Saturday, 28 February 2015


Tad & Anna heading up to Windy Col
Good snow at the Moraines
Axe arresting on steep and icy ground - quick!
Good mix of consolidated snow, neve, water ice & frozen turf heading up to Windy Col
Great patches of water ice on the south slopes of Cairn Gorm, with one leg :)
Tad having enjoying his first taste of winter

Coire an t-Sneachda
Another winter skills day, another corrie. Today I was joined by Anna & Tad for their first taste of winter and their first visit to The Highlands. It was another day of strong winds but there was a lull in the middle of the day. Only a few brief snow showers and with temperatures below freezing at 800m or so. We headed into Coire an t-Sneachda which was really busy and some very big groups of folk over on the east side of the Fiacaill Ridge - so we never went there! We found our own wee quiet areas over at the Moraines where we went through the basics of axe and boot work. After lunch we wandered up to Windy Col with the crampons which was quiet and here the snow pack was excellent lower down. Higher up we found  a great mix of water ice, neve, frozen turf and broken rocky ground which is fab for practise with the axe on crampons on typical Scottish winter terrain. Tad & Anna were keen to carry on from Windy Col and bag their first Munro. We took an unusual line, contouring round to the south end of Cairn Gorm were there was more snow and ice to get onto more ground to perfect the cramponing. Big areas of water ice around here which was brilliant fun. We rounded off the day by some more axe arresting on a very icy slope which almost heads straight into the cafe by the train station AKA The Ptarmigan restaurant (now better known as some trendy number thing). Great fun and an enjoyable day with a couple of very nice folk.

Friday, 27 February 2015


Coire an Lochain
Good snow for cutting steps
Still some areas of windslab about
Axe arresting down Lurchers Gully (icy)
The team bagging the summit of Lurchers Crag
Mixed and icy terrain
End of the day fun, sliding down Lurchers
Today I was out with Rob, David, Steve & Tom on a one day winter course. The guys were wanting to get as many winter  skills as possible on this bespoke course. We covered lots of vital skills including the basics of axe and crampon technique, avalanche awareness and some axe arresting toward the end of the day. The guys are going off on a snow hole trip on their own tomorrow so I also gave them some local knowledge of good locations to spend a night in the snow. It was a pleasat day to be out on the hills with only the odd brief snow shower, high cloud base and not too much wind. It was a cold wind and there was some drifting of snow later in the day. We headed into Coire an Lochan and then over to Lurchers Gully and up to the summit. Some good areas of hard snow to play in which made walking much easier today and no wading in drifts (that's another skill to acquire).

Wednesday, 25 February 2015


The maginficent Coire Brochain below summit of Braeriach, notice the footprints heading up the coire
Early morning light and Creag an Leth-choin (Lurcher's Crag)
Cairn Toul & Sgor an Lochain Uaine
Sunrise on Sgor Goaithe
Looking down to the Lairig Ghru

The final summit slopes to Braeriach
A small weather window between fronts today so it was up at silly o'clock to capture the sunrise on Braeriach. Not disappointed! With hardly a breath of wind on the summit and a glorious sunrise. I took the snow shoes out today for the soft, drifted snow in the Lairig Ghru but once out of here they were redundant with all the north facing and west facing slopes wind scoured. It was superb watching the ever changing colours and with the added atmosphere of the cloud coming and going it made for a great morning out and well worth the effort of getting out of bed at a stupid hour! There is a lot of wind slab on east facing slopes and if you look at the first photo you can see footprints high up into  Coire Brochain and one of the gullies. Rather them than me! Avalanche was HIGH today on these aspects and with more snow and winds  to come things won't be changing anytime soon.

Monday, 23 February 2015


Looking down to Loch an Eilein from Ord Ban. The Cairngorms just visible in the distance
Craggy, steep and wooded, a teriffic wee hill
A fair few cm's of fresh snow at lower levels
The locals on Ord Ban
The last couple of days we've had snowfall and gale force winds on the higher summits in The Cairngorms. Overnight there was a fair few cm's of fresh snow at Aviemore and it was snowing heavily most of the day to low levels. Just when you thought the low level wading and ploughing through drifts period was over! Looking very unsettled the next week or so but the odd day of light winds and bright skies, catch them when you can! Today I had a quick dart up Ord Ban (428m). A tiny wee hill with fantastic views looking down onto Loch an Eilein and over to The Cairngorm mountains and the Feshie Hills. It was a blizzard on the summit and I got lucky with a bright spell to get a view. This craggy wee hill is steep has wonderful natural woodland and some Caledonian Pines. Every time I go up this hill I choose a different route up and down and it's always interesting to take different ways to the top. You probably get finer views of the loch in winter when there are less leaves on the trees. Size isn't everything!

