Archive for the ‘Mountaineering’ Category

Ben Broken

Friday, February 17th, 2017

Karl and I headed for the Southern Highlands last weekend for a bit of walking as the weather looked ok, if a little windy.


We stayed at the Wigwam campsite again, just south of Tyndrum. With a Snow Moon, the Feb full moon, (and a comet and eclipse neither of which we saw) and a decent level of the snow the Crianlarich Munros mountains looked absolutely stunning in the moonlight. Quite a surprising view.

In the morning we did the short drive down towards Oban to walk the Ben Cruachan & Stob Diamh but were quite late so had to squeeze Knob2 in the layby. The walk up through the woods to the huge dam went quickly and we were greeted by 40mph winds. Along the reservoir we headed up the valley to the col catching a few groups up. As we approached the ridge we were past by about 6 people who had turned back due to wild winds blowing across the ridge. We pressed on.

The ridge proved surprisingly calm and long, with granite boulders hiding beneath the snow, quite tricky and slow. We were after about 3:30, about 20 mins longer than the summer book time. Blue sky and magnificent views to Mull (Ben Mor visible over K's shoulder) and all the Glen Etive hills made for a good lunch stop. We decided (well I did) to head along the ridge to do the full horseshoe, which was interesting. After just 50m a bad step had stopped the parties ahead. I had a long sling which I used to protect all 5 of them and K & me. In another 10 mins we were stopped by a snowy exposed slab and opted to traverse under the summit, a long step kicking exercise. The Glasgow students bailed but the dad and son paired followed us.

All this messing about meant we were both quite late and tired by the time we got to the second Munro. Karl was really feeling it and took a bit of encouraging to top out. The above picture shows a beautiful sunset and K's state! It hadn't escaped our notice that we had to get a shift on as it would get dark real soon !


Over the last bump on the ridge the descent is really rather easy, especially in the snow and we made quick progress with only a few hundreds falls for K. We sparked up our torches close to the reservoir path, before rejoining the path through the woods. We caught up team dad & son, the dad was struggling badly with fatigue and they were torchless having only one phone so I stayed with them back to the road for about 7.30.

The kitchen and diner and showers were most welcome and we crashed out about 11. Karl was a bit the worse for wear and entered the Brown-Bradshaw zone of sleeping in, eventually surfacing at 10:45 – so we chilled out and came home.

Great quick hit, fantastic mountains and stunning views.

January Wales Meet

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

For the January meet we decided to try a different hut: Tal-Y-Braich, situated between Llanberis and Bethesda. Meet got off to an interesting start as we managed to lock ourselves out within 10 mins of arriving – doh. Just as well it was a dry, clear evening.

Nice little hut with a large wood burning stove. Living/dining area would be rather cramped if full – but good beds and view. Saturday was amazingly clear and sunny for the majority of the day. It was rather chilly for rock climbing & no winter climbing options – so Richard P, Liz and Mike headed off to do the classic Snowdon horseshoe.

Meanwhile Simon and myself walked from the hut to Carnedd Y Filiast to do The Ridge a Mod/3S scramble and finished by walking over Foel Goch to Y Garn and back again over Elidir Fawr, down to the hut. I carried a rope and slings etc just in case – which needless to say remained in the sack all day. Annie, Pete and Donal also walked from the hut taking a similar route without the scramble diversion, and heading on to the start of the Glyders.

Being the weekend before Burns night – we thought we would celebrate with a ton of haggis and mash. Simon lit a fair amount of whisky – which kept burning for sometime afterwards!

Sunday morning the weather was not so great – low cloud and damp. Hardly bad – but nothing like the previous day. Donal needed to head to Manchester airport so made a plan for a walk around Conway mountain. Most others decided to join in – not entirely sure if everyone went. Simon & I set off from the hut a bit later and also headed to Conway mountain – taking in most of the summits and stopping to watch the foals.

 

Last minute lakes dash

Monday, January 16th, 2017

IMG_20170114_133511429_HDRWith winter making a fleeting appearance and complicated arrangements (when is it ever simple) K and I decided to head to the lakes for the w/e. Paul was in at 00:06 and Mike at 01:08 Sat morning !

