Thursday, 29 March 2018


In the sun having fun
Deserted Coire an t-Sneachda 
Snow shelters
Bigger snow shelters 
Self belay
Stunning views 
Cairngorm plateau 
Chopper in the coire
It was a beautiful morning and fine for much of the afternoon. Much colder overnight with summit temperatures dropping to -7 C by early morning. Light winds and a fresh dusting of snow on the Cairngorms from the last couple of days. Everything looking splendid with our top up to winter. The Foyle Family were out with me for a day of skills. For the two twin boys aged 12, it was their first time out in the winter mountains. We had a fun time, walking into a very quiet Coire an t-Sneachda. Well it was quiet until the arrival of the Coastguard chopper on a mountain rescue job. Hopefully it was a good outcome. We started the day digging snow shelters in the moraines for our morning break. Then it was some basics with axe and crampons before heading up the hill, gaining the plateau by Windy Col. The snow was absolutely beautiful up from the moraines to the top. Hardly any boulders poking through the surface. There's not many days you can take a rising traverse from the moraines direct to Windy Col with no obstacles or sinking in holes en-route. It was Alpine. The sun made it feel like a furnace at times. No wind on the col today. Great snow conditions for novices, a thin layer of fresh snow on top of the hard neve. The boys bagged their first Munro in the afternoon, Cairn Gorm. The summit was quiet, just two folk. Where were all the people today? We descended down beautiful snow slopes and had a peep into the snow holes at Ciste Mheared. The boys still had bags of energy as they pounded down Windy Ridge to end a fun day out. Hopefully their first of many days in the hills!

Monday, 26 March 2018


Alpine Fiacaill Coire Sneacda & Goat Track
Fiacaill Buttress
Excellent hard snow on the Fiacaill Ridge
Coire an t-Sneachda
Ridge to myself today
Cairngorm plateau & Beinn Mheadhoin
Top of Jacob's Ladder
Sneachda from Windy Col
Coire an t-Sneacda & Goat Track
Another lovely day in the sunny Cairngorms. Hardy any breeze. A clear night firmed up the snow again and it was a delight to walk on. The cloud broke up by mid-day and some wonderful sun coming through. Conditions fabulous with frozen, firm snow from the coire floor in Sneachda up to the notch on the Fiacaill Ridge. A few climbers in the coire, no one on the ridge. Despite some snow loss on the crest, it was an absolute delight along here. Everything frozen nicely with plenty hard snow, ice and some fresh rime. The sun was out in full once I gained the plateau. The warmth came through and it was picnic temperatures on the tops. The snow soon softened in the warm rays. A beautiful evening here in Aviemore with the sun still shining merrily at 6.20pm.
All change tonight and tomorrow. Fresh snow falling to low levels. We could do with a nice top up of snow. Easter set to be a cold, snowy affair. It's looking a lot like a white Easter. We all know that it's more likely to snow on Easter day than on Christmas Day. There does seem to be folk who think it's the start of their summer holidays in the hills. Erm, no! Winter continues.

Sunday, 25 March 2018


Male ptarmigan
Coire an Lochain 
A sleepy Mountain Hare
Northern Coire's 
Afternoon showers 
Female ptarmigan
More Hare's in the sun
The lost compass, still in the same spot

It was a good day for wildlife photography in The Northern Cairngorms. Sunny spells, light winds and good visibility. The overnight cold temperatures had firmed up the snow pack nicely. Quite solid at lower altitudes so made for lovely walking with no need for crampons on easy angled terrain. There are still big areas of snow below 900m to link up to the full snow cover above this altitude. Plenty of ski tourers out again but the Northern Coire's were quiet and great for some wildlife watching. The ptarmigan were quite vocal, croaking away everywhere and the Mountain Hare were lazing about in the sun. I found the compass which was dropped by one of my client's in January. It is quite amazing that it was lying exactly were he dropped it with over two months of wild blizzards and gale force winds. My wife says it's amazing how I can navigate and find a small piece of plastic in the vast Cairngorm landscape but I can't find a cleaning cloth in one of our cupboard's in the house :) .Another quiet, sunny day tomorrow before some fresh snow showers in the run up to Easter. If you're thinking of shorts and T-shirt mountain walking this Easter holidays, best think again! It is full on winter conditions across much of The Highlands. We still have at least 4 weeks of winter to go. Despite it feeling like Spring i the glens and the clocks going forward.  Looking forward to some nice long winter days :)

Saturday, 24 March 2018


The team having fun on the snow
Caroline on the navigation 
Beautiful day
Avalanche debris in Coire an Lochain 
Cairngorm plateau 
Nice afternoon 
Good snow cover above 900m
After a small blip in our cold, snowy winter it was back to normal service today. Colder conditions with a freezing level down to 800m. We had a fabulous blue skies day too. Caroline, Mark, Anne & Graham were out with me on a 1 day Navigation Course in the Northern Cairngorms. Caroline is embarking on her Summer Mountain Leader Award this Spring.  Before she starts her ML training course she was keen to get a day of navigation coaching beforehand. Husband and friends came along to learn some vital skills too. We hoped for some cloud cover on the plateau to make the navigation more realistic, unfortunately it was clear views virtually all day! What a bummer!  We also got some winter axe and crampons experience into the course. A fantastic day to be out.  Winter returns with more cold weather and snow through next week.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018


The classic view of An Teallach
We've had some fantastic snow and weather conditions over the last few days here in The Highlands. Another blast of cold and snowy conditions to transform the mountains, then some wonderful clear skies.
Just catching up on my blog after four magic days in the hiils.  At the weekend it was the fabulous NW Highlands. Monday and Tuesday, The Cairngorms.

