Scottish Winter 2007/08
Climbing and Mountaineering Reports
- Merry Hogmenay and Bonne Annee
It's been an eventful start to this winter season as the reports below demonstrate.
Fingers crossed for more good conditions in 2008. A very happy new year, on and
off the hill, to all the visitors to this site.
off to the Pyrenees to bring in the New Year with a few turns on the skis and
a bit of Cascade ice. If you need to contact me regarding a course booking you
can call me on 0791 777 3995. All the best, Rob.
"Ordinary Route", Glen Coe; "The Secret" is
repeated & Another fine new route on Ben Nevis....
bright moon illuminated the fresh snow on Stob Coire Nan Lochain
this morning. Steve and I climbed this excellent mountaineering
route up the crest of the Central Buttress, see photo below. The
lower section would benefit from a bit more snow and a bit more
freeze to keep the odd loose block in check! Over on the other side
of the Coire Mike
Pescod and client were enjoying good turfy mixed climbing on
the big news this winters night in Lochaber is a rapid second ascent
of "The Secret" has been made (Turner, Ashworth and Scott's
recent X,10). Ian Parnell, Guy Robertson and Mark Garthwaite climbed
the route earlier today. No doubt more information will soon be
forthcoming on the information super highway of the WWW.
Fyffe and Kenny Grant also put up a good new route on the Ben today.
Based around the summer HVS 'Chinook' high on 3-Gully Buttress,
their new winter line avoids the main 5a pitch by taking a fine
icy groove further right. Excellent climbing at a relatively amenable
Stob Coire An Laoigh
and I made the extra effort to get off the beaten track today and
headed up to this fine crag situated at 1000m in the Grey Corries,
Lochaber. Fresh overnight snow and a freezing level around 650m
gave a good wintery feel to the day.
is a pretty good rock climber who was keen to develop his more technical
mixed climbing skills. He's got an eye for a line too and picked
Andy Nisbet and Dave Mcgimpsey's 1*, IV,5 "Loopy Louie"
as the itinerary for the day.
done in February 2002 this fine route shows what potential there
still is for good new routes in the Highlands.
didn't quite finish the route due to the drive-in, walk-in and climb-in
(hard first pitch!) all taking longer than expected but enjoyed
the technical obstacles the steep quartzite tiers keep throwing
was upto 30cm of fresh windslab at the base of the crag and a soft fresh
covering on the ledges throughout the route.
Snowy but damp in the Northern Cairngorms
was pouring with rain and 4C in Fort William this morning and it
rained all the way on the drive over to the Cairngorms. However
at Coire Cas Car Park we met the isotherm (0C) and, pleasantly,
the heavens closed and the clouds parted - we could see snow plastered
crags! Unfortunately the freezing level followed us into the corries
and by the time we were established on the Mess of Pottage the steeper
routes were rapidly being stripped of snow.
We managed to avoid any 'wet tooling' however by following the excellent
left, then right, trending ramp and series of snowy ledges that
is 'The Hybrid'. The snow was soggy but the turf was frozen and
firm and we enjoyed the short well protected, technical little walls
this fine route keep throwing at you. We climbed the route in 7
(short!) pitches. The freezing level is dropping considerably tomorrow
and with more overnight snow we look set fair for a good wintery
weekend - See you out there!
Great Conditions in Lochaber...For Kayaking!
the Highlands go back 2 white 4 the weekend...
last couple of days here on the West Coast have been pretty wet
and wild. I was woken at 5am this morning by a wheely bin being
blown down the street! The Isotherm has also crept up the hill and
risen above the summits during the day. However the overnight showers
have given a fresh dusting of snow above 900m and the Isotherm is
definitely coming back down the hill as we head for the weekend.
good winter requires a stormy period with precipitation falling
as snow high up and getting blown into pack out the gullies and
plaster the faces. We have our first category 3 avalanche risk of
the season here in Lochaber tomorrow and the fresh snow on the way
will serve as a useful building block for the rest of the season.
It's a category 3 in the N. Cairngorms also tomorrow on the basis
of fresh overnight snow and strong SW winds. I'll be heading over
there tomorrow for some snowy buttress climbing and dust the christmas
cobwebs off the axes!
