Posts Tagged ‘scotland’

Scottish winter skills course – February 2016

Monday, April 18th, 2016

As part of the Glencoe meet in mid February based at the SMC Lagangarbh hut below Buachaille Etive Mor, we had arranged for a couple of days with IFMGA Mountain Guide Graeme Ettle.

Day 1 – Saturday.

This was a winter hillwalking skills course, and had begun in the hut the evening before as Graeme chatted to Peter, Mike, Warwick, Jake, Jamie and Dave about the equipment required for a day on the hills. We did a quick crampon and boot check to ensure we were all set to head straight out the following morning, and discussed the weather forecast, good and bad route choices and possible locations for the following day.

Saturday morning we made the short drive to the head of the Lairig Eilde, and headed up the valley towards the saddle of Buachaille Etive Beag. As we made our way up through the snow, we passed 3 French tourists struggling with their crampons – they'd never used them before and had no idea how to put them on. A good lesson if ever there was one for doing your homework and preparation before you set out!

Graeme assessing the snowpack

Graeme assessing the snowpack

Graeme found a suitable snow slope for some ice axe arrest practice, and we spent some time sliding down in various scenarios – backwards, forwards, headfirst, feetfirst while practicing arresting technique. It wasn't too bad in relatively soft snow but we were reminded that on a harder icy slope things could be a lot different, and the best possible way to avoid this is to try and stay on your feet in the first place!


 

Hiking further up, it was soon time to put crampons on and get in a bit of practice with cramponing technique. Graeme then got his shovel out and talked about the snowpack, his experience working at the Scottish Avalanche Information Service http://www.sais.gov.uk/ apparent as he explained the various processes and factors that can affect it. The block of snow he isolated sild from the snowpack below with surprising ease, shearing at a weak layer and demonstrating why the avalanche risk for the day in some areas was 'considerable' as we'd discussed when looking at the forecast the night before. It wasn't long before we were all digging out our own test pits with axes and showels to test the layers (and keep warm!).

Mike taking in the view down Glen Etive

Mike taking in the view down Glen Etive

We continued with the walk, gaining the col and then turning NE to the summit of Stob Coire Raineach (925m) and a new munro tick for all in the group. We were rewarded with fantastic views down Glen Etive to Loch Etive in the distance, across to the Aonach Eagach, east to the Buachaille, and further afield.

Heading back down the same way, Graeme continued to impart his wealth of knowledge, stopping to point things out, chat about the snowpack some more, answer questions and share his enthusiasm for the mountains.

After dinner back at the hut, it was time to think about day 2, which was to be a winter course aimed more at mountaineering / climbing skills. We discussed and sorted out the gear required for the morning, and Graeme gave a short lesson in some alpine rope skills such as how to take coils and correctly tie into a rope team for moving together.

 

Day 2 – Sunday.

Mark testing out his buried axe anchor

Mark testing out his buried axe anchor

Another great day of settled weather, and we all set off early to catch the climbers gondola at Nevis Range, and head onto the slopes of Aonach Mor. The drive down Glencoe and along Loch Linnie was picturesque as always in the early morning light. Gearing up in the car park was when Warwick realised that he didn't have his winter boots with him. After a quick assessment of the options (there weren't many!) he jumped back in the car to go and fetch them.

 

 

 

Jamie, Carmen, Mike, Mark and Peter took the gondola up to the top station, waiting for the cafe to open so we could grab a coffee. Graeme spent some time talking about the avalanche forecast, route planning, weather and mountain hazards while we waited for Warwick to return.  It was then out onto the hill, watching out for wayward or out of control skiers as we went.

Mike and Carmen in their bucket seats

Mike and Carmen in their bucket seats

After quite a bit of debate over the seemingly easy question 'when should you put your crampons on?' we headed up onto steeper ground and did some assessment of the snowpack stability, before arriving at a spot relatively sheltered from the cold wind to do the ropework.

Warwick trying out the stomper belay

Warwick trying out the stomper belay

We then spent a couple of hours learning and trying out various techniques for building snow anchors, such as buried axes, bucket seats, snow bollards and stomper belays, and discussing when we would use each one. Mike had brought along his 'deadman' which he'd carried out a very impressive repair on involving an angle grinder, and was keen to learn how to place it, so we all had a go at that too. Frequent sprints through the snow and stops for snacks kept us warm.

Learning how to place Mike's deadman

Learning how to place Mike's deadman

Mike testing his snow bollard - fit for an abseil?

Mike testing his snow bollard – fit for an abseil?

 

After lunch, we headed up Nid ridge for a bit of a walk. By now the cloud had come down, so we got a chance to assess our navigation skills based on timing, paces, dead reckoning and anything else we could get a clue from as to where exactly we were! We then headed back to the Gondola and joined the queue of skiers and boarders heading home after another great day.

