Saturday, 31 January 2009

120mph winds on Cairngorm today

Its been a wild day here in the Northern Cories of the Cairngorms. There was on RAF Sea King chopper working this morning lifting a casualty from one of the ridges who had been blown over in the wind and the fall resulted in a head injury. Some people braved the elements and got some climbs in, Lisa and I turned back at the boulder fields prefering to make for Inverness climbing wall!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

"Out of Doors" on Cairngorm

Its been an interesting day as always on Cairngorm! Today Kathy was with Mark Stephen recording for radio Scotland. Apparently the program will be aired on "Out Of Doors" which you will all already know is on from 7-8am on Saturday mornings. You can also find it on so that should be fun and of interest! Mean while on Cairngorm the sking was pretty good with amazingly good cover and fantastic carving snow! On my way back from a short ski tour I went in past the office at Glenmore Lodge and found Kathy striking her Tibetan singing bowl.. it's all very spiritual this Avalanche prediction work!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009


Fiacaill Buttress in excellent condition this Tuesday morning! This photo was taken from the Mess of Pottage area where we were climbing:At Newtonmore this morning I woke to warmer weather and the ice on the drive way had all but thawed away. At Cairngorm car park it was +3 degrees but the snow in the corie remains well frozen and the approach paths are still very slippy with ice. The climbing is superb, but there is a lot of fresh and windblown snow covering the ice and frozen turf. This is especially true for Northerly aspects. It was Stephen's last day climbing and he had a plane to catch from Inverness in the afternoon. Hidden Chimney on the Mess of Pottage is a handy short route for such days and as you can see from the photos, it's in good climbing condition although the easier gullies, traverse lines and scarp slopes are suspect. Technical buttress climbs are in excellent condition.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Climbing on Hells Lumb today

Kiwi Gully on Hells Lumb was in nice condition today! The above photo shows raised foot prints, which gives an clear indication of the fact that there used to be quit deep snow there, but is not there now!As its all been transported elsewhere by the strong winds yesterday. I wonder where its gone? One of the question mountaineers ask themselves when they see these "raised footprints" as sure as anything it means there is wind slab and instabilities on the lee slope! The other photos show Stephen having an ace climbing time!

Well, you may be wondering why it is called Kiwi Gully? I met an old old local mountain guide in the Cairngorm car park tonight and he said the first ascentionist, Tom Patey found the remains of a Kiwi while he did the climb!!! Apparently he reckons that Kiwi's ( From NZ) were common in the Cairngorms until the were replaced by the Dotterel and Ptarmigan.... I think he was telling fibs myself!!!!! Does anyone know why its called Kiwi gully?

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Full winter climbing conditions

Those who were bold enough to get out of the car at the Cairngorm ski area car park this morning and brave the approach walk, were well rewarded with a wonderful day. Spindrift, poor visibility and wonderful conditions for torquing, squeezing, lay backing and hauling oneself up on unpredictable placements! Scottish winter climbing at it's most exciting, there is no where better in the world where you can train for inclement mountaineering conditions in the greater ranges than right here on our back door! These photos are of Stephen again on a wonderful Cairngorm classic! Tomorrow, I suspect gullies on northerly aspects will be full of snow with some interesting cornices. It's defentely worthwhile checking the SAIS blog and reports.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Winter Mountaineering - Cairngorm Mountains

Saturday 24 January 2009: It's cold but amazingly pleasant on the hill. It has been a clear day with occasional outbreaks of sun shine. Consequently there are lots of people skiing, ski- mountaineering and winter climbing and I would say it has been a busy day in the Cairngorms. Cairngorm Mountain's car park seemed full and the Huskey racers were out in large numbers, mushing their trusty dog teams down at the Hayfield and speeding their way through the ancient Pine Forrest! They are well organised with a several mobile shops selling burgers and steaks and all sorts of dog mushing consumables! It's also rare to see so many posh four wheel drives in one place. Husky racing is obviously a sport for the wealthy and there was me thinking that such outdoor people utilising dog power to transport them selves through the wilds would not be motivated or even interested in driving a Chelsea tractor! Aye, life, it's overflowing with surprises and I dare say the wisdom of us humans is plain for all aliens whizzing through space to see!
But then I am a mountain guide myself! Conquistador of the useless - hu- A noble profession some say!
Anyway, here are some photos of Stephen climbing in Corie an Sneachda and as you can see the conditions are good, if anything there is too much snow in the gullies covering the rocks and good ice placements. Stability wise or is it instability, things are pretty solid although easterly aspects must be a bit dodgy as once on the plateau we could see lots of spindrift blowing across and down over Hells Lumb. Cover for ski-mountaineering is pretty good although west facing slopes exposed to the winds are stripped down to the boulders. They say the weather is to be wild tomorrow and there are reports of a serious avalanche in Glencoe. I say you are safe to enjoy your Burns supper tonight, and if you have a dram to many, it's probably not such a bad idea to have a long lie in the morning!!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Conditions in the Highlands

It has been cold and snowy over the past week or so; there is more snow over in the West at present but it is looking very white here in the Cairngorms. The buttresses are plastered in snow and many people have been out climbing in the Northern Corries. Cold temperatures are expected to continue with lighter winds forecast for Friday.
Below is Coire an t-Sneachda taken at around midday today.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

From Newtonmore to Evolene and Arolla

We woke up to two inches off fresh snow in our garden at Newtonmore, ( Scotland) this morning and it's been an interesting day on Cairngorm. Meanwhile Graham has been busy guiding in Switzerland, reporting good ice conditions and is also managing to fit in some nice off piste skiing. You can get an ice climb done and shred some of the local snow all in the same day! Contact Sandy or Kathy on for availability.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Cairngorm conditons

A Snow Bunting practices his footwork on the icy terrain.
It has been getting steadily colder over the past few days. Ice is continuing to form and the buttresses were looking very white today. Stormy conditions are expected over the next 24 hours with very high winds and more snow.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

It was a fine day with cold temperatures and light winds so Andy Nisbet and myself decided to skip Lochain and climb a new route instead on Lurcher's Crag which overlooks the Lairig Ghru. Our route had two fabulous 50 metre pitches which took us mainly up crack and corner lines on one of the ridges. The route doesn't have a name yet but I'm sure Andy will think something up unless he already has.. It has been graded IV 6. Snow is expected tonight along with strong winds happy days:) Andy just about to descend the main gully which takes us along to our route on the traverse seen below with the Lairig Ghru behind.

