Monday, 31 December 2007

Warmer and wetter

The dreaded three W's and it's not the "world wide web" - windier, warmer and wetter! The recent fresh snow cover has all but melted off leaving the buttresses black with old neve in the gullies. Still a lot of ice about though. Our teams were out climbing on Jacob's Ladder, Jacob's Edge and in half a gully... Also despite nil visibility and strong winds Fi, Trevor and Clare were delighted to bag yet another Munro, Ben MacDui. The forcast is for colder and snowier weather into the New Year. Unfortunately, Andy lost a Kodak CX750 zoom camera so if anyone finds the camera please get in touch.

A Happy and safe New Year.
Sunday, 30 December 2007

Cold, sunny and busy

A lovely cold sunny and very busy day in the Cairngorm Northern Corries. The approach path from Coire Cas was very icy after yesterdays rain and snow. The upper Cairngorm's now have a thin covering of fresh snow. With a good forcast for today and great neve, the popular gullies were even more popular! Climbers were dotted all over the place and with long queues on some routes... Today our mountaineering course members were split into two groups to learn all about the construction of snow belays, such as buried ice axe's and snow bollards. They then enjoyed good climbing in Aladdin's Couloir with Andy N and in Jacob's Ladder with yours truly. Andy even had time and energy to take them for a hike onto the plateau and over Cairn Lochain!
Fi had a good winter skills and Munro bagging day with clients Trevor and Clare. Some additional photos of Coire an Lochain today can be found on Fi's Marmotte Blog at and on the Talisman Blog at
See also the photos of Hells Lum and Shelterstone areas on Kathy's SAIS Cairngorm Blog at
Friday, 28 December 2007

A frost, fresh snow then strong winds and warmer

Again the weather reports got it wrong with several cm's of fresh snow and black ice this morning made driving on some of the back roads treacherous. Unfortunately the ski area hadn't caught as much snow but a least looked a bit whiter. It seemed calm in the Coire Cas carpark but on the navigation hike up onto the Cairngorm plateau the wind speed increased considerably (gusting in excess of 70mph) throwing us about and making progress almost impossible at times. We persevered following the lee slopes and an hour behind schedule reached our destination. We had the place to ourselves! It was completely calm in the sheltered hollow with masses of old and fresh virgin snow for teaching avalanche assessment, dealing with cornices and digging emergency snow shelters. There was some sluffing of the fresh snow due to the rapid rise in temperature this afternoon however the colder temperatures tomorrow should firm any wet snow up. More snow is forecast. Who says there's no snow in Scotland you just need to know where to look...!
Thursday, 27 December 2007

Very stormy overnight though less windy on Thursday

Fortunately the winds were not as bad as forecast in the shelter of the Coire Cas ski area and as far as I could see the snow cover hasn't suffered too much. We had really good cramponing conditions for the first day of our Winter Mountaineering course. Care had to be taken with any ice axe braking due to the hard icy snow and rocky run-outs. It turned colder with snow flurries during the afternoon with snow drifting into hollows. Similar conditions forecast for tomorrow with more snow on the higher tops then with low level snow is forecast for Saturday.
Still having problems with Winternet though I've now reinstalled WinXP and some of my software so I will hopefully be able get everything up and running again...!
Tuesday, 25 December 2007

WinterNet not working so posting pictures here

It's Christmas so Santa and Chilly climb Cairngorm

Merry Christmas... Cold and sunny with a cold SW breeze. Loch Morlich is still well frozen with the snow and ice bone hard in the Cairngorm gullies. There was evidence of old avalanche debris and rockfall at the foot of the Trident gullies. In contrast to the calm conditions last week there was a surprising amount of spindrift funneling down the gullies at times onto Fi and Chilly, Santa and I managed to avoid it ! A number of the easy gullies are still in good but thin condition such as Jacob's Ladder, Aladdin's Couloir and Central Gully. I'm having problems with the PC and with Winternet Scotland but will continue to post reports on this blog
Monday, 24 December 2007