- Thanks to Rich Bentley of Mountain
Motion for these photos from Ben Nevis today. Hover over the image
with your mouse cursor for a caption.
there you go - fairly good icy conditions on 3-Gully Buttress and a decent
descent of No. 4 Gully....just shows what you can get done if you get
out there - even on the wet days!
- Joyeux Noël from the Nevis North Face....
and I walked in to the North Face of Ben Nevis today to assess snow
conditions for the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS),
Lochaber section. There was a small layer of fresh snow on top of
the old firm base producing a moderate and very localised avalanche
hazard - check out the detailed forecast here.
were cooler and icier than expected, especially on the roads early
this morning! Point Five Gully again had some ice in it with much
of the upper section of the route looking climbable. We had a brew
in the CIC hut on the way down and, more festively, erected our
inflatable christmas tree. This took rather more 'puff' than expected
leaving us glad the hut was at 600, not 6000m! We then gave a live
interview to local radio station 'Nevis
FM' and were thus broadcasting out to literally tens, if not
dozens, of listeners!
Christmas to all the visitors to this site - may all your winter views
- White Christmas Across the Hills of the West Highlands...
and showery weather here in Fort William has left a covering of
light and fresh snow down to 700m across the Aonachs, Mamores, Glen
Coe and Ben Nevis. Strong westerly winds during the night will have
deposited some fresh snow onto sheltered (mainly Easterly) aspects
above about 900m. Christmas Day promises a bright start here in
Lochaber with snow spreading in from the west above 900m. Sun AND
snow - neh bad! Now all we want for christmas is a few big dumps
of snow followed by a hard and sustained freeze - Come on Santa....work
some winter magic!
- Low Level Ice, High Level Wind in Lochaber
recent pattern of frosty Glens and milder tops due to the Inversions
has been broken. The legacy of this long cold snap lives on however
in well frozen turf and lots of low level ice in the Glens. Jenny
and I encountered an ice smothered road this morning attempting
to get into the Mamores above Spean Bridge. The 15km round trip
on foot deterred us, a shame as the fine mixed crag at Stob Coire
an Laoigh looked in good condition. Over at Aonach Mor the Gondola
wasn't running due to strong winds and later on in the Mamores we
nearly got blown over just trying to get to the bottom of the route.
Difficult mountain conditions but at least we now have some more
snow on the way - check out the MWIS
- Crotched Gully, Coire an-t-Sneachda, Cairngorms
yesterdays training, team family Hansen and I enjoyed perfect stiff
neve snow in Crotched Gully. We climbed this lean grade I/II in
5 pitches and great conditions. After topping out on the plateau
we walked over to the summit of Cairngorm, sun setting in the West,
moon rising in the East and yet more utterly stunning views of the
Highlands - we could get used to this weather up here!
the valley forests are cloaked in fairytaleesque frost, the buttresses
are still black as the ace of spades. However when the next snow falls
it will be onto dry rock, good neve and bomber turf - potentially excellent
mixed climbing condtions.
- No.3 & 4 Gully's and Ice building on Ben Nevis
cold nights, inversions and immaculate visibility are giving seriously
pleasant conditions on the hills throughout the Highlands.
Rich, Phil and I did some mountaineering movement skills training
in Coire na Ciste then enjoyed an ascent of No. 3 Gully. Before
descending No. 4 we enjoyied more perfect summit views.
Ice is building across the crags of Ben Nevis - The CIC cascades
had noticeably more ice on them at the end of the day than the start,
although they are still too thin to climb. As pictured both the
Curtain and Cascade were building ice and a team was setting off
up No.3 Gully Buttress which looked in good lean, sporting condition.
effort and Bon Courage to Emma and Jonathon who were setting off up to
do Tower Ridge as we returned to the car park well after dark. They certainly
had a perfect night for it!
- Into the Heart of the Cairngorms - Ben Macdui 1309m
really frosty and cold (-5C) day in the Glens gave another perfect clear
day throughout the Highlands. As predicted by the forecast, visibility
and air clarity was exceptional and from the summit of Ben Macdui (2nd
highest peak in the UK) we could see most of the Scottish Highlands, a
simply stunning view.
