Sunday, 31 January 2016


Peter was out with me today to complete his winter ascents of all the big Cairngorm Munros. The one he had left to bag was Braeriach. We set off from Coylumbridge and up a snowy Glen Einich. It was hard going all the way. Above 800m the hills are windswept leaving superb neve and water ice, the best cramponing I have had all winter! It was a tough 6 hours to the summit. The descent into the Lairig Ghru was even tougher. BIGGGG drifts in the lairig and we walked out (ploughed out) in darkness. A superb effort by Peter and a big eleven and half hour day. Good day out!

Saturday, 30 January 2016


A good covering of snow even at low levels
Just the odd window of dry weather this afternoon
Stormy and snowy
Aviemore golf course, it's not a lake, it's the Spey
Nice views
This winter as had it's ups and downs. One minute it's an heatwave, next we got a big dump of snow and a cold, windy blast. Overnight and into today we have had a big dump of snow down to glen level. Very high winds up on the tops and blizzards. We had a nice wander over to Boat of Garten from Aviemore today. There was very poor visibility even at low levels. After some sustenance at the Boat it was a drier spell of weather on the return journey. I'd imagine it would have been epic up on the summits in The Cairngorms today. Working on  Braeriach tomorrow, thankfully a brief interlude in the storms before 'Henry' turns up on Monday!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


Hard snow and cramponing up Coire an Lochain
A busy coire, 9 climbers in here toda, can you see them?
Avalanche debris just below the Great Slab
Ice! yeah!
Heading up the Coire
Poor visability this morning, spot the  Lochans

These guys are happy too
Snow and cloud cleared by afternoon
Thankfully the Tropical temperatures we have had since the weekend finally came to a grind last night. With much colder air and some steady snowfall this morning it is now looking more like January! I took a wander up into Coire an Lochain in The Cairngorms today to see how much snow loss since the monsoons. The corrie is looking great, under the few cm's of fresh stuff there is hard, crunchy snow. Great cramponing, in fact the best probably all season! I had to use my calf muscles today! Quite busy with at least 9 folk climbing. There was  big chunks of avalanche debris (Cornice?)  down by the Great Slab. By the time I got back to the car park the skies had cleared and it became drier. A good dusting of snow at lower levels, around 600m. A stormy period ahead and more snow fall. Temperatures up and down but no heatwave so it should be good conditions and plenty more snow, when we get the nice days that is another matter. You can't have good winter mountains without a few storms!

Sunday, 24 January 2016


The team on the final pull to Windy Col
Snow shelter digging
Still winter in Sneachda
A variety of snow shelters and pits today
Alladins Couloir
Its hotel time
Jacobs Ladder with a very droopy cornice!
A patchy Cairngorm plateau
Coire an t-sneachda

Our second day out with the Cotswold Outdoor Store folk on their weekend skills course. Today the guys were keen on building some snow shelters. You probably wouldn't want to stay overnight in these with the very mild conditions. This morning it was 7 deg C on the summit of Cairn Gorm. Despite the less than ideal snow conditions, there is still lots and lots of it and it's all in The Highlands :) . We dug a variety of different snow accommodations in the moraine area in Coire an t-sneachda. After lunch in these, we had a wee journey up to Windy Col and onto Cairn Gorm summit. There is excellent snow cover from Coire floor to Windy Col. Just a nice freeze would be great! Big cornices all the way along the gullies. We saw two folk in Alladins Couloir, not for me, the Cornice above this looked big from where we were observing! Despite a forecast of severe winds up high, we only had a wee Cairngorm breeze on the plateau and the Munro of Cairn Gorm. Another great day out and good fun with the guys. Thanks to Pete Long for helping me out this weekend, the guys got loads of vital skills and lots and lots of valuable experience from us.

Saturday, 23 January 2016


Enjoying the weather, Coire an lochain
Pete demonstaring some axe skills
Walking and axe belays
Looking up into The Couloir, Coire an Lochain
2 metre snow pit
Plenty of snow in the corries
The Vent, crags still white
Despite the warmth it was still full on winter high up
Assessing the snowpack
Another balst of graupal
Axe technique
Soft snow, hard work
This weekend I have a big group of 12 folk out from staff and customers of Cotswold Outdoor store, Livingston. We haded into the quiet Coire an Lochain in the Cairngorms. Despite the mini heatwave there is huge amounts of snow and the crags are still white. We covered lots of vital skills, including just coping in the very strong winds. Even though it is 'warmer' all the guys had plenty of layers, went through several pairs of gloves and were wearing their ski goggles. The gusty winds were bringing a lot of loose snow down the slopes. We talked a lot about avalanche awareness and assessment with many snow pits being dug all over the corrie on many aspects. Depth of snow in some places was 2 metres. The snowpack as stabilised. Only folk we saw all day were two climbers heading up to Savage Slit. A big learning curve for some folk on how wild and cold and snowy the Cairngorms can be, even when it's warm! Good craic and big thanks to Pete who is helping me this weekend.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


The very cold spell of weather continues along with very light winds. It's fabulous to have the cold, winter conditions but it's doing nothing to consolidate the huge amounts of snow. I headed onto a westerly aspect today (better) to find a Grade 1 line on Creag an Leth-choin (Lurchers Crag). Along with the deep, soft drifts there was a breakable crust today. It was hard work again, especially in the Lairig Ghru area on the approach to the crag. I found a nice gully to go up but the conditions weren't ideal. I backed off. I want to see my 51st Birthday! One more day of cold then big change on Friday with much milder weather coming in.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


Kelvyn demonstarting the 'Ribena' test
erm, I think that was an easy sheer?
Lets go somewhere else to play
Lets go sliding
Here we go
Snow hole City
I had a fun day out with Kelvyn and Matt who have been up in The Highlands this last week gaining some hill days toward their up coming Winter Mountain Leader Assessment in March. Theyve crammed lots of excellent days out this week, in hard conditions. This was their last wee foray onto the hills to brush up on Avalanche assessment, some sliding and some snow anchors. It was another day of deep snow. WE headed into the Ciste Corrie, then over to Coire Laoigh Mor. We found some weaknesses in the snowpack and some quite easy shears, one snowpit reveeling a full 50cm shear. It was another cold day with sub zero temps above 600m. A few light snow flurries and poor visability at times. Good fun.