A bit delayed we left York and headed across to Brown Cove Crags hoping for snow in the gullies to play in not expecting much in the way of ice. Leaving the car at 11 it's a short but steepish pull up to the cove in fantastic weather but not great snow. We had a rope and scrambling rack, single axe each and no idea what to head for. The gullies, as we had been warned by a walker, were pretty bare, but the buttresses were rimed up and looking good. Turf varied between rock hard and soft and smears of ice were visible across the crag.

starting up
After some chatting we decided to have a look at Right Buttress Crack, a really obvious line today up the clean middle lump. We geared up, left the rope in the sac in case and quested off up the grooves. Nice route with some good ice, some good turf and lots of good hooks. The rock was really clean and not verglassed so I used my hands in preference to the axe quite often. The main middle pitch has chockstone which proved awkward with poor turf above so Paul and I ignored it. Karl and Mike went around with an interesting traverse back into the groove. The top section K followed the footsteps and make quick work of a short steep section with a great hook but little else. This proved problematic for the rest of us and Paul ended up wandering around it with bruised ego, amongst other aspects.

Topping out in sunshine we did a bit of hill spotting before we headed the short walk upto Helvellyn in the cloud with very few people about. We returned via White Stones doing some excellent nav practice along the way. So good was the nav that we eventually emerged into the public bar of the Thirlspot Inn.

I had booked us into Grange CC hut and we all slept long and well after the curry and booze, as we knew the forecast was poor. Sunday was a tentative start and after much debate whilst drinking tea and watching the rain we headed upto Newlands Hause and bagged a couple of Wainwright's (Knott Rigg and Ard crags in the mist) a fun little jaunt. We took a look at the waterfall on return and tried to imagine it well frozen.

We returned to the hut for tea and our lunch and were home by 7 after cleaning up, nice little last minute trip.

Christmas & New Year Meet 2016

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

P1070868The advance team set off Crianlarich on Boxing day – with the others arriving on the 28th.  Conditions meant it was very much a walking or cycling trip, with the usual excess of food.

27/12/16 – Simon and I went off to do Beinn Mhanach and Beinn Mhanach – Beinn a'Chuirn summit  as we had not visited the munro top previously.  Recent rain and snow melt meant that water was reasonably deep in the numerous fords required to reach the hills.   Annie and Pete E overtook us (on their bikes) as they were heading up the same P1040625valley but intending to cycle around the loch.  We were surprised to see them cycling back towards us only 30 mins later!  Annie's bike had a terminal break – doh!

 

28/12/16 – With a bust bike Annie was P1040641now limited to walking.  We all went to do the Tarmachan ridge.  S & I had not done it since 02 and hoped to have views this time – but didn't.  But it was quite fun doing the whole ridge anyway – still snow on the ground – bit P1070781icy in places.

29/12/16 – Karl, Rob, Gav, Esther & Jamie went up Beinn a'Chroin & An Caisteal.  Annie came Corbett bagging with S and me – Creagan na Beinne.  We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves out of the cloud whilst traversing the summit ridge.  Rather windy-so were glad we found an isolated small crag to give us a bit of shelter for a late lunch.  Pete E P1070796with a functional bike enjoyed the cycle around the loch (abandoned route from 27th).

30/12/16 – Seriously wet and windy.  Esther & Jamie got dropped off at Bridge of Orchy and cycled back to the hut; Gav walked along part of the West highland way.  We dropped Rob off – so he could do Ben Challum.  Annie, Pete and Karl went touristing to Aberfeldy and shopping.  S and I did an easy Corbett tick – Meall nan Subh – taking in all the various summit cairns.

31/12/16 – Even wetter and still windy.  Esther & Jamie sensibly headed home.  Karl, Rob & Gav did Meall Ghaordaidh and seemed to enjoy it despite the weather.   S & I went and did Meall Odhar (a Graham) – downsizing in hills!  A group of kayakers looked like they were having fun in the rapidly flowing river.

1/1/17 – S, me, Annie & Pete did Stob Binnein (taking in a couple of extra summits) and Ben More.  Don't walk through the forest at the start – path is blocked by fallen trees etc – there is a vehicle track on P1040709the other side of the river (for hydro-scheme).  Great day out – made interesting by the strong winds – and cloud free summits.  Karl, Rob & Gav  did Meal nan Tarmachan summit – but abandoned the full traverse due to the wind – and enjoyed a pub visit instead.

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2/1/17  The others headed straight home after cleaning the hut.  S & I stopped off to do Beinn nan Imirean on the way back -a Corbett we had failed to get to the summit of 2 years earlier.  No problems this time – but no view from the summit.

