Paul James, MIC - - Winter and Rock Climbing Conditions

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

28-02-12, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Very dry Fiaciall Buttress
 This weekend and week I have been working at Glenmore Lodge on Winter Skills courses. MCofS University students at the weekend and a regular open week long course this week. There are enough significant patches of snow on some NE aspect slopes to practice winter skills - Lochain and Cas. There are some deep accumulations still hanging around on the plateau in the usual places i.e. Domhain, Ciste Mhearad and Cnap Coire na Spreidhe, but other than that it is bare and very summer like. A couple of winter routes exist (if your seriously desperate!) in the corries. Basically crags are bone dry and ready for Rock Climbing! Today (Day 2) we headed to Coire Cas, did some more ice axe self arrest, and cramponing up the slope, headed to windy col and descended into Coire an t-Sneachda, marvelled at the glorious dry rock, dug some emergency shelters in the moraines and covered some more navigation.
Mess of Pottage

Aladdin's Buttress

Skiing - closed.

Don't dig too deep!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

23-02-12, Beinn Bhan, Applecross - Winter Climbing

A' Chioch Traverse, Beinn Bhan
This week has been very warm, wet and stormy! Not very good for Winter Climbing! I have been working in the NW Highlands again. Luckily for my group of Intro Winter Climbers, Sunday, day 1 was ace, cold, crisp and snow down to sea level. We took the bull by the horns and went for a big route immediately, Chris and Steph had done some winter stuff with crampons and ice axes but Terrance hadn't so had to learn fast! We traversed A'Chioch on Beinn Bhan, a great grade II ridge route (the photos say it all).  The following days we have had serious rain fall, and rising temperatures, 5 and 6 degrees on the summits, which has decimated most snow everywhere. We climbed 'Way Up' on Liathach yesterday, the only thing you could climb! A very soggy experience with some ice fall for good measure. On the other days, we have practiced some navigation, rope work, rock climbing and dry tooling - It has been productive, if not very wintry. Weather forecast suggest a cold snap next couple of days then back to warm ming! But who knows what it will be like in a couple of weeks time.

Beinn Bhan

The Team on the ridge with the impending wall looming.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

17-02-12, Aonach Mor, Ben Nevis - Winter Climbing

Ben Nevis above the cloud from Aonach Mor
This week I have been climbing and working on the West on Aonach Mor and Ben Nevis for Adventure Peaks. Liam and Martin were on a Improvers Snow and Ice climbing course. The idea being to climb Ice and mixed routes between grade III and V, learn about technique, runners, belays, stances and how to survive winter climbing, with a aim to become independent and be leading easy winter winter routes on their own. The start of the week had glorious weather, freezing level below the summits with lots of icy routes in good condition high up 900-1000m altitude, as the week progressed, mild weather and rain and wind became the norm. On Sunday I was out climbing for myself with a friend on Aonach Mor, the ice routes were in great condition, we climbed Aquafresh, Roaring Forties and Siamese Twin all grade IV. Monday with work, the team had already have crampon and some winter climbing experience we headed back to Aonach Mor and climbed Tunnel Vision III. Tuesday and Wednesday to Ben Nevis and climbed the first 3 pitches of Nasturtium IV (which was in poor condition - relatively low and probably very hard now with the recent thaw), and Wendigo IV (a great ice and mixed route on Coire na Ciste Crag). Thursday was very mild and raining heavily in the morning so we had a rest day and worked on dry tooling technique (on Onich Slab) and some rope work at Polldubh crags and climbed a 2 pitch route The Gutter, Diff in the sunshine! Yesterday, Friday myself and Liam climbed Faulty Towers, III right of the Douglas boulder which gave 3 good mixed pitches, on snow ice and turf.

Looks like the weather may have ended the winter season yesterday, however it is a blizzard of snow in Grantown on Spey at the moment, so the freezing level has dropped and the snow is returning to lower levels! I will be in the NW Highlands this week, hopefully, the routes are looking white and frozen.

Siamese Twin, IV,4 with rescue helicopter helping an injured team near by.

Siamese Twin IV,4 - excellent steeper variation to Left Twin on Aonch Mor.

Tamsin, guiding a pair up the classic Left Twin, III.

