Plenty of good climbing on Daim Buttress, Aonach Mor

With plenty of overnight snow having been brought in on strong westerly winds, Neil and I made our way round to the Summit Ribs on the West Face of Aonach Mor, which as expected, was quite scoured. There, we climbed Daim Buttress, a route that gets far less attention than it deserves. We weren't complaining though, as we had it all to ourselves today.

The first couple of pitches are up steep vegetation, which was frozen enough where needed. After that, the route steepens and provides a few excellent pitches of mixed climbing at about III,4 before easing off. Neil enjoyed the climbing and felt it to be a better route than Western Rib and Castle Ridge! The climbing is certainly more sustained and more balanced than on Castle Ridge.

There were a couple of teams on both Golden Oldie and Western Rib, but other than that, it was a quiet day on the West Face. We had good views over to Ben Nevis and the Mamores until we topped out, at which point the weather closed in.







Great conditions on Dorsal Arete, Stob Coire nan Lochan

Today was day 3 of Linton and Chris' Introduction to Winter Climbing course and we headed to Glencoe to tackle Dorsal Arete. Linton led the first three pitches before I took over to lead the guys over the fin and to the top.

Conditions were better than expected, with plenty of useful snow and turf. The higher crags were also well rimed. All things considered, it was quite wintry up there.

Quite a busy day on Dorsal Arete, with one team ahead and a number behind. The only other team were on Twisting Grooves.






Nice day on Western Rib, Aonach Mor

Linton and I enjoyed a quiet day on the West Face of Aonach Mor today, where we climbed Western Rib. We started up the flying buttress on the left and gained the main rib after 4 pitches.

Conditions on the route were mixed. Some useful patches of frozen ground but there's a glazing of ice over the turf and rocks, which seems to be preventing it from freezing properly. Conditions improved with height.

There's was a bit of windslab on either side of the ridge higher up, as well as some mini-cornices. It's great that winter's back, but a mini-thaw and refreeze wouldn't go amiss. There's some amazing sastrugi on the summit plateau at the moment!




Crypt Route, Bidean nam Bian

Winter has returned to the Highlands, sort of. We had fresh snow yesterday and today, but the freezing levels have still remained quite high, so Michael and I headed up to one of the highest crags in Glencoe; Church Door Buttress on Bidean nam Bian. We didn't encounter the fresh snow until about 900m and at that level, it was saturated.

Fresh snow had been blown into Crypt Route, and crampons (and axes) were definitely useful, particularly after the tight exit and round onto the top of the great arch.

The route provided plenty of fun as always, although I sometimes forget how much of a wriggle some of it really is! On reaching the top of the arch, we made the sensational abseil through the hole and back down to the start.

The freezing level is to drop tonight and hopefully, we'll see some more fresh snow along with the cooler temps. Winter's not over yet!











Tower Ridge and CMD Arete, Ben Nevis

It's hard to believe that we're at the end of February at the moment, with conditions more like the end of April. It's a shame that winter has taken a break recently (due to return this weekend), but it's hard not to enjoy days like we've been experiencing recently, what with the amenable temperatures, dry rock and sunshine of late.

Yesterday, I was out with Dan and Tim. We made an ascent of Observatory and Tower Gully before returning via the CMD Arete. Today, I was out with Simon and we made an ascent of Tower Ridge before again, returning via the CMD Arete. We had frost in the glens first thing this morning and the remaining snow on Tower Ridge had become very firm through the night. We needed crampons from the Eastern Traverse onwards, although Tower Gap was snow-free.

Over on Carn Dearg Buttress, Tom was out with John, where they climbed the brilliant Centurion. What a day for it! Plenty of other teams enjoying Raeburn's Arete, North East Buttress and Observatory Ridge.

All change this coming weekend, with a return to much cooler conditions and hopefully quite a bit of snow. Normal service will resume shortly!










Thompson's Route and Poseidon Groove, Ben Nevis

I was on Ben Nevis today, with Daniel, who was on our Advanced Winter Climbing course last week. He's clear got the winter climbing bug, as he was keen to get some more climbing in this week.

We headed up Ben Nevis with a fairly open plan, but on seeing that Thompson's Route was free, we set about climbing it. Conditions on the route were fairly reasonable (if you forget that it's generally an ice route). The turf was frozen and the snow was sticky, helping with crampons placements. The crux was as bare as last week, so again, we by-passed it by an short corner on the right. We joined No. 3 Gully Buttress higher, and took the direct finish, before heading over to No. 4 Gully.

With time on our side, we decided to head up to No. 4 Gully Buttress, which sees very little traffic and climbed a route I've been meaning to climb for a while; Poseidon Groove. This esoteric mixed route is brilliant and well worth a star. The meat of the climbing is in the first two short pitches and takes in a couple of short, steep corners, on good hooks, interspersed with a bit of exposed ledge shuffling. The turf was again well frozen, which was essential. The final 50 meters of the route are very straight forward. It felt like a nice complimentary climb to Thompson's Route.

