Sunday, 18 February 2018

SNOWCRAFT, NAVIGATION & SNOWSHELTERS

Stunning morning in Sneachda 
Coire an t-Sneachda 

Mess of Potage 
Windy Col 
Ciste Mhearad 
Navigation off Cairn Gorm 
Cairn Gorm summit 
Snow Shelters 
Second day out with David & Harry on their winter course. Another beautiful morning with lots of blue skies and sun. Winds were light. A fantastic day to be out . Today we headed into Sneachda.  Much quieter on Sunday. The boys led the way and we made our way up to Windy Col. Perfect timing when we reached the plateau, some cloud rolled in. Perfect for some navigation. We walked over Cairn Gorm summit and then down to Ciste Mhearad.  It was poor visibility as we made our way to Ciste Mhearad,  AKA Snow hole City. Some big, beautiful cornices in the Corrie. After some fun digging some shelters and finding some old ones, we descended Windy Ridge. Another brilliant day.  Great fun with these guys. They're off to the west coast with James tomorrow who's guiding for me.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

ANOTHER FINE DAY IN THE CAIRNGORMS

Lunch at Hell's Lum
Cairn Lochan
A lot of windslab at Hell's Lum Crag
Harry & David on the Fiacaill 
Mess of Potage
Great views
Cornices, Hell's Lum

Ptarmigan
Afternoon light on Coire an Lochain
We're doing well, another lovely day to be out on the Cairngorms. Light winds and bags of sunshine by the afternoon after a breezy early morning. This weekend I have Harry and David out on a two day course. Harry has been out with me last winter and his friend has no winter experience but both enjoy lots of summer scrambling and climbing. With the weather being so fine we decided on a day to be out over the mountain tops. We ascended the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda and were on the top by lunch time. We then escaped the crowds and headed over to the top of Hell's Lum, one of the finest view points in The Cairngorms. Lunch with a view. The plateau has a wonderful covering of snow for ski touring. It is also becoming much easier for walking. Some scouring across the tops making for good, solid walking and cramponing. The western slopes are well windblown too. Lots of wind slab around the Hell's Lum area. Another top day and the boys taking to winter like a duck to water. Or a ptarmigan to snow.

Friday, 16 February 2018

SUNSHINE AND LIGHT WINDS AT LAST

Harry on the Teeth
The team in the sun & snow
Near the top
Fiacaill Buttress
Adam breezing along
Great day for it
Coire an t-Sneachda
The Team on Top
Fiacaill Buttress
Moving together 
Hard snow for cutting steps
The high winds finally eased overnight. It was a beautiful clear morning with bags of sunshine. Even by 10am there was a well trodden trail into Coire an t-Sneachda, well done folks. I think I've done my share of trail breaking this winter, ha ha! What a great day to be out. Today I had a fun group of 6 guys who have been on holiday all week, based in Braemar. They all have some basic winter skills, having done some long days out over Lochnagar area and a wild camp thrown in. So a good opportunity to step up their skills set and tackle some steeper terrain. We headed to the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. A good choice in the current avalanche conditions. Route choice and awareness where the themes of the walk in to the ridge. We found some nice hard , windswept snow at the foot of the Fiacaill. Good spot for some axe swinging skills, cutting steps. We had some great snow conditions on the steeper section of the Fiacaill. Well trodden and a great build up of snow. The guys loving the exposure (sometimes) and the awesome mountain architecture. There was a few folk heading up the Goat Track today. Not a place I would have been in the current conditions! On the top we found great walking with a scoured plateau. Winds had picked up a wee bit in the afternoon. Great day out and a brilliant day for the guys on their final day in The Cairngorms.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

