Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Cloud inversion

Some people have their head in the clouds. Up in the Highlands of Scotland we have our heads above the clouds..! Another calm day with great views, snow and climbing...
With lows of around minus 14 Celcius in Aviemore (apparently the coldest place in he UK...) the high tops of the Cairngorms were the hot place to be with blistering temperatures of around zero above the country wide cloud inversion.
Happy New Year
Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Another calm sunny gully climbing day

Another beautiful blue sky day with perfect snow ice to climb on and stunning views across Scotland...
It felt a lot warmer today once you left the -10 Celsius of Aviemore!
On the hill the skies were completely clear and it was fairly calm. The snow was well frozen but due to the temperature inversion it was just warm enough to melt off yesterdays light crag frosting.
Brian, Katherine, Hollie, Glen, Fi and myself had a great fun day climbing in one of the popular grade 1 gullies...
Initially the gully looked busy but several groups headed off onto other routes and we soon had the route to ourselves and about half a dozen teams below us...!
Monday, 29 December 2008

Windy, bitterly cold and riming up

See Fi's blog and photos of a rimed Cairngorm summit weather station at
Sunday, 28 December 2008

Feeling colder today

Slightly cloudier and windier today so feeling a lot colder.
We had a good day looking at security on steep ground. We even found a safe area for some ice axe practise ...
Very little change in the hard icy snow and good climbing conditions in the easier gully lines.
The buttresses are black although some were starting to frost up a bit as banks of cloud drifted over from the east.
All the gully lines in Coire an t-Sneachda were very busy with dozens in and around the Trident gully area!
Some amazing photogenic ice formations and frosted vegetation in the stream beds.
On our return to Aviemore we noticed people walking on Loch Morlich which presumably is now frozen in places!!
Saturday, 27 December 2008

Great weather, great neve

Calm, sunny and cold with spectacular views across Scotland to the west coast and north above a surreal sea of cloud.
A very pleasant introduction to Scottish winter mountaineering and winter skills.
We met Kathy returning from her observations for the Scottish Avalanche Info Service (SAIS) and she has posted some great photos looking across the loch Avon basin to Carn Etchacan and Castlegates Gully. See We also met Andy and his client who'd had a great day over in Coire an Lochain.
For some time now the snow conditions have been perfect for climbing in the gullies.
The rock hard snow ice is also ideal for step cutting and learning crampon footwork with a strong emphasis on not tripping or falling...
Stopping a slide by ice axe braking would be at best difficult and painful even for the experienced on an easy angled slope - never mind the inexperienced on a steep slope!
We witnessed several near misses by casual walkers and climbers returning from the plateau back to Coire Cas as they stepped off the rocky ridge onto the icy snow without crampons or even ice axes at the ready... Take care out there and don't slip or trip!
Thursday, 25 December 2008

Stonking neve in the easy gullies

Over the past few years we've always done a route on Christmas day. Again as in the past three years the weather was calm with a high pressure inversion, rock hard neve and bone dry rock - really fun to climb on!
This year there's a really good choice of the easier gullies to go for in Coire an t-Sneachda and after a late start from the Coire Cas carpak at 14.00 hrs I still managed to get three routes in on frozen snow before it got dark at 16.00 hrs.
Jacob's Ladder and Aladdin's Couloir have a line of rock hard bucket steps all the way to the top and through a choice of exits in the cornice on Jacob's. It's best to avoid the steps apart from at the cornice though as the snow is softer and easier to place the axes away from the steps...
Central Gully Left and Right are both good with some thick ice at the top of Central Left.
The Runnel is straight forward neve all the way to the cornice at the top (apart from a couple of metres in the chimney).
Crotched Gully has a slight easily outflanked bare section at the bottom. Spiral is complete and good. The other gullies and ice routes looked OK too...
On the otherhand the buttresses are more or less bare and very dry. Routes such as Pygmy Ridge and Fingers Ridge being good big boot summer routes after a snowy alpine like approach. Despite the gullies being frozen I saw a large rock fall from Aladdin's Couloir at 14.50 hrs. Care needs to be taken when moving off the snow onto rocky mixed ground to avoid dislodging loose material onto parties below...!
The Cairngorm plateau to Ben MacDui has got a good covering of neve and crampons are useful if returning via the ski area!
YouTube video pan of the Coire an t-Sneachda on Christmas day
Wednesday, 24 December 2008

