Posts Tagged ‘thaw’

Every season except winter

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

This year we had the biggest New Year meet turn out for years, filling Blackrock Cottage and with people camping in vans and even staying at the ski centre up the road. So it shouldn't have been surprising that we also had some of the worst weather, with a massive thaw stripping pretty much all the remaining snow, and heavy rain and strong winds putting the high summits out of bounds.

Of course we didn't let this stop us getting out! Corbetts were climbed near Glen Orchy (Beinn Udlaidh was not in, unless you're into climbing unfrozen waterfalls in spate). Others did the Corbett above the Kings House before retiring to the bar. Trade at the newly rebuilt hotel certainly benefited from the bad weather, though private functions made it residents-only for the last few days. I don't think most of us will hurry back, it's lost all its old character and now feels (and looks) more like a motorway service station.

On the worst weather day an intrepid few of us did a walk over a couple of small hills on Rannoch Moor (hard to stand up in the wind even at under 500m) and back along the West Highland Way to the hut. Others went to Fort William for the local Park Run, followed by woodland walks and mountain bike trails.

Jayne led a big group in a circuit of Buachaille Etive Beag, staying low to avoid summit storms. Some fun and games were had trying and mostly failing to cross the normally narrow stream – the exception being Pete and Aiofe, who were rewarded by having to cross back again a mile or so upstream. We almost managed to stay dry until the last stretch back to the Kings House. Meanwhile others cycled down the road to Kinlochleven and back over the Devil's Staircase to the hotel.

More rain on the Monday morning led most people to the Ice Factor climbing wall, Warwick taking the opportunity for a run over the Devils Staircase. Carmen and I risked the forecast of an afternoon improvement and were rewarded by sunshine and views in the last hour before sunset.

Finally, on New Years Eve, those of us who remained were granted an exceptional day's weather – cool and clear with blue skies and light winds, fantastic conditions despite the near complete absence of snow. Peter and Ann took the train from the coast to Bridge of Orchy and cycled back through down the glen.

Carmen and I did a long walk from Ballachulish up the remote Corbett of Fraodhaidh. Pete led the others up Creise and Meall a' Bhuiridh, the two Munros behind the hut, taking in a fine scramble on the way.

The usual New Year's eve festivities followed, combined with a birthday cake for Noemi, and with far too much food courtesy of Karl who we unwisely left to do the shopping! We even all managed to stay up beyond midnight, partly because the forecast was back to wet and windy so there was no incentive for an early start. In the event it wasn't too bad, but the previous day could hardly have been bettered, and we all headed home.

A load more photos here

Snowless in Elphin

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

For the 2018/9 New Year meet we returned to the excellent little hut in Elphin, up in the far northwest of Scotland. One of these days we'll get there to coincide with some good winter's weather, but not this time, mild weather through December led to largely snow-free conditions.

Of course, that didn't stop us 9 of us making the long journey north, and it's a fantastic place to be in (almost) any conditions.

Ben Hope

We arrived on Boxing Day, and the following day the best conditions were due to be further east, so Carmen and I headed north and east for an ascent of Meall Horn, a Corbett near Arkle. An overcast day nevertheless stayed dry and the cloud mostly above the summits, with some great views to the sunny peaks around Ben Hope. Meanwhile, Annie and Peter diced with death on Cul Beag but lived to tell the tale.

Meall Doire Faid

The next day we headed south, again chasing the weather, and again got lucky with a sunny ascent of Beinn Enaiglair, another Corbett near Braemore Junction. A long approach spiralled round to the far side of the hill before climbing old stalkers' paths to the top, descending the other side and back up from the col to bag a Graham summit, Meall Doire Faid.

Annie and Peter set off to walk up Quinag, but after half an hour sat in the car park watching the rain, they settled for a walk to Eas a Chual Aluinn, the highest waterfall in the country.

On 29th the rest of the group arrived, so of course the weather took a turn for the worse.

Mike, Pete W and Rob repeated their now traditional late start on a long walk near shortest day with an ascent of the Assynt Munros, including some consternation about the descent from the ridge (minor epic narrowly averted) getting back just a tad after dark.

Carmen and I headed south again, to pick up an insignificant Munro Top near Meall nan Ceapraichean – the only Munro summit in the Beinn Dearg group that we didn't go up on the 2011 LAMM – we'd traversed 20m below the summit! Today we weren't so lucky with the weather, which stayed resolutely damp and dismal with low cloud, so having ticked the summit we headed back, detouring slightly to visit one of the impressive waterfalls in the glen (an advantage of the poor weather!).

