Wednesday, 29 November 2017


Beinn Lui summit
Ben Lui ranks as the finest mountain in the Southern Highlands. A magnificent, isolated Munro near the village of Tyndrum.  This graceful, symmetrical and magnificent hill screams out to be walked or climbed. Under winter conditions it is truly Alpine in character. On Wednesday the best of the sunshine was to be in the deep South West corner of the Highlands. So I took the long journey to Tyndrum from Aviemore in search of sunshine, blue skies and a stunning mountain to climb. I wasn't disappointed.
The classic view of Ben Lui from Cononish
The walk in from Tyndrum village is moderately long but an excellent four wheel drive track up Glen Cononish is quite quick and even faster with a bike. Who could not get excited at the wonderful view of the mountain all the way up through the glen? The view of Ben Lui's main feature, Coire Gaothach, and its two main bounding ridges are outstanding. As the sun rose the pink Alpen Glow on the ridges brought the mountain to life. Enroute you pass an equally spectacular hill, Beinn Chuirn which rises above the farm of Cononish.
Sunrise on Beinn Chuirn
Alpine Ben Lui
The snowline was down to around 450m and unconsolidated. Once into the Coire it was hard going. I couldn't believe that there was no sign of any passage up the hill, on a day like today! In the centre of the coire lies the start of the classic grade I winter climb, Central Gully. I've climbed this many times and a brilliant way to the top. I did contemplate taking this route today but the snow conditions dictated otherwise. It would have a been a hard slog in the current snow. More crucial was my avalanche awareness decision making kicking in. So I opted to walk up on the Northeast bounding ridge and headed to the outlying wee summit of  Stob Garbh. It was wonderful feeling the sunshine on my face as I broke trail up shin deep snow.
The Stob Garbh ridge
Eventually I toiled up onto the ridge line. The view of course was spectacular. To the North and East lies the entire Glencoe range and Ben Nevis. The ridge was still hard going in the soft snow. A full cover of snow all the way along the ridge. There hadn't been much in the way of winds here over the last few days. The views into the coire are, of course, spectacular.
A distant Ben Nevis from the ridge
Looking East to Ben Lawers
Ben More and Stob Binnein and the buttress of  Ben Lui
The final section of ridge steepens up toward the summit for the last 100m or so. Absolutely stunning scenery. The rocks were completely rimed  up and banked with snow. The summit of Ben Lui has two tops with hardly any drop between them. The highest point is the southern top at just 3 metres higher than it's northern summit. It was here that I spotted two guys just in front of me who had come up from the Glen Lochy side of the hill. Most guide books and internet sites give this way to the Munro as ' the route up'. Amazing really, look what they miss! The views from the highest point are just stunning. There are an amazing number of Munros seen in a stupendous panorama. The air clarity today was superb. The cold NW airflow bringing very clear visibility. The winds were cold but it was a day to sit on the summit for lunch and take in the view.
Ben Cruachan (left) from the summit
Ben More and Stob Binnein from the summit
I eventually tore myself away and headed down and back to Tyndrum. Many folk would be keen to bag the other three Munros in the vicinity: Beinn a' Chleibh, Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhcraig. Not me, not today. It was a day to savour Ben Lui. The finest mountain in The Southern Highlands.
Ben Lui summit and Ben Lomond
Late afternoon sun on Ben Chalum

Sunday, 26 November 2017


A well rimed up Fiacaill Ridge
Meall a' Bhuachaille from the ridge
Rimed ridge
Feathered Rime
Towers of Rime
Jacobb's Ladder
Alladin's Couloir
Another cold day up on the hills and Munros of the Cairngorms. The strong winds of yesterday had blown a lot of snow down to the lower ground. So it was deep snow below 800m and much less snow on the higher slopes. Sunshine in Strathspey thismorning with cloud hovering over 1000m. The Fiacaill a' Coire Sneacda is a wonderful wee day out and aways interesting in winter. Ever changing conditions, especially when it's rimed up, like today. It was quiet up on the hill. Just one climbing party topping out from the Fiacaill Buttress. Breezy along the ridge, high windchill. The cloud lifted again later in the afternoon. The Cairngorm plateau was quite bare of snow. More cold, windy and snowy weather forecast in the week ahead. Winter continues.......

Saturday, 25 November 2017


No swimming today, 2cm thick ice
Hard work in the snow drifts
Chalamain Gap ahead
Cloud over Northern Corries
Todays high point, Creag a' Chalamain
Windy up high
Another day of sub zero temperatures on the hills. We had plenty of snow showers coupled with strong winds and poor visibility in the Cairngorms. I would guess it would have been a wild, hard work out time on the Munros. Karen and I stayed at lower altitudes and had a leisurely day on Creag a' Chalamain. This seldom visited wee summit has a modest altitude of only 787m but gives fine views of the Northern Corries, on a good day. The popular, well trodden paths are becoming icy and once you get off these routes the going is tough with plenty of snow drifts to plough through. All good training and a fab leg workout to prepare you for a winter season in the Scottish hills. The planned swim at a lochan on the way back had to be postponed. A few cm's of ice over the loch put pay to any nautical activities to Karen's chosen stretch of water. However, we did find a smaller pool that was ice free for a quick dip before heading home.

