|Heading up Windy Col|
|Windy Col area|
|Axe arresting |
|Busy on Mess of Potage|
|Still good snow cover|
|Visibility on plateau |
The temperatures rose today and we even had a bit of rain at lower altitudes, the first time for a while. Overall it was a dry day in The Cairngorms but a strong wind on the tops. The SW's have arrived but the summit temperatures were still below freezing. The crags are still rimed and plenty of great snow cover. Unfortunately this looks like changing next day of so with temperatures going up again. Shame as the snow conditions have improved with consolidation taking place and easier walking. Final day with Carol on here 4 Day Winter Skills Course
. It's very satisfying watching my clients progress day after day. Carol is now well acclimatised to the Cairngorm winds and cold. She even commented that it was warm today! She gained lots of essential skills and her confidence has grown since day 1. We were hoping to have another day up on the Fiacaill Ridge but the winds were gusting above 50mph across the slopes today. We backed off and instead had a hour of Ice axe arresting (stopping a slip/fall). This is , of course, the last ditch attempt to save your self from a mistake in axe and crampon/footwork placement. It is low down on the 'skills' of winter mountaineering. After our wee session of sliding we headed into Coire an t-Sneachda to see if the winds were any better. It was almost calm in the coire so we headed up to Windy Col. The snow on these slopes is excellent. Great cramponing and good cover. Plenty of folk out climbing on the Mess of Potage. Near Windy Col it was a bit breezy but then as always it was fine on the plateau area. A fine end to 4 top days with Carol. Couple of days off for me after another long 10 day back to back stint. Winter continues.....
COLD CONDITIONS HANGING ON
WINDY AND A THAW ON THE WAY
BUSY DAY ON THE CAIRNGORMS
BEST NEVE SO FAR THIS SEASON
CALM, COLD & SUN TODAY IN THE CAIRNGORMS
STEEP GROUND, SNOW SHELTERS & WINDSLAB
|Ice and windslab|
|Coire an Lochain|
|Ice (photo Steve Owens)|
|Knots in winter|
|Tower of Rime, Coire an Lochain|
|No bother for these guys|
Temperatures down another notch today and snowing to Aviemore level this morning. It snowed for much of the day and a blustery wind. Day 2 of Steve's course with me this week. Today's 'skills' were navigation (The Primary winter skill), avalanche awareness and movement on steep ground. We walked into a lonely, white and windy Coire an Lochain. Steve did all the navigation. Of course map and compass are the essential winter skill and top of the pile, it's NOT axe arresting. Unfortunately Steve dropped his compass and although we retraced our footprints to retrieve the compass, our prints had quickly filled in with the blowing snow. A fruitless search, I'll find it in May. Like every good mountaineer though, Steve produced his back up, second compass. We got under the lower crags in the coire where we had excellent shelter from the winds. We discussed avalanche awareness all the way into the coire and our final assessment was a hasty pit. Interesting layers found. There is a softer, weaker layer in the snow pack which corresponded with the last 3 days of the SAIS Avalanche Reports
. The area we where in was well scoured, icy with plenty of exposed, frozen turf and rock. This was ideal for some steep ground work as well has being a safe location. The showers eased off by late afternoon and we got a good view of the cliffs in the coire which are looking splendid under a thick rime coating. The walk back to the car park at Coire Cas was even more arduous with big drifts which had developed quickly since the morning. Another top day and some new skills for Steve.
HEAVY SNOW, NAVIGATION, ICE
NO WINDS & FAB SNOW
|Fab snow on the Fiacaill |
|Simon enjoying the ridge|
|Tricky navigation in the winds|
|Alistair enjoying the ridge|
|Fab axe placements|
|Coire an t-Sneachda busy|
The fine spell of settled weather with blues skies, light winds and wonderful views abruptly ended yesterday. The Atlantic weather systems are now influencing our weather. Today return clients Simon & Alistair are out with me for two days of mountain fun. They have been out with me several times in winter over the last few years. This weekend they wanted to gain a bit more experience in adventurous mountaineering terrain. Some would say going up Scottish mountains in winter is mountaineering. We headed into a windy and blustery Coire an t-Sneacda. There were plenty of folk out climbing. We ventured over to the Fiacaill Buttress area where it was very quiet. Some great snow conditions all the way into the coire with icy paths and no boulders to stumble through. The snow has consolidated well and it was great walking. Just the wind today! With gusts in excess of 50mph it made for challenging conditions. It was cold and good to keep moving. After a few snow belays we headed up onto the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda to see how windy it was higher up! Once on the ridge it was almost calm! We were well protected from the SE gales. Some wonderful snow conditions along the route. We had it to ourselves. The guys loved it, fantastic all the way. On the plateau it wasn't too bad. Seemed the corries were getting the worse of the gales. The guys navigated off along the plateau. More challenging conditions, map reading and compass work in a cold wind with rime plastered clothing! Great fun. The walking across the plateau is now much easier being wind scoured. A brilliant day to be out.
