Winter climbing conditions are quite tricky at the moment, with a fairly high freezing level and thin snow cover. Today's forecast didn't help an awful lot, with high winds due to come in at about lunchtime. With all this in mind, Corey and I had an earlyish start and made our way up to Coire nan Lochan, with an ascent of Dorsal Arete (and descent of Broad Gully) as our plan A. The beauty of Coire nan Lochan is that it is fantastically sheltered from the worst of the prevailing winds, although care is required on topping out.
The approach slopes to Broad Gully/Dorsal Arete are still quite awkward, with quite a bit of rock still exposed, but Broad Gully itself is well filled in. We didn't hang around on Dorsal Arete, but made sure we took in the crux fin and a fun, steeper finish, to the left of the normal finish.
On topping out, as expected, the winds made themselves known with the odd, strong gust, so we didn't hang around and descended Broad Gully. We should see quite a bit of snow over the next 24 hours, so fingers crossed, as it's exactly what we need right now!
After a fairly mixed start to the year, today felt a bit more like it should, with clear skies, no wind and snow above 500m. Nicolaus and I made the most of it by climbing Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. The East Gully of the Douglas Gap was holding just enough snow and whilst overall, the snow cover was thin, it felt wintry and there were some firm patches of older snow, particularly on the Eastern Traverse and exit gully.
Ice is forming on the major drainage lines and Point 5 Gully is just about complete, but wouldn't be much fun at the moment! That said, we are due a brief thaw this weekend, before what looks to be a wintry week, so things are moving in the right direction!
Quite a few other teams out enjoying the nice weather. Teams in the major gullies as well as Burrito's Groove (reportedly not great), Gardyloo Gully (lean, take screws) and a team giving Minus One Buttress a shot.
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For the past couple of days, I've been out winter mountaineering with Will and Amanda. There's no hiding the fact that things have been rather lean recently, but there is snow in the highest corries and summits.
Yesterday, we made our way up into Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis to find quite a bit of well-frozen snow (and far more than this time last year I should add). This meant putting on crampons fairly low down and making our way up to No. 3 Gully, from where the pair led themselves up. We then popped over to No. 4 Gully, which we then descended. A few other teams making the most of the colder conditions.
As yesterday drew to a close, there was quite a bit of fresh snow coming down and despite a slight rise in temperatures this morning, there was still a good bit of snow hanging on to Golden Oldie on Aonach Mor today. We looked at moving together and keeping the ropework simple yet safe. It was a pretty wet day, so not one for hanging about! We didn't need crampons today, but an axe was useful.
It looks like we should see wintry conditions from the middle of next week onwards, keep those fingers crossed!
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Sarah and I enjoyed a brilliant day on Western Rib on Aonach Mor today! The approach was fairly tough going and a fair bit of spindrift was pouring both down and back up the route at various times and along with full white-out conditions on the summit plateau, made for an atmospheric day.
We still have spaces on our Introductory Winter Climbing Course, running 13-17 January 2020, so if you fancy getting stuck into Scottish winter climbing, get in touch!
It's been a busy old week, as we kicked off our winter courses this week. I was out with our Winter Mountaineering Course and on Wednesday, we made an ascent of the East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn, which after the dump of snow on Monday night, was in good condition.
On Thursday, the team led themselves up School House Ridge on Sgurr Bhan, above Ballachulish, yesterday, we made an ascent of Ben Nevis via Ledge route and after the obligatory visit to the summit, we descended No. 4 Gully, just as the clouds cleared, giving us some impressive views of the greatest mountain in the world.
Today, I was out with Ezra and we tackled the East Ridge of the North Buttress on Stob Ban. The route was fantastically snowy for this early in the season and gave an atmospheric outing. As the winds picked up, we descended the North Ridge.
It's been a brilliant week and the wintry weather looks to stay with us for a while yet. Keep those fingers crossed!
Winter has returned to the Highlands and with such a good forecast for the day, Sarah and I made the most of it with an ascent of the excellent Forcan Ridge in Glenshiel.
The day started off rather windy but soon eased up, leaving behind a stunning and settled winters day, with plenty of sunshine and amazing vistas. Conditions on the route were better than expected, with a good covering of snow on the entire ridge. More days like this, please!
Steven and I were out on Ledge Route on Ben Nevis today and despite the warmer temperatures of yesterday, there was still a fair bit of water ice on the upper reaches of Ledge Route and once on the plateau, there was plenty of ice and rime ice above 1200m. Indicator Wall is icing up well!
Although we took crampons, we didn't need to use them, although the snow on the mountain path did have an icy crust to it, which will require crampons if the temperatures drop at all.
It was remarkably still on the summit, but the winds did pick up as we were descending the mountain path. The clouds also cleared, giving us some excellent views out west.
Looks like we're due some stormy weather tomorrow…
That'll be winter back, then! Whilst my day on Skye the other day involved a bit of snow, it certainly wasn't wintry enough to call it winter climbing. Today was different, today, it was most definitely winter climbing!
I was out with Andy, who was game for Tower Ridge in whatever conditions the mountains threw at us, it turned out to be a fantastic (and my first) day of winter climbing. Not bad for the end of October.
The snow on the approach was surprisingly firm underfoot and we geared up in full winter climbing gear at the foot of the East Gully of the Douglas Boulder, which was pleasantly chocked full of snow. A set of footprints from a previous ascent had firmed up the snow in places, enough to take an axe placement at times.
We made good progress up the ridge and soon found ourselves in the meat of the route. The Eastern Traverse was very straight forward in current conditions and the Fallen Block Chimney still needs a lot more snow before it can be climbed on the outside. We both enjoyed every minute of the route, made all the better by not having any wind or precipitation all day.
We descended the mountain path, which has become very compacted over the past few days and definitely warrants the use of crampons.
As we've had quite a bit of wet weather this month, the seepage lines are icing up well, with Point 5, Green, Comb and a number of other drainage lines starting to form. Fingers crossed!
If you would like to chat through your plans for this coming winter❄️, which I hear will be amazing😉, get in touch!
After considering conditions quite carefully, I was happy that Ed and I could enjoy an adventurous yet safe day on the In Pinn and Sgurr Mhic Choinnich in the Black Cuillins on Skye today.
We ascended the West Ridge of Sgurr Dearg, which was largely snow-free, however, from there on, we had to be fairly careful, as there was quite a bit of soft snow sitting on the ledges. The East Ridge of the In Pinn was fine, with just a bit of additional care required from time to time. We then took Murray's By-Pass, to avoid the upper section of the Brown Ramp that cuts beneath An Stac and made our way over to Sgurr Mhic Choinnich.
The ascent of Sgurr Mhic Choinnich was largely as per usual, but the final slabs and ridge required a bit more care than usual. As we descended into Coire Lagan, the sun came out and gave us a nice end to a productive day.