Saturday, 28 March 2015


I recently received some outdoor gear to test from those wonderful folk at Cotswold Outdoor Stores. Over the last couple of weeks I have been putting the Mountain Equipment Mission Softshell Pant through the rigours of the Scottish mountains.
Mountain Equipment Mission Pants

In action on The Ben
The softshell trousers are best suited to winter mountaineering but equally at home to winter hillwalking in the UK and Alpine environments. They are made from a combination of Windstopper and Exolite fabrics. Weighing in at  550g but they certainly don't feel  heavy when out on the hill and very comfortable.
I've had these out on some demanding conditions. A couple of rounds of The Carn Mor Dearg Arete onto Ben Nevis, a backpacking trip to Ben Alder and a few winter skills days. The pants coped well in a wide range of conditions from almost 'summer like' in the glens to full on Scottish winter weather. On all occasions I felt comfortable and never got too hot in the higher temperatures. There are excellent, long venting zips on the thighs and on the calf area. Of course when I was operating in the colder conditions they were perfectly suited. I encountered 40mph+ wind speeds giving an high windchill which the windstopper did its job well to keep me warm and toasty.
The quality in the materials is excellent has can be expected from Mountain Equipment. Unfortunately the pair I received had a small area of loose stitching after only a couple of days out on the hill. Cotswold have an excellent returns policy so this should be resolved quickly.
Windstopper & Exolite fabrics with excellent venting zips
All in all a great winter mountaineering pant, suited well to the Scottish weather. There is a wide range of softshell pants on offer from Mountain Equipment for warmer and colder environments. I have had the Ibex, G2 & Liskamm pants in the past and I would say that these are the warmest and most windproof I have owned up to now. They retail at £130.

Friday, 27 March 2015


Stephen looking down into a very wintry Coire an Lochain
Coire an lochain
Well rimed up crags
Loch Avon Basin
Coire an Lochain
Top of Cairn Lochan
Looking across to Braeriach
Strath Spey bathed in sun from a well covered Cairngorm plateau
Cairn Gorm looking very wintry and plateau looking good
We were blessed with another fabulous winter day on the mountains. The last couple of days we have had more fresh snowfall down to around 700m and some high winds. Today it was a beautiful sunny spells day and cold temperatures high up with a high windchill but lovely sunshine most of the day. Stephen was rounding off an excellent week in The Highlands with a wander around the Cairngorm plateau with me. We hardly saw anyone all day, just a few ski tourers on the plateau. There was a great mix of fresh powder, wind slab, neve and rime. It could have been any month in winter today. On the way back from the Garbh Uisge area one of my crampons snapped right across the front section! I was relieved I wasn't on any serious ground! Great day out with Stephen who left the Highlands very happy and content on a wonderful week of winter weather. These conditions look like they will be with us right through to Easter and beyond!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


Sophie excited on the start of the CMD arete
The views, as always, stunning
Near the top of Carn Mor Dearg with Carn Dearg Buttress in the background
The north face of Ben Nevis, full winter conditions
Magic atmpsphere and light all the way today
A rare one of me
Wind picking up in the afternoon
New windslab and cornices developed over last few days
The final slopes to the summit and lots of fresh snow
Summit celebrations
Sophie contacted me last minute wanting a day out on an 'exciting winter ridge' before the season was over. Wednesday was looking great, weather wise, so it was a day over in the west and Ben Nevis via the CMD arete for a long winter ridge. She had toyed with the idea of heading over to Chamonix in The Alps for some late season skiing but who needs Chamonix and Mount Blanc when you can have a full on Alpine experience and majestic, big mountains with great snow cover like we had today? It was another glorious blue skies morning with some high cloud rolling in and out over The Ben just to give it that wonderful atmosphere. Much colder than of late and with a couple of days fresh snow above 700m it was definitely more wintry than last Saturdays' Alpine weather. The fresh snow on the arete made it less awkward walking around the rockier sections and further along toward Coire Leis there were some lovely cornices forming. The wind picked up later in the afternoon, as forecasted, and this spiced the traverse  up a bit but Sophie just relished the whole experience. She has been up on Ben Nevis in summer a few times via the Pony Track but it may be a long time before she walks up the 'less exciting' side again! Top day out and great fun, banter and company. Winter is far, far, far away from being over :)

Sunday, 22 March 2015


Tim and Eva on the final pull up to The Window on Creag Meagaidh
Looking into Easy Gully, note the recent rockfall, avalanche debris and some glide cracks halfway up
All smiles again on their third big day out
Avalanche debris out of Cinderella in the Inner Corrie
Looking back down to The Post Face and Corrie Ardair from the plateau
Post Face
For Eva and Tim's final day this weekend we headed to Creag Meagaidh and for me the third time on Meagaidh in as many weekends. The west was looking a bit damp when we left Fort William this morning but soon the cloud lifted as we drove north eastward. Despite the weather forecast predicting a cloudy, drizzly day we had a completely dry time and the cloud was well above the tops virtually all day, We headed to the foot of Easy Gully as the guys were up for another adventurous day. As we sat at the lochan it was clear that it wouldn't be a wise choice today. There was recent avalanche and rockfall activity off the sides of the Post Face into Easy Gully. Halfway up the gully there was also some glide cracks which looked a bit ominous. % minutes after declaring to Eva and Tim that we'll be taking a more sensible route, another small rockfall came trundling into the gully, they got the picture! We headed up to The Window and again there was fresh avalanche and rockfall activity from the Inner Corrie crags. I got the guys doing some navigation to the main summit of Meagaidh, perfect timing as the cloud came in for half an hour to make the navving more realistic. They did well and were spot on getting to the top in poor visibility. Still excellent cover of snow on the plateau but the ridges and spurs off are now becoming bare. We enjoyed some lovely bright afternoon skies on our way back along Puist Corrie Ardair. Still excellent snow down to 700m to romp back down to Aberarder. We only saw 4 people from a distance all day and no sign of any climbing going on anywhere. A great end to three brilliant days with Eva and Tim. Their first forays into The Scottish hills and we enjoyed some great snow conditions, visiting three different areas over the three days. They went home happy bunnies with the highlight being the fabulous day on the CMD arete yesterday, well done guys and great company.