WILD & WONDERFUL
TEMPERATURE INVERSIONS & A STUNNER OF A DAY
BEST SNOW CONDITIONS SO FAR
|Toll an Lochain at dawn|
An Teallach is regarded by many folk as the finest mountain in these isles. Many folk who follow my blog will know that I rank it has the finest mountain on this planet! With a winter coat it is just spectacular. To capture an image of it's magnificence in winter requires patience, time and a good season of snow. This weekend was that opportunity to see it in all it's glory. With a weather forecast of clear skies and very cold temperatures I headed up to Dundonnell in the NW Highlands and hoped the weather gods were on my side.
|Beinn Dearg range at dawn|
There are so many wonderful locations on An Teallach to get a stunning image, indeed, many may say it looks it's finest from a distance. To get a scale of it's many ridges, buttresses and spurs, a view from just above the road of destitution would be such a place. My objective on this occasion was the magnificent Toll an Lochain corrie. This beautiful spot below the main climbing area of An Teallach is a place to savour. The corrie floor lies at 500m and here lies a remote, tranquil loch. Above rise stunning crags all the way up to Sgurr Fiona, one of two Munros on the mountain.
|Th Fannaich mountains at dawn|
It's a boggy walk in along the usual route up to the lochan. Instead I prefer the good track in from Corrie Hallie and then walking over the rough moorland and down into the corrie. I set off at 7pm under cold clear skies. It was a lovely starlit night and no wind. At 250m I hit the snowline. The going was good until leaving the main track which eventually drops down to Shenevall. It was deep, unconsolidated snow. With a big winter bag I decided on a spot about 30 minutes walk away from Toll an Lochain. Well 30 minutes in summer terrain!
|Corrag Buidhe & Sgurr Fiona above Toll an Lochain|
Apparently the overnight temperatures plummeted to -10 C in some Highland glens. Not sure what it was where I was camped. It was chilly. The next morning I set off before dawn to get to the corrie and capture the sunrise. I made it to the corrie just as the Belt of Orion was glowing above Sgurr Fiona. The colours were mesmerising. Ink blue, pink and white. Subtle changes in the light as the sun rose behind. What a spectacle, what a place!
|Ever changing colours in the corrie|
|Sgirr Fiona & Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill|
|Morning light on the Corrag Buidhe Pinnacles|
Then suddenly it was blue skies and sparkling rimed crags as the sun hit the mountain tops and crept down to the corrie. Wonderful to have the sun on my face and the entire place to myself. Now it was time to get up on the ridge and tops. Easier said than done. I have been here in summer many times and know the terrain under the snow. A mix of peat hags, boulders and thick heather. It was time to take the plunge, indeed it was. Plunging shin to knee deep snow.
|The Beinn Dearg Munros bathed in morning sun|
|Trudging with wonderful views|
|Corrag Buidhe, Lord Berkeley's Seat, Sgurr Fiona|
The wonderful thing about landscape photography is the chance it gives for a well earned breather. Especially in terrain like this. It was a slog. I got to about 700m and time was wearing on. My main reason for this visit was the photography in the corrie. The summit was a bonus. I was content. I turned back just as a veil of high cloud came over the tops. My visit was well timed.
|Sail Liath above Loch Toll an Lochain|
A second night under the stars and another cold one. Broken spoon, frozen boots, snow melting for drinks. The joys of winter camping. Then there are the long dark nights. But it is all worth it for a day like I had here. An Teallach should be firmly on your list. It takes more than one visit though to appreciate it's magnificence, beauty and stunning mountain architecture. Wherever you wander on it's many ridges or corries you will not be disappointed.
|Meall Liath & Hayfork Gully area|
AN TEALLACH, WINTER PHOTOGRAPHY
A big thank you to all clients who joined me on the hill in 2017. With out you Tarmachan Mountaineering would not exist! Over 200 hill days and it was a blast! Thank you to my wonderful wife and friends who joined me in some of the finest hill days of 2017. All the best for this year!
Have fun and take care.
END OF YEAR VIDEO