Sunday, 31 January 2016

Two very contrasting days in Glencoe.

Saturday was a wild day, where as today was calm and even tranquil by contrast. Alot of snow fell through Saturday but was then transported rapidly over night onto easterly aspects and into hollows. Whilst running Manchester University Mountaineering Club's annual Winter Skills and Intro Mountaineering courses it was evident that the snow pack had definitely become wind slabbed. Hence the increase in the SAIS report from moderate to considerable.
Saturday was a skills day for both courses and today we  had 17 students putting it all into practice on the Little Buachaille and the mountaineering group ascended Sron na Larig. Icing was to be seen above 750 m and the turf was starting to freeze up. Another group of the students ascended Raeburn's Route in Stob Corrie nan Lochan,  which was reported to be in good condition. The corries was busy today,  with many head torches being seen descending the path this evening. It was also the last time Land Rover will produce the  Defender 110 this weekend. So a fitting image of our trusty work horse standing strong in the maelstrom on Saturday.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

The snow is due to return tomorrow. In the meantime a few photos to lift the spirits.

It is very mild outside just now. However it is due to get colder and snow to fall on the high ground.

This weekend we found plenty of snow to use in Glencoe for our skills courses.

Whilst it is raining out there here are a few pictures to keep your spirits up.

A good old fashioned winter pattern is developing. Have fun and take care.

The Devils Tooth. 

Sron na Larig.

Heading to climb Hidden Chimney. 

Dorsal Arete.

Lumber Jack Falls. Pass of Brander. Oban.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Winter Skills Course for George Heriot's School.

Over the weekend we have been working with George Heriot's School pupils on their annual Winter Walking Skills course. It has been a very warm weekend but alot of snow remains where required to run our courses. Saturday was glorious for journeying and concentrating on using ice axes and crampons Meall a Bhuiridh 1108m. Today was alot damper so we spent time teaching survival skills and snow shelter building. Yet again working with young people is such an inspiration and pleasing to think that some of them are now hooked on getting outside in the mountains. It looks like the weather is to turn colder again on Wednesday so stabilising the snow. Hebridean Pursuits has an AALS licence to work with under 18 year olds in the winter. So if you are interested to encourage your pupils or youth groups to experience winter walking or even guided winter climbing have a look at website for ideas.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Mentoring. Mountaineering Instructor Certificate Trainees.

Another marvellous day in the Scottish Winter.

Day 3 for Andy who is mentoring Tim and Stuart who are MIC trainees. Today we stayed low to avoid the low cloud cover. A day of teaching leading in a gully, lowering clients, abseiling, short roping and a little bit of navigation.

It just illustrates how much experience, time, dedication and hard graft goes into qualifying and becoming a mountaineering instructor certificate holder. And why no other award ( other than BMG ) qualifies you to teach, instruct and guide using ropes in the UK.

We have another 6 days and in between the lads will be out climbing and training towards their assessments.

Best of luck guy's with your ambitions.

Friday, 15 January 2016

A quick catch up of snow conditions over the last three days in The Cairngorms.

It is extremely varied and potentially dangerous out on the slopes at present and particularly over on the east. So do please be careful.

Wind shifts and fresh snow fall [ which has not consolidated ] is making for very accurate and careful judgement of where to climb, mountaineer and walk.

Wind slab has been evident and building since the beginning of the week. Layers of unstable snow has been seen each day on a variety of slope aspects.

Although much of the snow pack seemed to be well bonded there was a thin layer approx 7 inches under the surface. 55 cm down we found hard pack or ice.

The expected thaw will stabilise the situation but that is predicted after another cold spell, so the snow will remain poorly bonded for a while. With the sun out it can lull us into a false sense of security.

Please check out area forecasts on before heading out.

Wind transported snow under foot.

Rime Ice, Building into the wind.

Rime ice on the summit of Cairngorm.

Hasty Pit, shows wind slab formation.

55 cm depth which slid under my weight 

Solo climber taking massive risks climbing in such an huge natural snow collection area. Luckily he topped out unhurt.

The Gullies are loaded. Large cornices have formed also.

Ridge and Buttresses are the safest options at present, but care is required to access them. The ice is slow to build this year.  

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Meall a' Bhuachaille. West Highland College L5 Skye students. Winter Walking Skills course day 1.

Day 1 Winter Walking / Mountaineering skills and experience course. 

It snowed and snowed in the Cairngorms over night. Myself and Matt Barratt were working with 4 students from the Skye course on a very wintry Meall a' Bhuachaille 810m above Glemmore Forest. 

