Monday, 31 March 2008

Stunning weather and snow conditions on Monday

The walk in to the coires was very alpine with solid snow underfoot, white plastered cliffs and blue skies and sunshine. Apart from a couple of "Lodge" groups and about a dozen or so climbers the coire was very quiet. We saw folk climbing on the Mess of Pottage, Mirror Direct, Wavelength, Spiral Gully, Goat Track or Red Gullies. The Trident Gullies were empty for a change though later on looking at the building cornices it looked as though the exits may have been worrying! Aladdin's Couloir was OK but some large droopy cornices were forming on Jacob's Ladder (see photo)
Fi and I climbed Fluted Buttress Direct which looked to be full of hard neve. Unfortunately the snow was fairly soft. There was very little usable ice or hard snow so the climbing was quite mixed using tenuous hooks in the rock with the occasional reassuring (thank god!) patch of neve or frozen turf. Good fun though especially the RH groove variation before the crest...
This evening the southerly winds picked up and huge amount of snow were being transported from the southern slopes and redeposited in the Northern Corries. This will make the great skiing even better but will create some massive cornices above some of the climbs... Will upload some videos later tonight or tomorrow...
Sunday, 30 March 2008

Good cover for skiing and climbing though slightly warmer

Still plenty of snow and really great cover in the ski area - I wish I could afford a ski pass and diesel! The slightly warmer temperatures should help consolidate the snow which will firm up nicely as the temperature drops later on in the week.
See the re-worked video from last week which has some updated video clips and new background music at
Friday, 28 March 2008

Scottish Labour Party conference in Aviemore plus video

The Labour party are in Aviemore at the moment. I wonder if they'll take time out to enjoy all the snow we have at the moment...!
See Wednesday's video of climbing in a very snowy Coire an t-Sneachda the aptly named "Snowy Coire" below:


Another sunny day after a misty start

27th March 2008... After a misty start another day of good climbing and skiing. Fi had another rest day and was out climbing with Sue! See

Beautiful cold and sunny weather with great climbing

26th March 2008... After the Easter Mountaineering courses, a rest day was planned but the weather forecast sounded too good to miss. A later start than the past five days saw us easily following the now well trodden trench through the deep snow. We made the most of the great icy conditions and climbed in the sun on on the NW buttress of the Mess of Pottage. The cliff was very quiet with just one other team climbing on Pot of Gold and a guided group from Ireland starting up Jacob's Ladder. There was quite a depth of powder in places but this was easily cleared to reveal good neve and gear placements.
Fi and I climbed Haston Line on Mess of Pottage then continued up the second pitch of Yukon Jack on superb rime and thin ice smears. Conditions were so good and great fun so instead of continuing up onto the plateau, Fi climbed down the Slant for a little bit then up to the top pitch's of Hidden Chimney.
We videoed the whole day and will publish this later when we have time.

Fi climbing a nicely rimed and iced Hidden Chimney which was in absolutely superb icy condition compared to a few weeks ago when it was mainly snowed up rock. As well as the mixed routes and snow gullies a number of the ice routes are in great condition now too.

The crux on the Haston Line is short and well protected and had just enough neve and rime on the rock slab to make it fun without scratching and sparking...!

Fi with axes torqued into the chockstone crack and moving onto the smooth rock slab on the Haston Line's crux...

Looking towards the sparkling white Aladdin's Buttress, Trident gullies, Fluted Buttress and the Goat Track.
The Goat Track and Half a Gully (Easy Gully or Point 5!) are now almost completely banked out with the small crags now buried. Fiacaill buttress and ridge look fantastic.
The good winter climbing conditions look set to continue was some time yet and with a high pressure forecast for next week it's the time to get out. Remember to pack the sun glasses and sun screen too...
More details and pictures can be found at
Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Great snow ice climbing conditions with powder on the ski runs

Lots of fresh snow over the past few days proved tiresome on the walk in but at least we had several large "Lodge" groups ahead of us breaking trail ;-)It was forecast to clear today with the winds dropping in the afternoon. We missed it if it did - visibility was generaly poor and it was bitterly cold in the strong north westerlies. The good news is that the winds have done a great job of scouring some of the exposed north west facing climbs and building up thick rime ice.
We headed for the Mess of Pottage which had deep but supportive snow on the approach and crag apron and up to the huge wind scoop at the start of a banked out Jacob's Ladder (several metres of fresh snow on the right).

