Thursday, 26 February 2009

Winter Climbing - Cairngorms.

Here we are in Coire an Sneachda, Cairngorms. The lower graded climbs are in reasonable conditions although there are areas where the snow or ice is broken.The harder climbs are stripped bare and even although we are getting occasional snow showers, it's been very wet snow and this mild weather is to continue for a day or two yet! There were quite a few climbers around today, ascents of all the gullies seem to be OK, with some interesting little ice sections. There are some loose rocks around so be careful what you are torquing and standing on. On Spiral today one large rock was dislodged from the upper pitches by another party which had potential to cause lots of upset, fortunately it bounced passed, although delivering a striking blow to Alisons backpack breaking her goggles which were stored in the top pocket of her sac!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Shelter from the storm!

Transceiver practice, Glen Feshie
We have had a pretty wild day here around Cairngorm mountain. We skinned up on our touring skis as far as we could go in the strong winds then abandoned the skis, stashing them behind some big boulder. We continued on foot into Coire an Sneachda and did some short roping skills on the steep ground there. Eventually we end up at Windy Gap and then made our way back to 1141 and part way down the Fiacaill to our stashed skis. It was wild work removing the skins and trying to stand on the skis , but the new wind blown snow (potential wind slab!) made for some nice skiing over the frozen crusty old snow. Once we were down to the Cairngorm Mountain ski area (which was closed for today, due to high winds) we enjoyed the freshly pisted run back to the car park. These piste machines and drivers have done a fantastic job up there and if this snow continues, there is going to be some good skiing to be had by this weekend if not sooner!
The wind prevented us from doing any out door skills there so we went round to Glen Feshie ( gealic translation: the sheltered place from the story blasts) and carried on with some avalanche transceiver work in the long heather which makes great hiding places for such practice.
Glen Feshie lies within the Cairngorm National park and was first settled about 2500 years ago. It hosts fantastic woodland, including Scots Pine, Oak, Alder and Birch. Red deer run wild and the deep pools of the river Feshie hold salmon. Map makers in the 17 th century discovered the huge reserves of woodland and by the end of the second world war the woodlands had been felled. Edwin Lanseer visited Glen Feshie in the 1820s and his famous painting "the monarch of the Glen" put him amongst the leaders of the Highland Romantic painters.

Alison and Julian at Windy Gap

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Ben Macdui/ Beinn MacDuibh- Grampians

With Alison and Julian we have had great day ski touring. We skinned up Lurchers towards Cairn Lochan (1215m) and then on over the plateau to the summit of Ben Macdui (1309 m). The snow cover is superb, all be it bit icy in places. We descended via Coirie Domhain and in one photos you can view all the snow cave entrances and instrutor led groups working there. We then crossed up on over into Coire Raibert and passed windy gap to ski down the Fiacaill a Chorie Chais all the way back to the Day lodge.
Coire Domhain

Beinn MacDuibh summit.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Rainy day on Cairngorm

It's mild here with rain falling on the summits today.With Alison and Julian, we managed to skin up to the summit of Cairngorm and enjoy some piste sking on the way down. High on the mountains there is still a lot of snow so a slight drop in temperature is all it needs for good conditions to return. Cairngorm Mountain has still a good depth of snow on its upper runs and you can jsut ski down to teh car park, but as you near the day lodge its worth taking of your skis to walk back the last 30 meters or so, Buttress climbing is out now but the gullies remain full but waterfalls are forming, again if a freeze comes which is forecast then it will be really good again. We also practiced some hauling systems on large patches of snow near the Cairngorm Mountain car park...all in all, a good interesting day! We did not see any SAIS avalanche observers on the summit weather station pylon ( please refer to the SAIS blog!)

Sunday, 22 February 2009

A wild Cairngorm Ski Touring day

One has to try and try we did! It would be easy to assume that in the mild weather there is no snow left but in the Cairngorms, however there is tons of the stuff! With Nick and Tony we skinned a track up Lurchers burn ( Allt Creag an Leth choin) and once we reached the crest over looking the Lairig Ghru we continued on reasonable snow to Cairn Lochan 1215 meters and the around the plateau to the Northern corries. We had to carry our skis a bit and don our crampons. Eventually as we tried to ascend to 1176 we simply could no longer move safely against the wind so roped up and were forced to descent the Goat Track into Coire an Sceachda. This of course resulted in a long carry out with the skis, where as we optimistically hoped that we would have been able to skin around the back ( South aspect) and ski down by Marquis Well and "the white lady" to the car park. The wind was ace, wild and free, Nick and Tony enjoyed the adventure!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Ski Mountaineering- Aviemore

