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.

Snowy Scrambling on Schoolhouse Ridge

Mild winds and a temperature inversion have brought a thaw to the West Coast of Scotland that is quickly stripping lower routes and turning higher routes to mush.  After trying to second guess the conditions we admitted defeat and picked a route that will go in any weather. 

Schoolhouse Ridge is a fun line of rocky steps above the school house in Ballachulish. Today it had a snowy side and a bare side.  We climbed the crest with our right feet in the snow and our left on bare rock and turf. The crampons stayed in the bag and at times it was more of a snowed up scramble than a winter route.

Even so, it was fun, and the views towards Glencoe were magnificent.

With more mild weather in the forecast. Will anything of winter survive?

A busy weekend...

Lucy writes: Its been a busy three days for us!  It began on Friday, with me working in the East on the first day of a winter skills workshop for Nineonesix Guiding in partnership with the SYHA. This great wee course was supposed to have been delivered in torridon, where the stunning scenery and remote location ensure an special and unique experience.  Sadly our reluctant winter has put paid to that, and the course was relocated to the Cairngorms, where more reliable coonditions ensured a quality outdoor classroom was available.  We had a great day, covering some navigation (despite the good vis) and avalanche avoidance,  as well as movement skills with and without crampons.

Meanwhile....Wally was having some fun with a personal solo day out on the East Ridge of Beinn A Chaorainn, a grade I winter climb and a fine easy mountaineering route.

Saturday saw Wally doing a CPD Avalanche Avoidance refresher on Aonach Mor with the Scottish Avalanche Information Service, and generously supported by the Chris Walker Memorial Trust. Like first aid training, keeping these skills up to date and fresh is an important part of staying current as a winter leader, and so we grab every opportunity we can to learn from experts in this field. Worth remembering though that whilst its easy to get geeky about snow, the basics are simple- knowledge of weather, snowpack, terrain and human factors form the basis of good planning and decision making, supported by forecasts from the SAIS avalanche if available.  Meanwhile, on the mountain next door, I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides, helping to guide a team of seven intrepid lads to the summit of Ben Nevis as part of a winter Three Peaks Challenge.

Finally, yesterday Wally and I were working together, this time for Reach The Peak, on an introductory winter skills day on Ben Vorlich, near Loch Earn. Our team of ten intrepid hillwalkers certainly experienced the "Full Scottish", with spindrift, high winds, and deep snow. We managed to get lots of learning in depsite the weather!

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!

Na Gruagaichean

The last couple of days have seen a gradual thaw accompanied by damp conditions.  We didn't let that stop us today and headed up on to the hills above Kinlochleven with friend Jen. Once on the ride, the wind was pretty ferocious and conditions under foot slippery with wet snow and melting ice. We topped out on Na Gruagaichean and retraced our steps towards Kinlochleven.

As we descended below the cloudbase, we were treated to the most fabulous views of Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe.

High Stakes on the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach

A personal mountaineering day for us yesterday, on the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Mheadonach.  Its a stunning ridge, on the north side (facing Aonach Mor) of the horseshoe that includes in the Carn mor Dearg Arete and the summit of Ben nevis. The route was not in great condition. In fact, thanks to the recent mild weather and only a cosmetic covering of snow, it was a tottering pile and a great deal of care required! A thaw is due tomorrow, and then hopefully a return to more wintery conditions. Fingers crossed for a bit of consolidation up high. The mountains (and those that love them) need it!

Looking for the White Room in the MonadhLiadh

With fresh snow overnight and more falling, we headed out East today for a bit of a winter warm up, in search of the famous "White Room" and some navigation.  Although snow fell all day, we didn't really find whiteout conditions, but we did do plenty of nav: up A' Cailleach and over towards Carn Slugain, two rounded Munros in the Monadhliadh. We had a great day, visited a bothy we hadn't been to before. We enjoyed a few sightings of bounding mountain hares along the way.


Mountain Hare tracks

Mountain Hare tracks

Creag Meagaidh winterish

Lucy writes: We are enjoying settling in to our base up near Fort William and although winter is a little sparse at the moment, we've been seeking it out up high.  Today Wally and I set off with friend Jen for Creag Meagaidh. With cold firm snow patches, its in very friendly condition for hill walkers at the moment, with none of the frequent avalanche hazard in The Window.


Not much snow in The Window!

Not much snow in The Window!

It was cold and beautiful up on the Plateau. A chilly wind kept everyone moving to the summit. We descended via Puist Coire Ardair and cut steps on several snow patches on the way down.

Viewranger track of our route.

Viewranger track of our route.

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.