Paul James, MIC - - Winter and Rock Climbing Conditions

Monday, 28 February 2011

28-02-11, Creag Meagaidh - Winter Climbing

Creag Meagaidh - Post Face sunrise.

Lets not get too carried away with the rock climbing, it's still February, and there is still plenty of winter climbing to be done! Today Kath, Gary and I went to Creag Meagaidh to climb some ice; any ice that is left after the recent thaw. We climbed Diadem, V,4. There is still plenty of ice left in the inner coire, Pumpkin and Wand looked good, Didem had a cruddy covering of snow, but still enjoyable, once you uncovered the good ice for screws. There is still thick ice at the bottom on Last Post, however unsure about the rest of the routes on the post face, if the snow is similar to what we found today then they could be scary and cruddy! Some fine cornices above Cinderella. Topped out into warm spring like sunshine and a stellar white plateau with views of all the highlands. The Wand and Diadem.

Top of The Wand.

More Wand.

Cornices above Cinderella.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

27-02-11, Latheronwheel, Caithness - Rock Climbing

In search of some more Scottish Rock action, Jules and I went on a long drive North towards Wick. We stopped at Latheron on the Caithness coast and climbed on the mud/sandstone sea cliffs. Again and again I am constantly impressed by the quality and atmosphere of the different rock crags I visit in Scotland. This one is definitely going to be visited again. We enjoyed sun, solitude and steep walls of fine rock. On first impressions it looks like tottering choss, not only to the untrained eye either. Jules is a geologist and expressed his concerns upon the walk in. However the rock with all its breaks and cracks is actually very solid. We went to a few different areas, most of which were non-tidal.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

26-02-11, Logie Head, Moray Coast - Rock Climbing

Today Jules and I went rock climbing on the sandstone sea cliff fin of Logie Head on the Moray Coast. It has been both sunny and cold! We managed to do lots of climbing on the star face in the sun which was ace, and we also did a few more of the starred routes on the left hand side. A very pleasant and enjoyable day. Logie Head is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Good quality rock, between 10m-15m in height, excellent VS - E1 routes, good gear, cracks, holds and friction. Most of the cliff is accessible at high water but if its stormy maybe not.
Photos - Top, Logie Head - Right and Below, Star Face - Below II, solo of Sea Urchin - Below III, Crazy fortress/castle on end of Cullen Bay.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

24-02-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Reaseheath Winter Skills final day 4. Today has been very windy and relatively warm. We decided it would be nice to walk out from Rothiemurchus Lodge instead of driving somewhere to get into the hills. So the team with tired legs managed to ascend 3 mountain tops - Airgiod-Meall, Castle Hill and Creag a'Chalamain. A long the way the team did lots of navigation including implementing use of the 4Ds. We found a patch of slushy snow and got some more ice axe arrest practice in before descending into the Lairig Grhu to get back to the Lodge. A lot of snow has disappeared, lower ski runs starting to look bare, low level snow below 800m unlikely in abundance apart from North facing corries and deep gullies. Hopefully the freezing level will drop and save it, reports from Ben Nevis that low ice is no longer ice more waterfall! Vanishing, Curtain, Waterfall Gully, Harrison's, Minus face - black.
Dec walking back through the Lairig Grhu.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

23-02-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Day 3 of Reaseheath College Winter Skills week in the Cairngorms. The thaw has hit but the rain didn't arrive. Wet slushy snow about, ski centre still busy but the snow is disappearing slowly. The buttresses as to be expected are black, Aladdin's Mirror Direct is still massive. Today we walked into Coire an t-Sneachda, and looked at digging emergency shelters, and how to use a rope to get up steep slopes. Bucket Seats, Body Belaying, Buried Axes, Snow Bollards.
Photos - Above, Coire an t-Sneachda, Right, Ptarmigan posing for the camera. Emergency shelters.

