The last time I had visited this hill was away back in the early noughties when myself and my dad went up on a glorious autumnal day. We had started in the cloud but soon emerged out of it and the rest was spent enjoying a fantastic inversion that lasted all day.
This trip was the opposite!! The weather wasn’t looking great but we had packed carefully and headed out. Down at The Drovers Inn and things were pretty benign to start with. We wanted to have a look at the falls (Gerry had climbed these during the freeze of 2010) and they looked pretty spectacular (even when not iced up!!)- well worth the small detour.
We were soon headed on our way- as was the approaching weather front – directly towards us ! The snow soon started to fall and the clag moved in around us. The normally boggy ground was frozen , which was a bonus, however as we got higher the snow was slowing us down – deep wet, unconsolidated stuff- not the stuff you want on any sort of slope!! So we erected the emergency shelter and took stock of our situation over a sandwich!! Time to turn around. We were over 700 meters and with the gale blowing the blizzard into our faces we also didn’t fancy heading round the shoulder and directly into the wind… Right decision and the hill isn’t going anywhere… Back to The Drovers then an interesting, snowy drive home!!
Snowshoeing for the first time….
The winter so far had been good and I had taken advantage of this fact as much as I could , you never know when the latest dump of snow will be the last dump of snow!!!
For climbing the conditions and snow hadn’t been great but for walking adventures it had been greatJ The two weeks prior to this trip had seen significant accumulations of snow to low levels and after a number of wading trip this year I had decided to purchase some snow shoesJ I did a bit of research and the MSR shoes were given good ratings , however given the fact that I may not get too much use out of these I decided to opt for a middle of the line pair (cheaper and easily available;)). The Chinooks were ordered online and arrived a couple of day later, perfect timing for a test drive on this trip.
Given I couldn’t get away until 13.30 due to family commitments, I chose to explore an area close to home and not far from GlenAlmond where I head for lots of outdoors fun J
A few weeks ago whilst exploring Buchanty Spout I had noticed a nice hill above the Sma’ Glen with a Cairn near the top. This had taken my interest and scouring the map on Friday I noticed some Landover tracks leading towards its summit- this maybe perfect if there was enough snow cover….
Turns out I didn’t need to worry about that!! Initially I followed a track to a farm that had been compacted down by a plough and farmed but I could see there was a good amount of snow on either side, and it was the fluff powdery kind too. Looked like the snowshoes would get an outing at least!!
As soon as I left the farm track the snow was shin and sometimes knee deep and I hadn’t even started gaining altitude!! I finally gave in and put the snowshoes on. What a difference this made, instantly it felt easier and I was off , taking to the new shoes like a duck to water! It was great fun but was still hard work (not as hard as without them I must say!!). The snow was getting deeper and it was all unconsolidated powder. Given the low height of these hills it had all fallen in the last week or so and it wasn’t until just before the top that I reached anything like neve (the crampons on the underside of the snowshoes worked well on this too!).
I finally made it to the Cairn just before sunset and it was biting cold. The batteries in all but one of the camera died pretty quickly so I didn’t hang around and set off down the hill following my tracks. On descent the snowshoes were even better I found them super useful here and was making good progress homewards in the gathering gloom. I made it back to the car without the need for the head torch, but I wasn’t far away from requiring it!. A grand adventure and I’m already looking forward to getting the snowshoes back on!!
Stob Coire nan Lochan
Last winter didn’t really seem to happen, I don’t seem to recall many snowy outings and winter mountaineering was limited to say the least… A brief cold snap at the start of that winter perhaps gave me false hope and I waited and waited on some nice snowy conditions to get out and about – then spring came and I was all over!!
Perhaps this is reason I have been trying to take advantage of any cold snaps this time around!! The same pattern started at the turn of winter and withy what happened last year I was perhaps thinking that every cold snap maybe the last of the winter!! Hence I have had the luck to enjoy quite a few snowy outing this season already, in fact some of the winter walking has been absolutely superb already – Garbh Bheinn on Skye being a highlight. This is also as close to mountaineering as I have got but with a decent dump of snow this week and temperatures plummeting I was hoping some of the snow pack may consolidate! The week before we had trudged half way up Beinn Chabhair before turning back as the storm closed in. The snow was unconsolidated and relatively deep and wet – something a freeze may help!!! So a few days later I met Gerry at our usual rendezvous point and we headed up the A82 towards Glencoe.