Saturday, 21 February 2015


Leaving the A9 and into sunshine
Great sun and snow conditions on the plateau
Very clear today with stunning views into Ben Alder
There's a big track here in summer!
More atmospheric plateau shots
Karen on the Munro summit of Carn na Caim
Panoramic views to the west
Ask any Munroist what their least favourite and dreary Munros are and you'll no doubt hear the words 'The Drumochter Munros'. Well, if you had a day like today with an excellent snow cover from bottom to top and almost constant sunny skies, then they may just change their minds! These hills are undoubtedly more spectacular under winter conditions but even in summer they are wonderful for the amount of wildlife you see frequently on these hills. Today Karen and I had a fabulous day out over on the eastern side of this mountain range, savouring the winter sun and wonderful snow. There has been fresh snowfall the last few days, evident by the fresh windslab seen on the steeper terrain. It was very atmospheric at times with the light winds just drifting the snow across the plateau and cloudscapes just wonderful. I can't think of any hills under snow and blue skies like we had today that are dreary, especially The Drumochter hills.

Thursday, 19 February 2015


Catherine & Rhys heading up beside Coire Ardair in great winter conditions
Chris enjoying the neve higher up
The face of winter mountaineering !
Calm conditions at Coire Ardair
Descending from the Window with the Inner Corrie crags just visible
Recent avalanche activity in a few places on Creag Meagaidh
Its always good when you have a group who can be flexible with the days (and their guide) when it comes to weather/conditions in winter. Yesterday was a very wet, windy and mild day over in Glencoe so rather than getting a good soaking the team and I changed our second day of winter fun to Thursday. Weather forecasts were hinting at lower wind speeds and drier conditions further east. The freezing level had also come down over night so it looked very much more like a winter day today. We headed over to Creag Meagaidh in the hope of even some sunny intervals. We did get a few breaks in the cloud right at the start of the day but by 11am the snow showers started and they just became more and more frequent as the day wore on. It was continuous snow fall down at all levels by early afternoon. The winds were gusty and strong as we headed up to the noth on Creag Meagaidh's plateau known as  'The Window'. The team were all enjoying the full on winter experience which included axe, crampons and goggles. The snow was scoured up toward the window area with some fresh wind slab over toward the Inner Corrie but all these fresh deposits were easily avoided. There had been recent avalanche activity here (probably from Wednesday) with some sizable chunks of cornice fallen down. A great day out and fantastic to see the winter back in action after Wednesdays heatwave! Another great couple of days with Chris, Catherine & Rhys.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


Rhys, Catherine & Chris enjoying the steep ground and excellent snow
Away from the crowds. Starting up the steep line on the NE slopes of Stob Coire Raineach
Morning sun on Stob Coire Sgreamhach
The team on the summit of Stob Coire Raineach
Looking into the Lairig Gartain with Buachaille Etive Mor on the left

Return clients Cathrine, Rhys and Chris were out with me today, first day of their annual winter trip. This year they are based in the west at Glencoe. Going into a mild spell for a time and today the temperatures were rising through the day. Despite this we found an excellent line on the NE face of Stob Coire Raineach. Here there was excellent hard, frozen snow and it was a great route to gain this Munro summit. We also chose this route over the usual ridge line to shield us from the gale force winds. It wasn't too bad on the summit and we enjoyed a picnic with just a breeze. There had been some fresh snow down to about 800m. The Aonach Eagach was looking good earlier on this morning. Warm and wet and windy tomorrow then back to cooler conditions on Thursday with more snowfall in the west Highlands. Great day out and we enjoyed a mostly dry day until early afternoon when the snow showers turned to rain. Appologies for the very poor photos. Camera phone in the weather!

Sunday, 15 February 2015


Great snow and out of the wind!
Lunch time and in the 'notch' and out of the wind (again!)
We can do sun and blue skies too
Big drifts of snow even at lower altitudes
There's a path here somewhere
Even our wee white friends were looking for cover form the wind today
Looking back and wasn't that windy was it?
Lone reindeer low down (out of the wind?)
Return client Debbie with me today for her annual winter Munro trip up in The Cairngorm hills. It was a tad breezy today and windier than most forecasts predicted. Sgor Goaithe was our Munro objective today and it really did live up to its English translation of Peak of The Winds! We found some shelter from the Southerly gales on northern aspects where there is also excellent snow cover. Eventually though you do need to get onto the higher broad ridges at some point and we were soon facing into the gales. Debbie did well getting to well over 950m today before we let the mountain win and headed back down. We took a nice route off the tops via 'The Notch' which is near the summit of Geal Carn. This wee spot is fantastic for snow shelters and we got a respite from the winds here. Dropping down into the glen and it felt like the wind was getting even stronger. There are also big drifts even down at lower altitudes and great fun descending these. It was a milder day but snow cover is still good on N and NE aspects, we even had crampons on at one point. It was a day for one axe and one walking pole to stay upright! Great day out as always with Debbie.