Long time coming! Crest Route, SCNL, Glencoe

After weeks of storms, super short lived freeze cycles, and generally a frustrating start to winter, things finally took a noticeable turn for the better this weekend.  So, with the promise of clear skies, calm winds and low temperatures, Steve and I quickly hatched plans to venture up to Stob Coire nan Lochan yesterday and have a look at Crest Route on North Buttress.  Steve had already climbed the route before, so knew that due to it’s rocky and steep nature it didn’t really rely on turf, which hadn’t quite had the chance to thoroughly freeze, and me having not climbed it before, it seemed like a wise idea, and a great one, as it’s been on my tick-list for quite a while.

The approach was quite tough going due to some deep snow drifts covering the path, but luckily for us, we weren’t the first ones of the day heading up.  We were also just as lucky that the couple of teams in front didn’t have Crest Route in their sights!  The first pitch was a fairly straight forward affair, led by Steve, before I took over, and made my way up the sustained, technical, but well protected and enjoyable second pitch, before Steve slowly and steadily made his way up the technical and awkward third pitch.  We topped out to virtually no wind and clear panoramic views in every direction.  Not a bad way to open this winter’s account!  Other teams were on Yankee Go Home, Scabbard Chimney, Dorsal Arete, Twisting Gully, Central Grooves and Intruder.

Today unfortunately didn’t turn out to be quite so productive.  Steve and I made our way up high, to the entrance to No.4 Gully on Ben Nevis, with intentions to explore and climb on the upper tier of Trident Buttress, which overlooks No. 4, but unfortunately, due to the longish approach, probably coupled with yesterday’s efforts, Steve’s back, which he has had quite a few problems with this year, was causing him a bit of discomfort.  For life as mountaineering instructors, there’s almost nothing more important than looking after your body, particularly with a busy winter looming, so for both Steve and I, there was no question that pushing on would be foolish, so we made our way back down.  It was just nice to be out on such a glorious day, to have a look at an area of Ben Nevis that I know less about and see what else people were on (quite quiet today, with teams on Tower Ridge, Cutlass, No. 3 Gully Buttress, Sioux Wall and Ledge Route).

Hannah has also had a busy weekend, working with a group from Maximum Adventure.  They enjoyed a walk into Coire na Ciste, whilst looking at a number of core winter skills, all in preparation for today’s assault on the summit of Ben Nevis, which they succeeded in achieving. They’ve certainly had a great weekend for it.

Sgor na h-Ulaidh and Beinn Fhionnlaidh, Glen Etive

Before you spend the whole time reading this blog wondering how an earth to pronounce the two mentioned Munros, here you go: Sgor na h-Ulaidh is pronounced ‘skor na hoolya’ and means peak of the treasure and Beinn Fhionnlaidh is pronounced ‘byn yoonly’ and means Finlay’s peak.  And it’s these two Munros that Johnny and I, working for Steve Fallon, guided a strong group of ten around yesterday.

Following a rather wild and wet week, with some quite mild temperatures, things took a distinct turn on Friday evening, with a drop in temperatures, and with it, the promise of fresh snow, possibly down to valley level.  Fortunately for us, the snow was nowhere near as heavy as some forecasts predicted, allowing us to drive safely down the often untreated road in Glen Etive, and set off at 8am on Saturday morning.  What snow had fallen, had been brought in on fresh NNE winds, therefore transporting much of it onto southerly aspects, which was quite apparent when making an ascent of the south eastern flank of Sgor na h-Ulaidh.  A thin layer of windslab was starting to form in hollows, but without a base, was of very little concern. As ever, it’s interesting to see it forming.

