Winter 2019...Here it comes!

Beinn Nuis.jpg

Betwixtmas… that leftovers laden lull between Christmas and Hogmanay when nobody can remember what day of the week it is. Hopefully folk are getting the chance to get out and enjoy the great outdoors and work off some of those mince pies!

We are in full packing mode, shifting our base up to Fort William for three months in the New Year. What this means for our clients is two things:

  • We can offer winter Munro bagging adventures and winter skills days with more reliable conditions than we usually see on Arran. So if you’ve never used ice axe and crampons before, or simply wish to be guided around the Scottish mountains this season by experienced Winter Mountain Leaders, get in touch.

  • We are still available for days out on Arran, either for wildlife watching or (conditions allowing) winter walking, - so please also get in touch to check availability.

More info about winter walking and skills days here:

Fingers crossed for a good winter season with lots of snowy fun for everyone. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the Festive Season and have a happy Hogmanay!

Extreme Weather

Great views from the Montagne de Gresse on Saturday. 

Great views from the Montagne de Gresse on Saturday. 

Happy New Year! 2018 has been a bumpy ride out here in South East France with lots of extreme weather, heavy snow fall and Storm Eleanor, who brought avalanches, rock fall, landslides and flooding to the region, including all of the above to our valley. Being from Arran, we are used to wild conditions, but recent days have surprised everyone, including the locals. The avalanche hazard in the high mountains is still at Level 3 in the valley, and it is even higher further east. Sometimes a cafe or admin day is the best option. 

Nevertheless, we've enjoyed some excellent adventures in between the storms, and when Eleanor was at her peak, we headed south and west to Provence for a couple of days respite, cycling in the sun. I was also grateful to grab a solo day sunshine on Saturday, snowshoeing near Gresse en Vercors. 

This week my friend and colleague Cat from Reach the Peak has joined me as a partner in snowshoeing crime.  Today we were in the Vercors massif, enjoying firm snow, and watching rain fall on all the peaks around us apart from our own- St Michel, which seemed to resist the rain until we were well on our way back to Bourg. The Vercors has been a brilliant place to retreat to while the higher areas have such difficult conditions, but the snow pack is melting there, and becoming increasingly patchy.  If only we could coax some of the snow falling in the east a bit further down hill? 

Ascending Pic Sant Michel via the Col de l'Arc. 

Ascending Pic Sant Michel via the Col de l'Arc. 

A White Christmas!

Lucy: We've heard a rumour that has travelled all the way from Scotland to le Bourg d'Oisans... Apprently there has been a White Christmas in some parts of the country... We hope that many of you have been able to get out and enjoy the snow, as we have over here. Today sadly,  it is mild and raining so we are hiding at home.  Above the house they are blasting loose rock to clear a road that was blocked in the last big storm. Tomorrow another epic snowfall is forecast.


I've been absolutely blessed with a fantastic welcome and a great new snowshoing companion. Kirsten and I made the most of the interim good weather over the weekend in the run up to Christmas. On Saturday I was a guest of the Grenoble-Oisans sector of the Club Alpin Français on one of their regular saturday meets.  This active club enjoy a lot of Snowshoeing and Kirsten is a regular particpant. On this occasion we met on the outkirts of Grenoble and headed in convoy up to Engins, in the Vercors Massif, for a snow shoe hike up to the plateau above Sornin.

As we set off the mist hung thick in the valley and it was a dark and depressive atmosphere in the forest.  It's quite a pull up to Sornin but once above the hamlet the mist began to disperse above us, and it wasn't long before we popped out of a cloud inversion in to brilliant blue skies. We paused at a chalet to "casse le croute" and also for some transceiver/probe/shovel practice, with the wise Francis patiently coaching us all on our technique. After lunch we continued in a circuit through the woodland on the plateau before eventually descending in to the mist once more. For me, this was an excellent experience- once more I was made to feel very welcome, and I enjoyed practicing my dodgy french on the group. It was also very interesting to see "how the locals do it", and I am grateful to Francis for sharing his knowledge and experience.


