Cairngorm Ski Touring

Today was an introduction to ski touring for Becky, as it was her first day out touring we skinned up one of the closed pistes on the Cairngorm ski resort, before heading off into the backcountry and up to the summit. We had planned to traverse around the northern corries and then descent down Lurchers gully, however we were running a bit later than planned having had to hire kit in the morning and the weather was closing in. Due to this we decided just to head back to the ski centre and then head down the pistes back to the car.

Skinning up a closed piste

Approaching the summit of Cairngorm

Summit selfie

Another ski tourer heading off

Becky heading back to the ski area

Becky heading back to the ski area

Ardverikie Munros

While we were staying on the Ardverikie estate we decided to climb the three munros on the estate, as it meant we had access to the estate track keys which saved a long walk in. The weather was exceptional on the first day where we were treated to spectacular views on the ascent to Creag Pitridh, unfortunately on the summit of Geal Charn we ended up in the white room. On the second day we headed back up the tracks and climbed Beinn a Chlachair in less good conditions, however we were treated to fleeting views from the top.

Beautiful view across Loch Laggan to Creag Meagaidh

Stunning valley to start the walk from

Great scenary on the walk in

Lots of sun and snow

Wonderful conditions

Summit selfie

Stunning panorama from Creag Pitridh

Great views from Creag Pitridh

Walking up to Geal Charn

In the cloud on Geal Charn

Becky on Geal Charn

Great descent

Stunning evening light

Another stunning parking spot

Great scenary on the walk in

Bad weather in the distance

Summit selfie

Becky on the summit

Looking over to the Grey Corries

Stunning views East

Clearning on the descent

Snow shoes were helpful for some!

SW & E Ridge of the Douglas Boulder, Ben Nevis

With an excellent forecast George and I planned to go to Ben Nevis with the aim of climbing Observatory Ridge. The walk in was beautiful with a clear sky, views of a snowy mountain and a beautiful view back down into the valley. Unfortunately due to the lack of winter so far this year, while Ben Nevis was covered in snow it was lacking in ice which is what lead us to attempting a ridge route.

Walking into a snowy mountain

Beautiful view out of the valley

Unfortunately while we were approaching observatory ridge it became clear that the snow was very unconsolidated with no base at all. I set off on the first pitch and quickly decided that we were going to have a long and unpleasant day if we continued, so made the unpleasant unprotected down climb back to the belay.

We then decided to head for plan B which was the classic south west ridge of the Douglas boulder. This provided three pitches of excellent mixed climbing, with good hooks, reasonable snow, excellent protection and enjoyable climbing. George led the first pitch which was the crux of the route with an enjoyable technical traverse, the second pitch was more straightforward after an initial section up to an exposed pinnacle. The last pitch was a long pitch up to the summit of the Douglas boulder with a powerful final move to gain the summit directly.

George on the crux traverse of South West Ridge

George at the end of the crux traverse on South West Ridge

Me at the top of the first pitch of South West Ridge

Climbing the second pitch of South West Ridge

Climbing the second pitch of South West Ridge

Beautiful day

At the top of South West Ridge

Near the top of SW ridge

While we were climbing the route the guided party behind us suggested that we might want to climb the East Ridge after to make the most of the excellent day. This turned out to be an excellent suggestion as the second pitch was fantastic, with two short steep walls which looked steep and intimidating but had excellent gear and great hooks.

Me on the crux of East Ridge

At the top of the Douglas Boulder

From the top of the Douglas boulder we had views of most of the north face of Ben Nevis, which was looking surprisingly bare due to the poor winter.

Looking towards Ledge Route

Looking towards Observatory Ridge and North East Buttress

Looking up into Coire na Ciste

Despite not being able to achieve our main objective we had an excellent day out climbing, it was great to finally start the winter season after such a lean January and February. The walk out was beautiful with great views over sun kissed snowy mountains. On the drive back to our accommodation the sunset was amazing as it lit up the mountains in a beautiful red colour.

Stunning views

Beautiful sunset on the drive home

Lake District Classic Rock

When I booked onto the Avon Mountaineering Club’s winter Lake District trip I was very optimistically hoping for some winter climbing to be in condition, optimistically hoping for some winter walking and just hoping for some good weather. Unfortunately winter had other ideas and there was barely any sign of winter in Scotland, let alone the Lake District. However, what I was not expecting was a forecast which involved a light breeze and a cloudless sky.

This forecast led to George persuading Becky and me that we wanted to go rock climbing, on a mountain crag in the Lake District in January. Initially we were unconvinced, however we did eventually relent and agreed to head up to Gimmer to climb two classic rock routes.

When we woke up we were presented with a cloudless sky, beautiful sunrise and a frosty ground. We sorted our gear out in the Old Dungeon Ghyll car park, and it did feel a bit strange packing to go rock climbing in the mountains with ice on the ground.

Frosty Morning in Langdale

Beautiful walk in

We soon warmed up on the walk up to Gimmer before cooling down again when we headed into the shade at the start of Ash Tree Slabs. I headed up the first pitch which was a bit brutal in the cold morning shade, at one point I couldn’t tell if I was holding onto a good hold or not without looking at my fingers! Thankfully the first belay was in the sun, and we then mostly remained in the sun for the rest of the day which was very pleasant.

Pre-climb selfie

Me on the first pitch of Ash Tree Slabs (© George Cave)

George on Ash Tree Slabs

Becky high above Langdale on Ash Tree Slabs

After Ash Tree Slabs we headed over to climb ‘C Route’ which had a surprisingly tough start for a severe, maybe it would have felt easier in rock shoes but I don’t usually expect to be pulling hard on a severe, especially while above gear and close to the ground. The rest of the first pitch of C route was enjoyable and more appropriate for the grade. George then led up to the top and the enjoyable exposed finale.

Me on the tricky first moves of C route (© George Cave)

Me on the tricky first moves of C route (© George Cave)

George on C Route

George leading to the top on C Route

Becky on the final belay of C Route

Topping out of C Route

After a quick walk back down we enjoyed a pint at the New Dungeon Ghyll having had an excellent day out involving 2 classic rock ticks and 5 pitches of climbing on a mountain crag in the Lake District, which wouldn’t be a bad day out in the summer but was a very surprising day out in the middle of winter!

Since Scotland at new year mine and Becky’s winter climbing gear had remained in the hidden compartment in my car, which included enough gear to climb some easy rock routes. However, what it didn’t contain was a nut key and instead of carrying our ice axes to remove stuck gear, we used one of George’s inventions from a previous climbing trip, a nut knife!

The ‘Nut Knife’