South African abseil off a Snow Bollard.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

22-02-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

A stunning day in Cairngorms National Park today. Myself and the Reaseheath Team, looked at navigation as we went on a journey putting yesterdays boot, crampon, and ice axe skills to good practice on an ascent of Cairngorm via pt. 1141 along the fiacaill choire cas. Blue skies, for the most part, hard scoured snow on the plateau as well as finding some heavy drifting in Ciste Meridth. More than enough snow to snow hole in, with steep walls and cornices also. The team also got the chance to have a brief look at snow anchors. Unfortunately it is all set to change with rain and warm temperatures forecast for the next few days!

Snow Buntings on the summit of Cairngorm.

Monday, 21 February 2011

21-02-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Coire an t-Sneachda - looking fairly white!

Today I have been working with students from Reaseheath College on a Winter Skills week in the Cairngorms. Day 1 today and we headed to the Ciste, to look at walking on hard and soft snow, use of crampons and ice axe arresting. The winds were much slower today maybe gusts of 40mph and we even had some sunshine. We walked up and over the ridge to the Ranger station then down to the Sugar Bowl car park. We will be trying to take advantage of the hard snow and forecast good weather tomorrow before the turbo thaw +7 degrees on the summits on Wednesday arrives! Photo - team sat next some immpressive sasstrugi.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

20-02-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Another day in the wind blasted white room! The weather was a lot harsher than forecast with very strong southerly winds. The team navigated and battled our way into Coire an t-Sneachda. Lots of climbers walking out early and plenty of wind slab about in the back of the coire. No precipitation but plenty of wind blown snow being transported about. I was working for Glenmore Lodge on a MCofS University Winter Skills course.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

19-02-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Today I have been working for Glenmore Lodge on a MCofS Scottish Universities Winter Skills course. Very stormy weather. The Ski Road was closed until about midday due to 100mph winds in the top car park and drifting snow blocking the upper link road. Luckily we managed to get a drop off at the Ciste car park and ventured out from there. Lots of fresh deep snow being blown, plenty of windslab forming. We didn't ascend much higher up the mountain than 700m, but we managed to cover ice axe arresting, avalanche awareness and crampon skills.

18-02-11, Glen Coe - Winter Climbing

A slightly cloudier and warmer day today. Initially Dave and I drove to The Buachaille but thought the buttresses would be far too black to consider a winter ascent. We had noticed on the way through Glen Coe that there was snow half way down West face of Aonach Dubh. We walked up the initially grass slopes the climbed the line of Dinner-time Buttress, II. After topping out it takes you to the base of Stob Coire nan Lochan so we nipped across the east descent slopes and climbed Pinnacle Buttress Groove, III (photo right) - which despite being short 60m it is a very interesting and atmospheric climb. The freezing level was probably 700m but rising, buttress were riming up.

17-02-11, Stob Ban, Mamores - Winter Mountaineering

Ben Nevis from Mamores.

Tuesday, Kath and I went for a jaunt down to the Southern Highlands to try and climb on The Cobbler. The East and West highlands were swamped by deep snow, and unfortunately for us so was The Cobbler! The 1hr approach turned into 3hrs and the mixed routes were buried under useless powder snow. Will have to return with harder snow pack and colder temps.
Today I went up Stob Ban on the Mamores and ascended the North Buttress via the East Ridge, which is about grade II. A few short steps of interest and enjoyable scramble mountaineering ground in between. Some other teams were hovering around the base of Central Buttress but didn't appear to climb on it. The grade I gullies would have been climbable, but the grade III+ gullies looked thin and hard. The mixed buttress lines had snow on them and would probably provide a good day.
Northern slopes of Stob Ban.

