Saturday, 31 January 2009

Windy walk in but great climbing on sheltered NW aspects

Blue skies and sunshine yet in exposed areas the SE wind was gusting at well over a 100 mph this morning. We again had Nottingham's MPS society with us. Our walk into Coire an t-Sneachda was quite tiring with the headwind and strong gusts stopping us in our tracks every so often.
However, Jonathon and I had a fair idea that as soon as we entered the main coire basin to the base the NW facing crags that we would be sheltered. In fact it was totally calm without the usual blasts of painful spindrift until we topped out on the wind swept plateau - even that wasn't too bad.
Jonathon had the more experienced climbers and the two teams pitched their way up the ground to the right of Jacob's Ladder, down for lunch and then back up for a pitch of mixed climbing before heading back to the minibus.
I had the less experienced climbers so we went up Jacob's Ladder as one team practising cramponing techniques, using technical axes and looking at rock anchors. We then met Jonathon's group having lunch in the sun before going to a small crag to look at equalised belays using wires and hexes.
Meanwhile Karl, Tracey and Ian had rushed over to the Ciste with the introductory Mountaineering Skills groups to practise cramponing and emergency ropework after I mentioned that I hadn't realised it was that windy and wet yesterday...!
Today Fi was looking after our weekend Winter Skills course and more details can be found at
Apart from the wind the climbing conditions on Saturday were absolutely superb with many routes being banked out in good neve and a lot easier than normal. On the down side some cracks were iced up and all my usual flake belays were well and truly buried - in fact the gully sidewalls were buried under good solid snow...!
Some stunning photos of the day can be found on Jakub's website at
Friday, 30 January 2009

Windy and wet

The forecast was for strong SSE winds and occasional showers of snow grains. We got the winds but the precipitation was most definitely rain.
The freezing level rose to well above the summits and the snow pack got a good wetting. Once the temperature drops on Saturday and on Sunday it should freeze up solid and be ideal for climbing on.
We have Nottingham University's MPS mountaineering club with us today and tomorrow looking at Introductory Winter Mountaineering (Winter Skills) and Introductory Winter Climbing (Advanced Winter Mountaineering)
Conditions were especially good for ice axe braking and for digging snow belays as well as for testing the absorption properties of gloves and waterproof clothing systems...!
Fi, Tracey and Ian had an interesting day with their groups in Coire Cas while Jonathon, Karl and myself covered everything from navigation, avalanche awareness, snow belays and ropework in preparation for whatever tomorrows weather will bring.
Chris and a few of the senior club organisers took a walk into Coire an t-Sneachda, round the whole coire and back out again before they realised it when they later checked the compass... With all the snow down to the coire floor this is actually quite easy to do in poor visibility as you think you are traversing up to you chosen route and end up walking in a complete circle - I've done it in the past too!
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Sunny but windier

A lovely clear sunny day but with a fresh southerly breeze which increased significantly by mid afternoon. Stonking buildup in the Northern Corries with all the major gully and groove lines being climbed today!
There's good ice on many of the popular south and west facing crags as well as on many of the trails!
Surprisingly there was really good firm snow on the approaches but with increasingly large cornices building over many of the gullies.
By late afternoon the winds and spindrift had increased and fresh windslab was being deposited on the scarp slopes.
The exit from the Runnel now requires a traverse right if you wish to avoid digging through the soft cornice.
Fi dragged me out climbing today though the soft snow, iced up cracks and the scenic corniced aretes proved more challenging than expected due to lack of protection on the crux flounder... See
Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A pleasant day with better weather and climbing than expected

An email and text from Chris re some more private instruction / guiding dragged me away from the unpacking, washing and admin after our two weeks in the Alps...!
The weather report mentioned fairly strong winds and low cloud in the morning so I was expecting to be in the clag wading through deep soft snow and blasted with spindrift for the first part of the day.
Well it turned out to be almost calm with generally good visibility and pretty good climbing conditions. Generally the recent snow was fairly firm with good old neve below when required. Rather than pure guiding Chris and Dan wanted some general coaching while climbing themselves.
The calm conditions were perfect for this and made for quite a sociable day catching up on the gossip, chatting to other climbers and guides nearby as numerous teams snaked their way up the Mess of Pottage...
The plateau and many paths are very icy at the moment.
See Chris's blog for more photos at
Monday, 26 January 2009

Video clips and more photos from La Grave after the snow!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Loads of snow in the Alps and in the Scottish mountains

