Here we go Again!

Not sure how long I’ll keep the blogging going this time but might as well put up some pics so folks can get an idea of how it looks in the Northern Cairngorm’s just now.

The following photos are from Friday 20th of Dec whilst we were out on staff training with Glenmore Lodge. Our mission for the day was to locate new venues that would work well on Winter Mountain Leader courses as well as Winter Skills courses and Mountaineering courses. I would say our mission was a success.


Looking South into the Larig Ghru


Some of the deeper snow accumulations


If you cant fight the wind you might as well have fun in it!

Today (22/12/13) I was working for Cairngorm Mountain Guides with two clients, Haydn and Liam. Our goal for the day was to climb something without being blown away or getting stuck in a snow drift!


Walking into Sneachda today in blue sky’s and strong winds. Not bad weather conditions in the morning though.


Looking across the Mess o Pottage, with climbers on Opening Break, The Message and you can just see Scott G on the Haston line.

Lots of snow on ledges and lesser angles today but the rock was quite dry and black. There is snow and ice blocking up a lot of the cracks though.


Moving up into Hidden Chimney.


There was a wee bit of suffering going on today!

If anyone is looking for any winter Instruction or Guiding over the holiday period I still have some availability, feel free to get in touch.

Happy Christmas everyone. Chadders 🙂

First day of winter climbing work      04th/11/2012


Another fine day in the Northern Corries

Sometimes I wonder at the start of the season ‘will I enjoy this season as much as the last, will I be bored of the Northern Corries by now, will the routes still inspire or just feel repetitive’?

I can safely say that none of this has happened or will happen for sometime to come. Don’t get me wrong, I love the wildness and remoteness of places and climbs away from the common, well traveled honey pots. Some of my best memories burned into my mind through shear enjoyment of the climbs, views and experiences have been remote, off the beaten track days out with friends or work. Many folks give the Northern Corries a hard time due to their popularity and that’s true it is a busy venue on the right or wrong day.

Gordon in action

But this also adds something to the day if your in a sociable mood and the conditions are plentiful. Gordon and I met a number of good folks today walking-in, on the belays and walking out. Many folks I already new, which was good for a catch-up and some we did not know but we were happy to chat with. This on top of the excellent climbing and conditions, gave a welcoming and memorable day out for all the right reasons.

Gordon at the top of Hidden Chimney Direct IV-5

Gordon and I climbed Hidden Chimney Direct IV-5 today and up into Hidden Chimney. This was Gordon’s first day out winter climbing this season so we took it nice and steady, dusting off the summer cobwebs and getting gordon’s head back into the joys of mixed climbing, “it’s not like ice, you know”!

Topping out on Hidden Chimney

As we walked-in today we chatted about routes done and routes that Gordon wanted to do. High on the list of winter targets for this season was climbing tech 6 mixed. So after todays leg and arm stretch, tomorrow should see us on some steeper ground…….

Gordon has timed his two days up here perfectly, with tomorrow looking like the last cold day before temperatures rapidly go up on Tuesday. Here’s hoping we get something good done.

Sending the Messenger and got the Message             02/11/2012

Just had a great couple of days out on the hill, all be it two very contrasting days and on both days I either forgot my camera or I’d not charged it. Muppet! Lucky Dunc was along today with his.

The clearing view of the snowy Sneachda today.

Yesterday I was out working for Glenmore Lodge , not a normal day at work by any means but great fun all the same. The Lodge has just taken on a new mountain clothing sponsor, The North Face and they were keen to get some photo’s of instructors at work! Thursday was the skiing and mountaineering shoot, what are the chances of a blue skies day, with fresh powder snow on a firm base and not a breath of wind on the 1st of Nov, F all I would have said but thats what we got. The skiing was short lived in Corrie Domhain, a maximum of about ten turns but a blast all the same. We did get some odd looks as we bumbled into the corries with ski’s strapped to our packs.

Very pleased with the conditions, no armchair UKC winter climbers could argue with this!

Having forgotten to charge my camera it was down to The Dunc to be snapping away today, this is a rare moment that A: Dunc has a camera and B: he actually uses it. Lucky me!

I’m sure I was waving to the camera and not falling off?

Today started off very calm as we walked into Sneachda, even as we drove up the ski road I was surprised at how much more snow had fallen. The obligatory stumble through the snow covered Corrie floor boulders is always much missed winter pastime but soon forgotten as the climbs are reached.

We opted for Mess of Pottage in Corie and t-Sneachda, all the crags in the Corie today looked well snowed up. Our route haul for the day was the ‘Messenger’ V-6 and ‘The Message’ IV-6, I’ve never done the Messenger before and this provided an excellent first route of the season sketch about, we even had to pull quite hard on the axes. The Message which I’ve done a few times now is always an enjoyable route with great hooks and a bit of tricky foot work needed.