All those who went on either course agreed they had learned something (or lots of things!), and had a great day out. Thanks to Graeme for his enthusiasm, teaching and keeping us entertained!

The excellent visibility didn't quite last all day!

The excellent visibility didn't quite last all day!

Scottish Winter – Lagangarbh Feb2016

Monday, April 18th, 2016

From the 11-14th February, the club headed to the SMC's Lagangarbh hut, sitting at the head of Glencoe beneath Buachaille Etive Mor. As we made the drive north on the Thursday night, a promising weather forecast and good winter conditions meant things were looking good for the weekend. The gamble to book for 3 nights and take a day off work for a long weekend looked like it may pay off, and we weren't disappointed!

Lagangarbh Hut, Glencoe

Lagangarbh Hut, Glencoe

On Saturday and Sunday a few of us were booked onto winter skills courses (see separate post) that the club had organised. everyone was free on the Friday though, so we were all keen to get out into the snow and make the most of the good conditions.

Warwick at Glencoe mountain

Warwick at Glencoe mountain

Peter, Dave, Mike, Warwick and Jake headed to Glencoe mountain for a day on the slopes. The cloudbase remained high enough to give some great views across Rannoch moor to the mountains beyond, and some nice powder on the slopes made for a good day's sliding. Peter tried out his new touring skis with a bit of skinning later in the afternoon before all retired to the Kingshouse hotel for an apres-ski pint. Leaving the bar, a couple of red deer were happily hanging out just across the river.

Deer by the Kingshouse

Deer by the Kingshouse

While some were skiing, a winter ascent of Curved ridge (II/III, 3) on Buachaille Etive Mor right behind the hut was the objective of most of the rest of the group. The fresh powder that the skiers were enjoying was probably less than ideal for the route, however everyone enjoyed the day out and the settled conditions.

 

 

Rob and Carmen on Curved Ridge

Rob and Carmen on Curved Ridge

On Friday night, the day's stories were shared over the obligatory YAC feast, before Graeme Ettle, our Guide for the weekend's winter skills courses arrived. He had a chat to the group and outlined the plan for the next couple of days.

Saturday dawned clear and cold, and Peter, Warwick, Mike, Jake, Jamie and Dave headed out with Graeme for the winter hillwalking course. Buachaille Etive Beag from the Lairig Eilde side being the chosen location for the day's activities.

Checking snowpack stability on the winter skills course

Checking snowpack stability on the winter skills course

Richard, Rob, Paul and Mark headed up the same valley to Sron na Lairig (II) leading up to the SE ridge of Stob Coire Sgreamhach for a good route and an airy finish, while Simon and Carmen headed off to ascend Ben Starav and also add a couple of tops to their ticklist. Graeme S headed out along the ridge of Buachaille Etive Mor. Unfortunately Liz was feeling pretty ill so opted to stay at the hut for some R&R, working her way through a book.

We woke on Sunday scarcely believing our luck, as the high pressure remined over Scotland, bringing a third day in a row of cold, clear weather. The weather was due to change later in the day, so people were keen to head out early and make the most of it.

Day 2 of the course was more focussed on rope skills for mountaineers, so Jamie, Mark, Mike, Warwick, Carmen and Peter headed off with Graeme to Nevis range to make use of the climbers Gondola up to Aonach Mor. Warwick decided the picturesque drive through Glencoe and along Loch Linnie was worth doing twice that morning by leaving his boots in the hut.

Liz was still feeling under the weather, so made an early exit back to York with Richard. Graeme, Jake, Dave and Simon headed off to the Corbett of Stob Dubh for some more excellent winter walking conditions and great views.

Simon on Stob an Duine Ruaidh

Simon on Stob an Duine Ruaidh

Back at the hut after a third great day out in a row, there was enough of Warwick's chilli left over to feed everyone with tea before setting off for the long drive south after an excellent weekend. We had been really lucky with the weather, some of the club had consolidated existing knowledge or learned new skills on the winter courses, and the evening meals and company in the hut had been excellent as always.

Sadly the weather we'd been lucky to enjoy all weekend had a sting in it's tail. As the weather finally broke, blizzards and a closed A1 on the way home made for some interesting driving conditions, and a much longer journey than planned for some.

Blackrock cottage Glencoe. 24-26 May 2014

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Another Bank holiday weekend at the end of May gave the chance to travel a bit further afield to Blackrock cottage in Glencoe. This is the picture postcard cottage often seen on highland photos, with Buachaille Etive Mor looming large in the background.

