Saturday, 16 December 2017

FIACAILL COIRE AN T-SNEACHDA

Sam on the Fiacaill
Rime again

Snow consolidating slowly
Sam having a great time under the mask!
Steep bits
Steep down there
Self belay
More rime
Sam,summit celebrations
Fun

Sam is out with me this weekend on a 2 Day Course. Another bespoke winter course which always prove favourable over a mixed group skills for my clients. Sam's only experience of winter mountaineering before today was a couple of hours in an indoor ice climbing wall at his home village of London! So today it was into the big outdoors and some 'real' winter mountaineering. Another sub zero temperatures day, around minus 5 on the tops. Full cover of snow to all levels. The going was made easier with a 'Saturday into Coire an t-Sneachda' trench. About time someone else did all the trail breaking this week :) . We headed over to the  lower slopes of the Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda ridge to run through some axe and boot techniques prior to heading up the hill. Sam was up for something steeper and exciting so we headed up onto the ridge. Third time this week on the Fiacaill for me, a great day out as always. Sam was loving every minute and quick learning all the skills required to negotiate the route. The sun was trying to break through the thin cloud cover and we had some nice glimpses of the hills. Only light winds today but still from a Northerly direction so very cold. Full cover of snow on the plateau but this too is consolidating slowly and the walking much easier than early this week. Great day out and great company.
Temperature change tomorrow as we get some SW's. Should prove great for the snow pack with a refreeze. Winter continues.....

Friday, 15 December 2017

WINTER MOUNTAINEERING

Mick loving the mountaineering
Snow belays
Mick leading the way
Visibility at 800m
Some navigation
Brilliant
Up and down
Visibility at 1100m
Rimed up ridge
Day 4 of Mick's Winter Course with me. Today it was all about putting the skills gained over the last 3 days into action. Mick did all the route planning, decision making, avalanche awareness and navigation. There was more overnight snow and snow showers through the day. The cloud base was below 700m when we set off and we were in the cloud all day. The trail into Coire an t-Sneachda was hardly trodden again today. So another day of hard graft trail breaking in places. We went over to the foot of the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda where there has been plenty of snow drifting onto the Eastern side of the ridge. Some good slopes to go through some snow anchors before gaining the ridge proper. There was a cold Northerly today and the now showers soon got going, coupled with plenty of spindrift. Higher up the ridge and the rocks were well rimed up. Mick did a grand job of leading and we had a brilliant afternoon. Poor visibility of course on the plateau.So some more navigation to get us back off and down to end a brilliant 4 days. Cheers Mick and hope to see you in the New Year!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

EASIER UNDERFOOT & FABULOUS WEATHER

Mick below the cliffs of mess of Pottage
Fiacaill Buttress and ridge
Snow consolidating slowly
Rope work
Coire an t-Sneachda
Alladin's Couloir & Fiacaill Buttress
Jacob's Ladder
Spot the climbers
Day 3 of Mick's winter course with me this week. Another day of steep ground experience. We took a well trodden trail into Coire an t-Sneachda this morning. What a morning it was! Beautiful sunrise, hardly a breeze and sub zero temperatures again. We walked over to the Mess of Pottage crag, away from the Easterly aspects thereby avoiding the avalanche potential on these slopes. There was a big difference in the amount of wind slab since we were in the corrie just two days previous. Fiacaill Buttress and the area below this well snowed up. We've had moderate to strong winds and more snowfall since the start of this week. The area below the Mess of Pottage and up towards Windy Col was a good choice today. Mick was wanting some instruction with rope work whilst on steeper terrain. We went through a variety of rock anchors and belays as we worked our way up to the plateau. There were a few teams climbing on the Mess. Apart from these climbers the corrie was quiet. It was a stunning day to be out with fabulous views and more blue skies. Winds swing to the North tomorrow, more cold conditions.I'm liking this December compared to December 2016!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

AVALANCHE AWARE & STEEP GROUND

Coire an lochain
Weakness within the snowpack
...and more weaknesses
Safe on steep, broken ground
Rime and ice caked crags
The Vent area
Coire an Lochain and the Great Slab
Hard work getting through the drifts
Afternoon light
Easier ground
Hard walk out in thedrifts
Sunset
More snow fell overnight and into this morning. Stronger Westerly winds making walking anywhere a more arduous affair. Today Mick and I were focusing on Avalanche Awareness & movement on steep ground on Mick's second day out with me. The SAIS Avalanche forecasts will be up and running again on Friday 15th December. Until then the only decisions on where to go and where not to go are the ones YOU make. The avalanche decision and assessment should always be taken into account on every winter journey. We set off at the Coire Cas carpark and after leaving the ski paraphernalia behind we saw no one all day until back at the carpark. Needless to say the going was tough. No footprints or trench to make life easier today. We went to Coire an Lochain, taking nearly two hours to the lochan's, twice the usual time. Eastern and North Eastern aspects have gained a lot of wind slab since yesterday. We kept to a safe area, under the lower crags in the coire. Some frozen turf and plenty of ice around  here. We dug a couple of test pits to assess the avalanche potential. There was weaknesses deep in the half metre snow pack on a North aspect. The strong winds, snow showers and poor visibility gave way to some lovely spells of clear weather in the afternoon. A fine day on the hill and a great work out for the legs and knees again!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

4 DAY WINTER COURSE

Mick enjoying the Fiacaill Ridge
This is fun! High up on the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda
Coire Sneachda
Goat Track
Fiacaill Buttress
Coire an t-Sneachda & Cairn Gorm
Rime Ice a plenty
More Fiacaill fun
Climbers on Fiacaill Buttress
Alladin's Buttress
A fine day out!
Mick is out with me for a 4 day course this week. He's already got some winter experience in The Lake District and Snowdonia so he is hoping to build on this. Going at your own pace on a bespoke, tailored course are the big pluses of hiring an instructor on a one to one basis. Mick already has lots of confidence so we quickly got onto some exciting ground. We headed into Coire an t-Sneachda. The route into the coire is well trodden so an easy stroll in. It was a fine morning with light winds and sunny skies. We worked across the coire and under the Fiacaill Buttress to gain the notch on the Fiacaill a' Coire Sneachda. There was some nice, icy ground and refrozen snow high up to give Mick some experience in front pointing on the steeper slopes. Most of the snow is still unconsolidated. Up on the ridge the rocks are well rimed with deep banks of snow on the traverse under the crest. We had the place to ourselves. Mick loving every minute of the route up onto the plateau. The winds picked up by early afternoon with plenty of spindrift blowing about. A high windchill on the plateau. Plenty of folk out climbing in the coire. A grand day to be out.
A busy period for me with 11 days of work on the trot. Looking like some great winter conditions on the run up to the Christmas period.