Coire an-t-Sneachda there were many teams enjoying the firm snow
and even some ice in the easier Gully lines such as The Runnel,
Central, Crotched, Red and Goat Track Gullies. Snow cover on the
plateau was surprisingly good and our team walked from the top of
The Goat Track to the summit of Macdui almost entirely on 'stomper'
neve and this would currently be a good journey on skis.
Eastern corries of Breariach probably have as good snow cover as
anywhere in the Highlands. Further South in the Cairngorms at Lochnager
trainee IFMGA Guide and all round war hero
Ashby reported that Douglas Gibson Gully (grade V) was in good
condition, but not much else was.
was working with Rich Bentley and his company Mountain Motion today -
Rich is running some ice
climbing courses this january on the mega cascades of Norway.
- Dry, bright, cold and crisp in The Cairngorms
It was great so see lots of teams out enjoying the bright weather
and fine conditions for winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms
today. Temperatures were colder than forecast both in the East and
West and down to a very frosty -4C in Spean Bridge. This has left
the remaining lean snow pack bullet hard and superb for cramponing.
Great training conditions for us, working for Mountain
Motion with a lively large Bristol Uni group. After some movement
skills training on the Coire Cas headwall we cramponed up to enjoy
a chilly but fine sunset on the summit of Cairngorm.
of teams were out enjoying fine conditions on the easier gullies
and buttresses in the Corries. Teams reported good stiff snow on
Central Gully and bomber neve and Turf on Euan Buttress in Coire
- An early winter Ski on Ben Nevis....
Snow profiles from Observatory Gully....
a former life, only a couple of winters ago actually, I could slip
my skis on in the patio of my little alpine apartment and slide
down to the largest ski lift in the world - offering a 2000m descent
for a 40m ski downhill. Things felt a little different this morning
as I strapped my Fat K2 skis to my pack and hoofed up a 1000m to
find the snow high on Ben Nevis. This journey is now much improved
though with the completion of an excellent new
Forestry Commission path linking the North Face and Dam car
snow line in Observatory Gully started at 910m from from where I
could skin up checking out various bits of ice that had formed.
Point Five was complete with thin and thawing ice - I suspect an
enterprising and cool headed team could have climbed it a few days
ago. Tower Scoop and Smiths were similarly continuous with very
thin and slightly thawing ice. Gardyloo and Tower Gully looked to
be complete with good stiff snow.
So whilst the buttresses are now totally black and much snow has
been stripped back from the gullies there is still good winter mountaineering
to be had. I skied down from 1150m in Observatory Gully and got
some good turns in on stiff, then soft snow.
dug a large snow pit at the narrows between Tower Scoop and Indicator
Wall which showed a good
of snow consisting of melt-freeze crystals varying from 0.5 - 1.5mm in
diameter. The temperature in the snowpack was generally -0.5C, the snow
surface temperature was 0C and the air temperature was 0.5C. As the weather
has been mild, but not warm, with a freeze at night and no fresh snow
the snowpack is fairly stable and I couldn't get an isolated block on
a 35 degree slope at 1150m to shear at all.
SAIS Lochaber section start their forecasting season today so be sure
to tune in to sais.gov.uk
and check the forecast before heading out on to the hill.
- Your Secret starter for 10 and dry but mild in the Highlands....
received a lot of emails over the last few days about Andy Turner's
impressive lead of 'The Secret'
on Ben Nevis. Most were expressing enthusiasm, inspiration and congratulations
in equal measures. Quite a few folk were puzzled, even frustrated,
as to why we hadn't published a grade for the route as part of the
'News Flash'. Some even suggested it could be considered egotistical
to not give at least an opinion of the grade. In reality the lads
had just got off the hill after climbing the hardest winter route
to have a ground-up, onsight ascent. They were buzzing and of course,
like everyone else, had no experience of on-sighting at this level!
