Tuesday, 31 December 2019


Coire an t-sneachda 

Cairn Lochan 

Coire an Lochain 

Twin Burns

Cairn Lochan

Cairn Lochan

Coire Domhain

Coire Cas
Final hill day if 2019. You would normally expect a snow laden Cairngorm plateau. Unfortunately the recent heatwave has stripped a lot of snow. It went cold yesterday and for the first time in days the freezing level was below the summits. What snow is remaining has frozen solid. The sun shone and blue skies all day. I'd rather have a blizzard. Hopefully snow arriving soon. Happy New Year.

Monday, 30 December 2019


Early winter snow, Loch Avon basin. November
Tarmachan Mountaineerings annual round up in images. As 2019 draws to an end I have selected just 12 images (1 per month) to capture another wonderful year in the mountains. Being a photographer it is never easy to pick a limited amount of pictures that cover 12 months. The following images hope to convey not just the fabulous scenery but also the wonderful  people along the way. Thanks again to all friends, clients but most of all my wife. Over 200 mountain days yet again in 2019.

Phil Nelson from our snowshelter, Cairngorms
Winter of 2019 was a poor season for snow. Some folk do however have short memories, we did have many full on winter days. By mid January we had excellent snow cover in the Cairngorms along with plenty of blizzards. Enough snow to construct show shelters. One of the many joys of my job is passing on my knowledge and skills to folk who are going through their Summer and Winter Mountain Leader Awards. Phil Nelson was out for two days with me at the back end of January. Phil is already a very experienced leader. He was wanting a couple of days going over certain aspects of the Winter ML syllabus before his assessment. Phil loves his bright winter kits, as you see.

Adam heading up into Coire an Laoigh, Ben Eighe. February
Good winter conditions in February too! Despite all the heatwaves and thaws. The North West Highlands getting some great conditions around the middle of the month. Return clients Adam & Henry booking me for 3 days in the Torridon area.These guys are keen and always fun with them in the mountains. On this particular day on Ben Eighe we climbed above a temperature inversion into beautiful clear blue skies. One of the best weather spectacles you will ever experience.

On the Grand Plateau with my wife and Pablo, Mont Blanc. March
The end of February and into March we really did have a big snow wipe out. But it did return by the middle of the month to give the Scottish Highlands a fine winter spell again. I won a competition from outdoor kit manufacturer, Jottnar. Prize was a fantastic 3 nights in Chamonix with  an IFMGA guide  for two days in the mountains and some top notch kit! Karen and I decided to spend another couple of days in Chamonix and had stunning weather, it was very warm and almost summer like in the valley We had a great day snow shoeing up on the Grand Plateau and Valle Blanche with superb views of the Mont Blanc range.

Scott W. Karlesberje, Liverpool Land, Greenland. April
Anyone who reads my blog will of course know that my main criteria for going in the mountains consist of the following:  wild, cold, snowy and remote. One of last few places on Earth that have these in abundance is in the Arctic. Greenland is affordable and ticks all these boxes. I spent a fabulous 3 weeks in the Liverpool Land area of East Greenland in April. Many fabulous days climbing and walking the mountains and the wildlife (a fabulous Polar Bear meeting). My  overwhelming memories were of silence and space which had the biggest impact on me.

Sunset over MacLeods Tables, Skye. May
Another group of fabulous return clients, David and his team  of 8  folk who belong to a cycling club in deepest Englandshire  were out with me again. This was the third time and always in May. They always get great weather. Last year it was Torridon. This year they fancied 3 days on Skye. We had a beautiful day on Bruach na Frithe and wild camped after our summit in the Fionn Coire. These guys are keen and fun with great banter. The only time I noticed they were silent was watching this wonderful sunset unfold for 30 minutes from our camp spot. The magic of Skye.

Andrew, Louise, Geoff & Lucy. TMB, June
Summer means work in The Alps for me over the last 10 years. The Tour of Mont Blanc is one of the finest treks in the world. Even though I have guided it over 70 times it still never fails to impress. Having a small group  of folk who all know each other is a great combination. Andrew, another regular client, has been coming out with me in the Scottish Highlands on many occasions. On this walking holiday he came along with his wife, Lucy and their good friends Geoff and Lucy.  Another brilliant group with 10 days of mountains, sun, good banter and a few beers.

Craig & Lynn at the Barns of Bynack, Cairngorms. July
Showing off the wonderful Scottish mountains to overseas visitors is a real pleasure. Sometimes our terrain and definitely our weather can be a bit of a shock to folk outside the UK. Husband and wife team Craig & Lynn from the USA booked me for 5 days of mountain walking in The Cairngorms. We had some terrific weather. Makes a change for July as it can be one of the wettest months. Dead keen and fit walkers, we hiked up many Munros during their time in Scotland. With ease. They love hiking so much they are joining me next summer in The alps when I will be guiding them over The Haute Route.

Marmot, Gran Paradiso NP. August
Second stint in The Alps and a visit to a different area for a change. The Gran Paradiso National Park is not that far from the TMB circuit. But a completely different world really. So much quieter and not yet over commercialised. It's famous for it's wildlife too. If you don't see marmots or ibex here then you really can't be looking. It was another very hot summer in most of the Alpine regions. Temperatures again in the high 30 C's in Chamonix. The Marmot are the constant companions whilst you trek through the mountains.

Robin on Liathach, Torridon. September

A settled spell of weather in September. The Northwest Highlands enjoying some beautiful late summer conditions. Robin is a fair weather walker. Quite remarkable how he has almost completed all 282 Munros considering he doesn't go out in poor conditions! We've had some fabulous days out together for that very reason. I can't remember a dull day for a long time. He seems to have saved some of the finest Munros till last. Torridon was one of the groups of hills he had unfinished business. He always calls me last minute to see if I am free. We had a cracking day on Liathach in beautiful blue skies. The following day we were on Beinn Alligin in virtually the same weather. Brilliant.