The following day Kirsten and I were a little tired! However, we managed to muster up some energy and Kirsten skillfully drove us up the steep snowy road to Villard Reymond from where we could easily access the small but steep little summit of Le Pregentil, that looms above the valley where we live. It was late afternoon, the sun was beaming at us from across the mountains, and we lingered for a long time on the summit taking it all in.

Yesterday of course was the big day, and we decided to spend the daylight hours outside, knowing that it would be the last good day for a while. Wally and Lee joined us for an ascent of La Quarlie, a 2322m summit above the village of Besse with incredible views of Le Meije. The sun beamed down on us and at times it was so hot we felt we were snowshoeing in the Caribbean not the Alps in December. The Quarlie itself is a big rounded lump, dare I say it a slog, nevertheless dwarfed by everything else around it. Again, we lingered on the summit, and the sun was setting as we raced back down to Besse so as not to miss our Christmas Dinner.

La Quarlie.png

The coming week looks a bit mixed for us out here, with bands of rain and snow coming through and topping up the mountains with their winter garb. We hope that all our friends and clients have had an enjoyable Christmas, with lots of time to spend with family, including some time outside having fun. In the closing days of 2017 we are reflecting on a busy year for us, and to looking ahead to perhaps our busiest yet to come. We would like to thank our customers for choosing to book their outdoor adventures with us and to wish them all the very best in this festive season.

Hitting the Ground Snowshoeing...

Wally and Mikaela amongst the snow ghosts on Le Moucherotte.

Wally and Mikaela amongst the snow ghosts on Le Moucherotte.

Lucy: Its exactly a week since I joined Wally in Le Bourg d'Oisans, where we are spending the winter season. Life is a bit different here to the one I'm used to back home on Arran. It's bitterly cold outside, (rather than damp), and everything is covered in snow. Everything! Great early season conditions here in the Alps mean that the mountains are in excellent condition for snowshoeing, yet at the same time, the avalanche hazard is considerable or higher.

My job this winter is to build up my experience and fill my logbook as I work my way along the IML qualification pathway. I've hit the ground snowshoeing, literally, and already enjoyed some quality days in the mountains. Here are a few pics from the week which I hope you enjoy.

Mikaela in the forest at Chamrousse.

Mikaela in the forest at Chamrousse.

On Monday, Wally and I met with Mikaela Toczek, who is based near Grenoble and on a similar mission to me. We headed in to the Vercors Massif, with snow falling all around us, and bagged Le Moucherotte, a small summit overlooking Grenoble. Conditions felt distinctly Scottish, with a cold breeze and rime ice all over everything.

Roosting "igloo", probably for Black Grouse.

Roosting "igloo", probably for Black Grouse.

On Wednesday, the avalanche hazard went through the roof, with a cold northerly wind shifting the powdery snow around, so Mikaela and I headed to the forest behind the ski area at Chamrousse. There were lots of signs of nature around for us to enjoy without sticking our necks out to much. We enjoyed discovering fox tracks, mountain hare, and the roosting burrows of black grouse amongst the trees. 

Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, a time that back home on Arran,  is invariably dark and damp. My normal response is to enjoy cups of tea and cake by the fire, but yesterday I joined my new snowshoe buddy Kirsten for an exploration of the plateau and ridges above Les Signaruax. We were treated to a magical display of winter light as we emerged through a cloud inversion and in to the sunshine.  I can safely say that this is the first time that I have been sunburned on the winter soltice!

Kirsten on the plateau above Les Signaraux.

Kirsten on the plateau above Les Signaraux.

Snowy Goatfell

Stacach Nov 17.png

Winter is off to a flying start!  On Sunday we were out on the hill with our friend Kirstie and her wee search dog Cailleag, looking for some snowy fun, and we were certainly not disappointed!