Saturday, 21 March 2015


Eva & Tim on their way to Carn Mor Dearg
Carn Mor Dearg summit
Tonnes of Alpine snow on the eastern side of Crn Mor Dearg
NE Buttress & Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis
Eva & Tim with big smiles all day
Carn Mor Dearg arete
Looking over to the Little Brenva Face from the arete
Loch Linnhe & Mull from the final slopes to the summit of Ben Nevis
Tim enjoying the exposure
Looking down to Glen Nevis and Aonach Beag in the distance
The North Face of Ben Nevis
Tower Ridge from the summit plateau of Ben Nevis
Summit smiles on Ben Nevis
What an amazing month March has been. We've enjoyed some of the finest weather and snow conditions all winter here in The Highlands. Today was another of those fabulous days that we've come to enjoy with cloudless skies, no wind, bright sun and super snow conditions. Eva and Tim we're over the moon (there's a pun there somewhere) to get a day like we had on Ben Nevis. After our skills day yesterday they we're up for more than just 'bagging' the summit of the Ben. The CMD arete is the finest walking route up to Ben Nevis. It's a long day but with the most spectacular of views you will ever get. As soon as you step foot on the lower slopes of Carn Mor Dearg you have wonderful views of the North Face of Ben Nevis. It just gets more and more impressive as you gain height. We made great time to the summit and so had a leisurely walk along the arete to take in all the magic views and soak up those rays of sun. We were down to baselayes for most of the day and got down with red faces. Lots of snow still for walking and climbing on Ben Nevis and many other mountains in Scotland. Looks like colder conditions with fresh snow this coming week. As I have mentioned several times, winter is far from over!

Friday, 20 March 2015


Eva and Tim enjoying the ice on the Great Slab, Coire an Lochain
Good snow for cutting steps back down to the corrie floor
Steep ground, up and down
More steep ice
Steep ground
Self  belay
Eva and Tim are out with me for three days of winter fun in the mountains this weekend. Today we headed into a deserted Coire an Lochain to get all the basic skills in before our big day on the CMD arete, Ben Nevis tomorrow. We were soon into the snow and ice around the Great Slab area. It was much milder last night with temps above freezing so the snow was in the main quite soft. There was some ice around on the crags and slab to go through some cramponing. During the day we had a few sleety and snow showers above 900m but a mainly dry day and cloud high most of the time so very pleasant. Off to the sunny west and The Ben tomorrow with a great forecast in store.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


The classic view of Ben Alder
Alpine weather and conditions on the spectacular Short Leachars ridge
Still winter climbing in the remote Garbh Corrie
Looking over to the Long Leachars ridge from the Short Leachars ridge
Alpine weather and Alpine ridge
Lancet Edge on Sgor Iutharn
Looking back down the ridge from the plateau exit
Big and fragile cornices all the way along te plateau
More ridge views
How Alpine is this?
and more ridge views
Ben Alder is one of those wonderfully remote mountains miles and miles form any public road. It's one of the few Munro summits I haven't been on in proper winter conditions. The first time I was here was 20 years ago when I spent 3 nights at Culra bothy with a mate who was Munro obsessed and would 'bag' everything in sight, in any weather. I can't remember anything about Ben Alder on that occasion as the cloud was almost touching the bothy. The second time I wandered up here was a summer time day up from Rannoch side, again I was thwarted with cloud. With a good weather forecast for Wednesday I headed in with the tent the afternoon before and camped up near Loch Pattack, no Aurora that night as there was a layer of cloud. Setting off at 7am and the thin layer of early morning cloud soon disappeared and Ben Alder was revealed in its full glory. Magnificent views with a full cover of snow to 700m. There are two fine ridges running down from the plateau, The Long and Short Leachas. Both easy scrambles in the summer and about Grade 1 in winter. The Short Leachas looked the finest today and I was soon enjoying wonderful Alpine weather and conditions with just a base layer on all day. The snow was softening up in the sun but still well frozen in some places so it was a mixture of cramponing in snow and on rock. There is a wonderful stroll across the summit plateau and I headed back down via Loch a' Bhealaich Beithe. It was like being in an oven down in the corrie and the loch is still covered in hard snow! Great views into the Garbh Corrie, some of the remotest winter climbing in Scotland here. Back down out of the snowline and on the excellent stalkers path and you could be fooled it was a summers day never mind a Spring day! Ben Alder in winter was worth the long wait.