It's a white frosty Christmas on Cairngorm

A dusting of fresh snow on the hill and a hard frost during this evenings Christmas parade in Aviemore sent Santa and his reindeer off to a flying start....! Cairngorm's snow cover and condition are still very similar to last week with the ice continuing to fatten on some routes. It was sunny and a lot less windy today and quite a few routes were being climbed. Tomorrow, Christmas day looks like it could be cold and sunny before the wind is forecast to increase.
Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas New Year winter skills courses

Fi just received this text from Oli "Hi, Did Milky Way today so thanks for the tips. Lots of ice lower down and good neve. Some hoaring higher up too. Team on Vent but otherwise very quiet. Very windy on top!
We still have one remaining place left from the eight places on our two Christmas winter mountaineering courses which are running from the 27th to 31st December 2007. We also have a few places available on the Aviemore, Cairngorms based winter skills courses running on the 27th and 28th December and on our New Year course on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th January 2008.
A place on a course could be an ideal Christmas gift for a last minute surprise! We can provide activity gift vouchers for all our courses.


Friday, 21 December 2007

Little change to the alpine conditions apart from a slight breeze

Lots of photos and a brief report (for now) can be found on WinterNet Scotland
Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Great but thin alpine climbing conditions

Wednesday 19th December 2007...Another superb alpine like day. Again it's been very cold in the valleys and warmer on the tops. Despite the warmer temperature in the mountains the snow and ground is frozen solid.
Climbing conditions although thin are really excellent and fun on many of the grade I to grade III gully and snow routes. Many of the ridge and buttresses are bone dry, with Pygmy and Fingers Ridge in excellent summer condition, although with a winter approach! Several of the ice routes although very thin are being climbed too, though I doubt you would get much in the way of ice screws for protection!!
The coires have a very friendly atmosphere at the moment with teams chatting away and enjoying the sun and superb snow ice. We saw climbers in Jacobs Ladder which is complete but with a detour exit on the RHS. Aladdin's Couloir, Central Gully, Runnel. Rob Jarvis was with clients in Crotched gully and no doubt others were in Red and Goat Track. I chatted with Liam and Neil and Fi climbed the groove on the RHS of the runnel (thin and quite bold at the moment...!).
We took a wander over to Hells Lum which had a good banking at the base and no cornice to worry about. Ice was building and the Escalator looked good. Over on the other side of Loch Avon the Shelterstone was almost in summer condition although the snowy Castlegates Gully looked complete. Good snow cover on the plateau all the way to MacDui with the Braeriach Corries well worth a visit.
Over on Coire an Lochain the routes being done were the likes of Milky Way, Vent Rib and Traverse, the Couloir, Snow Bunting and Y Gully. Cut Adrift looked ok too although like Milky Way a bit thin at the start. At the moment the Vent is hard and getting started on Central Crack tricky too!! A team found Andromeda tricky. Savage Slit and Fallout Corner apart from the approach and finish are more akin to summer conditions, although could be good fun with a crampon approach then a change into big boots or rock shoes for the climb!
All in all great Scottish alpine conditions and very similar to this time last year. More details and previous winter reports can be found on the Talisman Blog and on Fi's Marmotte Blog. The full report and lots more pictures can be found at
Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Frozen ground, snow and stunning alpine like weather

Blue skies and sunshine. Lots of the classic but thin easier winter routes being climbed on superb rock hard snow ice with rock buttresses being climbed in summer conditions too...!
Sunday, 16 December 2007

Sun, blue skies, dry rock, hard snow and ice

Looking at the SAIS blog at it looks like the folk have been out ice climbing on the thin ice of the Mirror Direct and Scottish alpine climbing on Magic Crack, all good stuff...! Some of the easier classic gullies looked fairly busy too with several parties on the hard snow in Central gully and in the Runnel. The high pressure looks set to continue the theme of hard frosts, blue skies and sunshine for the next few days. The air is very dry too and it feels very alpine. Hint, If you look at what the weather has been doing and where the snow has been blown over the past few weeks I'm sure you could be in for a pleasant surprise in some areas!
Saturday, 15 December 2007

Hard icy snow in the Cairngorms

Despite the temperature being above zero the snow pack was frozen solid which was good for crampon work but worrying for ice axe braking and no doubt skiing on the upper runs...! See Fi's photos and report at Last year with similar conditions there were several accidents due to the hard icy snow so make sure you have your ice axe and crampons with you and that you know how to use them.
Our Christmas 2007 Newsletter is now online and can be viewed here.
Friday, 14 December 2007

The Scottish Avalanche Reports have started

A good start to the winter season according to the SAIS...