Peri and Karl found the best weather on Ben More Coigach, a fine mountain overlooking the sea north of Ullapool.

Falls of Kirkaig

The next day was once again damp and windy, with cloud levels even lower, so we had a team walk to the Falls of Kirkaig, impressively full of water after all the rain.

New Year's Eve was a repeat, only windier, so various groups did various low level bimbles – some to the Clachtoll Broch, others to the crags at Reiff, others to the coast near Lochinver.

Then it was the traditional NYE haggis over-eating, over-drinking, and struggling to stay awake until midnight, followed the next day by fine weather, snow on the hills, and a long drive home.

Some more photos here

Three seasons in a weekend

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

The theme for the weather in the days before the February "winter" meet was one of warmth, wetness, and rapid snow melt. Then as the weekend grew close, the Met Office issued a weather warning for heavy snow and storm force winds. So a typical trip to Scotland then.

Carmen wanted to get some Munros bagged, but has done everything within striking distance of Laggan (the Raeburn Hut), so we drove up a day early to Arrochar. Here we made an Alpine start for a walk up Beinn Narnain and Ben Ime, in normal Autumn conditions – mild and cloudy but with a cold wind on the summits and a thin covering of snow over the highest tops. The forecast was for heavy rain later in the day (hence the early start), and it wasn't wrong, luckily it waited until we were in the car.

We met up with the others at the hut that evening, and made some half-hearted plans for the next day, safe in the knowledge that they'd be scuppered by the weather. But Saturday morning brought blue sky and sunshine, so we had to go out and do something after all. Peri, Antony, Jamie and Paul headed for the trip of Munros south of Loch Laggan. I was dying of man flu, so Carmen and I opted for a low-level walk from the hut to look at the Dirc Mhor (a ravine caused by a landslip on The Fara). Will and Rob decided on the east ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn (grade II), as if the blizzards did show up it should be a bit sheltered from the westerly winds.

Of course the weather didn't disappoint, and Carmen and I were soon battling into strong winds and horizontal snow along the glen. Being quite low down though, we did get the benefit of a few breaks, with some fine views and even sunshine. It was a bit of a soul-destroying slog thgrough heather and tussocks for the last 3 miles, but we eventually reached Dirc Mhor, and had a brief look at the ravine before it disappeared into another snowstorm. We walked up the Dirc Beag (a companion landslip) and then back over the summit of Meall nan Eagan (just 658m but hard to stand upright in the wind).

The Munro-bagging posse meanwhile had persevered to the summit of Creag Pitridh before seeing sense and saving the other two summits for another less exciting day. Quite impressive they managed to get as far as they did!

Will and Rob completed their route, despite serious doubts at the foot of the ridge as to whether they should continue. "A very wild day with gusts of about 70-80mph and tons of spindrift. The ridge itself is very nice," said Will. "Wild, crawling along some sections, we played making it hard at start and then got a shift on, no cornice where ridge meets top. bearings off top in gusty conditions," said Rob. Will's brave decision to wear brand new plastic boots then led to a slow descent and a return to the hut a few hours after dark.

Sunday was due to be the best day of the trip, and so it turned out with bright sunshine and clear blue skies. Will was still crippled, but equipped with Rob's spare boots and several pairs of socks managed to join him to bag a couple of Munros near Roy Bridge – Stob Coire Sgriodain and Chno Dearg.

Carmen and I meanwhile headed for the route they'd done yesterday, the east ridge of Beinn a' Chaorainn – my man flu had subsided but I still didn't fancy anywhere with a long walk in. Conditions were brilliant, sunshine and gentle winds, a quick walk through the forest being eventually slowed by deep powder on the approach to the ridge. The route itself was great, several tricky options available (most of which we took), with easier alternatives (though still quite serious with some big drops). As expected, the rope we'd brought "just in case" stayed in the sack all day.

The sunshine eventually succumbed to approaching cloud, and the summit was in the clag, but the day was so good (and the hour so early) that we decided to add a few miles to the day by completing the horseshoe to the east and going to the summit of Creag Meagaidh. This was my 3rd visit, but the 1st where the summit was actually visible! A long descent down the south ridge took us back to the car. Despite the fine weather, we had the hills to ourselves, apart from 2 skiers we saw in the distance.