The drive up was glorious, white mountains and a clear sky promising a grand day…. We had considered curved ridge but the busy car park and thoughts of queuing made our minds up to go and have a look further down the glen… Any thought of finding a quiet spot were (understandably) quashed! All the car parks were full and we just go a space in the upper car park as we headed for Stob Coire nan Lochan (SCNL). The pink of dawn was now replaced by blue skies and as we head up the sunlight lit up the top of SCNL and across the glen the Aonach Eagach ridge was slowly lighting up as the sun rippled across its serrated top and started to make progress towards the floor of the Glen J
The path was busy and soon we were donning our crampons and getting the axe out for the final pull into the corrie. It was looking superb!!A line of teams were heading up Broad Gully and a few teams could be seen on the harder buttress routes. We had discussed an amble up NC gully so headed over to have a look at it….. The snow was deep and the trench we were following indicated that there was about a foot of snow either side. Assessing the situation we soon discovered the snow t be of poor quality for a steepening gully. Most of it seemed to have fallen at once and although it at first seemed fine when we were following footprints, as soon as we left them it became apparent its wasn’t yet consolidated enough… certainly not for an ascent of NC…. So we stopped had a bite to eat and saw some footprints heading up to the west of Pinnacle Buttress to a steepening scoop. This was going to be our route to the rim of the corrie. Usually we’d have diverted to broad gully but decided on this route as neither of us had come up this way before. Unnamed but felt like a nice Grade 1 and in the upper reaches it was a grand adventure. Topping out and the white topped peaks to the west came into view. Always great to top out to a cracking view…. The weather was great and time was on our side so we took a leisurely stroll to the summit of SCNL and had another bite to eat along with many others. The views were superb as always. Iven the traffic on Broad Gully, we decided against descending the gully but took a nice walk back along the corrie rim and back down to the car. It was great to meet so many people up on the mountain today, having long chat with many… great to be able to do this without having to shout over the wind!!!
Another grand day out – much fun J
Bimble on The Buachaille (Dec 2017)
After some wintry days we planned on heading to Glencoe to try and get a route done, however it was back to black on the day we went up – ho hum J
So we set off from Altnafeadh with a forecast that suggested a claggy day! For the first time in about 15 years we ascended the mountain via Coire na Tulaich and were pleasantly surprised by some warm sunshine and low winds as we reached the bealachJ Taking time to enjoy the views we sat in the sun at spot 902m before deciding to head west to the minor tops between the two Munros. The weather was lovely with low cloud just rolling about the glen. The ascent to Ston na Doire was a delight with the morning sun breaking through the mists and some lingering snow patches providing a nice touch. Another lengthy break was enjoyed as we soaked in the views – Bidean poking its head out from time to time and the hills of Glencoe were looking fine.
Unfortunately the forecasted weather arrived as we headed for Stob Coire Altruim so once we reached its summit we decided to head back down into the Lairig Gartain and enjoyed a lovely stroll back to Altnfeadh – no routes and no Munros but a fine outing in Glencoe was had J
Catching up on blogs again this evening and this trip was done on the lead up to Christmas. Another fine morning may happen - well according to the 10.30 BBC weather on the Saturday night:) So I set the alarm early - way too early not sure if the forecast would materialise (there were varying forecasts!) and hoped to catch a mountain sunrise... I wasn't disappointed...... here the report form the time :
Sunrise Carn Liath
Half decent weather was forecast and I was itching to get out on the hill- the only issue was I needed to be back by midday on Sunday for family commitments… Usually Ben Vrackie meets the bill in this scenario – nice and close and can be up and down and back home without losing too many brownie points ;) However I had been up here lots in the prior two months and I fancied a wee change so set my sights on Beinn a’ Ghlo! It is a wee bit further up the road so my alarm was set awe bit earlier(ok a lot earlier!!4am ;)). I wanted to catch the sunrise from near the summit so was out and on the road for 4.30am, early but hopefully worth it!
Arriving at the muddy car park, I got kitted up and headed into the night! To be honest I was feeling pretty rough with ma flu and at this point the sky was showing absolutely zero signs for a good sunrise. In my minds eye I was imagining starry skies with a glorious sunrise, and this wasn’t happening as I headed towards Carn Liath! Heading past the hut in darkness I splodged though the extremely marshy ground at the foot of the hill before the main ascent!
It was now nearing 7am and I caught a glimmer of hope! Far off to the south east and the first signs of dawn were emerging. A slight reddening of the horizon gave me hope and a spring was again in my step! Soon the sky was starting to light up so I found a spot just off the summit and in the shelter from the strong north westerly breeze… To my delight the sunrise was perfect, the sky was pink and red and I sat feeling very smug until the colours faded as the sun rose above the horizon.
