Monday, 31 December 2018


2018 draws to an end. Another brilliant year in the mountains. I've put together a wee video of some of the 200+ mountain days I've enjoyed this year. Thanks to all and clients and friends who joined me on the hills but most of all to my amazing wife, Karen.
Looking forward to seeing folk out with me in 2019. Without you guys Tarmachan Mountaineering would not exist.
Best wishes, have a safe and happy New Year in the mountains.

Sunday, 30 December 2018


Point Five Gully 

Cutting Steps 

Something steeper

enough snow

Fiacaill Buttress looking very bare

The ladies storming up the gully

Self belaying

More like May or June
Ice melting away

Another day of very mild temperatures and a slow thawing of any exsisting snow in the Northern Cairngorms. Today it was Day 1 of Amanda & Laura's 3 day winter course.  Amanda was out with me a few years ago and Laura, it was her first time out. We headed into Coire an t-Sneachda and went onto Point Five Gully.  A great spot and had it to ourselves. The gully is almost complete, just a few  rocks poking out. We had enough snow to cover a wide range of essential movement on snow and ice.
Despite the limited snow we got lots covered.  Always pays to hire a 'local instructor ' who will know where the best locations are in meagre times ;-)

Saturday, 29 December 2018


Sam on crampons & compass 

Ben Macdui's northern flanks 
Navigation is fun

The only sun today 

Summit Ben Macdui 
Winter is back
The temperatures this afternoon dropped on the higher Cairngorm tops. It was below freezing at 1100m or so. A few snow flurries,  poor visibility and strong , cold NW winds made for fine conditions on Neil & Sam's Navigation Course with me today.  Already seasoned winter hillwalkers and climbers they were out for a one day refresher to set them.up for the winter season. We headed onto the Cairngorm plateau,  over to Ben Macdui . Some large snow fields on the Northern flanks. The snow had frozen up and crampons were on. It was nice to see rime ice on the turf, rocks and us. It felt like a winter day at last!

Friday, 28 December 2018


Firm snow, Coire an Lochain
Ice hanging on
This is my snow
Ice patterns, Loch Coire an Lochain
More snow please
The cliffs of Coire an Lochain

Diminishing snowpack

Coire Domhain, snowhole possible
Red Grouse
High altitude hare
I'm off down
Great day for wildlife
The Cairngorm plateau, still winter!
Another day of warm temperatures, although a tad cooler than yesterday. The snow pack in The Cairngorms continues to slowly diminish. Having said that, you can still have a fun day out in the snow if you use some imagination and knowledge of where snow lingers longest in a thaw. The obvious places are the Northern Corries. Coire an Lochain probably has the whitest looking crags at the moment. I linked up the big snowfields to the west of the main climbing area today. This gave some good fun on surprisingly firm snow which warranted crampons especially on the steeper sections. Careful route choice required as there is the potential for rockfall in these temperatures. It was a brilliant day for wildlife. The ptarmigan and mountain hare have a distinct disadvantage for wildlife photographers in these conditions. There white plumage and coat are a dead giveaway on snow free areas. They ain't dumb though. Today they were high up in the snowfields and where lovely to see. The mountain hare gave 10 minutes of joy has he ran up the snow slopes in front of me before settling down on the edge of the plateau. A quiet day on the hill, not many folk out at all. Keep the faith. Colder temperatures on the way by next week. A good snow storm would go down well.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018


Climbers in the coire
Coire an Lochain
Where' the snow?

What's left of the snow
Too warm
Climbers below The Vent
Santa Claus has been a bit mean with the snow this year. Plenty of warm weather though! Today it was tropical temperatures in The Northern Corries, +7 C at the coire. Of course the snow deep in the crags survives well through thaws. Unfortunately no sign of any snowfall and low temperatures until 2019. Until then we'll have to make do. Karen and I had a dander into Coire an Lochain today. Karen went for a dip. A proper swim was on the cards but there is still a covering of ice across the lochan. It was lovely and quiet this morning. We saw no one in the walk up from the Cas carpark into the coire . Just a couple of guys climbing. Ptarmigan and mountain hare were running about looking for camouflage in the limited snow.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018


A fine sunny start up Beinn Eighe

The final steep steps onto Spidean

Sunset through the mist

Beinn Eighe, Monday

The magnificent Coire Dubh Mor trail

The mountain to ourselves

Fresh snow above 830m on Beinn Eighe

Spidean  Coire nan Clach
On Saturday Karen and I decided on a wee 3 day jaunt up to that most wonderful of mountain areas, Torridon. Forecast was mediocre but no matter what the weather or conditions it is always special in this part of the world. On Saturday Karen went for a dip in Loch Shieldaig and a night time bike ride up Glen Torridon. All part of the training for the Celtman next June.

Christmas Eve on Loch Maree

Dawn, Loch Maree

Letterewe & Loch Maree
On the Sunday we had a walk up onto Beinn Eighe. No cars at the Coire Laoigh carpark and we saw no one all day. A day of early brightness gave way to low cloud and drizzle. It was warm and sweaty low down but above 830m it turned to snow. More winter like on the ridge line to the Spidean nan Clach summit.

The mighty Liathach

The Flowedale Forest from Coire Dubh Mor


The Tripple Buttress on Beinn Eighe

Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair

North corries of Liathach
The finest day was Christmas Eve. A stunningly beautiful morning. Colder overnight temperatures and crystal clear air. We took a wander up into the impressive Coire Mhic Fhearchair on Beinn Eighe. One of the finest low level walks in The Highlands. A well made , easy trails ascends gradually into Coire Dubh Mor before circling around into the coire below the Trippe Buttress on Beinn Eighe. What a place and what a spot for Karen to have a swim! There was verglas on some of the rocky path into the coire and ice was just forming again on the lochan. There is more snow here in The Cairngorms just now and on the west coast. No sign of any fresh snowfall of any significance in the next few days.
Enjoy the benign conditions. Of course we know that January is the stormiest, snowiest month of winter....don't we?