Climbing Conditions and Snow Distribution:
Main cover above 950m., patchy below this. Most main gully lines complete. Large areas of firm snow above 1000m. Some breakable crust.

See the latest Cairngorm report at and the latest blog picture taken of the Cairngorm plateau at

Fi is out with a winter skills client tomorrow so hopefully we'll have a few good photos.
Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Warmer and stormy today

In contrast to Tuesday today was a lot warmer and very windy. Although the milder weather will strip the crags of rime and moisten the snow pack. The deeper areas of snow in the gullies and ledges should survive until the snow refreezes to give good neve for climbing on. An email from Karl A and a few photos from yesterday. "I saw Al and he said he'd met you and Fi on the walk in. We did Wavelength III,4 which was a nice climb with some nice big belay ledges so nice and relaxing. The turf was frozen and we were the only party on the route unlike Fingers Ridge. We saw three parties strung out along when we were walking off!" See also AH's blog.
Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Plenty of snow, good weather and winter climbers...

The Northern Corries were busy today with the easy walk into the main corrie good for catching up on the climbing gossip. Al and Kenny headed towards Aladdins buttress and Fi and I headed for the Mess of Pottage. It was hard work though as soon as we left the main track. The bonus though is that we had the crag to ourselves apart from one other trio to our right. The cliffs were very wintry though the ice up cracks, powder snow and rime made the climbing good fun but time consuming. Proper winter climbing and more akin to the conditions routes were being climbed in in the past! More details and photos on Fi's blog. From our vantage point we saw teams in Jacobs Ladder, Aladdins Buttress, Wavelength, Fingers Ridge and over on the farside the Fiacaill Buttress area looked very busy with climbers on the Seam, Invernoookie and the Belhaven Rampant areas. We heard later from Ruth and her partner that they had a good time on Sidewinder although Coire an Lochain was fairy quiet compared to Coire an t-Sneachda. On the plateau the cover looked good for ski touring with deep drifts in places. Back in the ski area it looked as though some of the runs had a fair buildup with winter skills groups making the most of the mid-station drifts to dig emergency snow holes! All in all a good start to the season.


Monday, 10 December 2007

A sparkling winters day with tomorrow even better

After the poor visibility and stormy snowy weather during the weekend Monday turned out a sparkling day in Speyside. Al and Kenny made a trip from the west and climbed Opening Break reporting lots of powder snow but with a mix good frozen turf or smooth granite slabs for purchase. Back over in the west on Ben Nevis Rob J mentioned that a hard new line was added in stunning blue sky conditions. Tuesday promises to be even better in the east and should be a real cracker for getting out winter walking and climbing. Remember to take the camera and if you get any good shots we'll post them on our blog. We're out Winter Climbing tomorrow too...!
It looks like we may have to run another Christmas Winter Mountaineering course due to the demand so we will keep you posted if any more places become available. We also have had several enquiries for the Winter Skills weekend course now running on the 22nd to 23rd of December 2007.


Saturday, 8 December 2007

Frosty with snow and skiing on the hills

Saturday has been very cold and frosty with snow on the hills. The ski areas Ptarmigan tow was running today too with thin sking possible down to the top of the Cas gunbarrel...! The ground was surprising frozen all day at 400 metres though the Cairngorm crags looked quite black from the road.
Friday, 7 December 2007

A busy winter ahead with lots more winter courses around Christmas

Still plenty of old snow and a lot more to come over the next few days so make the most of the early season conditions. It's only the start of December and yet we are now almost fully booked all the way through to March on all our Winter Mountaineering courses. If you don't want to miss out you'd be well advised to book the last few places on our February Winter Mountaineering courses soon! We still have one place available on our five day Christmas mountaineering course up for grabs as well as a few places on our New Year Winter Skills course. Last year the the Scottish Hogmanay mountaineering course was very busy with one participant travelling from the Himalayas to be on it- well almost!! Due to the demand we are now having to run several courses during the February School mid-term holidays. We've also just added a couple of extra Winter Skills or Navigation weekends for December 2007 and still at our bargain 2006 prices of £120 including ice axe and crampon hire if you book before January 2008.


