Friday 25 November 2016

Fannaichs Video

Here is a short clip from last week's journey in the Fannaichs. This is taken approaching the summit of the Munro Sgurr nan Clach Geala 1093m, the finest of the peaks of the Fannaichs. The weather has remained cold since then (minus 12 deg C overnight last night!) and conditions for winter walking and mixed climbing are looking good. Plenty of people out on ski as well, though I would keep the speed down-----there is no real base to the snowpack yet and plenty of rocks to catch you out. Even the resorts such as Cairngorm Mountain are opening for piste skiing this weekend. A great start to the Winter!

Tuesday 22 November 2016

A wee jaunt to the Fannaichs, NW Highlands

Over the last few days or so we have had a settled, consistently cold spell of weather, with temperatures in the Glens dropping to well below freezing each night. This has been accompanied by some lovely long spells of sunshine, and that rarity: light winds. Keen to make the most of this I had a cracking day out on the Fannaichs, in the North-West Highlands.  Waking at 6am to a clear, starlit sky, and a frost on the car so heavy that opening the door was difficult, the omens were good. What followed was hard work physically, ploughing through calf deep snow for much of the day but with magical views. Tendrils of cloud flouted around the summits as I went traversed the three Munros of Meall a' Chrasgaidh, Sgurr nan Clach Geala and Sgurr nan Each, before plodding back down next to the Allt Breabaig to reach the car just after dusk. Magical

Saturday 12 November 2016

Student safety

Slightly belated write up of a day out last weekend working as a volunteer instructor for Mountaineering Scotland (MCofS) at Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms. This was the annual Student Safety weekend, where lots of students from Scottish university climbing and hillwalking clubs get the chance of a heavily subsidised weekend of mountain skills. I was helping run the Mountain Skills day, and had students from Dundee and Edinburgh in my group. We spent a couple of hours learning/refreshing the basics of map and compass work---taking a bearing off the map, sighting and following a bearing, before adding in some pacing and timing. It was then off onto the hill to do it for real, with everyone showing they had a good grasp of the skills.  We were below the freezing line so although we had some wintry showers, nothing was settling for long at our altitude. Higher up snow was accumulating quickly from the looks of things, with some beefy showers being pumped in on a cold Northerly.  We then headed down, chatted through what equipment to take as a group on Scotland's hills, and practised what to do in case of an accident. This weekend is a great resource for Scotland's university clubs, and it was a pleasure to help out and pass on some skills.

Winter is here!

Over the last week winter has arrived with a bang in the Scottish hills. The first outing in winter is always a bit of a shock to the system, as you remember how to stay warm, comfortable and deal with all the extra paraphernalia that winter brings with it! I had fantastic day yesterday in the Caingorms fighting my way up Bynack More 1090m in strengthening winds, poor visibility and wind-blown snow. Fantastic! From the summit some compass work and pacing was required to locate the Barns of Bynack (massive granite tors) which provided some shelter before descending via Bynack Beg and back to Strathnethy. hard going in the early-season conditions; although some snow is consolidating, much is unconsolidated on no base, or worse---breakable crust! Follow the link to a wee video that gives some idea of the conditions on the hill.

Sunday 30 October 2016

Autumn Gold

Autumn can be a funny time of year. On the one hand there is a tinge of sadness that the long, warm days of summer are drawing to a close. On the other there is the excitement of snow-covered hills and the challenge of the winter mountains. The weather can often be pretty poor at this time of year, but we have just had a lovely October, with lots of dry, bright weather. The colours have been fabulous too. I have been enjoying lots of mountain biking recently, a great choice at this time of year. When will the first winter snow arrive?

Sunday 2 October 2016

Rain and shine

Two days out recently guiding Chris & Clay from the USA. For our first day we had storm-force winds and torrential rain forecast, so we wisely agreed to go mountain biking rather than hiking, which was a good choice. Although we got very wet everyone was still smiling at the end of the day. A mid-bike trip to the Carrbridge Kitchen cafe helped! The following day could not have been more different, with no rain, lots of sunshine and light winds. We headed up Sgor Gaoith from Glen Feshie, then the wonderful romp along the undulating ridge all the way to the Argyll Stone. We then headed down through beautiful pines and birch-woods (lots of blaeberries to feast on, otherwise know as bilberries to the English or huckleberries to our American guests) to finish with tea and cake at the Potting Shed tea-room at Inshriach! Our friend and trainee Mountain Leader Alex Cowan was along today too to help build up his experience. 

Wednesday 31 August 2016

Faith in friction

Some shots from a few days ago playing on the wonderful granite slabs of Stac an Fharaidh in the Cairngorms, on Pippet Slab (Severe). Faith in friction required!