10 minutes later and before 9 oclock and I as stood on the summit fighting the wind! Getting shelter behind the summit cairn I once again watched the skies illuminate as the sun found a hole in the clouds on the horizon and put on a show illuminating the changing clouds to the south above Ben Vrackie!
The remaining peaks of Beinn a Ghlo were shrouded in cloud so I had my fill and decided to bank my brownie points and head back. By 10am I was back at the hut at the base of the hill and once again I stopped to soak in the sunshine. Not much wind down here and even though it was winter, the sun actually felt warm. I sat and had a drink and enjoyed the mackerel cloud formations above Carn Liath- superb…
Home for 11.30 and a cuppa tea and a bacon butty were enjoyed J
I am a few weeks behind on my blog! So writing this report now into 2018, I can say that I think this may have been my highlight for the whole of 2017! Right at the end and as it wasn't a trip in high pressure weather conditions I can safely say that I was a "jammy git" on this one! Capturing what is in MHO the finest mountain scenery (anywhere!) in glorious winter conditions was fantastic, but throw in some mountaineering a snowy ridge traverse and returning in a blizzard - this wee trip had it all... hope you enjoy the video and here is the report I wrote at the time..... :
The Cuillin in Skye have always captured my attention, whether Red or Black the combination of mountain and sea creates a magical spectacle and a visit to Sky always fills me with excitement! The northerly winds had brought snow to the northern half of Scotland and now a low pressure system was hovering over the northwest highlands! The day before on the drive through I had stopped in Glen Shiel and walked up Sgurr Mhic Bharraich, wading through drifts on the top and catching a little sun light between hefty showers!
I spent the night in Broadford contemplating what to do the following day… The forecast was varying between the different weather websites, with some stating the afternoon would be better and others indicating that the morning would be better! I had my eye on Garbh Bheinn, a Corbett in the Black Cuillin, not far from Clach Ghlas and Blabheinn, which I hadn’t been up before, however I didn’t fancy heading up in a white out!
A short evening walk along the shores of Broadford Bay revealed a starry sky and I looked skyward in the hope of catching some of the meteor shower… I saw two shooting stars and made my wish!
Breakfast as at 0730am at the hotel and I was up early to see which forecast was right! Stepping outside and everything sparkled- a deep frost had descended overnight and cloaked everything in ice! Anticipation was growing, although the stars shone here with the clear sky, it didn’t mean the mountains along the road would be clear! I set off and to my delight the skies remained clear as I drove the short distance to my start point near the waterfall at the head of Loch Ainort, the dawn light was revealing a white blanket coating the Cuillin Hills- to say I was happy would be the understatement of the year! I really couldn’t have asked for a better morning, the heavy snows of the prior days had left the Red and Black Cuillin decidedly white! The sky was blue, the mountains were white ad nobody else was on the hill, solitude seemed a little unfair however I was enjoying it all! The shooting star and wish the night before had held true;)
I made my way up the Druim Eadar Da Choire, all the while trying to make steady progress and not stopping every two steps to pick my jaw off the floor! Marsco was dominating the skyline ahead and to my right, the other Red Cuillin stood behind me watching my progress and all the while Garbh Bheinn was waiting to the southern horizon! These views were amazing but as I reached the top of the shoulder (489m), the Black Cuillin Ridge came into view- what a sight! I was lucky enough to summit camp on Sgurr na Stri when snow covered the Cuillin previously, however on that occasion the blanket was only half on – today the blanket was almost down to sea level. I spent a bit of time enjoying the view at the shoulder top and would’ve of been happy to turn and go home here – however I now had to cross from the Red to the Black and get my mountaineering head on! Garbh Bheinn, in comparison to other Black Cuillin peaks may be less technical and in the summer a easy scramble, however under a coating of deep, soft powdery, unconsolidated snow, I knew I was going to have to concentrate and perhaps not summit her today…. No one was on the mountain and a simple slip would have consequences- especially on the summit ridge where I knew the narrow ridge would test me….
Crampons on – ice axe out, I now headed up steep ground with some steepening sections. The snow made everything look so festive but foot placements gave some surprises. The deep snow hid rock and scree and the fact that the snow was so powdery meant I had to take my time. Up I went and the views got better and better! Behind me and looking north I could see the weather was rapidly changing, the low sun to the south was still illuminating the white hills but the northern horizon behind grew darker and darker with the approaching weather!