Robin (again) on Beinn Eighe, Torridon. October
It's quite normal to get a few snowy spells in October in the Scottish Highlands. It is usually short lived, disappearing after two or three days. We were lucky to get some really nice snow capped peaks and blue skies again up in The Northwest Highlands. Who should call me? Robin of course. Another fine day, we traversed Beinn Eighe in glorious Alpine conditions.

Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine & Braeriach from Ben Macdui. November
November was a great start to the winter season. Around mid month we had a good dump of snow to quite low levels in The Cairngorms. So much snow that the snowshoes came out of the loft earlier than usual. On this fine day the sun shone and it was minus 7 C on the top of Ben Macdui. One of the finest viewpoints looking across to the Cairn Toul - Braeriach plateau and The Lairig Ghru.  I had never seen so may ski tourers out enjoying early conditions.

Robby and Shirlene, Cairngorm plateau. December

Good winter conditions continued throughout much of December too. Robby was out with me the previous winter with some friends. They were keen to walk up Ben Macdui then. Unfortunately the high winds on that weekend had other plans for us. Undeterred Robby and his Girlfriend, Shirlene, returned again this winter. We were in luck. Just light winds and a full snow cover. Cramponing  all the way across the Cairngorm plateau. Robby achieved his goal and we sat on the summit in near white out conditions.  Two more happy customers.

Thanks to everyone who came along on days out, courses and holidays in 2019. It was a blast. Without you Tarmachan Mountaineering would not exist.

Happy New Year folks and many happy mountain days in 2020.

Sunday, 29 December 2019


Waxwing, no berries left
Late afternoon on the Moray coast
Braeriach in moody light
The last couple of days the temperatures have rocketed to above double figures at glen level in Strathspey. Warm and strong southerly winds melting our wonderful hill snow fast. But don't panic, winter returns next week with colder temperatures and heavy snowfall forecast at the start of 2020. As we all know, winter conditions can disappear quickly and then rapidly reappear. We've had some great early winter conditions so far.
The winds have been quite high on the tops of The Cairngorms so the last couple of days we've been doing some low level walks and a visit to the Moray coast to get away from the clag and rain.
Winter will resume shortly

Thursday, 26 December 2019


Mountain Hare posing nicely
A dry day in Strathspey and The Cairngorms. It was below freezing in Aviemore this morning but temperatures rising. The snow was beautifully firm up on the hills. The fresh snow from a couple of days ago has gone through a melt/freeze cycle and was a joy to walk on. Even the lower hills in The Cairngorms National Park have a covering of snow down to around 700m. The big Cairngorm summits were forecasted to be cloudy with very strong winds above 50mph. So I opted for some lower elevation locations to photograph that enigmatic mammal, The Mountain Hare.
The Northern Cairngorms from the west

Hares active
It's always nice to have other options for wildlife photography, weather can hamper plans for a day on the bigger mountains. My latest Hare location is a great spot and usually very quiet. Even on a Boxing Day holiday when folk start getting out and bout I only saw one other person. Mountain Hare on the other hand were many. They were very active today, as witnessed by the amount of paw prints all over the snowfields. Of course sometimes you may only get a glimpse of one or two but today I spotted them on a regular basis.


feet warming

keeping an eye out
Over toward the main Cairngorms there was a roll of cloud sat on the plateau all day, created by the strong southerly winds. At 800m where I was it was quite pleasant with just a cold, light breeze. It was probably just hovering around freezing point. Tomorrow sees a rise in temperature for a few days. Hopefully it will be short lived before cold conditions return and with some fresh snowfall.
Most of the day the hares were quite flitty, close encounters a bit hard won. Towards the end of the day when one lovely individual was quite happy to sit and watch me with my camera. The hares are such wonderful characters. You never quite know which ones will sit for hours and which ones take off from 200 metres away. Patience is a virtue and you'll be rewarded one day.
More Hare tracks

Good snow cover above 700m

Strathspey and The Cairngorms

Some brighter skies
Two things that money can't buy for Christmas are mountains and the wildlife. Two of the wonderful aspects of The Highlands. We've had a  great couple of days over the Festive season. A snowy Munro Christmas Day and a wildlife photography Boxing Day. If you want to work off all that booze and Christmas Pudding then there's no better way than the outdoor gym. It's also so very, very beautiful.
White Christmas

If your hands are getting cold photographing, think of these guys


Coire an Lochain & Lairig Ghru in a clear spell
Cloud over the Lairig Ghru

Wednesday, 25 December 2019


Summit of Sgor Gaoithe 

No views today

Not quite a white out on the summit plateau

Fresh snow to 800m
Our annual pilgrimage on Christmas Day up a Munro. We always try to get a white Christmas,  even without snow falling. This year it was Sgor Gaoithe. The forecast of some sunny spells around mid day didn't come. Still it was a lovely way to spend a morning at Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to all followers and clients.

Sunday, 22 December 2019


Great to see sun and blue skies

No wind today

Blue skies 

Fiacaill Coire Cas

Enjoying the hills

Coire an t-sneachda 

Fabulous snow conditions 
It was another beautiful clear skies morning with freezing temperatures on the hill. No winds at all in the Cairngorms. A great day to be out. Robby & Shirlene out on their second day with me this weekend. Some wonderful snow conditions, perfect for crampons and ice axe. A great couple of days with a lovely couple of folk. I'm sure they'll be back soon. They're back to the big smoke of London village tonight  via the Caledonian sleeper train. Very convenient way to get into the Cairngorms for the weekend.
It was nice to finally bump into Chris Townsend this afternoon on our way down the Cas ridge.