Dropping temperatures have started to condolidate the huge amounts of snow still coating the Cuillin. Be warned that this is only apparent once the crest has been reached but lower snows are also consolidating well. Even if a full Traverse is too much traversing any section over these next 2 days is going to be a delight.
Tom, Kirsty, Jules and I headed into Coire An Dorus where I opted for one of my favourite wee climbs. The impressive deep cleft of Eag Dubh is a perfect winter route as the snow covers up the loose & greasy rocks.
At the top we roped together on a complete covering of snow that is just firming up but not scarily hard. There were a few wee powder drifts a matter of inches deep not feet. Straight-lining over summer hazards was incredible.
Wind battered us on the summit so we ran for cover close by for lunch.
Plenty of concentration was needed on the long descent to An Dorus but only 3 steps actually needed us to turn and face inward so very rapid progress was possible.
The early start to beat the weather seemed to be going well for the first hour with great views, dry foot path and no need for waterproofs.
A heavy shower caught us as we climbed up the snowy slabs into Coir’ a’ Bhastier and a strong wind put us off the NE Ridge above. The cave provided great shelter, had a dry floor and no drips; lux!
The rain stopped, we took turns trail breaking and made speedy progress up to King’s Cave Chimney for another snack stop. Above us the wind was howling and we realised that reaching the summit of Bruach na Frithe was in doubt. Bealach na Lice gave us a taste of the wind strength and we skirted round to the final rise, complete with beautiful snow sculptures.
The wind finally defeated us less than 5 minutes from the summit. Perfect bumsliding conditions had us down into the lower reaches of Fionn Choire in a matter of minutes at which point the heavens really opened. The last hour was one of the wild & wettest I can remember but none of us minded having snatched such a great morning of snow fun.
John’s party from Essex learnt alpine skills and put them into action in the alps last summer. The brief this year was to introduce some higher grade winter climbing whilst based in the Village Inn in Arrochar.
The fine weather was coming to an end but temperatures were still cold so it was time to buckle down for some “real” Scottish climbing.
Eas Anie, IV. Friday 25th.
On Friday heavy snow and high winds didn’t encourage me to go high and I fancied the low-lying classic icefall of Eas Anie which must have been building for nearly a fornight. A superbly timed post on UKC confirmed that a team had climbed it the night before.
Heavy snow on the roads meant parking at the Green Welly & cutting through the forset before picking up the vehicle tracks right to the mine. The guys there took pity & let us kit up inside, surrounded by ingots (not).
We roped up across heavily laden slopes to the foot of the fall where the maelstrom continued to challenge the concentration.
Some more great steep steps suddenly led to the top and the first bit of shelter we’d had since the mine. Great route.
The blizzard was tempered once we re-entered the forest and Tyndrum that evening would have looked completely at home in the alps.
The Cobbler, Arrochar Alps 26th January
Saturday dawned beautiful and the Cobbler opposite the hotel looked magnificent.
Most bizarre for me was the sheer number of folk all aiming for the same objective with most making us feel totally over equipped, most notably the shorts clad fel-runner (competent) and the trainers & shellsuit clad bloke (statistic material).
Trails had been blazed which was a total pleasure until I realised we had overshot the intended route. Fortunately there was a party breaking trail up the broad north face of the North Peak from where an easy traverse rejoined the best line to the summit.
The true summit is a stack of rock which is gained by “threading the eye of the needle”. It was utterly plasterd in hoar frost and, in its virgin state and having carried the rope, it was an obvious challenge.
We used some traditional methods to safeguard John to the top followed by Spud & I while Tom took pics. The weather drew in around us as Tom had his go and then we had a familiar blizzard to contend with on descent.
Beinn Udlaidh. 27th January
More high winds and heavy showers weren’t putting John & Tom off another chance to swing their axes. We headed to Beinn Udlaidh with its easliy formed ice and very fierce but short approach. A nameless 80m icefall on the right at the start of the corrie looked both suitable and attractively close given the blizzard was just kicking in again. A wall led right to the foot of the ice.
A vertical tier at the very top gave a fitting finish to three very succesful days on the road.
The ship was sinking (in alcohol?) and the rats abondoning fast but Andy & Iain went off to enjoy one final Cuillin winter romp up the Spur of Sgurr an Fheadain while Spike & I decided it was time to tackle the daunting North face of Mhadaidh.
Descent off Foxes Rake was thought provoking but the deep snow now seems well bonded and we enjoyed a romp back below the impresive sight of the Smear. This grade V still hasn’t seen a second ascent since it was first climbed in 1979!