Compleat at last

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Finished!Just 6 Munros left to do as we headed to Scotland for our annual week's trip. The plan was to finish them over the Bank Holiday the following weekend, when the club was staying at Glen Affric, as 5 of the 6 comprised the Cluanie Horseshoe, which is best done from the north. This needed good luck with the weather though, it would be thoroughly miserably doing a long hill day in the rain.

The 6th was Ben More on Mull, so we spent a few days there. What a great place! We had the benefit of a high pressure system just west of Scotland, so while England and Wales shivered in the rain, we had wall-to-wall sunshine. As well as walking up Ben More and its adjacent Graham Beinn Fhada, we had a trip to Staffa (Fingal's Cave) and the Treshnish Islands (puffins galore!), and also did a spot of cragging. Not world-class climbing, but the wonderful location automatically added a star to everything. And the campsite at Fidden is brilliant.

Mullach Fraoch-choireAfter watching some dolphins swim by in Tobermory harbour we took the ferry back to the mainland for a long drive out through Ardnamurchan (we really need a club trip there!) and Ardgour. We decided to spend the night at Invergarry so we could do a quick ascent of Carn Ghluasaid, the outlying Munro of the Cluanie group. This meant that the 4 remaining summits  formed a more reasonable day's objective without a long there-and-back detour.

So all that remained was to drive to Glen Affric (about 10 miles as the crow flies, but 2 hours by road) to meet up with the club.

Low cloud greeted us on Saturday morning. But we remained optimistic that the weather would improve to give the forecast sunshine.

Charles set off first, intending to add a Corbett to the round. Carmen and I, along with Rob and Annie, followed 90 minutes later to do all 4 Munros. The others (Simon, Debra, Peter and Karl) planned to do the final two, meeting us at the summit of our 3rd.

And things mostly worked.

BubblyThe cloud burnt off to give a sunny day. After a couple of diversions for some Munro Tops we somehow arrived at the top of A' Chraileag within minutes of the others. All that was missing was Charles, whose ambitions were stronger than his legs, and eventually descended after a Corbett, 2 Munros, and a few Tops.

Our final Munro was Mullach Fraoch-choire ("Hill of the heathery corrie"), and what a fine hill it was, shapely and with some fun scrambling up the south ridge. As we arrived at the summit, Simon and Karl produced a couple of bottle of fizz from their rucksacks and we all celebrated in style.

Om nom nomA brilliant end to a long campaign (27 years for me, a rather more sprightly 16 for Carmen), made extra special by the weather, the location, the company, and of course the bubbly!

So what's next? Well I've got 38 Tops left to do. There are lots of Munro-free islands we haven't been to, Rum being top of the list. We've started the Corbetts (probably about 50 or 60 done). And the next day we added another 3 Munros to our 2nd round…

Some more of Simon Fox's photos here

Ours will follow if and when there's time…

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.

Helyg Winter Trip

Monday, March 14th, 2016

SAM_3042Helyg was opened as a Climbers Club hut 90 years ago and has undergone a few updates since but still retains a wonderful atmosphere and was our base for this months meet. Twelve of us made the trip, Pete B was outgunned on the distance, by Karl coming from Geneva.

Saturday was forecast windy and snowy, Donal, Jamie and Warwick took their bike to B-Y-C trails and had a good day riding 25Km and no accidents.

Paul relaxing

post run relax

Paul had a day alone, always enlightening in challenging navigation conditions and really focuses the mind as there is no one to discuss it with! Along the valley from the hut on trails to Cwm Idwal, up past the slabs and staircase of the Devils Kitchen to the summits of the Glyders (Fach and Fawr). These are rough underfoot and with snow around quite testing. Back along the ridge to Joe Browns at Capel Curig and a track leads back to the
hut.

An excellent full day out for anyone and alone in fell gear quite a challenge. Warwick repeated this on Sunday but I am not sure of his time or conditions, but it was quite wild when we were up there later that day.

The rest of the team piled into 2 cars, Mike Marven and Simon driving with Carmen, Dave Wiffen, Karl, Mike Shaw, Pete B and myself as ballast, and headed for Lech Du Spur (aka Crib Lem) above Bethesda. The long gentle walk in was really quite pleasant and we were sheltered as we caught up the team of 4 at the top of the slog up. We sensibly put Carmen out front doing her energiser bunny impression and we followed the foot steps of a soloist who had turned back. When the footsteps ran out, Simon set off swimming up the loose power. This was solid grade I territory and serious as a slip would have been bad. We all made it across with some retreating to the lower easier approach, previously occupied by the other group.

topping out partyOnce on the ridge it all went swimmingly, what makes it such fun is the ability to avoid or confront all the difficulties to suit ones preference. So obviously we sent Mike S over all the hardest bits. We moved up together taking a range of lines and staying roughly together to the end of the fun bits about 100m below the summit. Some debate about descent options (over the tops back to the hut or down direct to the car) were resolved quickly when we hit the summit ridge and the wind. Some nav practice saw us back at the cars and hut before dusk.

