Archive for January, 2013

Snow on Ridge in perfect condition for speedy traversing. 31st Jan


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.

Below the freezing level we got nearly as wet as on Tuesday but it was a small price to pay for having had such great conditions on top.

Sublime to the rediculous; 29th January


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.







Arrochar adventures. 25-27th January


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).

A huge wall of ice could be glimsped between the squalls deep in the chasm above. An epic powder swim nearly ended in a proper swim when a pool suddenly appeared in front as the snow collapsed!

We roped up across heavily laden slopes to the foot of the fall where the maelstrom continued to challenge the concentration.



Steve and Spud headed back down while John, Tom & I got stuck into the beautiful ice. The boys  learnt  to deal with the steepness very fast and joined me on the hanging belay.


Tom only whimpered quietly as he suffered 5 minutes of excruciating pain from the “hot-aches” in his hands as the circulation came back; yowser.

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.

Closer examination showed a worrying amount of water pouring down the direct drops so I dodged these by right-hand variations on both pitches.

A vertical tier at the very top gave a fitting finish to three very succesful days on the road.



Day 4 Monday 21st January.


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.

James & Ben had been planning to retrun after their success on Saturday so we wondered what virgin territory would be left but we found a virgin Vixen Groove.

I backed out of the steep starting groove and left it it crud ice expert Spike to lead a demanding and absorbing 30m pitch.

Above a broader ice-line led up and left. Placements were good and gear appeared for 50m up to another bay.







The final pitch narrowed and steepened to a small roof. Once he’d removeed excess snow Spike shot over the roof leaving a wonderful clean path for me to enjoy.

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-

Day 3 of the Winter Meet. Sunday 20th January



Sunday dawned beautiful once more but many had to head south and many heads needed soothing after the Saturday evening celebrations.


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.

Curtain Call III * 380m FA Brendan Croft and Paul Cunningham 20/01/2013
Start at the foot of the descent gully on the left hand side of the West Face as approached from the Glen Brittle Hut. Follow easy ground for 100m sticking to the right hand
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.
Iain & Andy made me jealous by climbing on the huge cliff of An Dalliad. We thought their ascent of Branching Gully was a first winter ascent but transpires Neil Urquhart and James Sutton’s dad Kevin climbed it (at grade II) when it was banked out in the winter of 1991.
Iain & Andy enjoyed thinner conditions with multiple steps of 4 in their 500m route. A great choice.
Icky and I opted for Banachdaich Gully working on the theory of it having flowing water and being in the “magic zone” between 1500 and 2500 ft.

Sadly we also discovered where a lot of the snow had ended up too. The attractive icefall was glazed snow and the snow banks got steeper as we gained height.

The final swim up vertical powder led to a wonderful but insurmountable cave. The correct line would appear to take the left hand corner instead but, with darkness very much approaching we opted for a couple of abseils back to safety.Enjoy the gallery-


Day 2. Sat 19th Jan


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-

Caisteal a’ Garbh Corrie; South End (Winter) IV,5**
30m. Follow the distictive crack until it ends on a stance. Finish up the short steep wall on your left.
Steve Perry and Antoni Anderson.
Dave & Nathan enjoyed Gully C on Thearlaich- “bit like Lockwoods chimney”.
James Sutton & Ben Wear, the Skye boys, did a superb climb up Dyke Gully & Buttress @ V,6 “best route I’ve done on Skye said James.
Iain & Andy climbed a new route they called Perspex Groove (IV?), a rising diagonal low on Window Buttress.
Paul & Brendan ventured into Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda, were thwarted by the impressive North Crag Gully falls but enjoyed stunning vistas from Dubh na Da Bheinn.
Spike & Icky rediscovered the great ice formations on Banachdaich at the head of the south branch of Coir’ a’ Ghreadaidh.
Ann-Marie, Kim, Nicola & I chose the Spur of Sgurr an Fheadain which had been transformed from it’s normal wonderful rock scramble to a fantastic snowy crest with perfect hard snow from bottom to top; 650m II.
Below us the Skye teams of Beads, Murdo & Norman, Matt & Lisa were climbing (as 2 ropes with different variations) a new route with an (as ever) inspiring name-
Hubble, Bubble, Toil & Trouble
III 3 500m .follow right edge of Waterpipe (geddit?) Gully over easy rock and turf up to a rock barrier climbed by an obvious left slanting groove, then an awkward step into a gully leading to the more commiting top section, with a choice of chimneys,small walls leading to the summit ridge of Sgurr an Fheadain.
Over on Blabheinn, and not part of the meet, Iain Small and Simon Richardson pulled off an audacious ascent of Jib, a summer E1 giving it a grade of VIII,8. Simon’s excellent site Scottish Winter has his report.

Image gallery below-


Magic first day of winter meet.


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



Coire Lagan Footpath Maintainance this Saturday


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.)

Forecast is looking pretty good so well worth making the effort.

Ski Touring; Pic d’Artsinol 10th Jan


I’ve only ever skied a handful of days but today had my first go at ski-touring. We were joined by Janine, Graham’s wife and member of the British ski-mountaineering team.

Chuffed not to have either wiped out or fallen off a lift I put the skins onto the skis at 2600m for the final rise to the Pic d’Artsinol, 2997m.

This 1000ft probably took me about an hour.

I’m sure the others would have halved that but some good simple instruction from them saw me right and positively enjoy myself by the top.

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!

Cascade des Ignes. 9th January


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!

Ice plays games with the head in terms of steepness and Graham assured me it wasn’t as steep as yesterdays routes but close acquaintance didn’t appear to back this up.

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 ice was mostly excellent but powder snow poured down the climb almost constantly to create a very Scottish feel.

Some filing of my new axe picks helped get them both in and out far more easily today and I felt a whole lot more at home leading the 2nd pitch.

Beyond the 3rd pitch the gully opened out and G did a fine job of breaking trail up 150m of knee-deep snow to reach the plateau above. 

The views rewarded our efforts hansomely.


Alpine interlude 8th January


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.

We started today with a couple of climbs to see what I was capable of and I was relieved to find that arms, axes & crampons do work away from Skye too;)

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.

After coffee back in the village & admiring the weather forecast for the week we headed for something a bit steeper and a bit longer above an avalanche tunnel.

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…..

Eagles & Fairies On Fheadian. 3 January


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 🙂


Happy New year on Blabheinn 1st January 2013


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.