Tuesday, 27 February 2018


Pitch 4 of 8
The great conditions continue! Yesterday I was in the Northern Highlands climbing on Beinn Dearg, with my friend Chris. Beinn Dearg is a big, bulky mountain with plenty of dramatic corries. The classic climb there, and the one we were aiming for, is Penguin Gully III, 4 **** 350m. A 05:30 start from home near Inverness was decided upon, which worked perfectly----we were (just!) first onto the route. The route and corrie were busy (by Northern Highlands standards!) with two other teams behind us on the route and at least one other climbing elsewhere in the corrie. Temperatures started at -8 deg C in the morning, but with a 2 ½ hr approach we were soon warmed up! Eight long pitches of fantastic ice, snow-ice and neve followed—conditions were perfect. The first pitch was the hardest climbing, with good ice for picks (not so good for screws!), but the whole route was great climbing on squeaky, bomber snow and ice. Belays were decent and a mix of rock and ice-screws. Runners were few and far between on most pitches, but with the climbing straightforward that was OK. Emerging from the cold and shade of the NW face into the blue skies and wall-to-wall warm sunshine of the plateau was fabulous. Not a breath of wind, and only 14:15! A quick jaunt to the main summit of Beinn Dearg then the long trudge back, weary but totally content---a great climb, great weather and great company. The day wasn’t over though; the road to Inverness was closed by the police, meaning a huge detour back to Ullapool, then Elphin, Bonar Bridge, Tain and Inverness—4 hrs instead of 1 hr, with another delay as a lorry was pulled out of ditch on the singletrack road at Oykel. At least there was fish ‘n’ chips in Ullapool as the silver lining.......

The West Buttress of Beinn Dearg on the approach

Chris about to top out over the cornice

Not a bad day!


Heading down

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Best spell of the winter?

After last year's disappointingly wet, mild and windy winter, this winter has been really making up for it. At the moment we're enjoying a lengthy spell of settled, calm, sunny conditions in the Scottish Highlands. By this stage in the winter the sun is starting to have some real strength, meaning clear nights, very cold frosty starts, followed by warm afternoon sunshine. Lovely! Glen Affric is definitely one of the most beautiful glens in the Highlands, and I have had many special days there. However, I have never managed to ski up any of the hills there; yesterday I put that right with a great, short tour around Toll Creagach, one of the Affric Munros. A late start due to other commitments for once didn't work against us, as this gave time for the sun to break through the morning mists and soften the top layer of the snow, giving brilliant, easy skiing down long open slopes. The views north across Mullardoch and beyond were also incredible.Very windy and cold right on the summit, but hot and sunny down in the glen. A sun-cream day!

Looking up Gleann nam Fiadh to Tom a Choinich

Great skinning conditions

Sun starting to soften the snow

View N from the summit

The reward: fast, easy open skiing on great Spring snow.