It's been a busy week since the last blog, with two days of winter skills with students from West Highland College from the School of Adventure Studies and five days of private guiding with Paul.
Paul and I have had a great run of weather and a tour of the West Highlands. We started with Curved ridge and then Western rib on the West face of Aonach Mor, both in great condition and bathed in sunshine. We then decided to make a quick hit to Skye and spent the day covering loads of mountaineering ground at the northern end. Day 4 was a 'rest' day with Paul leading us up the Zig Zags before we made a quick getaway for coffee and cake and day five was the icing on the cake with an ascent of Tower ridge, which was a great day out.
Conditions at the moment are great with a fantastic covering of snow, the ice routes are forming well and have seen some traffic although reports are that they are difficult to protect at the moment. Tower The big ridges have a good covering of snow making them feel slightly easier but belays and protection are hard to come by.
Am Bastier on Skye.
Looking south on Skye towards the middle Munro's.
The Zig Zags in Glencoe.
Topping out on Tower ridge after a great week.
We have had a wild weekend on the west with strong winds and heavy rain at times meaning the snowpack is saturated but the good news is it is turning cold again today and more snow is forecast for midweek. I was out working with a group from Manchester University Mountaineering club on a mountaineering course for Hebridean Pursuits. We spent Saturday going through some of the hard skills in a very blustery Coire na Tuilach, where at the time we found it difficult to stand and yesterday we applied those skills with the group leading themselves up the Zig zags with some discussion about when and where to use the best technique.
Coire na Tuilach on Saturday
This week I have been working with a group from the Ulster University Mountaineering club over in the Cairngorms. It has been a mixed few days with temperatures mostly above the summits. There have been some bright spells too and things cooled down on Wednesday but we did take a bit of a kicking in the morning with strong winds and spindrift in the Ciste Gully.
The guys did really well despite all of this and have had a great few days on a rather steep learning curve whilst getting to grips with everything that is involved with winter mountaineering.
Thursday and Friday were great days to be out mountaineering in Glencoe. The snow cover was great and both our routes, Curved Ridge and Sron na Lairig were well stamped out making for quick and easy progress.
Things are changing today with the freezing level rising above the summit this evening and dropping again tomorrow morning with more fresh snow. This will help stabilise the remaining snow as it refreezes and hopefully helps the higher ice to form and give us some great climbing conditions in the coming days. There is more heavy snow forecast and on strong winds, so you will have to plan well and travel safely.
Sron Na Lairig
The exit slopes of Sron na Lairig.
Curved ridge gave us some fantastic and pretty straight forward climbing today. There is enough snow on the route to have filled in a lot of the ground and there is a line of firm steps up the whole route. We did get a couple of strong gusts of wind today but it was not as bad as forecast but it was also a lot warmer. John and Will moved fast over the ground and we were back at the car in 5 1/2 hours.
The ice at Beinn Udlaidh is quite variable at the moment and there aren't that many routes that are fully formed, Quartzvein scoop was definitely the most complete and fattest looking line on the crag today. The strong SE winds from the start of the week have buried the crag in snow and insulated the ice from the cold temperatures.
The Eastern sector is definitely in better shape than the west. Hopefully, a couple more days of cold weather will only improve conditions. It is worth heading up but pickings are slim at the moment.
Dave high on Quartzvein scoop.
Topping out into the sunshine, what an amazing day.
Descending back into the corrie, the western sector in the background.
Approaching the eastern sector.
Yesterday's group were given a bit of a choice today. Go out on the hill again and face some potentially fierce winds, go climbing indoor or go Mountain biking? So on the bike, it was for me today then, it was a great day riding the natural trails at Wolftrax, over on the 'Brown side', trying to avoid most of the hard ice that is present at the moment due to this cold spell.
The natural trails where definitely the best place to be for biking today but the traction was still a bit hit and miss and we needed to be on our toes.
Today, Dave and I were out with a group from West Highland college looking to fill in some skills gaps from before Christmas. We need to spend some time in crampons and continue looking at our planning and decision-making processes using the 'Be Avalanche Aware' model. We decided on Buachaille Etive Beag and spent the day getting the millage under their belts and discussing all of the information that was there for us to see with regards to snow pack etc. The sun shone all day and it was glorious! I could show you tons of pictures, but here is just a few.
Plenty of snow on the move today.
Blue skies for miles.
Buachaille Etive Mor behind.
Some nasty spindrift at times.
A great vista of the hills to the North.
A happy team at the top.
I was joined on the 3rd of January by the French family, who were looking to learn the movement skills needed for them to hopefully tackle Mont Blanc in the summer. We spent day one climbing Stob Coire Raineach trying to cover as much as we could with the conditions we had. This was a bit of a theme for the days as we spent most of the time, knee to thigh deep in snow, which isn't really very helpful. We spent day 2 up on the slopes of Aonach Mor and spent some time introducing the rope and simple ways to protect each other over some steeper ground. This was continued on day 3 on the Zig Zags, with some more technical rope work.
The guys were plagued by injuries and illness whilst they were up here but soldiered on through for as much as they could and had a great few days. Thanks very much to the French family, a great way to start the year.
Moving over mixed ground on Stob Coire Raineach
The French family at the summit of Stob Coire Raineach
Some blue skies
Harry peering into Left twin on Aonach Mor.
Getting to grip with some ropework on the Zig Zags.
It has been a busy few days to end 2017 with teams out on Ben Nevis and winter skills courses in Glencoe. It has been cold for a good few days now and although the steeper mixed lines have been the routes to go for, we have still been missing the 'glue' that holds most of our winter climbs together. Hopefully, after a couple of days of heavy and wet snowfall, the new year should bring in some great climbing conditions.
I'd like to take the time to thank all of our customers of 2017 and beyond, that have made this a great year and thanks too to the people that have worked alongside me to help people achieve their ambitions. Happy new year everyone and here is to new adventures in the near future.
Elodie and Maxime smiling through difficult conditions on Ben Nevis today.