Hello hot aches………. araarrrrrggggggghhhhhhhhh

With it being so snowy today, all the clearing, pulling quite hard on the axes and the general winter thing going on, it proved ideal conditions for the much missed but never forgotten Hot Aches. If you’ve never experienced them, lucky you. If you want to experience them let me know and I’ll help set up a perfect day to experience this dark secret of winter climbing!

Off to Aberdeen tomorrow so missing what looks like an excellent winters day. However I have a long term client and friend Gordon arriving on Sunday for two days of winter climbing action. With the forecast as it is we should be in for some good conditions.

Crags are Black but the Climbing Wall is Warm

My Website:        Date: 18th/01/2012


A couple of ducks not massively impressed with the conditions either!

Crags not much whiter at lunch time 😦

Plan A today was for a foray into the wilds of Coire an t-Sneachda, but upon waking up this morning and looking out the window it was obvious that Plan B was needed.

Gordon working the rope systems

Gordon and I enjoyed a full day at the Glenmore Lodge climbing wall. We worked on effective and efficient seconding and best practice for gear storing and changeover on belays. We also looked at worst case scenarios if I as the guide /  instructor was injured when leading. This involved ascending ropes, rigging abseils and some theoretical scenarios. Good use of a day off the hill.

Tomorrow looks wintery and wild so we’re going to head in early and see what happens!

A Visit Out West and White Shark

My Website:      Date: 17th/01/2012

Good day out with Gordon over at Aonach Mor today. We arrived to West coast drizzle and some fairly warm temperatures. Doubt started to creep in and we questioned whether or not we could get anything climbed. As we climbed to the top of the hill first via the gondola, then the quad chair, then on foot, the temperature dropped and the snow under foot started to harden. Game-On!

We made our way down Easy Gully and round to the base of White Shark (IV-4***), a classic Aonach Mor ice line. Through the mist we could see a line of good ice cutting from the base of the route through to the exit snow slopes, that would do us just fine.

Moving up to the 1st belay, crux pitch awaits!

The climbing was good, some wet ice in places but mostly helpful. The middle main pitch was thin but well travelled, not good for screws but good steep hooky climbing. With sound rock belays this made for the perfect route for Gordon to get back on some steep stuff.

The cornice at the end gave some great sport, it overhangs by a good few metres and would have proved quite serious, if it wasn’t for the hole that some other tunnelling individual had created! With a screw in for good luck we squeezed our way out through the very narrow hole and out on to the summit plateau. Way better than trying to overcome the monster cornice.

"Where, through there?!

Off in to the Norries tomorrow to see what’s white and what’s not!

Gordon bursting forth from the cornice tunnel.




Another Wintery & Windy day in Sneachda

My Guiding and Instructing Company:  Date: 04th/01/12

Today was yet another wild, wintery and windy day in the Corie an t-Sneachda, the wind blasted hard for most of the the time we were in the Corie. It was having a positive effect on the crags bringing them into good winter nick but made climbing and belaying a bit of a suffer fest!

Kev looking like he's enjoying the suffering

There were plenty of other teams out and about today, Mess of Pottage proving to be a popular choice by many teams.

Dave Evan's moving up on the 1st pitch of Droidless (VI-6*)

We decided on Droidless (VI-6*) a route neither Dave E, Nicola or myself have ever climbed. The first pitch was excellent climbing on well spaced good hooks and good gear. Lots of strong winds and snow / spindrift battered us through out the day, sapping warmth and willing.

Nicola seconding the first pitch some wild conditions

After Dave’s lead of the first pitch which involved a reasonable amount of clearing, Nicola and I followed. On reaching the belay it was a team decision to bale out and abseil off. There’s suffering because it’s worth it and suffering when it’s not! Today it proved not to be worth the suffering.

Nicola working out the moves on some of the steeper climbing

Dave E and I are heading out tomorrow, Lochnagar was our intended venue but it’s all sounding and looking a bit uncertain. Our other venue maybe Carn Etchachan tomorrow, we’ll just need to see what all this new snow and wind has done?

Boom! Winter’s Back.

Sneachda back to wintery form and it got whiter as the day went on.

My Website: Elements                                 Date: 29th / 12 / 2011

I was out in Corrie an t-Sneachda today with Steve, who was keen to get his first route in of the season done. Having travelled up from the deep South and spending a day at the Ice Factor yesterday he wanted it to be a good one. Steve had missed out on doing Fingers Ridge (IV-5 ***) last season and was hoping to get it ticked this time around.