Other teams on No. 2 Gully, No.2 Gully Buttress, Green Gully (well footsteps leading up to it), the ice on the first pitch of Diana, No. 3 Gully Buttress, Central Gully Right Hand and footsteps leading over to Pinnacle Arete.






Springlike on North Buttress, Buachaille Etive Mor

For Andrew's final day, we felt that we had got every last drop of winter out of Ben Nevis, so we changed tack slightly and enjoyed a springlike ascent of North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor. It's a great route at any time of the year, with plenty of mountaineering to get to the 3 or 4 steeper pitches and plenty more mountaineering above to reach the summit of Stob Dearg.

There was still quite a bit of snow in the back of the chimneys and as a result of the clear skies overnight, the snow (and water and turf) had refrozen, by radiative cooling, quite well and was very firm on northerly aspects, including for 100m or so down Coire na Tulaich. Were it not for the big steps in the snow, from the previous few days, we would definitely have needed our crampons to descend the snow safely. Where the snow had caught the sun, it had softened up.

The fact that the snow has firmed up on northerly aspects is a slightly promising sign, as hopefully, it will withstand the warmer conditions over the weekend before things cool down again on Sunday night.

Plenty of other teams enjoying the sunshine and dry rock on D-Gully Buttress, Curved Ridge, Crowberry Ridge, Crowberry Tower and North Buttress.










Tower Ridge hanging on to the snow

For our fourth day, Andrew and I found winter on Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. We put crampons on at the foot of the Douglas Boulder and required them for the whole ascent. The East Gully of the Douglas Boulder was still complete, the steep pitch out was on bare rock and we were on a fair bit of snow thereafter. In fact, there was more snow on the ridge than a couple of weeks ago.

The Little Tower was still mostly banked out, as was the Eastern Traverse. The Leaning Block Chimney required climbing on the outside, as it was blocked with snow. If you were enthusiastic enough, you could tunnel through the soft snow!

The gangway to the gap was again, covered in snow, although the step into and back out of the gap was on dry rock. The final slopes still had the rain crust from the other day, which was protecting the snow somewhat and preventing it from becoming too saturated.

We popped to the summit before descending No. 4 Gully, at which point, the clouds lifted, revealing a rather spring looking Ben Nevis. Still, Scottish winter is a changeable beast and we should see some cooler conditions early next week.

We still have the following spaces on our courses in March:
*Winter Mountaineering Course 4-8 March -1 SPACE
*Introduction to Winter Climbing Course 11-15 March -1 SPACE
*Winter Mountaineering Course 18-22 March -1 SPACE









SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder & 1934 Route, Ben Nevis

Despite a bit of thaw happening the Highlands right now, there's still a reasonable amount of snow and climbing to be had. Andrew and I made a bee-line for the SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder, which seems to have been a popular options over the past few days, as the snow has clearly been packed down by the passing of climbers. The rock on the steeper sections was more or less bare.

After completing the route, we abseiled down into the Douglas Gap and down-climbed the West Gully. I had spotted that 1934 Route was complete, so having only abseiled it after finishing Vanishing Gully in the past, we headed over and climbed it in two long pitches, before abseiling back down the line. The snow in 1934 Route was quite soft, but there was still some useful blobs of frozen ice and turf in places.

We still have the following spaces on our courses in March:
*Winter Mountaineering Course 4-8 March -1 SPACE
*Introduction to Winter Climbing Course 11-15 March -1 SPACE
*Winter Mountaineering Course 18-22 March -1 SPACE






Raeburn's Route, Stob Coire nan Lochan

Today brought with it a rise in the temperatures, but at least the day started off dry. The great thing about turf is that whilst it can take some time to freeze, once it is frozen, it takes a little while to become soggy again once a thaw sets in. With that in mind, Andrew and I headed to Stob Coire nan Lochan, where we climbed Raeburn's Route. The first pitch takes a series of vegetated grooves and it's essential (for safe climbing, ethics and the environment) that the turf is fully frozen before climbing it.

After testing a few patches of turf low down, I was happy that the turf was still completely frozen, so we continued on up. After the first pitch, the route takes a short ridge that overlooks NC Gully, before disappearing behind a huge pinnacle and gaining a series of ledges to gain the second belay. By the time we were on the third and final pitch, the rain had set-in. A number of short, rocky steps brought us onto the plateau, where we didn't hang about!

Chucky was just behind us on day 2 of our Advance Winter Climbing Course, the only other team climbing up there went to Dorsal Arete. Few hillwalking and skills team on Gearr Aonach.

Just a reminder that we have one space left on our winter mountaineering course 4-8 March: https://www.westcoast-mountainguides.co.uk/…/winter-mounta…/