Our original objective had a queue but Jacob's Ladder was empty so we headed on up being very wary of any potential windslab and cornices in the gloom above. We needn't have worried as apart from the start the climbing was on magical rimed polystyrene snow ice with no cornices to worry about. Great climbing though it was bitterly cold and everything was freezing up making even the simplest of tasks frustrating - full on winter conditions for a nice change - Nick and James loved it!
Cover on the plateau (as far as we could see) ranged from wind scoured icy rimed rocks, hard neve and deep drifts of windpack. We returned via Coire Cas which had good deep powder for skiing on the Fiacaill ridge side.
Monday, 24 March 2008

More snow and graupel

It's been snowing on and off pretty constantly for the past few days so there's a lot of snow in the mountains and throughout Speyside. The avalanche risk is again a high Cat 4. See SAIS Cairngorms Avalanche Report
In preparation for Tuesday Nick, James and I looked at rock anchors and practised our climbing calls and knots at a local crag.
Fi and Shan had another day up in the ski area once the road was cleared of snow. They used an old roadside snowdrift of icy hard snow covered in powder.
Shan practised crampon footwork, crossing crevasses and snow bridges in preparation for his future trips to the Alps and Greater Ranges.
Sunday, 23 March 2008

Less windy but less visibility and more snow

More snow today with whiteout conditions in the corries making finding the start of climbs and descending from the featureless plateau tricky without local knowledge. What happened to the sunny spells?
The Cairngorm mixed crags are well rimed and a number of the popular ice climbs are in condition when found!

Fi, Robert and Ruth climbed Fiacaill Ridge and collected a tail of lost climbers on the descent from the plateau...
See for pictures and more details.


After our walk in creating a trail through deep snow Shan, Nick, James and myself looked at waist and snow belays. Throughout the day a constant stream of hillwalkers who had followed our trail looking for the Chalamain Gap and Braeriach had to be redirected...
Cross-country skiing in the forests and lower slopes looked good as well as on the alpine ski pistes though visibilty was very poor above 700 metres.
Another avalanche incident was reported today with a high Cat 4 avalanche risk forecast for tomorrow. See SAIS Cairngorms Avalanche Report .

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Wintry but busy in the corries

Poor visibilty in the morning improving in the afternoon. Coire an t-Sneachda was very busy and despite the deep snowin places many of the easy gullies such as the Trident area and Aladdin's Couloir were full of climbers! The rocks are well rimed and icy in places. We had great fun digging shelters and doing avalanche tests on an east facing slope -masses of graupel about a metre down!! After lunch in our cosy snowholes we headed up onto the plateau for more crampon and navigation practise...


See also !

Friday, 21 March 2008

23rd-25th March Winter Mountaineering (intro climbing)

Winter conditions are great at the moment and we still have two place available on a three day winter mountaineering course (grade 1/2 climbing) running from the 23rd to 25th March 2008.

Goggles essential today!

The fresh wet snow on the road wasn't too bad and the Cairngorm ski road was open this morning. Our Easter winter skills and winter montaineering groups had a really good introduction to coping with wintry weather while we practised some basic winter skills. The NW and N winds were strong but bearable as long as you were wrapped up well and had goggles! North facing slopes are quite wind scoured with large areas of unstable windslab and graupel being deposited on east to southerly aspects.
Thursday, 20 March 2008

Short sharp thaw and refreeze

Todays quick thaw and refreeze has stripped some of the thinner snow cover but will harden the existing snow and help fatten the ice. Unfortunately it's to be stormy and bitterly cold with a lot of new snow forecast over the Easter.
It could be a really wild and busy weekend so make sure you check out the SAIS Cairngorm avalanche report, MWIS weather forecast and read about recent incidents in the local paper the Badenoch and Strathspey Herald ! Good once the weather settles again though...
Wednesday, 19 March 2008

No sun but fresh snow instead and the climbing is getting better and better

We were looking forward to blue skies and sunshine but we got low cloud and snow. However as the Northern Corries are very quiet at the moment we wandered in and had the whole of Aladdin's Buttress to ourselves.
Despite the fairly deep soft snow on the approach slopes, the snow on Patey's Route was great for climbing on with snow ice now in the grooves and on the ledges. The third chimney pitch also had some good ice for axes and crampons though still not thick enough for ice screws. The two chokestone pitches including the crux have just enough ice to use though they are still poorly built up and harder than normal - being very technical they are well protected and really great fun!
The snow and ice buildup in the Cairngorms is looking great and with a brief thaw and the forecast prolonged freeze over Easter winter looks set to continue for a while yet.
I was hoping to video the whole climb and post it on the Blog but unfortunately the cameras video clip setting was accidentally set to small - and they are really tiny...!
Tuesday, 18 March 2008

It's been snowing again today so not quite the sunny weather we were expecting...!

