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COLD CONDITIONS HANGING ON

2018/01/22 18:53

Heading up Windy Col
Alladin's Couloir


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

2018/01/21 18:12

Bynack Mor from Meall a' Bhuachaille
Two easy shears at our test pit today
No comment needed
Busy on the Bhuachaille!
Earlier in the day
A partly frozen Loch Morlich
Time to head own
Changeable weather on the way today. Weather forecasts suggesting gales in the afternoon and temperatures on the rise towards dusk in The Cairngorms. With this in mind it was a day at lower altitudes. Carol and I headed to Meall a' Bhuachaille for Day 3 of her Winter Course this week. Today's plan as for Navigation (the number 1 winter skill), avalanche awareness (again this week) and some ice axe arresting (quite a low skill on a list of winter skills). It was very pleasant on our way up to Meall a' Bhuachaille which was mobbed with lots of folk, more groups than on a nice summer's day! The summit wasn't at all windy. We walked down and around to to the NE slopes below the Creagan Gorm summit. This is a great wee spot for some sliding and avalanche awareness. The small depression just below the summit collects snow well from the SW winds through the winter months. The winds suddenly increased around this area as we dug our avalanche test pit. As fast as we were digging it out it was filling in from the heavy drifting. We found two relatively easy shears at 30cm and 55cm. Our plan for some sliding was abandoned with the high winds increasing minute y minute. Carol navigated back to the main path in deep drifts and 50-60mph winds. It wasn't actually snowing but it may as well have been. Snow racing through the air as we plunged through deep snow and back to civilisation. A very different day out from the last couple of  days. A Scottish winter always throws up brilliant conditions and never two days the same. Funny that there wasn't a single person left on the hill when we were getting wind blasted down the path!

WINDY AND A THAW ON THE WAY


BUSY DAY ON THE CAIRNGORMS

2018/01/20 17:57

Carol on the Fiacaill 
Busy along the ridge
Scary
Brilliant snow
Down
Great axe and crampon placements 
More fun
Final step
Really?
Busy today
It was a fine, cold start to the day with light winds in The Cairngorms. Carol on day 2 of her 4 Day Winter Course with me this week. Today we ramped it up a bit and some steeper terrain. What better place to do this than the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda? It was quite busy with about 10 folk but we bypassed them all. Carol moveing quickly but still enjoying the grand views and brilliant snow conditions. We were up on the plateau by lunch time but the cloud had come in by this time. Poor visibility along Cairn Lochan and here the snow is variable with a mix or rime, ice, breakable crust and some neve. Busy day at the Ski area but we had avoided the Saturday crowds for much of the time. Another brilliant winter day and great to see how novice clients progress so quickly with bags of confidence. Tad windy tomorrow and some more snow heading our way. Winter continues....

BUSY DAY ON THE CAIRNGORMS


BEST NEVE SO FAR THIS SEASON

2018/01/19 20:04

Carol enjoying the neve and sun
Fiacaill Buttress looking fine
Great snow for step cutting
Brilliant neve for crampons
Mess of Potage
Alladin's Buttress

Windy Col
Beinn Meadhoin
Cairn Gorm
It was another very cold day on the Cairngorms. Summit temperatures around minus 7 degrees with a high windchill. Carol is out with me over this weekend on a 4 day winter course. Completely new to winter hillwalking. What a day to start off your career in winter mountains! Stunning morning with lots of sunshine. Coire an t-Sneachda looking wonderful. Easy, well trampled trail into the coire. We headed to the bottom of the slopes leading up to Windy Col. Having a West facing aspect this gave some fantastic hard snow, from being wind scoured over the last few days. Some brilliant neve so a full range of step cutting and cramponing techniques could be mastered. We moved up the hill and had brilliant views all day. The wind was gusting a bit near the top, it's not called Windy Col for nothing! The plateau is wind scoured but has a breakable crust for good stretches. We had a stroll up to a rime encrusted Cairn Gorm. The late afternoon light was wonderful on the summit. Another top winter day out in The Cairngorms. Tomorrow is looking like a cracker, enjoy!

BEST NEVE SO FAR THIS SEASON


CALM, COLD & SUN TODAY IN THE CAIRNGORMS

2018/01/18 18:22

Steve on the steep ground again
Lovely morning in Sneachda
Climbers in Jacob's Ladder, not me!
Pic nic with no wind and views today
Ice on the west aspect of Pt.1141m
Nice views
Snow banks building up at the Moraines
Good fun
Nice ice
Fiacaill Buttress 
At last we got a day of calm winds, clear skies and even some sunshine! Day 4 of Steve's winter course with me. For his final day he was keen to get some more experience on steep ground. Tackling route finding, safe approaches and plenty of rope work. We went back to the west side of the Fiacaill Coire Chais, below pt.1141m. Steve enjoyed this area yesterday so he was keen to get back and experience it again. The hills were looking brilliant under a thick white coat and blue skies. Plenty of folk out walking, climbing, skiing. Quite a large group of people at the bottom section of Jacob's Ladder. Not a choice for me today in the current avalanche conditions . Good route choice a very wise idea at the moment with the cold conditions continuing into the weekend and beyond. Be avalanche aware folks!  Thanks to Steve this week. A great 4 days. Brilliant banter and I've never had a client who has been continuously cheery and great fun even in the toughest, windiest conditions. Cheers Steve.

