I was working an intro to climbing course this weekend for Hebridean Pursuits with a group from the Manchester University MC. It has been a great weekend of climbing and very sociable too with two other climbing groups out. We were in Stob Coire nan Lochan on Saturday and climbed Broad gully, along with most other teams and today we climbed Ledge route. The guys have come on leaps and bounds and I wish them luck with there future climbing.
A few inches of fresh snow fell overnight Friday and into Saturday, enough to make the mountains look and feel wintery. This snow is mostly just sat on rock or grass at the moment which means there is a lot of loose rock, care is needed but there is climbing to be done. The steeper crags didn't really look white today and most parties were in the larger gully lines or ridges. Teams have been climbing on the East face of Aonach Mor and reporting good conditions. Hopefully the coming freeze/thaws that are forecast will improve things a bit. Winter is out there and there are routes to climb as long as you have an open mind at the moment.
I'm back home after a few days over in the Cairngorms and have just found some time to catch up on the blog. Saturday was a stunning day with blue skies and lots of snow but warm temperatures and heavy rain made Sunday feel like a completely different experience. Angus Gary and I headed for Golden Oldie followed by Ken with Gam and Tom. The bottom half of the route was very much snow free but with frozen turf. We made a very quick ascent and there was more snow in the upper half but not a lot.
Angus and Garry enjoying a classic route, even if it wasn't the most wintery.
Ken belaying Gam and Tom over the narrows.
A quick turn around at home and I was heading over to the Cairngorms to work on a winter residential with students from Skye. It hasn't exactly been a winter trip, in fact we didn't even take out axe and crampons for day 2 and 3 but we did have some great days out and some new experiences for some of the guys on the course.
We are in need of some snow in the highlands. The highest gullies are holding snow but most buttress' and ridges have no or very little snow. It is due to cool down over the weekend but there is no substantial snow forecast at the moment. The big ridges are dry at the moment and although there is little snow the great weather is still making for great days out.
Aladdins and Fiacaill buttress.
Mess of Pottage.
Coire an Lochain
I'm climbing with Angus and Gary this weekend for Abacus Mountain Guides, they have been out with me for a few years now and whilst we were chatting this morning we found out that they hadn't done Ledge route. Decisions made and what a day for it! We shared the route with a few other teams and managed to do some teaching on the upper part of the route as we made our way up into the sunshine.
Ken was out with Colin and Alastair on the East ridge of the North top of stob Ban and it looks like they had a great day out. http://www.westcoast-mountainguides.co.uk/lost-place-ben-nevis-east-ridge-stob-ban/
Lots of people out today with teams on Tower ridge, SW ridge of DB, No.2 gully buttress, Comb gully, Green gully, Rand hand chimney on Moonlight gully buttress and No.3 gully. I'm sure more were out but I didn't see them. A couple of people backed off routes reporting thin conditions and apparently Point 5 was climbed with just three screws but I doubt it is V,5 at the moment.
There is plenty of ice about and forming on the usual drainage lines but it isn't quite there yet. It is set to get wet and warm tomorrow and with mild temps for the next few days. Hopefully it won't do too much damage and will just help feed the drainage lines when it does refreeze.
Day two with the West Highland students and today we wanted to build on yesterday's movement skills and some ice axe arrest. With stronger winds and for a change of scene we headed up to the Glencoe Ski Centre slopes which are holding a good amount of snow and we were going to be protected from the strong westerlies. Yesterday's fresh snow was wet today and it was still raining at 850m but there is a reasonable but thin cover that hopefully will freeze tomorrow, if it survives tonight's heavy rain. There was some obvious signs of drifting so snow should be building in the higher gullies and faces.
Trying to learn the basics of ice axe arrest and using some peer feedback to help the process.
It has been a very dry December and January and the Highlands have not looked as white as they should do for a while now. We have had some cold temperatures and people have been climbing routes but mostly just the big gully's and the odd mountaineering route.
I wasn't too hopeful for today in terms of what we would find on the hill but I should know better than that by now. Gill and I headed up onto Aonach Mor today (probably the lowest lying snow in Lochaber) with a winter skills group from West Highland college. Although there was less old snow than we thought there would have been we did spend the whole day moving around on snow and managed to cover a range of movement skills and the drifting snow and strong winds definitely tested some members of the group.
I think they are just excited as I was to be playing in the snow.
Ben Nevis on 18th of November.
The first routes of the season have been done and as I look out the window over Fort William I can see a good covering of snow down to 300m. There is a lot of snow on the western mountains and the snow fell onto wet warm ground so the turf isn't really frozen but it will be getting there. Over in the east the Northern coires are seeing some action, the routes on these crags are less reliant on turf so can be a good bet for early season climbing.
If you are looking to get out, I'd go for rocky mixed climbs that don't have much turf or for the more classic mountaineering routes. Although over here in the west that will involve a lot of digging and wading through soft snow and most loose rock is not frozen in place so some care is needed.
A summit selfie above the clouds.
A lot of deep snow around at the moment.
I have been out on Ledge route and the zig zags up onto Stob Coire nan Lochan which has been a great couple of days to get back into the winter spirit. Fingers crossed that this is how the winter continues but we will have some warm wet periods to put up with yet, after all it is only the middle of November.
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The weather in the Highlands has been absolutely stunning the last two days, Steve and I have been out with Scott, Cally, Joe and Will and yesterday we climbed Curved ridge in great conditions. Today we headed round to the west face of Aonach Mor (along with about 40 other people) and climbed Western rib. We thought the weather yesterday was good but today was in another class. Julie was also out with Gerard on Thursday and Friday and the climbed Dorsal arete and School house ridge. I'm not going to say any more I'll let the photos do the talking.
I was back out with the two Dave's yesterday and we had a great time climbing Tower ridge in it's current condition. There is a good track up the route with most of the belays dug out. The route has a good covering of snow and ice making a lot of the climbing a bit more straightforward but it does mean gear is hard to come by on most pitches. We made steady progress up to the little tower but met the crowds at this point, took our number and waited in line. A slightly later finish than normal but it did mean we got to catch the evening light on descent, another great day out in a week of great weather.
Fantastic light on the walk in.
The Minus and Orion face.
The Eastern traverse.
Busy at Tower gap.
Fantastic light on the way down too.
Today I was out with Dave who is up for his usual winter 'hit' and nearly always brings good weather with him. Given the current snow conditions and avalanche forecast we decided on the west face of Aonach Mor along with a few other teams. There was a good track in and it soon turned turned out the the whole face is in great condition. I was expecting to dig our way up the route but all of the loose snow has been blasted off the face, leaving a good covering of firm snow, frozen turf and clear rocks meaning there is gear placements everywhere. We made good progress up the route and passed one team higher up before we topped out into the sunshine. I also had a MIC trainee, Dave Buckett along today for some shadowing as he prepares for his assessment in the future.