You may have been redirected here by the old Blog link or via WinterNet Scotland as a number of people NOT using Internet Explorer have been having problems accessing the Talisman Blog web pages.

I've now changed the web URL to so it should work now in all the browsers!

Could you please update your browser bookmarks.

Thanks Ron
Monday, 17 March 2008

Cold calm and sunny weather over the next few days

With all the fresh wet snow and fluctuating freezing levels recently, ice is starting to reform on several of the classic Cairngorm ice routes. It looks like the weather, skiing AND climbing conditions could be good over the next few days so make the most of it.
There's lots of snow in the Scottish mountains with the wintry theme set to continue well into Easter. A real bonus for locals and those on holiday.
Over in the west there has been even more snow. The Ben Nevis area should see some great late season blue ice conditions in April and even May...!
We still have two places available on our Easter Winter Mountaineering course so book NOW and make the most of the great snow conditions!


The abseil video from yesterday above shows one of the popular ice falls which should fatten over the coming week as long as inexperienced climbers don't hack it to pieces...!

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Warmer and snowier than forecast

Not such a nice day compared to Saturday but OK and at least it's been snowing higher up.
There wasn't much of an overnight frost and the freezing level was a lot higher than forecast with the temperature generally above zero at the coire floor. It was very wintry though with lots of fresh wet snow falling during the afternoon. We climbed the first couple of pitches of "Patey's Route" before moving right onto "Terms of Endearment" and then finishing off with an abseil down and left of an icy "Mirror Direct" to avoid the deep snow in the gullies (who's pinched the abseil tat!!!). I must admit that I under estimated the buildup of Patey's having only brought some hexes, a half set of wires and three extenders! It's a lot easier when fully built up with snow and ice. The mixed ice pitch was entertaining and not being a rock climber Keith did well to second it with his Evo ice axes and Scarpa Manta boots!
Saturday, 15 March 2008

A beautiful calm day but warmer than expected

Today I was out with Keith for a few days of winter climbing. Since he attended one of our winter mountaineering courses a few years ago Keith has been keen to develop his climbing further.
A sunny hot walk into Coire an t-Sneachda with everything looking nice and wintry! Generally the old snow was firm though in places due to the slightly warmer temperatures the more recent snow on the surface had a tendency to slide off or cause the crampons to ball up. Fortunately towards the top of our route the snow was nice a firm for axe and crampons with a really interesting up and over reversed corniced ridge to climb at the top...
Over in the Cas after an overnight bivy Fi and James had a good day looking at snow anchors and ropework. As it was so calm James managed to heat up his lunchtime soup with his gas stove at the top of Aladdin's Couloir!
See Fi's blog at for details of their snow hole expedition.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Misty at first clearing later

It turned out quite a nice day in the afternoon before further snow flurries this evening.
I was out with a regular client James who hadn't done much winter climbing since his Mont Blanc trip three years ago. He wanted to refresh his general winter mountaineering and climbing skills.
We chatted about the rock climbing course he did with me a few years ago, only for him to remind me that it was actually in 1996 - about 12 years ago...! Also we looked at jumaring techniques using fixed ropes for his planned trip to climb Denali.
Despite a recent avalanche on a similar aspect yesterday we climbed Aladdin's Couloir. Today the snow was generaly firm and stable as it had consolidated well and had recently been scoured by the westerly winds. Jacob's Ladder look similar and the exit looked friendly now that the cornice had been scoured.
I chatted to a couple of French climbers who had just just climbed Patey's. The enjoyed the route but did comment on the lack of "glace". They were enjoying the Cairngorm mixed experience though and thought our granite was great...!
On our descent into the Cas we checked out the deep snow drift on a north easterly facing slope which released very easily as we walked across it.
Tomorrow James and Fi are snowholing as further preparation for his planned expedition which involves living for several weeks at altitude in the snow...
Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Nice on Tuesday with climbers sticking to the buttresses

Fi was out with Sue on Fiacaill Ridge and sent me these photos. In contrast to Monday, Tuesday was a day of sunshine and snow. With the the category 4 avalanche risk very few sane folk were in the gullies but lots of folk were climbing the buttresses! Some large cornices in NW aspects. See for more details.
Monday, 10 March 2008

Fresh snow and blizzards

A lot of fresh snow down to 700 metres on easterly winds will have loaded many of yesterdays wind scoured areas with soft slab and no doubt cornices. The avalanche risk is a high Cat 4 so take care...
Visibility was very poor and with the Google image server still down I've not been able to upload up any photos. Anyway photos from today would have looked a bit like the white Blog background...!
Sunday, 9 March 2008

A surprisingly good winters day given the weekend forecast!