Thursday 25 August 2016

Mountain biking

Here are a couple of pictures from earlier this week, guiding Mike around some of the tracks and trails of the Cairngorms and Strathspey. We started in Aviemore itself and took in lots of ground including Rothiemurchus, An Sluggan, Loch Garten, Carrbridge etc.  A nice change from the hill walking, although not exactly an easier day-----the computer read 63 km and >3000ft up and down but the end. Phew!

Fantastic light and colours---on the Speyside Way

View to the Cairngorm mountains

Sunday 21 August 2016

High mountains & plateau

Another day spent amongst the high Cairngorms, guiding Mike to the tops of Ben Macdui, the second highest mountain in Scotland and Cairn Gorm itself. There was high cloud on and off the tops all day, but plenty of good visibility and even some warm sunshine. The plateau is such a special place on days like this, with a wonderful, mysterious atmosphere.  It was lovely to see the reindeer herds today in Coire Raibert. This is the closest I have ever seen them to the ski area but they seemed very happy. We were glad to get the boots off after another long-enough day tramping the hills.  Mountain-biking tomorrow to give the walking muscles a rest!

What a place
Cloud lifting off Braeriach

The heart of the Cairngorms

Looking northwards over Rothiemurchus towards Speyside

Great visibility despite some cloud

The reindeer add to the Arctic atmosphere

Saturday 20 August 2016

Glen Feshie Munros

Cracking day out today guiding Mike over the Glen Feshie Munros---Sgor Gaoith & Mullach Clach a Bhlair. Mike is very fit and we made excellent time over this good-sized round before dropping back to the glen. Plenty of sunshine on offer with vast swathes of purple heather to please the eye. These hills are always a delight and they were no exception today.

Stunning Glen Feshie
A cloud-capped Braeriach

Mike on the summit of Sgor Gaoith

The wind dropped and it was lovely and warm

Impressive Coire Garbhlach

Braeriach, Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Cairn Toul over the Monadh Mor

Lovely light and space from these hills

Purple haze.....

Sunday 3 July 2016

Delightful Deeside

Over the last few days I have been down on Deeside in the Southern Cairngorms, based out of Braemar. Followed my own advice and went South and East in order to avoid the worst of rain, in which we were mostly successful. We climbed little Creag Bhalg 668m above the Linn of Dee, and what a delight it was. I must have looked at this hill countless times whist approaching the bigger peaks in the heart of the Cairngorms, and it was nice to finally climb it. There is a fabulous start on the East bank of the wonderful Lui Water, following a small (and at times indistinct) path, with some wonderful pine and gorge scenery. Then follows a typical Grampian hill, rounded, heather-clad, giving straightforward walking with fantastic 360 degree views, from Lochnagar right round to Braeriach and Macdui. A great hill for a shorter day. We also managed some great mountain biking along the Deeside Way and the singletrack trails around the Burn O' Vat and Cambus O' May forests.
One of the lovely waterfalls--Lui Water

If trees could talk.......

Gloomier toward the high Cairngorms

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Cuillin climbing

A wee while since my last post as I have been busy +++.  Recent highlights including climbing in the NW Highlands and on the incomparable Isle of Skye. We were extremely lucky with the weather on these trips and managed to dodge most of the rain. In particular we had some fantastic weather on Skye, and managed to climb some classic mid-grade routes on the wonderful, rough Gabbro rock for which the Cuillin of Skye are justly famous, including Grand Diedre Direct VS 5a, Sunset Slab/Yellow Groove VS 4c, as well Cioch West (Severe), Arrow Route (Diff) and Integrity (VS 4c) on the magnificent cliff of Sron na Ciche. So much more to do, now just need some more time off and for the sun to come back out. Low pressure to the NW of the UK just now, meaning our side of the country likely to fair a bit better and be a bit brighter than the West....a period to probably stay on the East of Scotland if you can. All photos today courtesy of Alex Cowan.

Stunning high camp in the Cuillin of Skye

Me leading the 5a pitch on Grand Diedre Direct

The superlative Integrity VS 4c on Sron na Ciche

The equally classic Arrow Route

Typically Scottish weather on Skye

Saturday 4 June 2016

Hot rock Provence

Slightly belated post, some photos of a wonderful recent trip rock climbing and enjoying the incomparable Provence in the South of France. A change to be back climbing Limestone, very different to much of our rock in the Highlands, but really lovely once the "feel" had come back!
And of course the sun just shone, shone, shone, and the pool and beers were refreshing. Summer in full swing back in the Highlands now, a slightly driech interlude yesterday but looking fantastic again for the next few days.

Reachy moves on a F6a slab

Henry sets of...Voie de Trous 5+

Thirsty work belaying!

Up to the belay

Abseil descent