CALM, COLD & SUN TODAY IN THE CAIRNGORMS


STEEP GROUND, SNOW SHELTERS & WINDSLAB

2018/01/17 17:51

Steve on the ice
Lunch time shelter
Good snow and ice on Westerly aspect


Very weak layer!
Not much effort to release this one
Plenty of ptarmigan today
The odd deep drift
Blue skies, briefly
It was a very wintery scene in the streets of Aviemore this morning. More overnight snow and heavy snow showers passing through. The ski road up to Cairn Gorm was open and clear. Winds were manageable today with only 40mph+. Steve on Day 3 of his course with me this week. We did my old trick of setting off a tad earlier this morning to let other folk bat a nice trail up into the coire. Another vital winter skill. We headed to the moraines to did a nice snow shelter for lunch. Big drifts here. We dug a few test pits. Not surprisingly the wind slab is fragile and it didn't take much of an effort to release a 30cm slab on the easterly aspect. After lunch we headed onto the western slopes of Pt.1411m (Fiacaill Coire Chais). Here the winds have well scoured the slopes. I very rarely use this hillside for skills as it is quite a bouldery place but today it was brilliant. There as some old snow, neve and water ice on the bigger boulders. Great place to practice some steep ground for Steve. Up on the top it was a chilly wind. The snow and cloud came in again in the afternoon. Fab winters day again and Steve enjoying the fun. That's what it's all about!

STEEP GROUND, SNOW SHELTERS & WINDSLAB


HEAVY SNOW, NAVIGATION, ICE

2018/01/16 20:22

Ice and windslab
Navigation
Coire an Lochain
Steep ground
Ice (photo Steve Owens)
Knots in winter
Hasty Pit
Tower of Rime, Coire an Lochain
Drifts again
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

2018/01/15 20:29

Steve getting stuck into the pinnacles 
Fab snow
Rime Towers 
Views & windless 
Blue skies over Sneachda 
Cairn Gorm 
Final bit
Fab snow
The high winds of the last couple of days finally eased off this morning.  The freezing levels dropped throughout the day and we had some clear views. Steve is out with me on a four day course this week. He's a regular summer and winter walker living in the English Lake District with hills in his doorstep. There is always something new to learn in winter though.  So we kicked off with a fabulous mountaineering day on the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda.  We headed into Coire an t-Sneachda which was easy going with icy trails and a stroll through the boulder field. The snow was great getting up through the coire onto the ridge. Steve was loving the ridge with it's spectacular situation. High windchill on the plateau but with just a moderate breeze it was quite pleasant.  We topped off the day with a wander up to Cairn Gorm which is well plastered with rime. Top day. Winds back tomorrow and more snow showers.

NO WINDS & FAB SNOW


WINDIER

2018/01/14 18:02

Boot and axe belay
'T' axe
Stomper
Snow bollard
Smiling in the spindrift 
Pic-nic spot
Another wild day in The Cairngorms for Simon and Alistair.  Plan was to get into Sneachda and have another mountaineering day on Point Five Gully.  It was clear from early on that that idea may be shelved. Winds were even stronger than yesterday.  It was a struggle shortly after leaving the carpark.  Plan B kicked in and we struggled our way to the lower slopes of the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda.  Here we had a bit of shelter from the 50mph winds.  We covered more snow belays for the majority of today. The temperatures had rise through the day but becoming cold again this evening.  More snowfall to come over the next few days.

WINDIER


WILD & WONDERFUL

2018/01/13 20:03

Fab snow on the Fiacaill 
Simon enjoying the ridge
Italian Hitch
Tricky navigation in the winds
Alistair enjoying the ridge