SNOW PLOUGHING & NAVIGATION

The road up Glen Banchor, quite pleasant
Poor visibility at 700m
'Leep frogging'
Windy and ploughing, no so pleasant
Snow showers
Far more wildlife than humans today
Which is snow and which are rocks?
Last blizzard before the road
Glen Banchor in sun
Another snowy, cold an windy ole day in The Cairngorms. A lot of snow has been falling over the ast couple of days. When the weather clears it should look fabulous! But until then it's more battling in the elements and deep snow ploughing in the unconsolidated snow. Last day on Debbi & Alex's course this week. Today it was the number 1 'Winter essential skills'. Navigation. The Monadhliath hills are perfect terrain for honing in on your map and compass skills. Much of this vast areais featureless in summer and even more so in winter. With high winds forecasts for the bigger Cairngorm mountains it made good sense to visit these hills today, being that bit lower. Even so it was a struggle in the winds above about 600m. Gusting over 50mph, coupled with deep snow made for another challenging day out. The guys did a great job of getting to the lower summit of about 800m. We descended the eastern slopes in almost white out conditions. All good for that number 1 skill in winter. Did I mention that already? Yes it's not all about axes and crampons. We saw no other humans on the hill today but plenty of red deer and mountain hare. Top day out. Less windy tomorrow!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

HIGH WINDS, LOW ALTITUDE NAVIGATION

A struggle in the winds at Ryvoan
Navigation in the woodland a better place
Lochan Uaine
Struggling to walk with a bike down Ryvoan Pass
Cairngorms in a blanket of wind and cloud
Not a day for Meall a' Bhuachaille
'Wind clouds'
High winds on the mountains today. Forecast of over 70mph on the summits meant a day at lower altitudes for us. Alex and Debbie on day 3 of their course with me this week. We intended a day of mountain navigation but that was never going to happen. Instead we stayed low for some essential map reading skills. Our high point today was Ryvoan Bothy and a welcome respite out of the gales. Never seen so may folk in there! One guy who was well loaded up on this mountain bike almost took off in the winds just outside the bothy. I gave him a had to push him a few metres down the track. We stayed in the tree line for much of the day. It was a brighter afternoon after some morning snowfall but the photos don't really do justice to the winds today.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

THE DESERTED NORTHERN CAIRNGORMS

Alex on the ridge
Brilliant afternoon
A deserted Coire an t-Sneachda
Happy mountaineers
Ridge in sun
On the top
Afternoon tea break
Snow and lots of it
Lots of windblown snow too
More ridge fun
Deserted mountains
Brilliant axe placements
Rime & Windslab
In all the years I have wandered around the Cairngorm mountains, never have I seen them on a day where not a soul was seen, not in February half term week. The snow fell steadily at Aviemore level this morning. The snow gates up the Cairngorm ski road were closed. Cairngorm ski area had put out a social media statement stating 'no skiing today'. Quite hard to believe when the weather forecast was for a massive improvement by late morning. The reward of a sunning afternoon lay in store, for those who walked up the ski road and put in some effort of ploughing through the fresh drifts. We saw just two folk on the road and a few Lodge minibuses dropping off their group at the Sugarbowl. That was it. They were the only folk we saw all day. The mountains were deserted. For Debbie & Alex on day two of their course hey were in for a treat of  day. By 11am the cloud lifted, snowing ceased and the views just got better. I ploughed a trail across to the toe of the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. The blanket of thick, fresh snow was just amazing. Once on the ridge the going got easier. The moderate Westerly winds were blowing all the fresh snow across he ridge. It was quite special. Stunning and atmospheric all the way up. Another day of cold, high windchill. The clarity of air was superb once the blue skies were overhead. Brilliant along the fun bits of ridge, and f course no one about. Looking over to the Sneachda cliffs it was quite unreal. Full winter conditions and not a single climber about. The winds eased by the time we reached the plateau and the views just wonderful. How happy were we? Going across to 1141m we had more spindrift and lots of atmospheric snow billowing over into the coire. Some big cornices being formed, especially on Jacobs Ladder. We descended into Coire Cas and bizarre to see no skiers and no cars at the car park. Beautiful clear dusk and the easy stroll down the road. What a day. What a day all those people missed! An hours walk up the road, was it really too much effort for people? We were very smug to have stole a wonderful day in the hills. Big hills, big full winter hills. Sun drenched winter hills. And no one was there! Tad windier tomorrow though.