Andy starts the second (crux) pitch.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Latest conditions

There was a big thaw on Sunday after Saturday's snowfall. Very strong winds with gust of over 111 mph over the summit of Cairngorm were recorded. The top car park was closed to the general public as the wind had managed to tear off a part of the day lodge's chimney in the ski area and bits of debris were flying through the air; it wasnt the safest place to be. This included a long javelin type piece of metal which manage to embed itself into the side of the building (it's OK it's safe to go back up again!).
The weather has calmed a little now and the freezing level is beginning to fall which will improve climbing conditions. As you can see from the picture above of Aladdin's Buttress and the Trident Gullies there is still plenty of snow hanging around.

Coire an t-Sneachda today.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Blue sky day but wild and windy

It all looked very calm from the valley below but high up the winds were very strong with a lot of spindrift loading North and East aspects. Temperatures remained cold but the outlook for the weekend is for strong South-West winds with snow followed by rain tomorrow. Early next week unsettled but turning cold again...all pretty normal for the time of year!
Lucy mountaineering babe manages a smile as she braces against the spindrift.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Conditions in the Cairngorms

Snow cover in the Cairngorms has improved over the last few days but a slight thaw has led to a breakable crust making walking conditions a little more arduous. Climbing conditions are looking good as more ice has developed and gully lines are still full of nice firm neve.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Shooting Cracks, Cross loading and interesting snow

You may have to enlarge the uppermost photo here ( Click the photo to enlarge!) to see the shooting cracks, these were occurring on NNE aspects as I traversed a slope. Further along, on North facing slopes I encountered cross loading, this is identified by subtle changes of colour in the snow where old damaged snow and fresher "newer" snow sometimes intermingle. East facing slopes shear easily where the new wind slab hardly bonds at all to the older layers. With this new snow fall one has to be ever alert to the changing snow pack! Interesting needles and surface hoar crystals lay buried in the snow, avalanches are bound to occur today if the snow continues to deepen and climbers inadvertently trigger them! Do take care approaching routes and climbing . Skiing conditions will be improving but today's flat light and wind blown snow made it quite unpleasant high on Cairngorm, but it's forecast to be much nicer weather soon. Down in the Glenmore forest there were many people out and about on their skinny skis and there were ice-skaters on Loch Morlich. The ice is only a couple of inches thick though so it may not last too long. I suppose when you see water marks half- way up the snow men who seem to have decided to populate the loch you will know it's time not to walk on the ice!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's ladder is anice gully climb in the Northern Corries of The Grampain Mountain Range which all us locals refer to as "The Cairngorms". Here are Mike and his 13 year old son Gregor climbing it. It was Gregor's first snow and ice climb and he climbed it with ease!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Climbing Fingers Ridge: Northern Cairngorms

Here is Ewan climbing on Fingers Ridge, which is a classic Cairngorm mixed climb. Last night we had a fresh dusting on snow on top of the well frozen old snow pack, the mixed climbing conditions are amazingly good, the turf is rock hard so sharp and good quality ice picks will get worn down really quickly. If Santa brought you new ones save them for when the ice is thicker! However, routes such as Goat Track gully, Red Gully, The Runnel are all in good condition although some loose boulders were being pushed off by the crowds!The Mirror Direct was also getting lots of attention although it looks a bit thin really. Any snow is rock hard so be careful on descents, as if you did slip or trip it will be quite hard to stop from sliding a long way. You should note that there are many exposed rocks which would bring you to a bone shattering STOP!
There were people walking and ice skating on Loch Morlich today.... but do take care out there, the water is freezing!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year continued; Iditarod, Dogs sleds and ice Skating

Mushers Neave and Stephen taking a dogs sled ride around Glenmore. They did this with Aviemore Musher John Stewart who is about to head off from Aviemore soon to take part in the world famous Canadian Challange 2009, where he hopes to complete his last qualifier to allow him to take part in the 1,150 mile Iditarod in Alaska. Meanwhile Kathy and I managed to catch the last rays of light after first footing by ice skated on a small frozen loch below one of the worlds greatest Scottish rock climbing crags, Cread Dubh. Skaiting on horizontal ice is an amazing change for both Kathy and I, as normally we spend our winters on vertical frozen terrain!
What an amazing day and wonderful start to 2009!

Happy New Year Newtonmore 2009

Well it's been an amazing day starting late last night with the Torch Light procession along Main Street, Newtonmore. Several hundred people turned out to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new year. The Firework display was outstanding on the windless starry night. Handshakes and kisses being the order of the new day! Neve, pictured above was up early and took the dogs out! Albert the bear who has featured previously on this blog after climbing the Old Man of Hoy earlier in 2008 celebrated the new year in the normal bearish Scottish style but was unable to drive his car home! The final photo shows Sandy and Henry enjoy some Stags Breath at the turn of midnight! More photos to follow ........