Thursday, 6 December 2007

Hot Rock photos

A few photos from our recent November Hot Rock trip to Spain. More details and photos can be found at

I've also now uploaded a video of the new Ponoch Via Ferrata above or if you can't see it try this link at


Website clients photo album updated

Just a quick note to say that I've updated our client and group photo album with pictures from 2007. Shan has sent us some fantastic photos from his recent trip to Everest and has threatened to return yet again for one of his regular Scottish Greater Ranges training weekends cum Easter Mountaineering course! Despite one of the wettest and most unsettled summers for over thirty years in Europe several of our clients reached the lofty summit of Mont Blanc. While many companies and climbers were forced to abandon there objectives due to the harsh weather conditions several of our seasoned clients and Scottish course members made it to the top of western Europe showing the benefits of Scottish winter training and weather conditions...! We've recently received several Mont Blanc summit photos from Steve H and Peter B and a glowing testimonial and photos from Stuart C that we just have to publish.
Stuart's testimonial below really does says it all...

" See what can happen when you go a Talisman winter skills course! That was in in 2003. Four years later after more adventures with Ron and Fi in Scotland, four summers in the Alps, after nine peaks over 4000 metres and three previous attempts to climb Mt. Blanc (which failed because of bad weather) I made it to the top of the Alps in perfect conditions and with the summit to the two of us - Andy Owen (my guide) and myself. It is a wonderful feeling when everything is below you. So Ron has a lot to answer for, he started it all, with a little help along the way help from Smiler Cuthbertson and Andy Owen and my climbing mate Bill McBride who unfortunately could not be with me on this trip."
Not decided about next year yet but we will soon be in 2008 so I will be in touch soon about options for picking the weekend for good weather!
Regards Stuart

The updated Talisman Photo Album can be found at In the meantime I'm busy working on getting the Christmas Newsletter finished before Xmas...!


Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Good winter climbing and skiing on the 1st of December

Just back from a warm and sunny Spain to reports of good winter climbing while we were away. The Cairngorm ski area was open too at the weekend! An email from Oli says it all: "Hope you had a good time in Spain.
Just thought I'd send through a few pics and bit of info for your blog if you're interested.
Kev and I met up early on Friday morning with a view to doing something in the Northern corries, There had been a pretty big dump of fresh snow on Thursday and a mild night had left conditions pretty poor. Undeterred we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda hopeful of getting something done. We were disappointed to find soft slushy snow and very wet turf so vowed to return early the next morning and went gear shopping instead!
Saturday was a much better day again we walked in to Coire an t-Sneachda hoping of be first on route and finding better conditions. Well one out of two isn't bad, at the foot of 'Invernookie' there was another party belaying (who promptly traversed too far left and went off route) and another team finding good conditions on the 'Seam'.
Kev and I found conditions better than the previous day and Kev set off up the route. A simple first pitch led to a traverse and a belay below the first steep wall and the ramps, the turf was well frozen on the ramps and there were a few fine torquing moves to be had at the end of each. I set up a belay below the crux and invited Kev to lead through which he did in excellent style and surprisingly quickly, which was just as well as with darkness approaching I didn't fancy doing the crux in the dark! 20 minutes of quite delicate (by my standards) but very entertaining climbing saw Kev and I on the ridge, donning head torches and toasting the route with a wee nip!
We returned on Sunday to do the 'Runnel' as the night had again been cold and clear and neither of us fancied another long day. We found reasonable early season conditions and the chimney pitch in particular provided some interesting grade II climbing. It was nice to do the route without the worry of an enormous cornice collapse and we both agreed the route probably isn't as exciting when banked out!
All in a very worthwhile weekend, plenty of people out with Lochain seeming more popular (and in better nick?). I've attached a few pic's, feel free to use.
Best wishes and maybe see you on the hill over Christmas"
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