Sunday, 25 February 2018


The team on the ice
This is fun
Great day
On the ridge now
Another brilliant day 
Lunch in the warmth
Come on in
This navigation is serious guys
Descending via Windy Col 
Late afternoon,  Coire an t-Sneachda 
Well below freezing again on the Cairngorm tops. Clear skies for much of the day and the winds much lighter than of late. Once again all terrain is frozen above 600m. For the last 5 years I have been running winter courses for the Highland Hillwalking Club based in Inverness.  Always fun to work with. This year two members of the Inverness Mountaineering Club joined in for the day. Shona, Karen, Nell and Richard were all keen to have a mountain day and get essential coaching along the way. We headed into Coire an t-Sneachda under a blasting sun and blue skies. As many followers of my blog will know I regularly guide/instruct on the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. The route up onto the ridge from the Coire floor provides lots of different terrain, perfect for a wide range of axe and crampon technique. Steep, open snowfields and a mountaineering ridge to gain the plateau. It was great conditions,  rock hard neve and well trodden steps along the Fiacaill. We went over to the Coire Domhain snowholes for lunch after our fun on the ridge. The guys were keen for some navigation back to the carpark.  Perfect timing with some afternoon cloud on the tops. We descended back into Coire an t-Sneachda from Windy Col. Brilliant day again with some lovely folk and great snow conditions.  What more could you want?
So a wee break for me after 15 days back to back work. Great fun and amazing contrast in weather and snow in the past couple of weeks. That's why I love Scottish winter mountains.  March coming up, my favourite month in winter.

Saturday, 24 February 2018


Hope your crampons are sharp
Not windy here
Alladin's Buttress 
Scott relishing the Fiacaill Ridge 
Coire an Lochain 
Quiet on the Fiacaill today 
Step cutting down into Coire an Lochain 
Fiacaill Buttress 
Finishing off the day with some sliding
High pressure dominating the weather again today. Another day of sub zero temperatures on the tops and a very strong wind, even at low altitudes.  Scott out with me for just one day to see what this winter malarkey is all about. We set off from the Coire Cas carpark and within 5 minutes we had the crampons on, just like most other folk. The trails are solid snow and ice, despite of limited snow below 800m. We headed into Coire an t-Sneachda and made our way up to the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda ridge, traversing under the Fiacaill Buttress. Fabulous snow here, brilliant cramponing.  We were well sheltered from the SE winds.  Even along the ridge it was sheltered and by mid day the winds had eased. Scott smiled up the ridge and took everything in his stride, having great fun on his first taste of winter. We had a wander over Cairn Lochan and dropped into the coire via the Twin Burns. We finished the day with some step cutting and axe arresting.  More sun tomorrow.

Friday, 23 February 2018


Caroline & David enjoying the ice
Step cutting 
Quiet so far in the coire
Blue skies, icy wind
Good sliding terrain
...and down
Late February afternoon light
Frozen lochain
Never mind the approaching ' Beast from the East', today in the Cairngorms we experienced 'The brute from doon Sooth'. We experienced stronger winds than what was forecasted, gusting to 60mph in the coire. Caroline and David were out with me for a 1 day 'winter taster'. This was Caroline 's Chrimbo pressie from David. We have substantial frozen, icy terrain at the moment. Great conditions for crampons.  We headed into Coire an Lochain which was quiet when we arrived but got busy when we left. Some great spots to gain essential skills above the Lochain, just to the west of the main climbing area. It was still windy but slightly calmer with the mountainside giving us protection from the winds. Climbers were descending from the cliffs,  reports of a fracture around the Great Slab area. Indeed we noticed some windslab towards the rime of the coire. Heavy drifting  over last couple of days. It was a glorious blue skies day by late morning.  A good windburn blast again.

Thursday, 22 February 2018


Sgor Gaoithe , afternoon sun
Windy today
Teasing blue skies
Charlotte on the navigation again today 
Poor visibility above 1000m
Descending in sunshine

A change from yesterday's weather, well you can't have two days like that on the trot! It was a tad breezy on the tops with freezing temperatures again and cloud firming with the higher mountains of the Cairngorms. Perfect conditions for a Navigation Day.  Charlotte on her fourth and final day of her course this week. Most of the last few days we have been doing lots of navigation.  The number 1 'winter skill'. The 'Sgorans' or Glen Feshie hills are brilliant,  featureless plateau with many undulating summits in the region of 900-1000m altitude. The snow was solid again and crampons for much of the day. We had poor visibility above 900m. Not much in the way of views today but great day for hoping your map and compass skills. We did lots of paceing and Charlotte was spot on every leg of the navigation. A great 4 days and some fabulous snow conditions.  4 Day courses popular this season. 

Wednesday, 21 February 2018


Charlotte heading up to the Fiacaill on perfect snow
Alpine Fiacaill Coire Sneachda 
Essential gear today
Fiacaill Buttress 
Lunch spot
Fiacaill Ridge 
Hell's Lum
Great day out
Loch Avon
Fiacaill Coire Sneachda
Ben Macdui from Hell's Lum
Wall to wall sun
When you get a day of wall to wall sun, light winds, low avalanche risk across the whole mountain range and amazing snow conditions then you really cannot ask for anything better. That is what Charlotte and I had today. It was like being transported into the Alps in the Northern Cairngorms. For Charlotte's third day of her course we chose a day of mountaineering on the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. We headed into the coire and took a traversing line under the Fiacaill Buttress. The snow as amazing. Perfect for cramponing after the low overnight temperatures. We hit the sunshine again on the ridge. There has been some snow loss here but it was still great fun and wonderful trotting along the ridge under a blazing sun. Once on the plateau we wandered over the hills to the top of Hell's Lum. The plateau is frozen too, fabulous walking conditions and so much easier than of late.Lunch at my favourite viewpoint, just as a few climbers topped out of the Lum. After our Alpine picnic Charlotte navigated across the Northern Corries and back down the Fiacaill Cas ridge. Lower down we finished off the day with some sliding (axe arresting). Another brilliant day out. Charlotte mad a comment at the end. 'That was the best day I have ever had in the mountains'. Enough said!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018


Firm snow
Ice back
Coire an Lochain 
Quiet in the coire
Cliffs of Coire an Lochain summit 
Poor visibility,  great for Navigation 
The temperatures dropped overnight and into today. The moist snow pack had firmed up nicely above 900m. Charlotte out with me on day 2 of her 4 day course. The beauty of going on a bespoke 1:1 course with Tarmachan Mountaineering is the flexibility, non-rigid itinerary and going at the pace that is comfortable with the individual.  Charlotte has gained bags of confidence very quickly and wanted to step up the skills with axe and crampons today.  We found some nice steep sections of snow and ice in Coire an Lochain. As well as the core movement skills we also combined navigation into the day. Charlotte did all the navigation on our way up to Cairn Lochan from the carpark. Perfect timing with the cloud shrouding the hill for some poor visibility to get us back into the coire. Another brilliant day out.
I found a bit of climbing kit down in the coire today. If you recently lost something it may be yours. Drop me a line with it's description and I'll get it posted to you.