Steve and Viv both indicated though, having seconded the pitch,
that it was likely to be harder than Dave Mcleod's IX, 9 in the
Southern Highlands. So it's taken a day or so for the guys to suggest
the grade should be X,10.....Gulp!
down to earth here in the Highlands it's been a dry and slightly
mild day. Much of the buttresses will have been stripped of frost
but the gullies, which had a decent early season build-up will still
have a good covering. So some of the classic easier winter lines
could be in good condition after an overnight frost high on the
mountain. Steeper mixed action may be put on hold for a wee while
though - so you'll have to wait before you can go and make the 2nd
ascent of The Secret to confirm the grade!
Turner leading pitch 2 of 'The Secret', Ben Nevis. Steve Ashworth and
Viv Scott belaying.
Thanks to Sam Loveday
- Nevis Mixed Bonanza Continues....
frosty night continued the fine mixed climbing conditions on Ben Nevis
and 6 of us walked up the Allt a' Mhuillin early this morning to see
this dawn view of the Orion Face plastered in snow.
and fairly weary from yesterdays 'wee outing' Steve and Andy did
well to haul themselves up onto the North Face again to try a
new line. They did 3 good pitches but a return match will be necessary
before yet another fine & hard new winter route is in the
bag. Over on South Trident Buttress Blair and Rich climbed 'Slab
Climb' and up on Creag na Ciste Martin and I climbed Darth Vader.
climbed by Simon Richardson and Chris Cartwright only 10 years
ago this massively obvious line, just right of Number 3 Gully,
is a superb, steep 4 pitch mixed route. The middle 2 pitches provide
really good chimney climbing with some very satisfying hooks around
well jammed chockstones - great stuff!
we walked down off the hill we met the freezing level coming up and bringing
with it soggy snow and, lower down, blackening buttresses.
- Perfect early season weather & conditions in Lochaber....
first ascent of Major new winter route on Ben Nevis.....
clear, cold night and hard ground frost gave rise to the perfect
early season winter day here in Lochaber - Simply superb weather
and I've just heard from an active new router who had taken a
drive up the West Coast just for a look - he said The Buachaille
in Glen Coe was looking superb and had caught the snow very well.
Up here it was good to see the Mamores and Aonachs looking very
white and wintery too.
up on the Ben were enjoying great mixed climbing conditions again
and Sam Loveday and Konrad climbed Gargoyle Wall and Kenny and
partner climbed Darth Vader.....But the big news is a major winter
first ascent has been completed by Andy Turner and Steve Ashworth....We're
going to take a short commercial break now (as they are still
walking down from the CIC!!) but stay tuned as there will be an
update later....ooohhh the anticipation!!
Secret", 70m - Andy Turner,
Steve Ashworth, Viv Scott, 10 December 2007
The often eyed but rarely tried (except by one or two very strong
teams) crack on the right wall of Number 3 Gully, Ben Nevis had
it's first ascent today. The strong team - Turnemater, Ashworth
and Scott timed their raid from the South to perfection and experienced
superb frosty conditions and great weather for the ascent.
described the "approach" pitch as harder than Sioux
Wall and the main pitch, led by Andy, as much, much harder than
Knuckleduster. The main pitch involved a mind-boggling array of
axe techniques from double can openers to wacky arm hooks around
tools to effect some kind of rest. This brutally sustained 35m
crack pitch ranged from fist to finger width and was fully iced
inside meaning the payload of large cams carried was for ballast
route was led entirely on-sight and in perfect style. A fantastic
example of the traditional Scottish winter ethic and perhaps the
hardest winter route in the UK led in this style. Discuss!
to Steve Ashworth, Viv Scott and Sam Loveday for the following
photos and video
route continues the great tradition of dossers at our house
in Fort William going up onto the Ben, strapping it on and
doing the business. Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, Knuckleduster
and now the Secret. Not sponsored heroes, but like Colton
and Mcyntire in the 70's just getting out there, trying
hard and producing some fantastic first ascents......Good
climbing forums to see the current discusion regarding
the ascent of The Secret.
