The winter returned today after a rather long warm spell. Snowfall down to Aviemore level and more to come over the weekend. Which leads nicely onto things white.

I was contacted by Jamie Woodward, Professor Physical Geography at The University of Manchester the other day. He as used a photo of mine for his blog:

http://blog.oup.com/2014/03/ice-time-glacial-dating-debate/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=oupacademic&utm_campaign=oupblog

There as been a recent study and controversial debate concerning the last glaciers to disappear from the British Isles, a period known as 'the little Ice age' and in particular The Scottish Highlands.

Makes interesting reading and a book is also out on the subject.

We are out on our first wild camp tomorrow, well it is 'officially' Spring but I have a feeling it will be a weekend of a wintry flavour :)

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A CREVASSED COIRE AN LOCHAIN

Ready to go soon! Anyone for The Couloir?
Crevassed Coire an Lochan
Definitely Spring in Allt Mor
A lot of snow gone but colder conditions from  tomorrow
Another very mild day but at least it was dry and some lovely morning sunshine. That dreaded W word was here again. Don't put the winter gear away as it's forecast to get much colder from tomorrow and fresh snowfall. The lower slopes of the Cairngorms have seen a big depletion of the snow pack but high in the corries and on the plateau there is still huge amounts of snow. It was a beautifully Spring like day biking up Glenmore this morning and I continued up the Allt Mor path before a run up into Coire an Lochain. It's an almost Alpine scene in the corrie at the moment with what look like huge seracs breaking away on the notorious 'Great Slab' The only thing that wasn't Alpine was the winds, at 1000m it was gusting to 80-90mph but 'bearable' compared to recent days or am I just getting immune to the gales? There were lots of other white moving things today as well as the snow, I must have counted 10 mountain (blue) hares bouncing around the moraines but again no humans to be seen. I'm sure there is a lot more of winter to come, just hold on tight!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

MOUNT ELBRUS FEATURE, TRAIL MAGAZINE




The latest Trail magazine includes a feature on Mount Elbrus, Russian Caucasus written by yours truly. I guided this last summer and it's a fab mountain to summit. I'm planning on guiding another expedition here in summer 2015. Anyone interested it's limited to 6 people. Please email me for more details.
For an in depth report and day by day account  of the expedition last August check out my report here

http://www.tarmachan.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/mount-elbrus-full-story.html