Tuesday, 30 January 2018


Front pointing up fabulous snow
The cliffs of Coire an Lochain
Enjoying the cliffs
Bit windy here!
The Couloir
Some clear skies
Great place
Loving it
Another superb day for snow and ice conditions in The Cairngorms. When the snow is firm and your ice axe just cuts into it like a knife, how better can it get? Day 2 with Eva & Marnix. We walked into a very quiet Coire an Lochain. It was windy from the start but we enjoyed dry conditions and clear tops all day. There is hardly any snow below 800m but the coire's are a winters dream. Crampons on and we were front point up some very nice slopes. We got a little shelter underneath the big crags but it was still blustery and having crampons on in fabulous hard snow meant we didn't get blown over :) . We went through moving up steep ground, traversing and descending. Eva did all the navigation today. Towards the end of the afternoon we headed up the Twin Burns to see how strong the winds actually were. They were stronger than yesterday, for sure. Nudging up to 70mph in the gusts. A great couple of days and super folk to have out on the hill. More snowfall to come this week. Along with even stronger winds on Thursday! Winter continues.....

Monday, 29 January 2018


Below the Fiacaill Buttress 
The Flat Iron 
Ice and neve
Water ice and neve on the Fiacaill 
Only one other team on Fiacaill Coire Sneachda 
Brilliant axe placements 
It's amazing how wet, saturated snow can quickly freeze within just a short period.  The last couple of days we've had a thaw with freezing levels above the summits. This changed rapidly overnight with the colder temperatures.  Everything above 900 was frozen or water ice in Coire an t-Sneachda. Marnix & Eva are put with me for two days of winter skills.  There was a strong,  blustery, cold wind swirling around the coire this morning.  They weren't pleased by the notorious Cairngorm winds so we headed up to the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda ridge. On the Western side of the pinnacles it was the best sheltered area of the whole day. A lot of snow has been stripped but what is left is brilliant for axe and crampon placements.  Up on the plateau it was gusting to 60mph in places. A great effort by Eva and Marnix,  their first taste of Scottish winter mountains, they loved it.

Saturday, 27 January 2018


The Grey Corries from Cruach Innse
Today was a very different picture after yesterday's amazing weather, snow conditions and views on The Ben. Gone were the blue skies, temperature inversion, cold and windless conditions. Mark had booked onto another of my CMD-Ben Nevis guided trip. Unfortunately high winds of between 60-70mph winds or more put that idea to bed. The Atlantic front also brought in much milder temperatures, although it did cool down late afternoon. So it was Plan E or somewhere around that level. Mark had previously been on one of my winter skills weekends plus another 5 day winter course. With this in mind we headed to a reasonable snowy area where we could go through some security on steep ground scenarios. We stayed away from the big hills and went onto the north side of Cruach Innse. This fab Corbett lies just to the east of the Grey Corries and is an attractive, rugged hill. We got some kind of shelter from the worse of the gales and could move quite well at times. You have to take the rough with the smooth. Today was rough. A distinct lack of photos on this one but the wee video gives a taste.

Friday, 26 January 2018


Happy Russ
Temperature inversion
Here we go, Alpine
Sun & Ridge
Untrodden snow
Really was an arete in places
A few steep bits
Halfway along the arete
NE Buttress