Lots of very real learning opportunities today in some pretty challenging conditions. We certainly had proper navigation scenarios and the snow was perfect for illustrating how it changes and becomes wind slabbed. 

Well done the students in the testing weather.

A better day is forecast for tomorrow here in the Cairngorms, so time to get the ropes out, but care will be required to avoid avalanche prone areas.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Mountaineering Instructor Certificate trainee mentoring today.

A stunning day in Glencoe today for Andy to meet up with Stuart.

Stuart is working towards completing his MIC assessment and Andy is mentoring Stuart towards his goal.

Kirsty and James joined them as clients and they headed to Dorsal Arete, a very fine winter grade II climb up a wonderful ridge in Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe.

A great day of guiding, instruction and knowledge sharing.

The weather was absolutely stunning. No wind and the views stretched to Skye and beyond.

The snow fall yesterday had drifted into deeper areas in gully heads and lee slopes. Wind slab was seen and triggered in isolated areas facing NE but the snow was well bonded else where. The buttresses were busy with folk on a variety of harder and very hard mixed routes.

 Small cornices have formed at the top of NC Gully and Broad Gully.  Ice was forming on the path and the 'bad step' was extremely slippery!

A sublime landscape. 

Stuart creating anchors. 

Stuart in guiding mode. 

Nice conditions on the Dorsal Grat.

Busy up there today. 

James on the last pitch.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Day 2. Winter Mountaineering Course. Private guiding.

After being introduced to the ropes yesterday on Ledge Route on Ben Nevis, Paul was keen to do a slightly harder climb and with two axes.
Paul and instructor Jamie headed to Dorsal Arete in Glencoe. Two days ago it was starting to come into condition and with fresh snow fall and colder temperatures it didn't disappoint. Jamie reported good, if a little thin conditions on the rocks. The final Arete being 'interesting' due to not much build up on the ramps. All in all we have winter. We are out instructing again tomorrow. It looks a much nicer day and cold weather is promised for a few days to come. Brilliant news.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Day one of a winter mountaineering course. Ledge Route on Ben Nevis.

Today Jamie was working with Paul on a Winter Mountaineering Course.

Paul is keen to get to grips with winter mountaineering skills and get an insight into the use of the rope in these often grey areas between walking and climbing.

Paul has been up to Scotland in the past with Hebridean Pursuits,  bringing his Scout Group along  and whom we guided in winter walking skills.

Today Paul and Jamie headed to Ben Nevis and had a brilliant time doing two fun and interesting pitches in number five gully and then followed the very fine and exposed Ledge Route to the summit of Carn Dearg 1214 m.

Conditions were blustery and cold, but with reasonable visibility. The wind was shifting fresh snow around the north face and fresh deposits of slab were forming at the top of the Red Burn . The old snow remains solid and the rime is growing on the buttress.

A couple of parties climbed Number 3 Gully Buttress and one did Central Gully.

Jamie short roping Paul.

Really interesting mountaineering and climbing on the Ledge.

A nice grade I  / II pitch in Number Five Gully.

Paul and rope blowing in the wind.

All photos by Andy Spink. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Winter returns to Glencoe.

Happy New Year!

It was good to have our instructors back at work in the mountains after the Festive and New Year excesses.

Today Andy was out with Matt. They headed up into Stob Coire nam Beith. With only the main easy gully lines left complete above 900 m their aim was to climb Central Gully II between Church Door Buttress and Diamond Buttress.

However after a warm walk in to the snow line at 850 m they found that the bottom pitch was blocked by a huge chock stone. Having opted to solo the route this halted their tracks!

The snow above 950 m was well bonded and a wind crust was forming in the strong  north easterly  wind. They carried on up good shallow gullies and broken ground at around grade I or II and finally reached the summit of Bidean nam Bian They traversed over to Stob Coirie nan Lochan 1115 m and so descended Broad Gully, grade I.

Broad Gully was complete. Rime ice was covering the crags today and some icing was seen on the buttress routes above 900 m.

The snow pack was stable but isolated areas of wind slab gave concern on North to North West facing scarp slopes.

A good dump of snow is required to bring the mid to higher grades routes in. But pleasingly it was allot more like winter today. And there is plenty of areas to run courses on.

We are out again tomorrow with clients on a two day intro to winter climbing course. We will post conditions again tomorrow evening. Our 27th season has begun.

Interesting wee gullies to explore. 

Stob Coire nam Beith from approx 850m 

The ice is growing. Folk found reasonable conditions on Ben Nevis today. Reports were of conditions improving well. 

Soft wind slab on a deep layer of wet snow. Broke away easily on walking on it. 

Rime is developing. 

Climbers heading up Broad Gully as we descended. Dorsal Arete visible above.