Thursday, 28 April 2016


 The Fiacaill Ridge
Rime ice back again
The most snow I have seen on the Fiacaill all winter
Fiacaill from the top of Alladins
Where's the path? Trail breaking again
Cairn Gorm from the ridge
Snow, snow, snow
Not everyone is happy in the snow
Coire an t-Sneachda
Strathspey from the ridge
This winter just keeps on going! The winds had swung round to a southerly direction for the first time in a long while. That didn't lift the temperatures though. A glorious clear skies morning after a few days of constant snow showers in The Cairngorms and much of The Highlands. I made an early start before the next band of weather approached from the Atlantic. Unfortunately this meant that no one had trail breaked into the Northen Corries. The path is completely covered in fresh, wind drifted snow. But what views! Once on the Fiacaill Ridge it was much easier going. Probably the most snow I have seen on the Fiacaill a' Coire Sneachda all winter. Is it really the 28th April? All the awkward sections of the Fiacaill have an amazing amout of snow and rime ice. The moderate winds were whipping up plenty of spindrit for the full on effect of a winters day, temperatues below freezing high up.  Full snow cover on the Cairngorm plateau. Massive cornices and the cories well loaded with deep drifts. I didn't see a soul until well down in Coire Cas. What an amazig period of Spring weather! It will take a lot of warmth to shift most of this lot and no sign yet of any mjor mild weather coming in. Winter in May?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016


Ian celebrating the brief return of the sun
Meallan Nan Uan and Sgurr a' Mhuilinn
Great when the tops cleared
Final slopes, before another snow showers
Soft snow
The sun trying hard all day to break through the snow showers
 Sgurr a' Mhuilinn from Meallan Nan Uan
Strath Connon and Strathfarrar hills beyond
Ice at 500m. 27th  April
The strong winds over the last few days finally abated a wee bit today, but the Northerly airflow is still with us. Today Ian and I headed NW and to the beautiful, quiet Strath Connon. Two Corbett summits were the menu for today Meallan Nan Uan & Sgurr a' Mhuilinn are not particularly high, below 900m. This pair of hills are usually climbed together. Mostly pathless, boggy and peat hagged terrain in the summer. Today the terrain was even more arduous with the fresh, drifted snow. The depth of snow is quite considerable on some aspects. We had almost constant snow showers through the day on a stiff northerly wind. It was almost goggle conditions. Thankfully we did get some breaks in the cloud and when the sun came out it was absolutely glorious. On the way home it was ) Deg C and snow lying on the A9 at Slochd. Winter continues..........