Photos from the past two weeks ice climbing above -before the huge dump of snow...!
Needless to say with the cold weather throughout Europe many Alpine icefalls were in excellent condition though a bit brittle due extreme cold, dry and sunny weather over the last few weeks! Conditions have changed now and some of the fat ice falls will no doubt be partially buried by the fresh snow. Some should continue to fatten quickly due to fresh snow melt.
With over a metre of fresh powder in the Alps the Skiing should be superb once the high avalanche risk reduces.
On Friday and Saturday almost a metre of snow fell in La Grave creating a Cat 5 avalanche risk and overnight road closure. Fortunately the road opened on Saturday morning for a very snowy exciting drive past huge pills of avalanche debris, stuck buses to a chaotic Geneva airport. Due to the weather and resultant flight cancellations we had to queue for almost four hours to check in our baggage with EasyJet. Many flights had been cancelled or rescheduled so we were lucky to get away with only a two hour flight delay..!
Back home in Scotland there was also fresh snow and avalanche activity.
On our drive up from Edinburgh airport there was a fair bit of roadside snow on the Drummochter hills though less than we expected the closer we got to Aviemore.
Today (Sunday) on Cairngorm the strong southerly winds were causing a lot of snow drifting above 700 metres and will no doubt create unstable snow conditions on manty slopes and gullies Make sure you take heed of the SAIS avalanche reports. See
Friday, 9 January 2009

Scottish roadside ice to French roadside ice

It's turned a lot milder and windier over the past few days. Despite the cold wind and overnight frost, sitting in the sunny car this morning it looked a bit like spring until you got outside! This weekend looks wet and stormy before the return of colder condition and more snow next week. The stormy weather is good news as it needed to buildup the snow and fatten the ice.
We're off to La Grave in France for a few weeks so the Scottish snow and ice conditions will be replaced by French snow and ice conditions! Hopefully the roadside ice in La Grave will be bigger and fatter than the ice in Scotland.
A message for David Finnigan who we know reads the blog...! We've sent several emails re the May 2009 Skye trip and Mera / Island Peak trip in October 2009 but they keep getting bounced back. Have you got another email address?
Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Normal winter service resumes!

The last day of our New Year Winter Mountaineering course. Milder with low cloud, strong winds from the south west and fresh snowfall today... The snow drifts from yesterday have been scoured and redeposited onto north easterly aspects. Today we again looked route choice , avalanche assessment and at various snow and ice anchors. Visibility was generaly poor as well as the wind direction on some of the official weather and avalanche forecasts...!

Yesterdays YouTube climbing video can be found at


Monday, 5 January 2009

Fresh snow and socks in the gullies!

It felt bitterly cold this morning walking into the stronger than expected south easterly wind. This had led to considerable drifting of the snow from the plateau and fresh cornice buildup on our intended gully line.
A good opportunity to look at avalanche assessment and safe travel techniques between islands of safety. The approach slopes were initially pretty deep and slabby but from previous experience I thought it was worth having a further look at the gully.
My hunch was right and I was relieved to find that the fresh snow was only between 10 and 15 cm at it's deepest and with good solid neve below for the axes and crampons in the actual gully line.
The next worry was the cornice but I could just make out the line of steps from the other day so it too wasn't looking that bad.
We then climbed on up between the good rock anchors which was fine until James mentioned his foot was coming out of is boot - and it really was!
Once he was tied off I down climbed then cut a ledge to sort his footwear out. The moral is please remember to do up your boot laces tightly when climbing steep snow with crampons...!
Despite the delay everyone including James (I think?) enjoyed the climb.


Sunday, 4 January 2009

Rain and snow for a change!

The weather finally broke today so our Winter Mountaineering course looked at ropework on a small crag in the shelter of the trees.
It was a milder and wetter day but with fresh snow on the hills and sleety rain falling on frozen ground at lower levels. The avalanche forecast is Category 3 for tomorrow. The weather forecast for Monday is good and sunny but a lot colder so paths and rocks could be a bit icy!
It will be interesting to see how the climbing has been affected by the fresh snow although it should benefit any ice buildup and fill in some of the chopped up routes. Extra care will be required on some slopes especially where the fresh snow lies on the old icy snow underneath...!
Saturday, 3 January 2009

Report from today and Spiral Gully video

Chris Climbing in Spiral Gully on the 2nd January 2009

If you can't see the video above the YouTube video from yesterday (2nd January 2009) can be found at

A report from todays (3rd January 2009) Winter Mountaineering course can be found on Fi's blog at

Friday, 2 January 2009

Walking on water yesterday and above the clouds today!

Another fine, cold, calm, sunny day with perfect neve for climbing on. A light dusting of fresh snow on New Years day meant the crags were a lot whiter and the ski pistes a bit grippier.
An unexpected phone call from Chris on Hogmanay to see if I was available for another days guided climbing on the 2nd was hard to resist. Especially given the weather forecast and fantastic snow conditions.
"Yes, I can do that" and phone call to Fi to see if she could look after the New Year Winter Mountaineering course meant another great winter climbing day for Chris and I.
Despite my worries about the overcrowded routes we managed to get Spiral Gully more or less to ourselves, Steve & Sean Peatfield (Aberdeen) and Giles (Lodge) and Gareth along side - which was all very sociable!
See also Chris's blog at
Today was also the start of our first Winter Mountaineering course of the year - 2009 that is!
Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Years day ice skating...

A relaxing New Years day ice skating on the completely frozen Loch Morlich!

New Years day ice skating on Loch Morlich YouTube video can be found at

© Copyright 1992-2009 Talisman Mountaineering Activities Scotland
Tel: +44 (0)1479 841 576
Mobile: +44 (0)7803 617 769