Its been a wild windy day but we had a great day. We skinned up to the Ptarmigan Restaurant from Cairngorm car park this morning and really did not expect to get a lot further as the wind was very strong. While having coffee Cairngorm Mountain announced that the upper ski tows were closing due to wind, however Nick, Tony and I decided to carry on and we skinned towards the summit of Cairngorm and then enjoyed a wind blown but interesting ski descent to Loch Avon which is still frozen over. For climbers reading this Shelter Stone and Carn Etchachan are well and truly stripped!
We did some T- axe belays and crevasse rescue hauling systems, then skinned back up to the plateau, abseiled over some small cornices from bollards and generally practiced skills to prepare Tony and Nick for a Chamonix to Zermatt ski tour ( The "Haute Route", hut to hut trip). Finally we skied down the White Lady all teh way to the car park which while in soft snow was in good condition and slight freeze and a shower of new snow will bring conditions back in conditon quite quickly

Thursday, 19 February 2009

19 Feb in the Cairngorms

Yesterday with Matt and Dan we climbed the Runnel and Goat Track gully and things were very soft, and also I forgot to take my camera along - hence no blog!Today conditions are better, all frozen over and good the guly lines are full of frozen steps. We even had a snow shower so the climbing was Ok. The buttresses are stripped and I have posted a photo of the "Mess of Pottage" for those wondering about buttress routes this weekend!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Good Snow Cover

Many people were out enjoying the Cairngorms today.  Cairngorm Mountain ski area was has full cover with spring snow at lower elevations and if you like to get away from the crowds the ski touring is fantastic at the moment as you can see from the photo's.   Lots of people were also climbing in the Northern Corries and the slight thaw has generally consolidated the snowpack.  The outlook is for more mild temperatures but there is so much snow that it shouldn't have too much of a drastic affect to the skiing and climbing.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Ski Mountainnering - Toll Creagach :Glen Affric

This is a wonderful ski tour and with the good snow cover it is in grand conditions this year. The starting point is at a convenient parking place at the west end of Loch Beinn a Meadhoin at Glen Affric National Nature reserve. From here you skin up a track and then traverese easterly below Beinn Eun and take a steep line up by the west side of Alt Coire an t Sneachda and then skirting the main Coire an t-Snechda and then we found good snow which took us all the way to the summit cairn and trig point ( about 3.5 hours). There are many Red Deer to see. The deer fences have gates and styles althogh at one point o descent we found it better to climb the fence rather than make a lengthy detour. But for summer wlakers the gates are well places and pretty ideal! Summit views over Loch Mullardoch and miles beyond!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Outstanding snow cover- what lies beneath?

Outstanding snow cover on Cairngorm Mountain and the light stayed good for much of the day.Monday to Friday skiing is ace and of course there is hardly a que compared to the weekends and the road is perfectly clear. This is wonderful for skiing upon however while we cruise on skis on the surface of this winter wonderland its worth considering what is happening within the snow below your skis! Climbers and non climbers can see that the buttresses and ski uplift pylons are clustered with white stuff. Snow wise, from a stability or unstable point of view today the snow has become quite stable and you should read the SAIS reports for further and much more accurate detail. However, if you had your eyes open today by the time you enjoyed your morning bacon butty from "Bill's" cafe at Glenmore, or the T- Bar cafe at Cairngorm Mountain you would have seen lots of surface hoar crystals on the sow. This shows us that freezing level is low and right now its actually down to zero meters! This could lead to an interesting and dramatic temperature gradient in the snow pack. If the gradient is strong, this may mean that facets or depth hoar will form. This Kinetic Growth can leads to poorly bonding fragile crystals forming in the snow pack. ( Facets, depth hoar, ladders and cup crystals are the examples you may be lucky enough to see in our Scottish Snow pack. Also today the wind was increasing as we left the hill and Heather on BBC Scotland said there is snow forecast for tonight. I would expect that it will be possible to trigger avalanches by tomorrow if you go the the lee slopes. It's absolutely vital to stay alert and keep your eyes and brain alert for all these signs and clues!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Ski mountaineering- Crubenmore

Enjoyed a short ski tour toady with K around the 550 m. hills around Crubenmore, Dalwhinnie.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Benn Udlamain- ski mountaineering

A grouses snow cave where it spent the night! It's tracks, and droppings are also shown - the skis of course are mine!
A mountain hares snow cave seen today. Note that it's all cleal and tidy!

Beinn Udlamain 1010m summit, my shadow is in the fore ground looking nothwards up the A9 with the slopes and tops of Meall OdharMor and Carn na Caim (941m) on the other side of the busy road.

Well I started the day trying to pollifilla small dents and scratches in the internal walls of my former Police Station ready for painting and as I had enough of D.I.Y, I dressed in cleaner jeans and visited St Brides Parish Church for the 11.15 service here in Newtonmore. An ace experience and one I should probably do more often (Calvinistic comment I know, spot the Highlander!). Having said that I frequent some of the most amazing mountains of the world and these are my cathedrals and churches made (like all of us) by an outstanding architect.
A small lunch and then I drove down south again , along the A9 for a few miles and skied up this wonderful hill. There are wonderful conditions for ski mountaineering right now and it seems that there is even more snow and cold weather on the way. I am sure its frustrating for those caught up on motorways and no doubt every media reporter BBC, ITV, Sky and so many more will be telling us their negative views on snow.... how can we find a way of changing that perspective?