Monday was due to be warm and wet again, but Rob had arranged a guide, so he and Will were up by 5am to try to get to the Northern Corries before the turbo-thaw hit, which they managed with a quick ascent of Droidless (VI 6). "Full winter condition at start of first pitch, after which a spectacularly fast thaw stripped the rime completely by the start of the second pitch. The cracks were still icy on the third pitch so it still felt in winter condition overall. Very cold hands from the running water!".

Also up an an ungodly hour were Paul and Antony, as they needed a lift to the Cairngorms from Will. They made a brave attempt at Cairngorm via Coire an Lochain, but made a tactical retreat after being blown over a couple of times in fast-melting snow. The day was saved with some excellent cake at the cafe!

The sensible among us had a lie-in, followed by a token ascent of Geal-charn Mor, a Corbett near Aviemore, in the drizzle. Almost all the snow from the weekend had gone – winter was over again.

Lots of photos here.

New Year in Elphin

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

For the New Year meet this year, we headed to Elphin, north of Ullapool – a long way away, but one of the best parts of Scotland. If the weather played ball there are fantastic walks to be had, and fantastic winter climbing.

Of course the weather wasn't cooperative, but we all had a great time anyway.

On what turned out to be the clearest weather of the week, Ben, Carmen and I walked up the trio of Corbetts that make up Quinag. Carmen had been waiting for years to do this hill, rain always previously stopping play. Despite being snow-free and cloudy, the summits were clear, and it stayed dry. Simon & Debra meanwhile went up Cul Mor, another Corbett near the hut.

Peri, Peter, and Annie now arrived, and with them came storms. The next day was so bad that apart from a few short forays to view some waterfalls being blown upward near the hut, the farthest we got was to the excellent Lochinver Pie Shop.

The forecast for the following day wasn't promising, but Ben, Peri, Carmen and I got out anyway, and had an exciting day in the snow on the Corbett Glas Bheinn. On the col which followed the wind was so strong we were struggling to move, but we persevered in the hope that the wind was being funnelled through the gap and would be better higher up – and so it proved, so we continued to traverse over Beinn Uidhe before descending to the car we'd left at Inchnadamph.

Ben Mor Coigach was our objective the next day, with more snow due before a thaw, but crucially with light winds at first which we hoped would allow us to get across the narrow ridge before conditions worsened. It worked out quite well, with good views (and even – very briefly – some sun). The traverse continued around to Sgurr an Fhidleir, with views of the classic HVS rock climb (and grade-silly winter climb) of the Fiddler's Nose following the main arete. The threatend thaw duly arrived on the last hill, and the snow turned quickly to rain, so we fled back to the cars.

Another wet day saw some on a coastal walk to the Old Man of Stoer sea stack, and others walking/cycling to Sandwood Bay.

On the final day, we did another fine walk, traversing the Corbett of Breabag near Inchnadamph. The snow had all gone, but new snow arrived during the day. A fine trackless hill, there'd be a well-worn path if it were just 100m higher!

Not the best week's weather we've had, but far from the worst, and a trip to the far north west is always good. No Munros, but 6 Corbetts and a Graham (whatever one of those is). We still need to go back to do some of the winter routes!

More photos here
Debra's photos here
Peri's photos here

New Year 2010

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

This year we stayed at Blackrock Cottage, Glencoe – a new hut for the club. A few people were put off by the lack of running water (apart from a stream behind the hut), but 7 hardy souls made the trip north – me, Carmen, Simon F, Debra, Peter, Ben, and Peri.

Unlike last year, when we had superb conditions throughout our trip, the 2010/11 meet began with a major thaw. We arrived on Monday 27th, and it rained for most of the night.

Not to be deterred, Carmen and I went searching for ice the next day, and surprised ourselves by finding some in the form of The Weep (II/III), over 1000 feet of ice on the flanks of Creise. Just when we thought it was all over, having climbed everything that can be seen from the bottom, we turned the corner and found that the ice continued. This provided us with another two long pitches making 8 in all, probably about 350m or more. Mostly easy, but with a couple of grade 3 pitches just above half height, it would make a good route for beginners as for most of the way it is easy to escape and many of the steeper sections can be avoided. We finished with an "interesting" descent as we slowly picked a way through steep crags in fast-disappearing light.

Meanwhile the others opted for an ascent of Beinn a' Chrulaiste, a Corbett above the King's House Hotel. Despite limited views they took in the lower summits of Meall Bhalach, and finished in the King's House with some well-deserved beer.