WinterNet Scotland dies on it's 10th anniversary

After more than a decade of providing regular winter reports, photos and links to other weather and winter condition sites I've decided not to renew the web hosting. This due to lack of time, costs and other similar websites and blogs that are now online.

The WinterNet URL has now been redirected to this blog page where time permitting I'll still provide useful links and regular winter reports from the hill.

The Cairngorm Mountain webcams page can now be found at


Little change

Loch Morlich was like a mirror today. As we drove up towards Cairngorm the temperature increased from 4 Celsius to 5 at the Coire Cas ski area carpark. There has been very little change in the general snow cover over the past few days with all the main gully lines still holding onto the snow. The temperature is forecast to drop later this week and with very little fresh snow predicted the old snowpack will become very icy and unforgiving to a simple slip. Ice axe and crampons essential!
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Dry black buttresses and hard icy snow

The gully lines, headwalls and plateau are still snowy however the buttresses are now bare. Good winter sport can still be had in the easier icy gully lines. Many buttress routes still have a snowy icy approach but then can be climbed in boots without crampons on dry rock (at the summer grade...!) See and
Sunday, 21 December 2008

80 -140 mph winds and clear!

Cairngorm was storm bound today!


The wind has been pretty constantly sitting between 80 - 140 MPH all morning so have suspended all operations for the day, although the Cas Bar and Mountain shop remain open at the Day Lodge.
The Temperature at the Tunnel Mouth is dropping though and is sitting at +1 at the moment(1.00pm). It looks as though we still have the Cas, but will have to wait till we get up tomorrow to see what we have left. The wind is supposed to drop off tomorrow so hopefully we will be able to offer snowsports.
Lets try again tomorrow..."
Saturday, 20 December 2008

Calm cold and clear

Overnight the winds and temperatures dropped with the skies clearing this morning.
Saturday turned out to be a lovely day with crisp refrozen snow in the gullies. Climbing conditions were said to be excellent in the chimney's and gully lines with good hard neve...
The Cairngorm ski area managed to open several tows including the Cas t-bar and the M1 poma.
Aviemore was very busy with many people travelling up for the early season skiing, climbing and the Christmas / New Year festive holidays.
Friday, 19 December 2008

Wild and wintry

STOP PRESS: Friday 19 December WEATHER WARNING Winds gusting to storm force, 70-85mph, are expected in Northern Scotland and the Northern Isles. Northeast England likely to experience 55 to 65mph gusts for a time. Valid until 0600GMT

Fresh snow this morning in Aviemore and very stormy weather throughout today. The ski road was closed today due to drifting snow. There's a high Cat 4 avalanche risk forecast for Saturday. See
The winds are doing a good job at the moment so fingers crossed that they blow all the snow into the right places for continued skiing and climbing over the Christmas and New Year holidays...!
Despite the financial doom and gloom our festive Winter Mountaineering skills courses based in Aviemore are still proving very popular. We now have the best start to the winter season in December for over thirty years - or so I am told..! So don't miss out on this winter bonanza.
We have now added several extra Wnter Skills places and an additional New Year (Hogmanay) Winter Mountaineering course. Places are filling up as I type...! See the BBC report and video at


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Cold, snowy and blustery with gusts of 126mph!