The Cobbler Bellach.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

13-02-11, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

I have been working on a Weekend Winter Skills course at Glenmore Lodge the last couple of days. The conditions were varied and ideal for learning and experiencing the different skills required to stay safe in the winter. The weekend showed everyone what makes the winter mountain environment so potentially hostile but equally if not more rewarding than in the summer. Saturday we headed over to Coire an Lochain, under blue skies and light winds. The team went through cutting steps, use of crampons, some navigation and ice axe arresting. There was some new snow about getting blown onto Northerly aspects. Several avalanches were reported in neighbouring Corie an t-Sneachda, some people were injured but not fatal. A couple of teams were climbing in Lochain and some were getting away with walking across the great slab area! Today was a very different but equally Scottish day! snowing, wet and windy. It was a googlies day as we headed into Coire an t-Sneachda to do some navigation, looked at emergency shelters at the moraines and tried to find some evidence of yesterdays avalanche activity. The Goat track debris was still present, but getting re buried quickly by the new snow. I would say that the north facing corries are not the place to be going winter climbing at the moment!

Photo - the team starting to do battle with the ice axe arrest under a snowy Coire an Lochain.

Friday, 11 February 2011

10-02-11, Ben Nevis - Winter Climbing

Climbers high up on the Orion Face and Observatory ridge.

Today was one of those stunning and amazing Scottish Winter days. Firm snow pack, sunny, cold and crisp. Chris and I and every man and his dog, headed to Ben Nevis to take advantage of the great conditions for winter walking, mountaineering and climbing! Most of the ice routes are in great condition after yesterdays brief thaw and overnight freezing levels dropping. We climbed, Fawlty Towers III, SW Ridge of Douglas Boulder III,4, Vanishing Gully V,5 (which is in great condition - fat ice with good pro.) and Platforms Rib IV,5 on the minus face. Quite a big day. Loads of other teams out on NE Buttress, Observatory ridge, Tower ridge, Orion Face, Zero, Point, Hadrian's, Rubicon, Indicator, Smith's, Thompson's, Wendigo, Central RH, Ledge. Ice is in great condition. It will be a busy one this weekend!
Photos - Right, Vanishing Gully, Crux pitch. Below - Tower ridge.

SW Ridge of Douglas Boulder.

Orion Face - Tower Ridge.

Coire na Ciste.

09-02-11, SCNL, Glen Coe - Winter Climbing

A thawing day today. Tori, Chris and I headed back to Stob Coire nan Lochan today. We climbed Ordinary Route IV, 5 on Summit Buttress. The snow was heavily saturated from last nights rain and freezing level above the summits. The day started dry but quickly heavy rain came in from 10am onwards till we got back to the van! Lots of wet avalanche debris was seen in Forked gully. Despite the wet conditions, the climbing and day was enjoyable, just goes to show you can have a good day when you don't expect it!

08-02-11, SCNL, Glencoe - Winter Climbing

Dave at the start of Scabbard Chimney.

Today, Dave and I headed up to Stob Coire nan Lochan and climbed Scabbard Chimney, V,6. Luckily there were a couple teams a head of us on the walk in so they had the glory of breaking trail in the new soft snow which fell over night. The freezing level was below the lochan but there was plenty of new snow which made for a considerable avalanche hazard. We heard a loud avalanche come down Twisting gully (photo of the crown wall at the bottom). Cornices were large also. Other teams out on the buttress routes and of course Dorsal Arete!
Photos - Right, Dave trying to find purchase on the final pitch. Below, tight chimney wriggling.

Monday, 7 February 2011

07-02-11, Aonach Mor, West Highlands - Winter Climbing

PK, Dan and myself headed over to the west face of Aonach Mor today. We had hoped to get a view and feel for the summit ribs, as non of us had ever been, however the clag was firmly set in. A lot of fresh snow has fallen last night so much of the rocks were buried. We climbed up a rib/ridge line to the summit at grade II. Windy on the summits and complete whiteout. The cornices on the East face are massive, as to be expected with SW/W winds and lots of snow! Gaz and Chris abseiled in and climbed Morwind and Roaring Forties, they said they were in easy climbable condition but poor for protection. Also that the slopes were very loaded and best to stay away from Easy gully and the slopes at the base of the crag.

Photos - above and right - Dan and PK climbing Golden Oldie? and below snow covered tops.