Fab axe placements
Last bit
Coire an t-Sneachda busy
Flat Iron

Snow belays

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

2018/01/11 20:13

Coire Brochain, Braeriach
What a stupendous day it's been here in the Cairngorms and I suspect many other Highland areas. The high pressure system we have been enjoying for over a week was still dominant today. Light winds gave us a wonderful temperature inversion for most of the day on the mountains. It was looking a bit uncertain at first light this morning. There was cloud at all levels and it did look stubborn.
Sun just creeping up behind the Fiacaill Buttress
It wasn't until around 9.45am that the cloud just suddenly thinned at around the 950m altitude. I was up on the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda ridge and had the place to myself. Hardly a breath of wind and the the mountains were revealed in all their glory. The trails into the Northern corries are now well trodden and very easy. Up on the Fiacaill ridge it is also brilliant walking and climbing. All the ledges are well stamped and fantastic cramponing and brilliant axe placements.
Looking back to Strathspey and the inversion
Fiacaill Buttress
Absolutely brilliant romping up the ridge and some wonderful views. I was amazed there weren't more folk out. Just a few in Coire Sneachda. If only the Fiacaill ridge was a bit longer! Before you know it, you're on the plateau.
Strathspey and Aviemore in cloud all day
Wisps of cloud across the Cairngorm plateau
Coire an Lochain
Pinnacles
Enroute to Ben Macdui
The day was young so a wander over to Ben Macdui was next. The going across the plateau is still hard work, ankle deep soft snow. Bright sunshine though so it made it far more pleasant! Sun in my face, no wind. Shades the order of the day.
Sun above the temperature inversion
Cairn Toul-Braeriach plateau from Ben Macdui
The views across to Cairn Toul, Sgorr an Lochan Uaine and Braeriach from Ben Macdui are superb. With the added bonus of the temperature inversion it made it even more special. The best viewpoint is just off the summit trig, down toward the Lairig Ghru. It's here you get the true scale of the Cairngorms. I sat for an hour watching the cloud come and go in the sun. Brilliant.
Cairn Toul and Sgor an Lochan Uaine above the Lairig Ghru
Time to head back and once again walking into the various layers of cloud across the plateau. I saw a Brocken Spectre and a Fogbow within 20 minutes of each other. Then another beautiful sunset, there's been a few of those this week.
Fogbow on the plateau
Coire an Lochain
A fine end to another brilliant day. Last good day if you like sun and lightish winds tomorrow. Then we are in for some Atlantic kind of weather heading this way. All good timing for another 10 days of back to back work for me starting on Saturday. Forecasts suggesting more snow to come and staying cold on the mountains for at least a week. It's shaping up to be a good solid winter and nice to get some lovely weather thrown in too!


TEMPERATURE INVERSIONS & A STUNNER OF A DAY


BEST SNOW CONDITIONS SO FAR

2018/01/09 18:32

Fiacaill Coire an Sneachda
Cloudscapes today
Great conditions along the Fiacaill
Windswept ridge poking through the cloud
Empty ridge
Teasing cloud and sun
Great fun
Sun still trying to break through
One of the best things about the winter mountains in Scotland is their ever changing conditions. Very rarely are there tow days the same. Today on the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda it was probably the best snow conditions so far this season. The last couple of days there as been strong winds which have blown clear the ridge and left behind some wonderful hard packed snow on all the ledges and steps along the ridge. The walk into Coire an t-Sneachda was well stamped and a joy this morning. I had a leisurely 11.30am start, the winds had eased slightly but there was still lots of drifting, even at lower altitudes. The SE winds were a little less cold. I had the entire ridge to myself and saw no one apart from a few winter skills groups lower on the ridge and on the descent off the Fiacaill Coire Chais ridge. The plateau was a joy to walk along. Here too the wind has scoured and blown most of the loose snow into the corries. By early afternoon the visibility was poor along the plateau.


BEST SNOW CONDITIONS SO FAR


AN TEALLACH, WINTER PHOTOGRAPHY

2018/01/08 16:37

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


CALM, COLD,SUNNY

2018/01/03 16:50

Fiacaill Coire Sneachda
Snow becoming firmer
Sunshine, blue skies and no wind!
Rime coated ridge again
Coire an t-Sneachda
Fiacaill Buttress
3 folk today, busy
Windslab on Easterly aspects
The crux bit
Some cloud later
Sneachda
More blue skies
Loch Morlich in the distance
Fiacaill Buttress
Another named Atlantic storm (Eleanor) hit the UK last night and into this morning. This time the Northern Highlands escaped it completely. In The Cairngorms there was hardly any winds on the tops. Probably the best place in the UK if you like clear skies and sunshine too! It's always nice to get a calm, sunny day with stunning views. The mountains looking brilliant just now in their heavily rimed encrusted crags. Up on the plateau there is some depth of snow, despite the strong winds of yesterday. If you're into ski touring I would say you could have a good trip out across the plateau. There are some small areas of rocky, windblown terrain but these can be avoided. The snow is still not consolidated. The route into Sneachda is well trodden and compacted snow so a breeze to walk in to the corries today. Up on the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda it is really nice walking/climbing. The ridge lower down having been blown of most loose snow so no deep plunging up to your shins!. A fabulous day to be out.


CALM, COLD,SUNNY


END OF YEAR VIDEO

2018/01/02 16:02


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


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