Saturday, 30 January 2010

A nice day - but weather forecast wrong again!

With another severe weather warning of strong winds and up to 25 cm of snow on the mountains I was doubtful of even getting up the ski road this morning. I shouldn't have worried as the forecast was again way out with only 4 cm falling overnight with bright and unusually calm weather in Coire Cas! Jonathan, myself and our climbing teams headed easily into Coire an t-Sneachda on firm neve and a thinnish covering of fresh snow to practise more climbing skills. We had good views of the crags which looked fantastic and were dotted with black ant like climbers everywhere - climbing conditions are superb. Later in the afternoon the wind picked up slightly blowing around some spindrift... More details and photo of Fi's and Fergus's teams day can be found here
Friday, 29 January 2010

Knots with Not's!

We're currently running several intro and advanced winter mountaineering courses for the annual Not's Pineapple Society winter meet. The Nottingham students, Fi, Fergus, Jonathan and myself had a great day out after a tricky start with the mini-buses on the icy ski road! The MWIS forecast had sounded grim with strong winds and heavy snow showers being forecast. However lower on the hill where we were the weather was actually fairy benign and quite pleasant.
Some of the sheltered old snow drifts now resemble small glaciers complete with crevasses and seracs. Out of the wind and with hard neve the drifts were perfect for cramponning, step cutting, winter ropework and climbing up the steep mini seracs! More details and photos on Fi's blog here
Thursday, 28 January 2010

A good thaw and a hard refreeze

A thaw refreeze - just what the doctor ordered!
It's been fairly mild over the past few days stripping back the low level cover and revealing all the tree and property damage caused by the heavy deep snow over the past six weeks.
Up on Cairngorm Mountain the ski area staff have been busy clearing the link road cutting through the impressive two to three metre plus drifts. The Coire Ciste and Coire Cas ski runs now have absolutely superb cover on the lower mountain with the Ciste Gully back to the carpark and down to Glenmore looking the best for two decades or more!
Coire an t-Sneachda was again very busy today with all the winter skills and climbing courses that are now into full swing.
The complete snow cover has now melted back a bit to reveal some excellent ice in the Northern Corries and especially over the plateau in the Loch Avon basin.
Climbing condition are possibly the best for over a decade with many routes being in good well banked out nick and a lot easier than normal - assuming you can find the belays. Hopefully the belays and runners are starting to be uncovered and dug out by the local G Lodge guides and instructors!
The forecast for the next few days is for colder temperatures, wind and even more snow and very icy conditions underfoot where wind scoured!!! Check out the latest SAIS avalanche forecasts.
Monday, 25 January 2010

Fort William Mountain Festival

Fort William Mountain Festival 11th to 15th February 2010

  • Andy Kirkpatrick hosts the Extreme Night.
  • Paul Diffley from Hot Aches screening Single Handed plus The Asgard Project on the Adventure Night
  • Dave MacLeod and Andy Turner celebrate Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith's incredible first ascents on Ben Nevis 50 years on with Jimmy Marshall himself.
  • Best of Banff World Tour.

Tickets are on sale, buy yours now so you don't miss out!

More details at

Thank you.

Kind regards,


MC of S Winter Lectures

Winter Lecture Series

Winter 2010 sees the introduction of a new expanded MCofS Winter Lecture Series. Following on from the success at the Clachaig Inn each winter, the lectures will now run from three different locations.

The Clachaig Inn, Glencoe (Tuesday evenings)
The Mountain Cafe, Aviemore (Wednesday evenings)

The Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team Base (Thursday evenings)

The focus of the lectures is to entertain and educate on winter mountain safety. In order to deliver this, an inspiring array of speakers has been chosen who are guaranteed to provide an entertaining night out! All the speakers have spent many years in the mountains and will draw upon their own experiences to illustrate hard lessons learnt. Each presentation will last approx 45 minutes and there will be opportunity at the end of each evening for any questions.

Whether you are a hardened climber, or up in the Highlands for your first winter experience, you can ensure a good night out and learn something new.

The MCofS Winter Lecture Series is free of charge and open to all.

M.C of S. Winter Lecture Series :

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Back in Scotland and the roads are now clear!

A good few weeks ice climbing in La Grave, France though to be honest the snow cover in Scotland was actually far far better!
The access roads in Scotland are now clear and the hills have plenty of firm snow. It's been fairly stormy over the past few weeks creating huge snow drifts, filling up the north facing climbing gullies, banking out the the crags and burying the Cairngorm ski area! The recent thaws and refreezes have now created good neve and climbing conditions with many winter climbers taking advantage of these conditions this weekend. While the mountain conditions are far better the low level roadside icefalls have now gone. Many high level cross country forest ski trails are still complete but very firm and icy in the morning!
A few photos from our ninth annual trip to La Grave can be found on Fi's blog here
Friday, 8 January 2010

Beautiful bitterly cold sparkling day

The Cairngorm mountains are plastered white and the crags buried...!
We're off to the Alps so this page won't be updated for a couple of weeks....
Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Thigh to waist deep snow everywhere!

The A9 was re-opened today however once you get on the road it is almost impossible to stop anywhere as all the laybys and side roads are blocked with dense thigh deep snow. After several trips back and forth tying to find some parking we managed to make our own thanks to the Landrover 4x4 and the Berlingos snow tyres. An hours wade later along the old A9 brought us near to my house "Ice Station Zero". We then headed for the icy crags through the Slochd pass trail breaking through waist deep snow for some sunny ice climbing! At the end of the day an other hours walk back to the cars and then Aviemore to drop everyone off before returning back for yet another hours walk home with supplies by headtorch!!!
More details and photos on Fi's blog here
Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Snowed out!!

Stuck in Aviemore until tomorrow as the roads are currently closed due to heavy snow and white out conditions! Inverness was more or less cut off this evening with the airport closed, rail line blocked and the A9 closed. Today our winter mountaineering course did a bit of micro navigation and tried cross-country skiing for the first time. Details and photos on Fi's blog here
Monday, 4 January 2010

Winter ropework and ice threads

Today we looked at basic winter ropework and simple belays. The snow was too deep and soft for ice axe belays so we made good use of natural threads and ice screw V-threads. In the afternoon the the wind increased and heavy snow showers arrived. With so much snow around any winds are going to created huge drifts and cornices on sheltered aspects..! More photos here
Sunday, 3 January 2010

Snow shelters and roadside ice climbing

Plenty of snow and ice near my cottage for our Winter Mountaineering course...! For more info see Fi's blog here
Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year and new winter course

There's been lots and lots more snow in the Cairngorms making road travel extremely difficult and mountain travel almost impossible without skis or snow shoes.
Road access to Cairngorm is also difficult due to the sheer number of visitors and skiers up for the Christmas/New Year and the resultant traffic queues. On the plus side the snow cover for skiing couldn't be much better with the best powder skiing in Europe! The lower level forest skiing is also fantastic.
Despite several feet of snow the Cairngorm Mountain ski road has been cleared of snow quicker than the streets of Aviemore or even the A9 by the ski companies fleet of snow-blowers and snow-ploughs.
The depth and weight of snow on trees and roofs has caused a lot of damage and the possibility of being avalanched from roofs, hit by icicles or crushed by fallen trees is a real risk. On the hills the avalanche risk on most aspects is very very high too.
Today a few climbers tried to access Coire an t-Sneachda on foot but gave up only halfway after more than three hours of floundering!
There's plenty of good thick snow covered ice close to hand in the lower hills without the slog or the high avalanche risk if you know where to look...
The first Winter Mountaineering course of the New Year started today and details can be found on Fi's blog here
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