Jamie, Paul and I delivered another YAC spectacular repast, a Fridge-a-stronie soup, Chilli with Crispy Pitas and Crumble & custard filled us to bursting and an early bed for most.

Sunday the weather was meant to be better once we had lost Mike M and Pete to Mothers day duties and Donal to a Cnicht walk, the remainder (bar Warwick off to beat Paul's time) set off from the hut for a Bristly Ridge assault. 10 mins later Rob and Jamie set off again, this time with Rob's crampons.

Carmen dragged us up the path to the Tryfan col where we geared up and headed for the gullies which were full of poor snow and proved quite tricky. SAM_3049Paul and Mike S scared themselves in the main gully, the rest of us, in the gully just left, used a rope for two little steps, while Paul and Mike recovered their composure and waited (ie got cold!). From there to the top is full of pinnacles and great fun, much like the day before but a little less avoidable. Some great sport to be had never felt too serious, but a slip would not have been clever.

A trip over the top isn't complete without the Cantilver Stone pose and Summit cantliverand Castle of the Winds ticks, so it's a shame Mike failed to complete the hat-trick :o) The Gribin ridge is a great descent and reminds me of the top of Swirrel Edge, through some grade I ground with deep powder before easing where the False Gribin joins it from Cwm Bochlywd. We took the opportunity to peer down Cnifeion Arete and into the Cwm where Clogywm Du looked plastered in snow (hard routes had been climbed over the w.e)

A stroll back to the cars, tea and leftovers in the hut before a swift tidy up was all that was required after Donal Warwick and Karl had sorted it, and on the road for 6, York for 9

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looking over to Tryfan

A great meet where we surprised ourselves with two good days walking and scrambling, running, and biking in a great little cosy hut.

Picture Links: (pix used from simon and mike the rest of theirs are below…)

Mike Shaws Pix.

Simon's Pix

Snowy Lakes

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Karl looking for a filing cabinetKarl and I made a second trip to the Climbers Club hut in Grange, Borrowdale, the first was Christmas eve where we did a damp and cold Corvus, this time it was winter walking on the cards.

A early start on Sat, delayed by a lost sleeping bag (not stolen!) saw us gearing up in the morning sunshine at Seathwaite and leaving the car about 10.30 for the walk upto Great End. We overtook many groups but as expected it was heaving up there. South East wasn't complete but Central and Window Gullies were very busy. We counted 14 people gearing up at the base of the screes as arrived, put on some crampons and wandered across to Custs Gully. By the time we had left another 12 were there. Great neve took us all the way to the summit, soloing, with just a brief stop to allow three climbers to kick snow on us on their descent.

On the summit we were treated to magnificent views of all the lakes hills and Scottish southern hills clearly visible. It was a busy day with many teams on bowfell (including pete b with another team staying in Ambleside) and Scafell Pike – our destination, bristling with summiteers. We made our way across the plateau ticking Ill and Broad Crags and joined the masses. I estimated  1 in 8 had crampons and whilst not liable to fall over any cliffs it would have made their walking a lot easier and less slippery.

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Broad Crag with poser

We descended via a Corridor Route variant, taking us behind round how, a lovely quite little cove overlooked by some knarly looking cliffs and hanging icicles beneath Broad Crag's summit. We picked up the CR and headed via Sty Head tarn back to the road arriving just after dark, or pub time as we like to call it. Swift pint then to the hut for an enjoyable evening chatting to Chris G and Martin H (both Yorkshire climbers).

The long walk had done for Karl's so a shorter day was called for on Sunday, but what a day, cold crisp frosty but clear blue skies, stunning place to be. We headed up to a stripped Brown Cove Crags, where only 2 other parties were in evidence, Helvellyn was very busy as snow condition were great. On the left hand side of the crag we found a suitable short route going up the rib between two gullies, one with plenty of avalanche debris from a collapsed cornice, not much snow low down but all frozen up. We left the sacs, I took a short rope and we made our way up the mostly frozen block, choosing the most awkward route and pitching 2 short sections. We both really enjoyed it even though short lived was entertaining and engaing the whole way up – it's given II which felt right. We downclimbed the neighbouring gully (grade I) doing some snow anchor practice, bucket seats, lowers to add to the boot-axe belay and other tricks we had used yesterday. We collected the sacs and headed down, Karl's knee giving him lots of grief, but we were treated to wonderful views and it was still light.