The 'Beast from the East' made a return visit to our shores at the weekend. Heavy snowfall and high winds due to hit The Cairngorms. With this in mind Karen and I headed away to the NW Highlands for a couple of days. This area was to be the finest weather on Saturday and Sunday. Sunshine and dry conditions almost guaranteed. Just by chance some of the finest mountains are up that way. We had two nights in Dundonnell, base camp for An Teallach, the finest mountain on the planet!
Windy at sea level!
There was a stiff wind blowing down at Dundonnell when we started up the hill. We trusted the forecast and made a leisurely start and a stroll up the trail. Afternoon wind speeds were to be much lower on the tops.
One of  the easiest routes on An Teallach  leaves direct from the village of Dundonnell on an easy angled path, up beside the Allt a' Mhuillin. It is usually boggy and wet in places. With the sub zero overnight temperatures all the bog was frozen solid. From about 700m onwards we were walking on fabulous frozen snow in the stream bed. Over a metre of snow in here.
The Allt a ' Mhuillin
Ice falls on Glas Mheall Mor
Some wonderful looking ice on the NW aspect of Glas Mheall Mor. These are less than an hour from the road. If this was Glencoe or The Cairngorms climbers would be queueing up for these! We saw no one all morning on the trail. We reached the bealach below the north ridge of Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill expecting to be hit by a savage wind. It was almost calm! The views from here suddenly get spectacular. The western seaboard under blue skies looked beautiful. From the bealach to the top of Bidean a' Ghals Thuill (one of two Munros on An Teallach) it is just 30 minutes. Easy slopes in summer along the narrowing ridge line. Under a winter mantle it feels more serious. There was a full cover of snow today, axe and crampons for sure.
The final slopes to Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill
The 'Dearg's' & The Fannichs from the summit
Sgurr Fiona and the Corrag Bhuidhe
From the Munro summit of Bidean you get one of the classic views  of An Teallach. Ice filled gullies plunge down from the pinnacled ridge line to the wonderful Toll an Lochain. This is a view to savour. There was some cloud around but within 30 minutes of taking photographs  the cloud was blown away to leave bright sun and some beautiful late afternoon blue skies. Hardly any wind by on the top.
Lovely light on the descent
 Just one summit of An Teallach today. We will be back, for sure!

Another beautiful day in store. We had an easier day today but equally spectacular. An Teallach again, not the tops but a visit to the wonderful, spectacular and seldom visited Toll an Lochain, the main coire of An Teallach. Here lies a lonely lochan and for Karen a chance to swim in a stunning location.
Loch Toll an Lochain & An Teallach
Alpine An Teallach!
It's approx a two hour walk into this loveliest of corries. The cloud broke up just as we arrived. Perfect timing! The winds had died down  and we enjoyed the sunshine amidst a spectacular backdrop. Luckily for Karen there was some open water at the outflow of the lochan so no ice axe required to chip away the ice. What a place to swim! Not for too long in these conditions.
Swimming in Loch Toll an Lochain
We saw no one all day. Another beautiful late afternoon. The Fannichs on the way back home looking absolutely stunning. Another day!

Alpine conditions Fiacaill an Coire Sneacda
 Back home in Aviemore and 'The Beast' had had it's say. Apparently it was wild and snowy in The Cairngorms with the ski road once again closed due to heavy drifting. High windchill on the tops by all accounts, for those who struggled up. Today it was calm and a blue skies throughout, what a difference. It was an absolutely stonking day to be out on the mountains. Full cover of snow. Eastern aspects were wind scoured with fabulous hard neve. It was quiet and peaceful up on the hills. Many instructors from England & Wales now gone home for the remainder of the winter. As always my winter courses run right through to Easter and beyond....!
It was just magical on the Fiacaill. Th ridge covered in snow and rime plastered rocks. It was an easy romp up.
What a day!
Cairn Lochan
Loch A'an in all it's glory
Cairn Gorm & Coire an t-Sneacda
Fiacaill Buttress
A stroll up to Cairn Lochan then over to Loch A'an for the afternoon. What a place to linger for a while. Hardly any wind but still cold. Must bring the sunscreen tomorrow!

All things come to an end. The final day of cold, dry days and fabulous snow conditions. A big change to come on Wednesday with the dreaded Atlantic lows back on our shores. So today was a day to linger and soak up the views and sunshine once more.
Cairn Toul - Braeriach plateau from Ben Macdui
 There was a bit more in the way of cloud this morning, but by the time I reached Ben Macdui it was starting to break up and some fantastic views. One of the finest sights in the Cairngorms is the enormous Cairn Toul to Braeriach plateau. From just West of  Macdui's summit, the second highest peak in the British Isles, you get stunning vistas of the third, fourth and fifth highest mountains in the british Isles!
Full snow cover on the plateau
Cairn Toul & Sgor an Lochan Uaine
Coire an Lochain
Still chilly on the tops of course. Down in Coire an Lochain it was like a furnace. Sunbathing time and chance for some ptarmigan photography. The air was still and the croaking ptarmigan could be heard from some distance. They are just coming into Spring plumage. Weather forecasts suggesting more cold, wintry weather to come. This winter has a long way to go yet!
Male ptarmigan, Spring plumage visible
Climbers on the Fiacaill in afternoon sun
Coire an t-Sneachda & Coire an Lochain in the sun