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Ski Mountaineering- Pass of Drumochter

I've had an interesting afternoon! Around 2.30pm left the house at Newtonmore and headed "down south" to the pass of Drumochter. It takes about 15 minutes in a reaible car and a bit longer in mine! The fantacstic snow cover tempted me out on to the ski-mountaineering equipment again and this time I went to Geal Charn, which is 917 m and an excellent ski. Parking the car at Balnasporran Cottages I skinned up the track that follows the Alt Coire Fhar which was well covered in snow and after about three kilometers headed north, zig zagging my way up the slopes towards the summit. Disturbing a large covey of around 47 grouse which looked very black against the snow. Further along two white mounatin hares gambolled around and I thought that the birds and animals were a better image than the two Scotty dogs which advertise "Black and White" whisky, which of course used to be made (and possible still is) at my birthing place, Dalwhinnie Distillery which is just north of this mountain. Dalwhinne whisky is high quiality and is sold as a single Malt under the Dalwhinne label and of course like all single malts it is also blended with dare I say "cheaper and not so good whiskies" to make the very popular and rather tasty blended whisky which market a bit cheaper such as "Black and White" and so on. "Grouse" is another famous whiskey named after the wonderful wild game bird which graces our Highland Hills. "Grouse" contains several reputable whiskeys and thats why it is a rather smoother drink than many and one of its important whiskies in the blend is "The Balmenach" which is a product of the Haughs of Cromdale. Balmenach is an oustanding single Malt, if you have the wealth to buy it. And thats if you can find it at all as it is rarer than Grouses teeth to buy as a single malt. The Distillery did go back into production again just few years ago.You my be wonderinhg why I am saying so much about whisky.It's beacuse I drink it and of course my family were involved with the whisky industry for many generations and me, myself, I began my working life learning the trade and working my way up to assistant manger at Balmenach. I am a mountain guide now... which is of course an equally noble profession and not so hard on the kidneys although my knees do feel it now and then! Apparently there is a beer which reaches right to the toes!!!!
There are two summit cairns on Geal Charn, from one you can clearly see Loch Ericht and Ben Alder. It's diffcult to say which one is highest, however its simple enough to visit them both! It was just on 5.00 pm when I reached the summit of Geal Charnand it was 5.48pm when I had my car lopaded u with my skis ready to drive home after a wonderful day!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

An impulisve ski mountaineering day!

Like most people today, I was suposed to be somewhere else, but all the snow and blocked roads have prevented any distant travel. So after doing some chores around the house I realised that the weather was really OK so at 2.30 pm I put away my DIY shelf buiding tools and donned my ski-touring equipment and went up the glen behind the village. It was wonderful although on the summit of A'Chailleach (930m) the cold was intense. I am certain that frostbite would soon effect an exposed finger and i took great care removing my skins from the soles of my old and well worn but trusty Rossignol skis! On the way up I disturbed a covey of seven Grouse and then further up the Alt a Chaorainn another one or two isolated grouse rose up and sounded their call. Mountain hair tracks marked the snow and eventually I spotted two making it look easy to run through the deep snow. Their tracks led me up some perfect skinning snow. Further up and nearing the summit I met a group in descent. It turned out to be the local TV and Radio stars Cameron, Lindsay, Paul and Kathy (the SAIS avalanche lady and my fiancee on a day off) . I actualy thought they had gone to film on Schiehallion 1083m, but they had to review their plans too- British weather- its ace eh and of course"The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agleigh" ( apologies for the spelling Robbie!) .Anyway, they were filming for the Adventure show and while I enjoyed the banter I must admit one half of my tiny brain was thinking.....that's these wonderful folks were going to be giving away the secrets of the wonderful glen at the back of my house! But, being a mountain guide I better keep my reality hat firmly and squarely on my head and I am sure that if you do venture this way you too will take as much care to preserve our glen for future generations as past generations have already done!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Spindrift and snow in the Grampians

A wonderful snowy day in the Cairngorm mountains. As the day passed by the snow increased and there was spindrift everywhere. Several avalanches were observed with lots of spindrift coming down the gullies. Here is Mac on Fingers Ridge and afterwards we abseiled into Hidden Chimney and climbed the crux pitch of that.
Windy and snowy on the hill as we left tonight, lots of Groupel!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Nice climbing in the Cairngorms today!

It has been a freezing cold day on Cairngorm today with the wind decreasing to around 30mph on the summits. Climbing conditions are really good with good placements almost every where. The Hill was overflowing with climbers! Lisa and I started out on Hidden Chimney but there were about four parties waiting at the foot of the most technical pitch , so rather than que and potentially loose the day, we opted to do some interesting variations which would loosely be described as climbing Jacobs Edge! We went on to climb Goat Track gully, again not our intended route option but the crowds in Red Gully prevented us ascending that! Never the less, we have had a great day. Conditions wise, things are ace, with with the snow pack relatively stable although there are snow showers forecast which will make things more interesting!