Soon, I was about to gain the summit ridge! Pulling myself onto the final ridge before turning east and a new view came into sight as Blabheinn appeared in all its glory! I sat and enjoyed it, but not for too long – Glamaig and its neighbours had now been engulfed with the storm clouds and were disappearing from view- I needed to crack on! Probably a hop, skip and a jump in summer conditions, the final ridge was now a sharp snowy arête, the knife edge crest of snow hiding the rocks under the coating. Probing my way along slowly I had to circumvent a few small steps the axe a necessity ! Exhilarating and lofty it certainly was! Soon I reached the summit and the blue above was now replaced by grey as white flakes started to fall! Half way! The same amount of concentration was needed to retrace my steps and soon I stopped heading west and was headed north towards the car. The hills and mountains that had caught my gaze all the way up had now disappeared and a sheet of dark grey enveloped everything. The wind had increased dramatically and heavy snow now fell from the sky stinging my exposed skin! The blizzard raged around me as I descended! My plans (had the weather remained perfect) were to continue to Marsco, that was no binned as I fought my way back to the car! It wasn’t until I set foot back on the Red Cuillin that the snow started to ease so a couple of snaps and piece to camera before descent on the red part of the walk! The snow eventually turned to rain as I reached the car and a quick change into civilian uniform;)! On to the Sligachan and a soon I was tucking into a festive dinner in front of a roaring fire, trying to take in my day’s adventure – what a day, what a mountain – what a place….. Not sure I will have such a good day on the hill for some time……..
Sgurr Mhic Bharraich
Winter was in full swing in the Highlands of Scotland and a few days of snow further south had made the news also, but the snow had been falling in the north west for a lot longer than a day up here. I had a couple of days off work and was headed for Skye. The forecast was uncertain with a low pressure centred off the NW Highlands and not moving anywhere very quickly!! However the gamble was that the winds and showers may ease up here as the centre of the low was almost on top of this part of the world! On the flip side, it would also mean that there was also the chance of the low moving and the showers and winds being a constant companion !! The last few weeks had seen every summit I stood on being blasted by gales and had me longing for some High Pressure systems !
Anyway, leaving Inverness in the morning and the forecast was for a thaw in the wintery conditions and the sleet fell on the shores of Loch Ness as I headed towards Invermoriston. The good news was that with the thaw , the roads would be black (wrong!). As I headed west towards Glen Sheil, the snows hung heavy on the Glen Moriston trees and the roads held onto their icy, slushy mess! Feeling like Bamby on Ice , I was glad when I pulled into the Sheil Bridge parking bay! The snow had turned back to rain here and it was battering off the windscreen – I really didn’t want to leave the car! …
After wondering why I was about to head out into the rain and then up into a waiting blizzard, I eventually hauled myself into my waterproofs and set off along the shores of the Allt Undalain. The snow on the lower slopes was a bit slushy but soon after leaving the car, the rain went off!! I carried on the stalkers path around the eastern slopes of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich and eventually reached a very snowy Loch Coire nan Crogachan. I had planned a wild camp here but to be honest, I was really glad I didn’t have the extra weight of camping gear! Breaking trail through the powdery, deep snow was tiring enough!!
At the loch, the sun actually made an appearance and the views back towards the saddle and the five sisters was amazing! Next up was to gain the ridge of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich. Had snow conditions been better I may have taken a more direct line, however the loaded slopes and the prevailing winds of the prior week, made my decision to take a wide berth of the steeping slopes ad head onto the ridge further east. A bit of a detour but a much safer option. Once on the ridge the snow was at times waist deep. Some of the drifts I had to swim through as there was no way around them!! I had left my poles with the snow baskets at a friends so was cursing every time they and I sunk into the drifts !! Snow shoes would’ve been useful!!
As I neared the summit the visibility was still ok but the skies were pitch black!! Made a nice contrast to the white mountains but I knew it wouldn’t be too long before they engulfed me! And so it was , as I reached the summit they came down and from there on the snow fell! I took a direct route back down the eastern slopes of Sgurr Mhic Bharraich and soon made it back to the car. The snow was now falling as forecast ( the thaw was only in the morning!!).
Next up SkyeJ
My favourite place and the next day was one that will live long in the memory……..