Image Gallery Below-
Considerably fewer pics as the carefully organised photo collecting of the first 2 days faltered somewhat. Hopefully shots will emerge of-
Spike, Nathan & Kim headed into Coir’ a’ Ghreadaidh to practice some skills; Spike practising for his MIC assessment and the others getting yet another instructors opinions!
Paul & Brendan headed to Window Buttress and climbed Curtain Call-
“New route on the West Face of Window Buttress.
side of the gully to an open area with a choice of exits. Climb the steep groove on the left (crux) for 35m before escaping right. Follow easy-angled grooves for 200m before joining the final pitches of Deep Cut Gully.“
Recovering from a heavy night on the Fondue (supplied by Romain) teams headed out all over the Glen Brittle corries.
Steve Perry & Antoni went out on Casteil a Garbh Choire and did a good mixed line-
Image gallery below-
8 of us headed out to see what the wind and weather had done to the huge amounts of snow. I’ve never seen the likes with crampons needed from the earliest snow patches right up to the summits. Serious but fantastic.
Blue ice up the Stone Shoot
Romain, Steve, Antoni and I headed up the North Face of Sgumain. andy and Iain climbed Gully E on Thearlaich and paul & Dave took the plaudits for a new line on the southern face of Sgurr Dearg’s West Ridge. “Away from the (drunken) crowd” gave a superb 100m of grade IV in the middle of a very long line in the sun!
Approaching Bealach Sgumain pinnacles from the North face
Just spotted a notice in the WHFP announcing that the Highland Ranger service is carrying out maintainance on the Coire Lagan path on Saturday (19th). Please do call Jenny on 01471 820 527 if interested in volunteering (I think so she can bring enough shovels etc.)
Red Cuillin peaking through above the inversion this morning.
Far more worrying was the descent; I’ve never been off the pistes (as many of you will testify to; ha ha ) and deep snow with a thin crust looked like a good way to screw my knees. I was fully prepared to carry the skis down & wade through the deep snow but, despite wiping out a few times, had to agree that skiing down was quicker & easier.
Back on the pistes things suddenly seemed very easy and there was plenty of professional advice knocking around to help me feel almost competent by the bottom. 5000ft of skiing, nothing broken but definitely tired!
I used snow shoes for the first time today to approach the magnificent Cascade des Ignes above Arolla. A couple of hours of this certainly did my fitness the world of good!
Having taken fashion advice from his Cioch Direct clad guru Graham today wore a bright blue Montane jacket set off nicely by a bold orange Black Diamond helmet. (Sponsors please apply direct 🙂
The views rewarded our efforts hansomely.
I’ve finally got back to the Alps for the first time since 2006 and so glad to have made the effort.
Good friend and UIAGM guide Graham Frost has taken a few days off his hectic ski-guiding schedule to indulge us in some cascade climbing.
I’ve never actually climbed continental ice so there was a fair amount of trepidation on my part.
A 20 minute drive took us from Graham’s house in Eveline up to Arolla and a 5 minute walk to the foot of a 65m icefall. G dismissed with the first steepening easily but I knew it was steeper than it looked when I caught him shaking out an arm.
New tools and new boots all seemed to work well for me despite the “in yer face” feeling that I’d forgotten about. Pitch 2 was nicely stepped and led to a friendly abseil ring and quick descent.
Only grade 3 in the guidebook I won’t be wanting to go much harder this week!
Off for some snow-shoeing and a route with a proper name tomorrow…..
An early start to catch the dry weather worked well for Marissa, Jim & I today. We climbed the classic Spur on Sgurr an Fheadain and concentrated on scrambling techniques rather than snow as temperatures have risen to double figures.
Good to see a golden eagle soaring off over Sgurr Thuilm and even better to reach the summit and have all of the Tops clear. This only lasted a matter of minutes before the weather front arrived right on schedule complete with damp cloud.
We enjoyed a quick scree running descent and fortunately the rain held off until we reached the safety of the Old Inn. The pools were as busy as ever and we even spotted a fairy bathing in the icy waters 🙂
Marissa & Jim were in crampons for the first time on Bruach na Frithe yesterday. Today they put their new skills to good use on the Great Gully splitting the 2 summits of Blaven.We were joined by Mark who lives in Torrin right opposite, keen to clear his head after a Hogmanay ceilidh and a half.
Snow conditions in the gully were superb, the weather treated us well with glimpses of the main Ridge from the summit, broken spectres & some more wonderful vistas out to the Inner Hebrides on the descent. No apologies for brevity; just enjoy the gallery.