The group made steady progress up the steep SE flank and ridge, and we were soon enjoying the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, with little wind, and great visibility over towards the Aonach Eagach and Ben Nevis to the north, to Beinn Cruachan to the south and over to Mull out west.  From here, a long descent down to nearly 400m, brought us to the foot of Beinn Fhoinnlaidh.  We ascended the mountain’s west flank, again, up steep slopes, to gain a short but interesting summit ridge, which led us, via a couple of tricky steps to the summit.  As it was 3pm, and therefore with limited daylight left, we chose not to hang about, and managed to negotiate all the steep ground to the SW, before having to don headtorches and make our way over easier ground back to the cars.  All in all, it was a big yet rewarding day for the group, taking in 2 Munros, 17km and 1600m of ascent with less than perfect underfoot conditions.

Winter climbing wise, things are improving, but reports suggest that Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe may not be quite there yet.  A mild and wet start to this coming week, but again, next weekend looks promising.

Here’s a very short film that I quickly put together, it’s amazing what you can do on a phone!

Winter has arrived!

Storm Abigail brought with it the first substantial snowfall this season, giving the mountains their first winter coat, down to about 600m or so.  Winter has arrived in the Scottish Highlands! Quite a few folk made the most of this early season wintry snap with mixed routes having been climbed in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms over east, and on the high crags of Ben Nevis and Bidean nam Bian on the west coast.

It’s a bit warmer and wetter today, which will wash most of the recent fresh snow away, however, there is plenty of snow and a cold spell in the pipeline towards the end of the week and into the weekend.  It’s looking like a very promising start to the season!

Phil Thompson was out in the Mamores yesterday and reported:

“Yesterday we went up Stob Ban via col and then up East Ridge. I broke trail in up to 25cm of drifts. The normal summer exit from the East Ridge where it meets the summit was totally filled in so took a detour right to avoid floundering in powder ! ” 3:45hr car to car.

Mamores in winter

Early snow in the Mamores

From the East Ridge of Stob Ban

View from the East Ridge of Stob Ban









Thanks to Phil for the report and photos.

Meanwhile, Han was also out, leading a group up the mountain track to the summit of Ben Nevis, for Atlas Mountaineering.  She encountered soft snow all the way, and so the group didn’t need to use crampons or an ice axe.  There was plenty of rime on the summit cairn and shelter.

If you’ve been out walking, mountaineering or climbing, then feel free to drop us an email: with your trip report, which we can then include in our blog posts.

A short, yet inspiring film on Scottish winter climbing

Take 4 minutes out of your Friday afternoon, and watch Kenton Cool, Neil Gresham and Heather Geluk talk about their motivations for the unique world of Scottish winter climbing.

It’s cooling down – Scottish winter courses

It’s been a busy summer, both on the Isle of Skye and in the Alps and it’s been great to meet new and also catch up with familiar faces. The late Indian summer we’ve had has been very much appreciated and t-shirt climbing in October and November has been great! We are however also pleased to say it’s now cooling down, and with winter not far away, it’s a good time to start laying down plans for the upcoming winter season.

Our first Scottish winter courses this year start in mid December and we also have some running over the New Year period. This coming winter, we will be offering a greater range of courses than previously, with the inclusion of a Winter Skills & Summits course, aimed at hill walkers looking to take their first winter steps in the Scottish mountains and who wish to tackle snow covered Munros.

Should you wish to tackle something steeper, such as a snow filled gully, iced up buttress or classic icefall, then our range of Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Courses may be just what you’re after!  We’re lucky to be surrounded by some of the finest winter venues, from Ben Nevis to Aonach Mor on our doorstep, to the impressive peaks and crags of Glencoe just to the south.

We will, of course, be running our flagship CIC Hut Weeks too.  The week is spent in the UK’s only alpine hut, at the foot of the North Face of Ben Nevis, which means minimal walk-ins, maximum climbing time!

Don’t forget, we also take Private Guiding bookings too so if you can’t quite find what you’re after when it comes to climbing, winter skills, or walking make sure you get in touch whether your an individual or a group so we can talk through what you’d like to achieve and we’ll come up with a tailor made itinerary for you.

The West Coast Mountain Guides blog will also be kept up-to-date throughout the winter season and please feel free to email us with your own conditions updates and pictures that we can then include on our blog

Oh, and if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to ‘like’ us on facebook and we look forward to seeing you soon!