January 31st, 2015
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For the past 2 days I (Hannah) have been out in the winter wonderland with Adam from London who was keen to learn how to route plan and how to move about the winter hills safely. On day one we took advantage of the Nevis Range up lift and went up onto Aonach Mor. Being on first the West then the East side of the Nid Ridge gave us 2 very different environments to work in; scoured slopes – great for crampons and then soft fresh snow – great for ice axe arrest and finding weak layers in the snow pack.
The weather description for day 2 had us a bit worried ’75-100 mph winds on the tops, walking may be tortuous’. So we thought we’d better go and find out what ‘tortuous’ walking was going to feel like! We went to Buachaille Etive Beag in Glencoe as did half of Scotland or at least that’s what it initially felt like. The winds seemed to be ‘ok’ so we pressed on, leaving the masses behind and managed to bag both Munros (Stob Dubh and Stob Coire Raineach). Although very windy at points we only encountered one gust that we both agreed was tortuous so we thought we got away pretty lightly!
It’s been a busy stint, and as the title suggests, I’ve (Ken) been running winter mountaineering days in various locations over the past week. Last weekend, I was working for Cairngorm Adventure Guides, needless to say, in the Cairngorms. I was out with Suzie and Katie, who have aspirations to summit Mont Blanc later this year, so I tailored the two days towards the skills that they will require for their trip to the Alps. On the first day, with a more favourable forecast, we climbed Aladdin’s Couloir, which enabled them to move on steeper terrain, whilst looking at a number of different anchors en-route. Day 2 was mild and windy, so we spent the day getting to grips with much of the ropework that they’ll need when in the Alps.
I then ran a 5 day winter mountaineering course back in the west. We made the most of a varied forecast by covering some core winter skills and climbing Dorsal Arete on Stob Coire Nan Lochan on the first day, had a productive day in the Ice Factor on the second, looked at snow anchors on Beinn a’Chaorainn on the third, and climbed the Zig Zags, the first pitch of the Zig Zags Direct on the fourth, with a couple of abseils thrown in for good measure. For our final day, we climbed School House Ridge behind Ballachulish, and took in the Munro of Sgurr Dearg.
Today, I’m in the NW Highlands, working for Moran Mountain. I’m out with Martin (not Moran), who is ticking off the Munros. We were out together last year and summited Slioch, Beinn Fhada and A Ghlas Beinn. Today, with such fierce winds, what we needed was a Munro with a height of 200m above sea level. Unfortunately, such things don’t exist so we cut our losses and enjoyed a low level day on Glas Bheinn. Fingers crossed that the next two days prove to be more fruitful for Martin’s quest.
After looking at the forecast for today, I (Hannah) needed quite a different plan from yesterday. With persistent rain, high winds and warm temperatures predicted it was time to see where else might be better. The Cairngorms were forecasting high winds and temperatures but no rain so Paul and I took our chances and headed East. It paid off and although we were blown about the northern corries to the point that we had to just sit down as quickly as possible when gusts approached, it was dry all day!! I was working for Mountain Motion.
Today I (Hannah) was out with Paul and Roger who are over from Dublin. Both were keen to get stuck into winter but wanted some guidance on how do get the most out of the hills safely and efficiently. We chose Aonach Mor as our destination with the hope that we could hide on the East side of the Nid ridge from the strong Westerly winds. The plan worked and we had a great day with lots of Irish craic! We looked at using our boot as a tool, walking and tackling steeper snow and ice in crampons and ice axe arrest. We also had some valuable discussions about avalanche awareness and found some great isolated areas to dig around in and find weakly bonded snow layers. To finish off we put our new found skill into action by taking a steep line safely onto the Nid ridge itself. I was working for Mountain Motion.
Not wanting to have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) after Ken came home and showed me his photos of how good The Curtain (IV,5) was yesterday, it became Scott and myself’s (Hannah) objective for today! The early start was worth it as we were first on the route and just like Ken said yesterday – we had chewy ice and first time placements, winner! Here’s a couple of pics –
Meanwhile, a little further up the mountain, in Coire Na Ciste, I (Ken) was working for West Coast Mountain Guides and climbing Green Gully with Peter. The weather must have been very localised today, as once establish in Green Gully, we were in the clouds all day, until our descent down a nice and snow filled Red Burn.
The ice in Green Gully was good, but surprisingly thin in places and quite brittle or hollow, but completely climbable all the way. Quite a lot of spindrift funnelling down the gully today.