Looking west towards a cloudy Glencoe

Looking west towards a cloudy Glencoe

It has a rustic feel to it and once we’d opened up it was time to enjoy a cuppa by the fire after the long drive from York. The banter continued into the early hours, aided by a glass or two of port and Karl kept us all entertained with stories of tigers (trust me, it was very funny!).

Saturday was sunny and dry so after a big fry up we headed out for the Buachaille, keen to get some climbing done and make the most of the good weather. Pete and Adam headed up to Rannoch wall to climb Agag’s Groove (VDiff), a great multi pitch classic finishing on the top of Crowberry ridge. They then continued up onto the summit of Stob Dearg, desending down Coire na Tulaich which still had a slippery start over the remains of the winter cornice.

Peter and Adam on Agags Groove

Peter and Adam on Agags Groove

Rob, Karl and Jamie headed around to the ‘classic rock tick’ of North Face route (S, 220m), another great multipitch day out, descending back down curved ridge. Meanwhile Sarah and Rona were enjoying the excellent visibility across the highlands as they walked the ridge of the Buachaille and ticked some munros off the list. Back at the cottage, Karl’s spicy bean dinner went down a treat, followed by apple pie and custard. The legendary YAC portions meant no one had room for the optional cheese and biscuits afterwards.

Sunday dawned a bit more overcast, so after another epic fry up (Karl seemed to have taken the need for a good breakfast before a day in the hills very seriously!) we headed out for a walk up Lairig Eilde.

Hiking up the Lairig Eilde

Hiking up the Lairig Eilde

Sarah and Rona opted for a shorter walk, finishing in the Glencoe Ski centre café before heading back to Edinburgh. The rest of the group continued up the excellent scramble of Sron na Lairig (nose of the pass) at the top of the valley. Donning waterproof trousers at the bottom was the right decision, as once the scrambling began, so did the rain. The wet rock made things more interesting and the scramble finished with an exposed ridge above spring snowchutes, during which eagle eyed Rob spotted and retrieved some winter crag swag via a quick abseil. Pete and Adam continued to tick the Munro of Stob coire Sgreamhach before descending via a very wet Beinn Fhada and the ‘bad step’.

Scrambling on Sron na Lairig

Scrambling on Sron na Lairig

Rob does his 'Usain Bolt' impression

Rob does his 'Usain Bolt' impression on the final ridge

Monday was overcast with showers threatening again, and with everyone else having made an early exit home, Pete and Adam closed up the cottage and then headed west over the Corran Ferry to Ardnamurchan. A steady walk up the valley led them to the base of Pinnacle ridge on Garbh Bheinn. After lunch we were pleased of the rope and small rack we’d packed, as some tricky (poor?!) route finding led to steep rocky and heather covered ground. Once back on the main ridge, an airy, atmospheric finish in the clouds ended a great scramble.

Adam high on Pinnacle Ridge

Adam high on Pinnacle Ridge

During the snack stop at the top the clouds lifted to reveal cracking views west to Loch Sunart, and across Loch Linnhe to the south and east. A walk back down the SE ridge, spotting a small herd of deer on the way, followed by a meal in The Inn at Ardgour by the ferry topped off a great weekend in Scotland.

 

 

Lochnagar

Friday, December 26th, 2008

With the maxim ‘Any winter climbing is a bonus before January’ in mind we planned a possible trip to Scotland. None of us had been to the Lochnagar area before so it was all new to us.

The weather as usual was not perfect & several of the people who were originally interested bailed leaving Dave, Brockers & I. I booked Braemar hostel last minute & we set off on a clear Sunday afternoon.
Monday morning, clear skies & very warm conditions, there were a couple of climbers in the hostel who had been there several days & they were very pessimistic about the conditions, they had resorted to going walking.

We drove to Spittal of Glenmuick & made the decision to not take climbing gear just crampons & one axe.
It was a clear day very warm but as we reached the col a very cold 35mph wind hit us, we quickly descended into the coire where it was sheltered & warm.

We decided to do the Black Spout a classic grade 1*** & we eventually did the LH variant which was slightly steeper, the gully had good snow & ice conditions.

On our way up we passed under Raeburns gully, where a couple of climbers dropped some gear, we picked it up. When we reached the summit they were just finishing so we had a natter, they said the gulley was just doable but very slushy.

Tuesday morning we awake to find similar conditions as the day before & made a decision to take the climbing gear up to try Raeburn’s, today when we reached the col it was like a summers day so we deemed it not worth going down into the coire & headed back getting back home at a reasonable time for a change.

Despite the warm conditions we had a couple of great days on the hill sussed out a new area that has a lot of worthwhile climbing & walking potential for the future, after all it is only December.