Nasturtium, IV, 4

Faulty Towers, III

Thursday, 9 February 2012

09-02-12, Logie Head, Moray Coast - Rock Climbing

Logie Head, great quartzite fin of rock.
More rock climbing today. Slightly damp, so not as glorious as you may imagine! Very warm in Scotland today, reports of saturated slushy wadefest snow in big gullies of the northern corries. Avy and I went to Logie Head, and enjoyed some wet rock, we had a look at placing runners, building belays and tying yourself to the rock face safely. The wildlife was most excellent also, spotted maybe 10 or so Bottlenose Dolphins.
Wet VDiff climbing at Logie Head.

Bottlenose Dolphins in the Moray Firth.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

08-02-12, Cummingston, Moray Coast - Rock Climbing

Cummingston stack from the cave.
 High wind speeds in the Cairngorms today. Avy and I went rock climbing on the Moray coastal crag - Cummingston. A soft sandstone, 10-15m high, tidal and non tidal areas, good range of easy to mid grades. A good calm but cold day, gave Avy's knees a rest and a chance to look at rock climbing skills, taking out runners, belaying and abseiling. After dropping off Avy in Aviemore, looks like lots of snow has left the mountains, probably blown away! The buttress starting to look black also.
Flying buttress left, VD. Climbs the stack.

Cornflake Wall, Mod. Cummingston Classic!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

07-02-12, Coire an Lochain, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Coire an Lochain
Second day of winter climbing for Avy today. We climbed Y Gully RH (II) in Coire an Lochain. In general the Corie is quite dry on some parts and well rimed on others, especially on the top 50m or so. Bomber neve nearly everywhere. Quite windy today, still sunny. Avalanche activity has been spotted over the back of the plateau, so even though there isn't full snow coverage, there is still some large amounts of slab about.

The Hoarmaster, (hoared/rimed enough!?)

Top out of Y Gully Right Hand.

Monday, 6 February 2012

06-02-12, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

 Today I have been out climbing with Avy, on an introduction to winter climbing course. We headed to t-Sneachda and climbed Central Gully Left Hand (I/II). It had some annoyingly deep pockets of snow in the gully proper, which we avoided and climbed the rib to the right. The top half was scoured, icy and good. Other teams were out on the buttresses and gullies. The top out was excellent, hard neve, and fantastic views.
Avy, having the ice pitch at the end!

Sunshine melting the rime.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

05-02-12, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

This weekend I have been working in the Cairngorms on a weekend Winter Skills course for Glenmore Lodge. The weather was quite bad on Saturday, with 50-60mph winds, sleet and snow added for extra pain! Today was much better and gave a more friendly learning environment for the group. They used their earlier acquired skills of walking with crampons and ice axe and navigation to summit Cairngorm. The freezing level was quite low and there is still plenty of snow about, from what I could see the corries were still looking reasonably white.

Well rimed summit weather station.

Friday, 3 February 2012

03-02-12, An Teallach, Beinn Alligin, NW Highlands - Winter Mountaineering

An Teallach with Sgurr Fiona.
The last week I have been working in the North West of Scotland on a Winter Mountaineering Course for Martin Moran. Conditions and weather have been fantastic all week. Snow level around 750m, has been stable and crispy! Cold in the evenings with plenty of flat ice about on the paths and bogs. I was out with 3 clients all week, for some it was the first week on crampons for others it was a week to brush off the cobwebs and make the most of the fine NW mountaineering ridges. The first day Sunday we headed to Fuar Tholl, and climbed Access Gully (II), in slightly soggy condition, but by Monday morning everything had refrozen hard, A traverse of Beinn Alligin (I), looking at rope work over the horns, Traverse of the Black Carls (I) on Beinn Eighe, then a bothy trip with a traverse of An Teallach (II). Climbing conditions are excellent at the moment, hard bomber neve and ice in gullies and some ice and rime ice on the faces.

The Horns on Beinn Alligin, Beinn Dearg and Beinn Eighe in the distance.

The Black Carls, Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe, Beinn Eighe.

The Black Carls, Sgurr nan Fhir Duibhe, Beinn Eighe.

Eag Dubh, Beinn Alligin.

Beinn Dearg Mor, Loch na Sealga, An Teallach.

Toll an Lochain, An Teallach.

Traversing on the side of the fourth pinnacle of Corrag Bhuidhe, An Teallach.

An Teallach ridge Corrag Bhuidhe.

An Teallach ridge from Sail Liath.

Richard, very happy after completing the An Teallach ridge.