A top weekend out, shame Mike was being a property tycoon and couldn't join us, next time maybe

Set in drab moorland, this isolated hill has little to commend it…

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

Beinn Bhuidhe…is what Irvine Butterfield said about Beinn Bhuidhe in his classic book on the Munros. That's probably why we left it until our 8th-from-last Munro, I'd even thought about saving it for a bad day's quick hit. But the forecast for last weekend was good so we decided to combine it with some climbing on the Cobbler.

And what a magnificent day it was! Cold and sunny with little wind, and hardly another soul to be seen – we met a couple of other parties at the Loch Fyne car park, both going to cycle up the glen for a quick there-and-back ascent of the hill. But we fancied making the most of the weather by staying up high for as long as possible, so we ascended steeply up the hillside to Clachan Hill at 658m.

Arrochar Alps

A long flat ridge over Beinn Chas (680m) was slow going, as the hard nevé alternated with a breakable crust and soft powder underneath, but the views made up for it – the Arrochar Alps to the south east, Crianlarich hills to the north east, Ben Lui and Ben Oss to the north, and the unmistakable Ben Cruachan in the north west. And all the while the long summit ridge of Beinn Bhuidhe looking Alpine in the spring snow.

12794911_1114226181934502_7503434133664158715_oThe avalanche forecast was for considerable risk on south through east aspects, which of course was the direction we were approaching from. If all else failed we'd be able to traverse a few km to the foot of the west ridge. But although there were plenty of loaded snow slopes guarded by big cornices, we found a route up a steep grassy spur followed by a short traverse to gain the east ridge just a few hundred metres from the summit. Here we found the footprints from the other walkers, and could see them a long way below us as they headed back to the valley. Other than this we saw nobody all day, nor any footprints in the snow.

12792292_1114235601933560_7021446749372056390_oFrom the summit we descended to the col where the normal approach comes up. Rather than descend immediately we decided to go up the other side to the unnamed NE top, before descending its SE ridge to pick up the normal route. We were expecting a steep pathless descent to the valley and a long walk down the glen, but there have been a lot of new tracks bulldozed up this side of the hill recently, with copious use of dynamite by the look of it. Much as I hate this sort of thing, at least it was made slightly less of an eyesore by the covering of snow, and it had the advantage of taking us on a mostly-gentle downhill across the flanks of Newton Hill and back to the valley just a few km from the car.

Far from being as uninspiring as we'd expected, this turned out to be one of the best hill days we've had in Scotland. Presumably Butterfield never visited in winter!

1After a chilly night in the tent (about -6C when we got up on Sunday), we headed for the Cobbler – Carmen's first ascent, and my first in winter. The weather was if anything better than the day before – not a breath of wind, and not a single cloud in the sky.

12794774_1114236015266852_6634526237604187597_oMany more people around today, unsurprisingly, but still not as many as you'd find on a wet and windy November day in  the Lake District! And once we left the main track to contour to Chockstone Gully (grade II) we were on our own again.

We moved together up the first long pitch, Carmen going first and placing gear before belaying in a cave under the eponymous chockstone. I led from there to the top, avoiding the squeeze exit option  by the surprisingly heavily iced slabs on the right – I even managed to place the token ice screw I'd brought "just in case".

10394841_1114229325267521_7786127929327546860_nFrom the top of here it was a short walk to the foot of Great Gully (also II). We moved together again up here, but with the novel variation that I had all the gear while Carmen went first. Oops. Topping out it started to get busy again, with worrying numbers of people slithering about above big cliffs without crampons or axes, but nobody fell off and at least they weren't muppet enough to be roped together!

Across at the main summit, almost everyone restricted themselves to the easy top opposite the true summit, accessed by a short, easy, but very exposed scramble (grade II in winter). Since we had climbing kit with us, we of course went to the top, a long spiral through the window, along a ledge, and back up to finish directly above the starting point.

12764336_1114230701934050_4985023918196950196_oWe skirted under the south summit and were back at the car in time to get home at a civilised hour for once.

One of those superb weekends that make up for the wet and windy weather we normally enjoy so much!

Lots more photos here