Temperature Inversion


looking back along to Carn Mor Dearg

NE Buttres

Looking west down the Allt a' Mhuillin

Narrow bit


Aonach Mor & Aonach Beag

What a view
When Russ's wife bought him a gift token for a Christmas present little did he know what a stunning day lay in store. Choosing just one day for a trip up the mountains is of course hit and miss with conditions and weather. Today we had the best day of the entire week. A short ridge of high pressure gave us our weather window. We made an early start for the finest walking Route on Ben Nevis, via the Carn Mor Dearg arete.  One of the best classic mountain ridges in the British Isles. There was a temperature Inversion early morning,  Fort William and Loch Eil sat in a sea of cloud while we were enjoying clear skies on our way up to Carn Mor Dearg. The snow had gone through a melt freeze cycle and was superb throughout much of the route. The best neve was across the arete itself. Clarity of air superb in the NW airflow and hardly a breeze in the morning. It was a day to savour. Many photo stops. The only person we saw was Rob, last bumped into on the Cairngorms recently. The final slopes to the summit of The Ben was in cloud, but it didn't matter. It was a glorious crossing.  No one on the tops. No one on the descent until the Red Burn where we spotted 2 folk still heading up at 3.30pm.  A late start but they were sensible and turned tail. We got back to the car just as the next weather front made it's appearance,  a few spots of rain as we left for Fort William.  How smug were we?

Monday, 22 January 2018


Heading up Windy Col
Alladin's Couloir

Windy Col area
Axe arresting
Busy on Mess of Potage
Still good snow cover
Visibility on plateau 

The temperatures rose today and we even had a bit of rain at lower altitudes, the first time for a while. Overall it was a dry day in The Cairngorms but a strong wind on the tops. The SW's have arrived but the summit temperatures were still below freezing. The crags are still rimed and plenty of great snow cover. Unfortunately this looks like changing next day of so with temperatures going up again. Shame as the snow conditions have improved with consolidation taking place and easier walking. Final day with Carol on here 4 Day Winter Skills Course. It's very satisfying watching my clients progress day after day. Carol is now well acclimatised to the Cairngorm winds and cold. She even commented that it was warm today! She gained lots of essential skills and her confidence has grown since day 1. We were hoping to have another day up on the Fiacaill Ridge but the winds were gusting above 50mph across the slopes today. We backed off and instead had a hour of Ice axe arresting (stopping a slip/fall). This is , of course, the last ditch attempt to save your self from a mistake in axe and crampon/footwork placement. It is low down on the 'skills' of winter mountaineering. After our wee session of sliding we headed into Coire an t-Sneachda to see if the winds were any better. It was almost calm in the coire so we headed up to Windy Col. The snow on these slopes is excellent. Great cramponing and good cover. Plenty of folk out climbing on the Mess of Potage. Near Windy Col it was a bit breezy but then as always it was fine on the plateau area. A fine end to 4 top days with Carol. Couple of days off for me after another long 10 day back to back stint. Winter continues.....

Sunday, 21 January 2018


Bynack Mor from Meall a' Bhuachaille
Two easy shears at our test pit today
No comment needed
Busy on the Bhuachaille!
Earlier in the day
A partly frozen Loch Morlich
Time to head own
Changeable weather on the way today. Weather forecasts suggesting gales in the afternoon and temperatures on the rise towards dusk in The Cairngorms. With this in mind it was a day at lower altitudes. Carol and I headed to Meall a' Bhuachaille for Day 3 of her Winter Course this week. Today's plan as for Navigation (the number 1 winter skill), avalanche awareness (again this week) and some ice axe arresting (quite a low skill on a list of winter skills). It was very pleasant on our way up to Meall a' Bhuachaille which was mobbed with lots of folk, more groups than on a nice summer's day! The summit wasn't at all windy. We walked down and around to to the NE slopes below the Creagan Gorm summit. This is a great wee spot for some sliding and avalanche awareness. The small depression just below the summit collects snow well from the SW winds through the winter months. The winds suddenly increased around this area as we dug our avalanche test pit. As fast as we were digging it out it was filling in from the heavy drifting. We found two relatively easy shears at 30cm and 55cm. Our plan for some sliding was abandoned with the high winds increasing minute y minute. Carol navigated back to the main path in deep drifts and 50-60mph winds. It wasn't actually snowing but it may as well have been. Snow racing through the air as we plunged through deep snow and back to civilisation. A very different day out from the last couple of  days. A Scottish winter always throws up brilliant conditions and never two days the same. Funny that there wasn't a single person left on the hill when we were getting wind blasted down the path!