Beinn na Gainimh
A few hours free on a sunny Sunday, so I headed up to Glen Almond with the bike in the boot. I had thought about heading up Ben Chonzie as the first sprinkling of snow had hit the summits, however the days are short and I reckoned night cycling would have occurred on the way back!! The skies were blue , however the winds were to be high and as I pulled up at Newton Bridge the bending trees certainly suggested the forecast to be right. The direction was northerly so I thought I may have been sheltered in the Glen – wrong! The wind howled through the glen and I was blown over a few times!! It was a biting wind and I soon had an idea of where to go. From no go Chonzie, I then set my sights on Auchnafree Hill. However there was no shelter on its northern slopes and the sun was nowhere to be seen on them either. A hill to the north of the glen was going to be my best bet.
A quick look at the map and I found a wee track heading to the north. Pushing my bike up the steep track, I was soon enjoying myself. The southern slopes were relatively sheltered and the sun was shining down J
I soon left the bike and headed up heathery , pathless slopes, trying to keep to the southern slopes as much as possible. The views soon opened up and a fantastic view to upper Glenalmond was enjoyed. Up I went and as soon as I reached the shoulder , the wind returned!! A few cairns and standing stones were passed as I set my sights on Beinn na Gainimh. The ground was frozen which made the going easier and if it wasn’t for the wind this would have been an enjoyable stroll! Soon the smallest summit cairn in Perthshie was reached and I about turned and raced the locals back to the bike (white hares are super fast!!) lol..
Glad to be back at the bike, I was looking forward to my cycle back – downhill then win assisted back to Newton Bridge. The latter was fine but I soon discovered my bike needed new brake pads!! The gradient on the descent was too steep and the brakes were pretty useless. Luckily I was taking my time and I hadn’t gathered too much speed before realising I wasn’t stopping very efficiently!! Pushing the bike downhill wasn’t in the plans !! However the cycle along the glen was wind assisted and great fun J
A grand afternoon and when I got home I realised that I had managed to tick off a Graham (never realised this was one!). Pretty sure that if you like solitude then you don’t have to travel too far from the central belt – this hill will almost certainly be deserted (well apart from the wildlife J)
Meall nan Tarmachan
Having taken my first trip in years up Meall nan Tarmachan, last December, I have re visited it twice since then. A summer yomp with the kids and this weekend we took a snowy drive to say hello to winter J
A superficial, but visually convincing layer of snow covered the Central Highlands and the forecast was looking wintry for Saturday. However a fine dawn saw us meeting up in Killin then jumping in an appropriate vehicle to take the un-gritted road to the Lawers Nature Reserve. The road was white but the 4 by 4 had no problem get us to the desired starting point thankfully~J
The forecast cloudy skies and misty tops looked a long way off, as the Lawers group sparkled as the rising sun in the south east illuminated their white blanket giving a spectacular vista on our drive up. Parking with the sun rising above the horizon , we all had spring in our step! Off we went and it was glorious! The suns rays were shining down and the shoulder we were about to climb was protecting us from the strong North Westerly. Onwards we went – hopes high for a traverse of the ridge…. These hopes were soon called into question though! As soon as we hit the crest of the ridge the force of the wind was felt. Goggles were put on to protect our eyes from the stinging snow and we were now getting buffeted about !
The familiar ridge soon met the final pull and as we were first on the hill a trail was being made up the snow filled cleft where steps normal take the walker towards the summit! Given the covering of snow we decided to take a direct and sporting route to the summit, good fun was had…. A little later we were stood on the summit watching the views come and go between the clouds that were whizzing past! A decision was taken to head back down, didn’t fancy the traverse in these winds, been across it many times and we made a pact to return when the winds were a little lighter ;)
A fine morning out and back in time to watch a rather good rugby game – all in all – a grand day J
A spare morning and we were keen to fit in a hill to welcome the first signs of winter. The tops had seen their first sprinkling of snow but the only issue was to be the wind speeds. Forecasts had 45-50mph with higher gusts so after some thought and deliberation we decided on taking a well known track and also a hill further south and east where visibility and weather were marginally better.
Arriving at Ardvorlich around mid morning, it wasn’t surprising to find that we were the only car ! The wind was blowing white horses up Lochearn and the clouds were fairly scudding by above us! Heavy raining battered on the windscreen as we finally left the warmth of the car and set off Vorlich. Heads down and waterproofs on we headed up and finally met the snow line round 750m. The winds were gusting and standing upright was a battle all by itself ;) As always the final pull was brutal, the rain turned to horizontal snow and time on the summit was kept to a minimum. First taste of snow and although rather breezy, a fine morning on the hill J
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...