Friday, 24 November 2017


Meall a' Bhuachaille

Lairig Ghru
Craigellachie Wood NNR
Lochan's starting to feeze over
Northern Cairngorms
Sunset and Strathspey
Winter Woodland
More snowfall overnight and this morning in The Cairngorm area, probably much more snowfall in the Northwest Highlands too. The afternoon turned brighter with some nice clear skies. Snow still lying down to all levels with the low temperatures. It was another winter wonderland in the woodland of the Craigellachie Nature Reserve, a beautiful short walk from Aviemore. If you've never been here you should take an hour out and enjoy this beautiful spot. There was a nice sunset from the top of the hill above the woodland. It got pretty cold whilst taking photos for just 15 minutes on the top. I had 5 layers of fleece and down on. Imagine going for a short walk with no spare clothing on the Scottish Hills this time of year, well some folk do! The lochan's down in the trees are just starting to ice over. Black Friday today. What would you rather be doing? Shopping for something you don't really need and not even a bargain or walking in our glorious winter hills?

Tarmachan Mountaineering doesn't do Black Friday advertising cons and false sales. We just offer great value instruction, skills training and guided adventures, every day.
More cold and snow forecast over next few days. Apparently it's going to stay like this well into December. Great stuff.

Thursday, 23 November 2017


Creagan Gorm from Meall a' Bhuachaille
Winter wonderland in the forest

Cloud giving way to blue skies
Edge of the tress
Northern Corries eventually clearing

Overnight we had snow falling to all levels in many Highland areas, especially the NW and The Cairngorms. The low cloud slowly drifted off the hills to leave a fine afternoon with lovely spells of sunshine on the lower hills. The main Cairngorms were shrouded in cloud until later in the day. I had an afternoon stroll up on Mall a' Bhuachaille. This Corbett gives fine views of the Northern Cairngorms. The lower slopes are forested and with the fresh snow it was magical. There was hardly a breeze until the final 100m or so to the top. Quite atmospheric with lots of spindrift in only a 30mph wind. The snow was ankle to shin deep in places so a good covering. It was a grand day to be out on the hill.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017


Ice after the rains
Fresh snowfall by mid morning
Ice, Coire an Lochain

Good fun and great for axe and crampons today

Old snow with depth in places
Crampons needed too
Brilliant conditions here
Alladins Couloir, fresh snow
Fresh snow quickly building
Flock of at least 20 Snow Buntings
Much of the Highlands received over 24 hours of heavy rain at all levels yesterday. After a rapid thaw on Tuesday it was good to see ice still hanging on in the Northern Corries this morning. The temperatures had lowered again with summits around minus 2 C. I took a wander into Coire an Lochain. By mid morning it started snowing steadily to quite low altitudes. Not a breath of wind. Whatever was left of the old snow had frozen nicely and it was great fun with axe and crampons climbing out of the corrie and onto the plateau. There are some nice steep sections to the west of the main climbing area in the coire. A great spot I regularly guide folk on my winter courses. It was great to front point and feel the calf muscles working again for the start of another winter season. By mid day there was a covering of a few cm's of fresh snow on the plateau along with poor visibility. Didn't see a single person on the hills today. Forecast for a substantial fall of snow over the next 24 hours, along with strong winds.

Monday, 20 November 2017


Fresh snow in Coire an t-Sneachda
Fiacaill Coire Sneachda
Snow and blue skies
Ice hanging on, Fiacaill Buttress
Windless along the Fiacaill
After the early rain and snow
Lots of Inversions at different levels today
More cloud and snow
The weather fronts are passing through quickly at the moment. Hour by hour almost! The cold air mass from the last couple of days was being pushed away from the warm SW airflow today. There had been a fair few cm's of fresh snow overnight and early hours this morning. There was some snow at Aviemore level first thing but this quickly turned to rain. I grabbed the small weather window today for a romp over the Fiacaill Ridge. A liesurley 11am start and perfectly timed as the cloud lifted and we were treated to some fantastic cloud inversions. Down in Strathspey there was a blanket of cloud for much of the day. Up above 600m the air was clear and we even got an hour or so of blue skies at mid day. I headed up into Coire an t-Sneachda and gained the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda ridge uderneath the Fiacaill Buttress. This is a fab, scenic route to get onto the ridge. I saw just one other person soloing The Runnell in the coire. Up on the ridge it was deserted. Lots of ice around despite the warming temperatures. Some wonderful frozen turf for the axe. Hardly a breath of wind on the tops. The plateau has a good covering of damp snow and the temperature seemed to rise through the day. More layers of atmospheric cloud by the time I got back down. Great day! Shame it's going to rain at all levels tomorrow but back to colder conditions toward the end of the week. Looking good!