Today turned out a lot better and sunnier than expected with fairly light winds.
The tracks were icy on the initial walk in though in Coire an t-Sneachda and on the plateau the snow was firm. On the NW facing climbs there was generaly a good covering of fresh firm snow with few problems on the exits due to the wind scouring. The coire head wall "Goat Track" was surprisingly OK too. Again it looked as though the NE to E aspects had the deepest buildup with some cornice development in places.
The coires were busy especially around the Trident and Goat Track areas but we managed to get a climb to ourselves on the Mess of Pottage which gave Sara and Chris the opportunity to practise their ropework for a few pitches and work out how to place and remove protection without getting too tangled up with the gear or other climbers ropes...!
Speaking to a few of the other local guides and fellow instructors gave a good idea of the general conditions. Apparently there is some ice in places that'll take ice screws though not in the likes of Red Gully which was snowed up rock. The buttress routes were generaly firm snowed up rock and unlike the paths they weren't too icy.
My camera refused to work with it's new 2 GB memory card and Chris's camera battery was low. I did manage to take a few photos with my phone and I've tried to upload them several times. Unfortunately after all that, the Google image server appears to be down!
Saturday, 8 March 2008

Very wet and windy with snow around 750 metres

Saturday has been the wettest day of the season for me with the ski road and the trails looking like rivers at times...! I kept the camera in the bag to keep it dry so no pictures. The weather was very mixed with gusty winds and torrential downpours one minute and sunshine and blizzards a few minutes later. Above 750-850 metres the snow was lying on the old snow and in sheltered hollows. Fi had a group doing winter skills in the shelter of the Coire Cas ridge. The snow was good for ice axe arrests but generaly softish for crampon practise. I had Sara and Chris with me in the Ciste looking at the construction of snow anchors and placing pegs. Tomorrow will hopefully be colder but feel drier and warmer. Hopefully I won't have to wring out my gloves too much!
Friday, 7 March 2008

Windy on Wednesday, thawing on Thursday and freezing on Friday...!

On Thurday any thin cover was stripped back leaving the buttresses black. On Friday we have had sun and snowshowers almost down to Aviemore. To continue the theme I wonder what "S" in Saturday stands for...!
Wednesday, 5 March 2008


Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Cloudy wintry start with sun in the afternoon

Quack, Quack...!
It could have been a "fowl" day but turned out to be "quacking"!
Nice to have a few days off and gain further inspiration for our flat footed crampon sessions from our Loch Morlich duck friends (Cairngorms in the background BTW) ...
Yes, we're quackers!
Monday, 3 March 2008

Good snow cover but beware of avalanches

A nice bright cold and breezy day with good snow cover.
WARNING: I've just had a call fom a friend to say someone was avalanched and injured in Castlegates gully between Carn Etchacan and the Shelterstone crag. Over in the Loch Avon basin many of the south and east facing slopes are corniced and loaded with wind slab.
So take care out there...
Sunday, 2 March 2008

Good conditions on Cairngorm

Fresh snow down to low levels this morning. Despite the forecast for strong winds Sunday was pretty calm and sunny for most of the day.
We walked into Coire an t-Sneachda which looked to be in great winter condition. Almost every climb in the guidebook had a team climbing on it. From gullies to buttresses climbers were everywhere though some of the ice routes looked very very thin and the Mirror Direct was actually free!
The snow cover from the trident area round to the the back of the coire is excellent with good firm snow right down to the coire floor. Crossing the boulder field was straight forward too as the snow had consolidated well.
We climbed up the Goat Track on firm neve, crusty snow and the odd patch on fresh slab. On the plateau there was really good cover of firm snow on all the east facing slopes and thinner cover on other aspects.
We spent a few hours looking at snow shelters before practising navigating out just as the winds and snow showers came in.
The cover on the plateau was quite strange with a crusty surface layer of water ice on top of drier powder snow in places...!
More photos and a video clip can be found at
All in all a great day and what looks like good climbing condition starting to build, weather permitting for next week. Whoopee!
Saturday, 1 March 2008

Cold and less windy than expected

Despite the odd blast of painful spindrift the winds weren't too bad. In Coire Cas there was less fresh snow than expected though there are some deep drifts in sheltered locations. The ski uplift was running today for the first time in a couple of days.
We had cheery a colourful winter skills group today, it makes a change from greys and blacks ...!
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