The next day being Peri's last chance for some climbing before heading back to feed her iguanadon, she, Ben, and Peter also took a look at The Weep. Continuing mild temperatures meant that it was getting wetter all the time, but even so it was still in good condition. Being a three they were a bit slower, but managed to finish the first half of the route before heading back. Simon, Debra, Carmen and I drove south to tick one of the duller Munros, Meall Ghaordie near Killin, being the closest that Carmen hadn't yet done. A bit of a slog in wet snow, but at least we managed a few long bumslides on the way back down.

Thursday's weather was more of the same, mild and cloudy with the permanent threat of rain. Simon. Debra, Peter and Ben headed for the Bridge of Orchy for some more Munro bagging, while Carmen and I decided to see if there was any climbable ice left on Aonach Dubh. There wasn't. So we went shopping for the New Year's Eve haggis instead, and took the opportunity for the first showers of the week courtesy of the Ice Factor.

On Friday you've guessed it, it rained. It looked vaguely like it might clear up, so I decided to walk up Bidean while the others went to the climbing wall. Having sat in the car park watching the rain for half an hour, I gave in and joined them at the wall. As is becoming traditional, nobody managed to stay up until midnight.

Saturday at last was colder (though not as cold as forecast) and clearer (though not the predicted blue sunny skies). Peter and Ben headed for the two Munros above Allachadair Farm, but had to turn back as Ben wasn't well. The rest of us were booked on an avalanche awareness course with the MCoS, so headed for Aonach Mo where we spent an excellent and very useful on the hill. I'd done a similar course almost 20 years ago, and many of the things I'd been taught then are now rejected as being a waste of time!

Conditions were fast improving again, just in time to go home, but we had one more day in which to get something done. Peter went back to Achalladair Farm and successfully bagged the two Munros in good weather, while Carmen and I returned to Aonach Mor, this time for some climbing. It's supposed to be easy to access, but I'm not sure where it gets this reputation as the approach consists of a gondola ride, followed by a 90 minute slog up hill through the ski slopes, and finally a downclimb of a grade I gully to reach the routes. It wouldn't take much longer to get to Ben Nevis!

Our first choice route, Left Twin, had a group of 3 just starting (typical, only half a dozen teams on the hill and one of them was on 'our' route), so instead we opted for Tunnel Vision (III *). This turned out to be an excellent choice, much better than it looked from below. I got the 55m middle pitch, up ice and steep neve with worryingly spaced protection (almost all the cracks in the rocks were choked with ice and unusable). We topped out at 2pm and briefly considered another route, but this would have meant missing the last gondola and hence a long walk out in the dark, so since the clouds were rolling in we headed back.

The next day it snowed at last, but we were all on our way home.

An excellent little hut with bags of character, and I'm sure we'll go back – though given the lack of facilities, maybe not for a whole week!

More photos here and Debra's here.

Calling Dave Meigh, it's 5 o'clock, are you awake?

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Sron na CreiseFollowing several weeks of cold and snowy weather in Scotland, with the best conditions in years, we managed to time our February trip perfectly – at the end of the week of the big thaw.

Not to be daunted, we planned a day on the hill and were awake by 5am.

Eventually we got back to sleep again, and got up just after 7. My original (pre-thaw) plan had been to take a look at the Inglis Clark Ridge on Creise, a fine grade III. Since this was now completely devoid of snow, Rob, Carmen and I headed instead for Sron na Creise, a grade 3 scramble up the north ridge. Sron na CreiseDespite occasional light drizzle, the rock was clean and the friction excellent, with nice exposure in places. And we were sheltered from the strong southerly winds until we eventually reached the summit ridge, where strong gusts occasionally threatened to blow us over.

After a brief detour to Clach Leathad (the south summit), we descended east towards Meall a' Bhuiridh, our 2nd Munro of the day. The start of the descent looked fairly desperate, as we appeared to be stepping off the edge of a cornice, but it was actually quite easy, especially in retrospect. Ice FactorFrom the summit, a long series of standing glissades (ski-ing in walking boots) took us down through the (closed) ski area and back to the car.

Inspired by an awful weather forecast, the next day we'd already booked in at the Ice Factor indoor ice-climbing wall. Great fun it was too, so much so that most of us booked in for another session in the afternoon.

Loch LomondThe next day dawned wet and horrible again, but Rob, Dave D, Will, Carmen and I decided to stop off for a walk anyway, and by the time we parked at Ardlui (by Loch Lomond) it was dry, with even occasional glimpses of the sun. Ben Vorlich was a bit of a slog (OK, a lot of a slog), but the bum-slide descent made up for it.

Some more photos here.