A good winters day to look at winter climbing ropework for the Hindleap outdoor centre staff...!
After a stormy wet night and more early morning rain the storms continued but the rain turned to snow as the temperatures rapidly dropped. The refrozen snow was quite crusty at first but by late afternoon was quite solid and good for climbing on and building snow belays. Lot's of great gusts and spindrift and everyone seemed to enjoy the challenging conditions. The easy to mid-grade gully routes should be good over the next few days.

If you can't see the YouTube video above click this link
Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Hard snow but windy...

Today in Coire Cas I was running a winter skills intro for the instructors of Hindleap Warren outdoor centre. We had ideal weather and conditions for teaching Scottish winter skills with lots of hard icy snow for step cutting, ice axe braking and cramponing.
We also had good periods of white out, cornices, strong gusty winds, lot's of spindrift, windslab, sastruga and even breakable crust to talk about. Goggles were useful too...
Fi went for a wander into Coire an t-Sneachda and climbed up Aladdin's Couloir which was in reasonable condition.
For more details and pictures see Fi's blog at


Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Thaw freeze thaw freeze

Despite today's thaw the general cover is still very good above 700 metres with all the gullies full of snow. With a few freeze thaw freeze cycles the climbing conditions should become really good on the easy to mid grade gully routes. The strong winds over the next few days are more likely to be a problem though...! The Cairngorm 'Scottish Avalanche Information Service' (SAIS) forecast has now started. See and their blog at
Monday, 15 December 2008

Very windy...!

A lovelly red sky this morning over the Cairngorms - the shepherd's warning! This fitted in well with the forecast gusts of 50mph and a rise in temperatures later on Monday and Tuesday. Actually not such a bad forecast when you are used to winds well in excess of 100mph at this time of year.
I'd phoned Chris on Sunday to rearrange the days guiding from Tuesday to Monday make the most of the snow conditions before the worst of the winds and the temperature rise.
Compared to Thursday there had been a huge impovement in the Northern Corries snow cover which had really filled up with snow. Large cornices were evident over north and north east facing slopes and the corrie headwalls. The stability was suspect in many places.
There were lot's of folk climbing in Aladdin's Couloir and in Jacob's Ladder which were both well filled though I'm not sure if they would have been my first choice though I have been assured that the well formed bucket steps and slot through the cornice was fine on Jacob's Ladder. See
Several parties were climbing on the white buttresses.
We climbed Hidden Chimney which was a bit of a swim and quite slabby. It has good belays and plenty of rock gear on the upper pitch though. On the exit onto the plateau the wind didn't appear too bad at first but that changed very quickly. When Chris floundered through the soft cornice we kept the climbing gear on and rapidly stuffed the rope into the sack to hurry back to the car!!
The winds on the plateau were gusting 80 to 90 mph and with each gust we hit the deck to prevent being blown over. We got back to the car and sorted the kit out in Aviemore. A really enjoyable full mountain day...!

YouTube video 15th December 2008
If you can't see the video above please click this link
Saturday, 13 December 2008

Thursday's video

Cairngorm Mixed Climbing on Fiacaill Buttress 11th December 2008

If you can't see the YouTube video above please click the folowing link:
Since Friday it's been slightly milder at low levels but with fresh snow up high and a lot of drifting on south westerly winds into sheltered hollows on northerly aspects. The north facing gullies and ski area have been filling in nicely... :-)
BTW the carpark outside my cottage is still sheet water ice!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Good weather winter climbing and skiing

Since the slight thaw on Sunday conditions have been getting better and better. Today the cloud lifted and the sun shone. All the crags in the Northern Corries are pristine white with rime ice and there is a fair build up of hard and crusty snow around the base of the crags.
Generally the snow is firm enough to support your weight though under the hard crust the snow is very powdery. Care is needed on steep snowy ground as it is easy to dislodge large slabby areas of snow.
We were surprised by the amount of rock fall over on the Fiacaill ridge side of the corrie with several small A4 folder sized junks being dislodged from above so extra care is needed when digging stances and hooking blocks...!
Up on the plateau the snow cover looked good for ski touring with nice fresh silky snow drifting over a hard base.
Cairngorm Mountain are now running a few of the T-bars as well as the funicular for skiers.
I'll upload another YouTube video tomorrow showing the climbing on Fiacaill Buttress, Invernookie and Belhaven...!
Sunday, 7 December 2008