Wild, windy and Wintery

The Corrie was busy with lots of climbing teams but we timed it just right onto Fingers and had the route to ourselves. Climbing conditions were excellent, the wind was massive at times though. On several occasions Steve and I found outselves clinging to blocks so as not to be blown off.

Good conditions

Conditions on the whole today are better than I thought they would be. Hardly any new snow has gathered due to the high winds, but lots of rime was building as the day went on and there’s some good neve to be found in the gullies.

Clinging to the fingers as the wind blows hard!

Steve and I are hoping to get into Loch Avon tomorrow to get something bigger and more remote done, we’ve compiled a tick list of classic routes. Looks like a nicer day tomorrow with some more snow coming in later.

Steve looking nice and icy after surviving the harsh winds

Pure Pish Weather!

My Website: Elements                                       Date: 28th / Dec / 2011

A view from Gairloch towards the Torridon Mountains (taken yesterday 27/12/11)

I was on the hill today working for Alpine Guides with Cardiff University Mountaineering Club. All credit to these keen young climbers, it was a thoroughly pant wetting, windy, cold miserable day. With all that said we still managed to cover a lot of basic winter skills and even had time and energy for an afternoons snow anchor’s session.

Nice one guys, if you can suffer those conditions today and still be smiling you’ll all do just fine in the game that is Scottish Winter Climbing!

Hopefully not long before it's back to this?

I’m out tomorrow doing some climbing work, keeping my fingers crossed that we can wade into get a route done. It does look weather and condition wise like it’s getting better over the next couple of days.

Scorpion V 5 Carn Etchachan

06 / Dec / 2011                      Link to my guiding and instructing website: Elements

Today felt like a proper Winter excursion, with a fairly early start, a great route full of character and a walk out in the dark.

Dunc checking out the very snowy conditions on Hell's Lum

The wind was very cold and strong in the morning walking in, but by 10.00 the wind had dropped, the skies had cleared and the crags looked white enough to climb on.

Cascade on Stag Rocks starting to form, still a wee bit thin just now!

Being over in Loch Avon feels so much more remote in comparison to the Northern Corries. It’s often well worth the extra effort to head over the back – the routes are numerous and often excellent and it’s one of the best mountain settings in the UK.

Fine Loch Avon Views

Scorpion was a mega route, bit lacking in ice so it felt quite hard for the grade and there was a lot of clearing to be done on each pitch, keeping the leader busy! Every pitch gave some good value climbing, one for everyone’s tick list. Watch out for the sting in the tail!

Dunc on pitch 1

Over the next few days the weather looks like it will turn quite wild, MWIS is forecasting up to 130 mph gusts on the tops for Thursday and some fluxes in temperature. Maybe not the best climbing conditions!

Dunc showing a surprising amount of flexibility.

There where some other teams over the back today, Matt Stygall, Keith Ball and James Thacker ticked a couple of great routes on the upper tier of Etchachan –  Nom de Plume (VI,6) and The Guillotine (V,6), both routes were reported as being excellent.

There was still a team well involved in Deep Cut Chimney when we walked out this evening, looked like they were in for a late one!

Dunc enjoying one of the rocky technical pitches

Winter Routes in Corrie an Lochan

First route of the winter done, not the hardest route but definitely the whitest route we could find in the Corrie. There where a coupe of other teams out, one on ‘Third Man 4-6’ and the other team disappeared between number three and four buttress.

No's 1-4 Buttress in Corrie an Lochan

The conditions where certainly quite fickle, with one buttress looking black and the next looking white. Once you got up high and looked at some different aspects, again some white and some black. There were routes to do you just had to be selective and the weather was fine (a rare novelty in Scottish winter climbing).

A whiter view across the Corrie. No. 3-4 Butt.

I had to make it back in time for the bank so Dunc and I chose ‘Central Crack Route 4-5’ as our winter warm up. We quickly realised that it was proper winter when we both endured super cold hands in a very short space of time whilst gearing up. Closely followed by our perverted winter friend the ‘Hot Aches’. Something that you’ll never miss but know will be with you through out the winter 😦

Dunc with round two of the Hot Aches, aaaarrrrrrggggggggg

The route it’s self was good, awkward  and thrutchy at the start but soon eases off to steadier ground above. We opted for a few direct corners to bump the grade and standard of climbing up, all really enjoyable. The only sting in the tail was the exit. A large amount of snow had blown in and managed to attach it’s self vertically to the exit blocks! Some levitation and very tenuous climbing was required to access the plateau. Welcome back to winter! 🙂

Feeling the winter love!

Off back out tomorrow to see what’s going on. Think the weathers looking best in the East so may just head back in to Lochan?

Nice Day