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


Patrick and the team on An Teallach
Looking east to the Beinn Dearg group
Sgurr Fiona & the NW ridge of An Teallach
The Corrag Buidhe pinnacles of An Teallach
Spring down at Ardessie Falls
Scrambling on Stac Pollaidh
The ridge line of Stac Pollaidh. Cul Mor & Beag with fresh snow
Summit celebrations Stac Pollaidh
The fabulous Quinag ridge line
Fresh overnight snow on north aspects
Lovely beach and lochan down below
Quinag, fresh dusting of snow
Mountains and sea, what a combination
Sunset on Loch Broom
Just back from another fantastic long weekend guiding regular clients Patrick and friends. The guys come up for some fun on the mountains with me at the end of April every year.  On the previous 3 trips we had snow and winter conditions on the higher mountains and this year is no different, with snow lying to 850m on many bigger hills. It's great having these guys out as I have the privilege of picking all the best mountains for them, what a dream! The 8 guys from Surrey aren't looking for winter conditions but not adverse to a 'taste of winter'. Every day we were dressed for mid winter apart from winter boots, axes and crampons. In the Ullapool area the day time sea level temperatures were between 4 and 8 degrees. Our first day was on An Teallach, the initial plan was the classic horseshoe traverse over the main ridge, tackling the wonderful Corrag Buidhe pinnacles. I had already made the decision that we would be just walking the two Munro summits, not the scrambling sections because of the snow conditions. Temperatures were forecast for around -2 deg C. above 900m. I was hoping that the ridge lines would be largely clear of any old snow, the NW had recently enjoyed a 'warmish' spell of weather. Bidein a Ghlas Thuill had some soft, fresh snow but only very small patches which were easily avoided. The second Munro, Sgurr Fiona, is just a steep walk under summer conditions. It was quite obvious that the final 150m to the top was under a full cover of old, icy snow. So we settled for just the one summit but we still enjoyed a great time on the best mountain in the UK. The next day was even colder and another dusting of fresh snow to 700m. One of the finest (if not THE finest) 'small' mountains in Scotland as got to be Stac Pollaidh. With a height of just 612m it gives a full on experience. A steep walk onto the ridge then some scrambling along the top to the main summit which is almost a rock climb. A great choice for the day. Hardly any snow on the mountain so no issues. Our final days walk was on Quinag up in Assynt. Three Corbett status summits make up this fine ridge walk. There had been another dusting of overnight snow to lowish levels. We were round the ridge with  just the odd slushy patch of snow to avoid. The NW Highlands as some absolutely wonderful mountains. Lots of  Munros but so many stunning lower peaks to choose from.
While most folk have turned the attention to Spring and Summer on the hills, there is no getting round the fact that it is winter still up here in The Highlands. I never put the ironmongery away until at least 1st May. As I write there are heavy snow showers outside my window, you can bet this April/May is going to be another 'extended winter'. The long spell of cold, northerly winds bringing the temperatures down on the summits, the higher Munro tops well below freezing this week. Constant snow showers over the last couple of days as seen fresh snow on top of the already extensive snow fields. There are many walking options if you don't have the winter kit to tackle the bigger mountains. It's all about choosing your mountains and objectives carefully. Of course for those who relish the winter hills then it's great, we get to play out in winter for a wee bit longer! My 'record' for running a winter skills course was last year, 12th May! Will it be broken this season? Stay tuned.

Sunday, 24 April 2016


Third and final day taking the guys out on some of the finest mountains the UK has to offer. So much choice of amazing peaks from the Ullapool area. Today we headed north to Assynt and a lovely group of three Corbett's ( mountains 2500ft - 3000ft). Quinag is the collective name for this trio of wonderful hills sandwiched between the western seaboard and beautiful Loch Assynt. Stunning views with clear tops and sunshine most of the time. A cold northerly breeze again and a dusting of overnight snow above 700m, most of this melted away by the time we reached our first summit. A brilliant end to a fab trip. If you've never ventured north and west of Inverness to this land of magical mountains then shame on you! Do it now! Looking like the cold weather is sticking around till May. It will get warmer shortly but in the meantime enjoy the nice bright, clear days. Just wrap IP warm!

Saturday, 23 April 2016


Day 2 with Patrick and Co on their long weekend in the Ullapool area. Today they fancied an easier day after our big day yesterday on An Teallach.  Overnight dusting of snow to 700m and an even colder day. So the finest 'small' mountain in the UK, Stac Pollaidh, fitted the bill nicely. A wonderful hill day with scrambling along the ridge. For most of the guys this was their first taste of scrambling. The beauty of this hill is you can opt out of some of the harder sections of scrambling with a traverse path along the ridge. A cold, light northerly wind meant it was hand on rock with gloves for much of the day. Great fun as always on this iconic hill which feels and looks much bigger than the modest 612 metre high summit. Another top day.

Friday, 22 April 2016


Valued return clients Patrick and Co. are out with me for the next three days on their annual Highland walking break. This year the 8 guys are up in the NW, based in Ullapool. A fabulous spot with so many mountains to choose from. The weather has once again cooled down dramatically. Northerly winds, light but cold air. Today looked to be the best day of the long weekend so the finest mountain on earth was our choice. We enjoyed some wonderful breaks in the snow showers, with bright sunny spells giving fine views of this magestic hill. There are still large areas of hard snow if contemplating a full ridge traverse. We finished the day by dropping to Ardessie falls. Superb clear night and glorious full moon. A top day with top blokes.