Milder and stormy on Sunday

Actually really good news as the southerly winds should blow a lot of the fresh powder over onto the lee slopes and fill up the north facing coire headwalls and gullies with wet snow that will freeze hard once the temperatures drop -that's the theory anyway...!
BTW despite the thaw the forest tracks were sheets of ice today due to the melting of the surface snow. Crampons were usefull outside my cottage...!
Saturday, 6 December 2008

Deep snow and blue skies

A classic winters day with many skiers and climbers having fun in the Cairngorm mountains. The deep fresh snow that fell on Friday meant a fairly tiring walk in and a lot of digging on the climbing routes.
We changed our original plans due to the late start and our reluctance to break trail and headed up to Opening Break and Honeypot. A couple of young climbers had tried to get off the ground on Honeypot had given up and were now trying to get off the ground on Opening Break originaly a Grade 3...! We opted for Honeypot which was now free to avoid the wait at stances and the risk fom falling debris.
A lot of snow clearing on the second pitch but almost a metre underneath the snow the turf was frozen! Unfortunately as the cracks were quite icy the available protection was somewhat limited. When we reached the foot of the upper chimney we were engulfed in snow debris and small rocks as the other two climbers cut across above us from Opening Break to belay at the foot of our top pitch - what a cheek at least the French say Bonjour!
We got our own back as we finished up the top of Opening Break leaving the others to climb in the dark! The ski road was closed until about 9.30 am due to ice so the late start for many climbers meant being caught out in the December darkness at only 4.00 pm.

YouTube video Cairngorm Mixed Winter climbing on Honeypot
If you can't see the video above see
Fi's blog has more pictures and details at
Great pictures from the Loch Avon basin can be found on Will's blog at and picture from the ski mountaineers on Loch Avon can be seen at,1139
Friday, 5 December 2008

Rain in Aviemore more snow on Cairngorm

Cairngorm Coire Cas carpark on Friday p.m. 5th December 2008
The ski area intends to open tomorrow!
Thursday, 4 December 2008

No snow show....!

A quick update just to say the 20 cm of snow that was supposed to cause widespread disruption today never happened at Cairngorm or on the A9 down to Perth. The winds have however redistributed the snow a fair bit from Wednesday with many exposed areas wind scoured and sheltered hollows, gullies and some of the snow fencing catching the snow drifts...
Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Bitterly cold, white and sunny

Click on the plateau panorama above to enlarge...
Click on the Coire an t-Sneachda panorama above to enlarge...
Since the weekend we've had quite a few severe overnight frosts with subzero temperatures well into double figures. Temperatures have remained below freezing throughout the day with low cloud and light snow showers on Cairngorm.
The Cairngorm forecast yesterday was for more of the same but looking up into the sparkling white Northern Corries this morning showed that this was a total nonsense - it was blue skies and sunshine!
We took a wander in for a look and compared to the weekend everything was looking very white. From the climbing point of view the snow is very soft and dry with a squeaky slabby surface in many places. Fortunately in most areas it's not too deep to pose too many problems apart from covering the cracks and rock belays as there is minimal depth in the gullies and corrie headwalls...
It was bitterly cold for hanging around so we thought we'd look at one of the few easy routes that was complete. Underneath the powder and spindrift streams we found a thin covering of neve and ice in places though not as much as we were hoping for as our good axes and crampons squealed on the underlying rocks and gravel more than we wanted...
Good fun although a quick freeze thaw would make things more enjoyable.

If you can't see the YouTube video above click this link:
A lot more snow is forecast for tonight and tomorrow so condition will change dramatically...!
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