Monday, 29 December 2014

Not Today!

Today we went looking for that most wonderful and transient of things... an Arran winter route. We didn't find it..... though it is always worth staying optimistic... you've got to have a look! When it is "in" there is nowhere better to be. Here's one we did earlier.

Glen Sannox

North face of Cir Mhor

Heading up towards the Western Stoneshoot

Looking down W Stoneshoot


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Glencoe's Secret Mountain

We found ourselves in Glencoe yesterday with an unpromising avalanche forecast and a tight weather window. Plan A had been climbing, but with gale force winds not easing until lunchtime,  a relatively high freezing level, and of course, that avalanche forecast, we opted for Plan B. Plan B is often a good idea and in this case it didn't disappoint.

An enjoyable glen walk to the foot of the mountain.
 We braved a walk in which was advertised as long, but was a doddle by Arran standards, and went for a recce of Sgor na h-Ulaidh.  If you haven't heard of it, thats not surprising.  Virtually invisible from the road, and lacking in the stardust of Glencoe's other peaks, it doesn't see much traffic.

Northern face of Sgor na h'Ulaidh

Despite being often overlooked, it sports an impressive northern aspect with quite a few recorded routes.  These start at around 650m, so with the freezing level above 800m conditions were a bit mild for climbing here yesterday, but it was good to get the lie of the land.  We traversed under the face and up to the western bealach, from where we climbed steep turf to the ridge.

Approaching the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh
Despite the improving weather, it was wild on the ridge. We didn't hang about on the top, but dropped down the north eastern side where we were pleased to find some scoured neve (despite the av forecast) to descend. Avoiding the windslab took us in to exciting ground and this was the first proper workout for my front points this season (and my head).  Even non-climbing Plan B days are mountaineering in winter! Finally, our route off the hill took us over a second snowy top, beyond which were were able to drop down in to the glen.

Lots of scoured surfaces, and fresh deposits in the strong winds.
Looking east from the shoulder of Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Summits with friends

I had a stunner of a day on the hill yesterday with Wally and Kirstie.  We traversed the main ridge all the way from Cioch na h-Oighe to Goatfell summit.  The forecast was a bit iffy, but mostly the weather was not as bad as expected, although there were a few intense snow and hail showers, and gusty winds towards Goatfell. No matter, we had a ball regardless, warmed by gobsmacking views and the sheer joy of being out in the hills with good friends.

Glen Sannox, Cioch na h-Oighe on the left

Steepish ground and wintry scrambling

It's a belter of a ridge!

Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail

All smiles on Goatfell summit.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

First Snows

This title is all wrong of course, because Goatfell has been looking wintry for at least a week, but these are my first snows, and I've been enjoying them since the recent "Weather Bomb" storm abated.

This was Goatfell yesterday.  The wild spindrift was fun, I'd forgotten what a proper winter maelstrom feels like.  We didn't go to the top, because near the summit buttress it quickly turned less fun...

Today I was on my own and after a late start wandered in to Glen Rosa and up to The Saddle. The weather seemed comparatively quiet, and I enjoyed watching the Sea King from HMS Gannet training in the Glen. She attracted the attention of a Golden Eagle, and to my surprise, the eagle chased her over Goatfell and out of its territory.

HMS Gannet training in Glen Rosa

From The Saddle, I took the new path up to the summit of Cir Mhor (I think). The path was mostly buried, especially near the top so I ended up taking the turfiest line I could find between the drifts and the slabs. The snow was very fluffy and unconsolidated, and by the time I passed behind the Rosetta Stone I was wading above the knee. I did get some stunning views and for a change it was not too windy so I could enjoy playing with my new camera.... If anyone is wondering whether there is any winter climbing to be had one Arran I'd say... not yet.  Lots of powder, and turf frozen where exposed, but soft under all that snow, with no ice to be seen.

The Witches Step as seen from The Saddle

Big views down Glen Sannox

Gully behind the Rosetta Stone

The Western Hills from the west flank of Cir Mhor

Looking back towards Goatfell

Tracks left by one badass bunny rabbit on the summit.