- On the Strident Edge, Brilliant Mixed climbing on Ben Nevis....
had to be pretty keen to walk through the persistent "dreich"
on the West Coast this morning. Four of us were and finally found
a freezing level at around 900m at the base of South trident buttress
on Ben Nevis. Nick and Mark enjoyed Slab Climb and Martin and
I thought 'Strident Edge' was a brilliant snowed up rock route.
climbed in winter only a few seasons ago, by Gareth Hughes and
Erik Brunskill, these routes are indicative of the modern trend
towards high quality mixed routes on Nevis. Contrary to the traditional
image of the Ben being all too compact and unfriendly for mixed
climbing Strident Edge gave a series of exciting steep sections
on positive hooks with small footholds.
friend who did the route last winter suggested a grade of VI,7
but we both thought it a little tougher than that, not that the
numbers matter - it's just a great route and it does look rather
wild when viewed from the Coire!
descended into No. 4 Gully which had deep fresh windblown snow
in it. This was giving a considerable avalanche risk but also
potentially providing a good base for the rest of the winter.
- Good wintery conditions in the Northern Cairngorms....
The drive from West to East this
morning had a welcome mix of a starry night and frosty ground and
with temperatures at -3C in Kingussie I was glad to see the Gritters
working away. However the pinkish dawn gave the same warning that
the MWIS had already suggested about the approaching front. By the
time Nick and I topped out on the Mess of Pottage conditions were
fairly blizzard like and a lot of the recent fresh snow was getting
blown onto the top of North facing slopes on a strong southerly
wind. Take care with this tomorrow.
We climbed Wachacha cha cha, two
good sustained pitches up a summer rock climb with a fairly sustained
crux section on the second pitch well led by Nick. The rock was
lightly frosted with a fairly liberal coating of verglass in places.
Check out a few more snaps and video on Nick's
~ A Wintery but Wild weekend in store on the West & A Promising Forecast
for good winter weather next week.....
level temperatures as low as 4C in Fort William today ensured
the considerable amounts of precipitation fell as snow and settled
above about 500m. There's certainly some winter mountaineering
to be had this weekend. It looks like an early start will pay
dividends as the forecast front tracks off the Atlantic and across
the Highlands giving blizzards by early afternoon. It looks like
the East Highlands may stay a bit cooler and calmer longer and
I will be heading for an early start in the Cairngorms.
looks a better day all round although a little warmer so climbers
would be advised to stay high. The MWIS
forecasting team are suggesting a possible period of good
settled weather next week as a high pressure area becomes
slow moving over the UK. Bring it on!
~ "Back in Black" in the Highlands....
arrival back in the Highlands seems to have coincided with some
rather wild weather here on the West Coast. Strong winds and mildish
temperatures 0ver the last couple of days have given rain at all
a fine frosty start to the winter with good mixed climbing conditions
this is only a minor setback. There was some accumulation of snow
in the gullies before the milder weather and this should remain
as cooler weather returns to the Highlands tomorrow and remains
over the weekend and into next week.
tools out and eyes down for a great season. I will be posting reports
here regularly throughout the winter so keep an eye out, get it
bookmarked and send me any photos & reports
of your latest outing on the hill.
November 2007 ~ Great Conditions for hard mixed on Nevis & in the
Highland Winter began in earnest today with both the hills of Lochaber
and Cairngorms looking crisp and wintery under cobalt blue skies.
Nick Carter climbed a properly
frosty Hookers Corner and Rich Cross tackled the serious Prore in
Coire an Lochain and reported that temperatures never made it above
a hot achingly chilly -5C.
Also keenly anticipating
the forthcoming winter, Glenmore Lodge have produced an excellent
on-line avalanche quiz....Click
here to check out and improve your current snow sense skills.
Dave Hollinger and I finished
our winter essentials lecture tour in Essex last night and are looking
forward to getting back north and amongst the developing winter.
To celebrate winters arrival
Highland Guides are offering a 10% course discount to any client
booking and paying the complete balance before christmas 07. So
get in touch and get
your winter mountaineering for the forthcoming
Press! I've just
heard from Steve Ashworth and Tim Blakemore, down from an early
season foray high on Ben Nevis. In a fine display of early season
enthusiasm and talent they made what is perhaps the 3rd ascent of
Sioux Wall, a summer HVS on 3 Gully Buttress. More details and photos
are available on Tim's own site www.northernmountainsport.co.uk
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