Tuesday, 28 February 2017


Cairn Toul & Braeriach

Cairn Toul, Sgurr an Lochan Uaine & Braeriach

Male ptarmigan


Ben Macdui & Cairn Toul

Female ptarmigan

Male & female ptarmigan
Another clear, cold and frosty morning in Strathspey. Up on the Cairngorms  was some cloud lingering on the tops making for an atmospheric day. There is full cover of snow on the plateau, surprisingly not many folk ski touring despite the good conditions. More ptarmigan than people up on the plateau today. The route across the plateau to Britain's second highest mountain is much nicer in winter, even easier (if it's clear) as much of the rock is covered in snow. This time of year there is usually more depth of snow cover but considering the strange winter we have experienced this year, it ain't that bad. The summit of Ben Macdui was in cloud when I arrived but after half an hour of sitting in the chilly , moderate breeze the tops momenterary cleared and revealed the wonderful panorama of Cairn Toul to Braeriach across the Lairig Ghru. Most folk tend to just take photos from the trig point but id you wander over to the east and descend slightly you get the full vista of Lairig Ghru and the mountains. From this vantage point you appreciate the scale of these huge hills. Don't wander too far though as you will end up in the Lairig! Nice to see plenty of ptarmigan high up on the plateau today. Looking like it's staying cold through the rest of the week with some nice days ahead. A great time to get out on the hills and my favourite month of winter starts tomorrow!

Monday, 27 February 2017


Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda

Coire an t-Sneachda

Coire an Lochain

A fine day for ridge walking

Shelterstone and Loch Avon

Ptarmigan hide and seek

Cairn Toul

Feithe Buidhe and Ben Macdui

Spindrift on Fiacaill Buttress
There are wild days, there are wet days, there are cloudy, wet and wild days. Then there are days like today where the sun shone dawn to dusk, the skies were blue, the snow was great and everything was fine in the world. It really did look like end of February snow conditions today. Full cover on the Cairngorm plateau and minus something or other on the tops. The snow was much, much easier to walk on today with not so many falling into holes, boulders or deep drifts. A great mix of hard windslab, neve and water ice. The Fiacaill a Coire Sneachda was busy again, much better snow than a couple of days back. Icy and hard snow with bare rock on most of the pinnicles. Over at Hells Lum there was peace and quiet for a spot of lunch. A terrific day out and well worth a day or two of blizzards for this!

Sunday, 26 February 2017


Chris & Tony up towards Windy Gap

Mess of Pottage

Father & Son team, Tony and Chris

Coire an  t-Sneachda looking wintry again

We found some ice

Cairn Gorm summit

Snowing and poor vis off Cairn Gorm

Still some weaknesses in the snowpack

Ptarmigan starting to loose their winter plumage
Nice to see the temperatures coming down today after the brief thaw, the first time this winter we have had a 'normal' wee thaw that doesn't last for days of weeks! It was another windy day but it did ease down by mid morning and some dry spell before the snow showers became more organised and merged into constant snowfall by early afternoon. Father and son team Tony and Chris out with me today. This was Tony's first venture into winter hillwalking. We walked  into a busy Coire an t-Sneachda but found some peaceful space away towards the slopes up to Windy Gap. Not much ice around for cramponing until higher up. After lunch we had a wander up to Cairn Gorm summit. The snow showers and poor visibility made the day definitely a full winters outing. Some ice and quite a bit of fresh snow on Cairn Gorms northern flanks. We even had the luxury of venturing into the Ptarmigan cafe for afternoon coffee. Good day out and a rest for me tomorrow. February half term weeks are always the busiest period in winter for me. Now I believe that March is going to bring us blue skies and lots of glorious snow. Well we are surely due it?

Saturday, 25 February 2017


Paul & Mike enjoying the snowshelter

Soft snow today

Ciste Mheared


More snow shelter fun

and again

Plenty of snow in Ciste Mheared

Snowloss, looking to Fiacaill Coire Cas
Axe arresting
Another warm spell overnight and into this morning has once again stripped a lot of snow withing just a short space of time. It was pretty wild last night and lots of rain had a big impact on the full snow cover. Paul and Mike were out with me again today, they were with me on Thursday. This morning we sat out the heavy rain and gales, having a coffee whilst planning our navigation for today. The lads were keen to get some winter navigation for their own adventures. We headed over to Ciste Mheared, Mike and Paul using map and compass skills to locate this well known and reliable snow shelter location. Some ready made snow holes were welcome for our lunch spot. Toward the end of the day we covered more movement on steep ground and lastly some ice axe arresting. The gales died down by lunchtime and we even had some bright spells. Thankfully this 'mini heatwave' is short lived, back to colder temperatures which should firm up the mist snowpack.

Friday, 24 February 2017


The guys on the Fiacaill Ridge

Snowy and fun

Fresh snow

Snowy ridge

Sunny spells in short supply


Loch Avon

Hells Lum

Navigation, testing conditions and deep snow

Fiacaill fun

Full snow cover on plateau
A dry and bright day in prospect with sub zero temperatures and a full cover of snow, no wind. All sounded great!  Today I was joined by Mike, Steve, Craig for a day of mountain fun and some navigation instruction. We headed  or should I say ploughed up to the Fiacaill Ridge. Lots of folk out enjoying the conditions but it was hard work trudging through the drifts. The snow on the Fiacaill was all unconsolidated, no ice apart from rime rocks,  crampons weren't really necessary . Busy up here so we escaped the crowds when we reached the top and headed across the plateau to the Feithe Buidhe and Hells Lum area. Full snow cover across the plateau, great for ski touring but more hard work ploughing if you were on foot. The guys were after some navigation training, they got it with plenty of near white out and poor visibility all the way down to Coire an Lochain. Here we endured more snow ploughing, just as the snow fell from the skies once again and the winds picked up. Fun, full day out and a great overall body and leg work out. top day!

Thursday, 23 February 2017


Neve, poor visibility

More ice

Step Cutting

Fresh snow and drifts making heavy going

Sharp crampons needed

Paul & Mike enjoying the conditions

Flat footing, downhill
The Cairngorms were once again transformed overnight and into today with a fresh blanket of snow down to Aviemore level. It snowed steadily for much of today with a fair few cm's of snow. It was heavy going, breaking trail from the Coire Cas carpark onto the tops. Paul & Mike were out with me today for a day of winter skills. We built on their experience of  some winter hills in the Lakes and North Wales Avalanche awareness, navigation and movement on snow & ice were the main topics we covered. The side of Fiacaill Coire Cas was completely deserted and we had the place to ourselves. Good areas of old, wind scoured snow. Great area for cutting steps and cramponing. The visibility was poor all day, right from the bottom of the ski area. Very cold temperatures on the tops from the northerly winds which were only light but a real sting.