We took the steep path from Corrie, in to Coire Lan, and then up the headwall towards the bealach between North Goatfell and Mullach Buidhe. The snow lay deep, but not particularly crisp, more deep and a bit sticky... Once on the ridge the wind began to blow. We wrapped up warm, actually quite excited to feel the nip of winter after so much rain, and headed along the ridge towards Goatfell.

Stacach Nov 17a.png

We took the traverse path that avoids the rocky scramble of Stacach ridge.  This is not always the easy option as is also potentially quite tricky in snowy conditions as it lies in the lee of the ridge and can sometimes be buried in snow.  However, prevailing winds have been northerly recently and the ridge was mostly quite well scoured.  It's worth mentioning that although the deeper pillows in the sheltered bits were well bonded this time, retracing our steps is an option we always have in our minds on this route in winter.

Team Stacach 17.png

We reached Goatfell summit and were delighted to find another friend up there- Zabdi of Flying Fever Paragliding School (on foot for a change). Arran is a beautiful place, especially under a blanket of snow, but it's the people that really make it special.  I absolutely love this place and am going to miss home like mad this winter.  For more pics of our adventures, check out Kirstie's twitter feed.  She's a talented photographer, and her pics really do the day justice!

It's not too late to book your winter adventure on Arran.  Lucy is a qualified Winter Mountain Leader and has some availability over the next couple of weeks.  The forecast is awesome, so this is a great opportunity to see the mountains at their best!

Sunblock and Snowshoes!

Storm Doris brought snow, and Storm Ewan washed it away again. Happily, on Ewan's departure a colder airflow was sucked across the UK and we woke up to snow at valley level once more. What's more, the sun was shining.  With no work in the diary, and a good forecast, it was time to take a personal day on the hill. We decided to play local, left the car behind, and jumped on our mountain bikes to head up through the Loy Woods towards Stob A'Ghriainain, a Corbett with a ringside view of Ben Nevis.

Once on the ridge, the snow was deep and fluffy. Lucy got her snowshoes out and the vibe was distincly Alpine.

A day of two halves....

Lucy writes: I didn't take any photos on the first part of my day with Phil, Nigel and Mark in the Mamores. Heavy rain and strong winds were forecast and the weather delivered. We banked on the weather calming down around midday and started later than usual from Achriabhach with a plan to climb Mullach nan Coirean. When we set out the Nevis was in phenomenal spate, and the little burns coming off the hills were wild torrents.

Our day didn't go entirely to plan, but the summit is optional. With mixed experience and fitness levels in the team, we took a leisurely pace, and explored the (soggy) snowpack, discussed mountain hazards, navigation and enjoyed the improving views as the weather cleared.  We didn't make the true summit, but for at least one of the lads this was his first Scottish mountain, and a baptism of fire. A good effort by all.

The high temperatures and heavy rain have stripped a lot of snow and saturated the snowpack.  Cooling temperatures should bring some stability and more snow is forecast.  A good week is potentially in prospect.

Snowshoes in Scotland

Lucy writes: Jen and I headed up in to the Monadhliath yesterday for a day of navigation and running around in the snow. It was meant to be an easy day, but Geal Charn is a fair slog up, and with the bad vis and full on micro nav it felt like a proper Scottish day out.  I was delighted that there was enough good snow for me to spend most of the day in snowshoes. Poor Jen had to wade bare booted for much for the day. Nails!

IML Winter Training

Snowpack analysis

Lucy writes: I'm just back from a magical week in the French Alps on an International Mountain Leader award winter training course based in Le Grand Bornand with Plas Y Brenin. During the week we encountered varied snow conditions, from hard old snow to epic amounts of fresh that fell towards the end of the week. We covered all aspects of safe travel, including avalanche and snowpack awareness, terrain, weather and route choice. There was lots of learning anf fun adventures on Snowshoes around our base at Le Grand Bornand. After the course finished I spent a couple of days with some of the others from the course exploring on snowshoes and putting our new skills in to practice.