Sandy Paterson Mountaineering

This is a blog of my personal and work climbing along with all the other things I do in the outdoors. Please feel free to have a look at my main website.

Over winter I will try and blog at the end of each week, however I will aim to tweet each day so feel free to follow me @SandyPMIC

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Busy Cairngorms

It was busy at the Ski Centre yesterday, Peter and I arrived at 9.15am and were half way down the Ciste Car Park so after grabbing the shuttle bus (and leaving Laura and in a very long ski pass que) we were slightly late leaving for the hill at around 10.10am. Not to matter as the weather was great with light winds and cloud above the summits. Although not the cold the pass was well compacted so the walk into Sneachda was easy.

We headed half way in and then cut on to the Fiacaill just before the twin ribs. Peter is keen to get out to the alps climbing so the aim for today was to take in some technical ground as well and having a look at rope techniques he could use in the alps. We worked our way up onto and along the ridge looking at short roping, moving together and short pitches. Just as we headed up on the the ridge there was small patch of unstable snow but with safe travel techniques we avoided it. Once at the steepening near the end of the ridge we changed to normal pitched climbing and I lead Peter up the most direct variation. Normally a grade II pitch it actually felt a little harder yesterday as by this time everything was melting quickly so the rock was just covered by wet slushy snow!

Once on the top we headed around the corrie to 1141 and then down to the ski centre were Laura had kindly brought the van up to. It was great day and thank you to Peter for his great company for the last 3 days. I am off to the west for the 1st and 2nd to work on some Avalanche Assessment course at the Nevis Range.

Sneachda was busy yesterday and thankfully no one was caught in and sliding snow, the warm weather is slowly consolidating it. However the climbing conditions were not great, people were reporting a lot of verglass on the rocks form Tuesdays rain and all the cracks chocked with ice. Many of the cornices seemed to be slumping and I imagine if the thaw continues many will collapse.

Fingers crossed for the re freeze at the weekend.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Wild Wild Wild

It was fairly wild in the ski car park this morning when Peter and I arrived. The wind seemed to by around 40 - 50 mph from the south and it was sleeting/raining. Mmmm a nice day ahead! It was clear that we were not going to get on to any too technical ground today which had been the original plan but we still headed part way into Sneachda. We used some of the snow patches on the way into Sneachda to look at some more avalanche assessment and a few other snow belays before heading back to the van. After a quick bite to eat in the van we headed down to the Ciste car park which was much more sheltered. We then headed into the ciste crag to look at gear placements including pegs and ice screws (there was the odd blob of melting ice). From there we headed for a scramble up there the crag and back down the ridge to the van. A good day was had even if we did not get the route in that we had planned.

The wind dropped around midday and the freezing level seemed to be around 900m. Laura and James reported great skiing on the piste after the wind had dropped!

Out with Peter tomorrow again for his last day, the forecast looks a little more settled with light southerly winds but it is warming up with freezing levels above the summits. This should slowly stabilise the snow pack (although probably not tomorrow) and as long as it goes cold again bring in some great neve for New Year. Keep those fingers crossed.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Nice neve!

I have been out in the Cairngorms with Peter today. The wind was forecast to be strong from the south but the freezing level low. He headed up towards the Cas headwall were there were areas of hard unstable windslab and areas of scoured hard neve.

We spent the day looking at Avalanche Assessment, boot, crampon and axe skills then did a few pitches up the steep scoured area of the headwall before coming back down the ridge to look at some snow anchors and some more avalanche assessment. The wind picked up around midday but we seemed to be relatively sheltered from it. A great day out and the Cas area was quiet.

The skiing look fairly good on piste but the off piste snow seemed a little wind affected. Sounds like there was some avalanche activity in Sneachda with 2 people being in a slide up thankfully walking away from it.

Looks like more of the same tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Powder hunting!

On the way home!
Well I was meant to be taking Laura off on a surprise birthday treat, however as we were flying via Heathrow our flights were cancelled! The treat will have to wait.

It did mean that we could head out skiing today. We headed out to the Lecht area and skinned up through the resort and out west. This is a great spot for touring as you start high and very quickly leave everything behind. We did not see a soul all day after we dropped off the first summit and we found some brilliant powder on the lee slopes, some so good we had to do laps as can be seen in the video below. A great day to be out on the planks.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Cold Camping

Night Nav - Just about to start!
I was working across on the west at the start of this week for West Highland College. This time it was a backpacking trip to assess their navigation skills as well as general hill skills. With the snow falling fairly heavily on Sunday night we decided to stay low and keep close to the coast, this had us heading to the Ardnish Peninsula and the Peanmeanach Bothy.

I spent Monday navigating with my group of 6 out over various points on the peninsula arriving at the bothy around 8pm after a good 3 hours of night nav across some fairly difficult terrain, well done to the group for coping with that! It was cold over night and most of us stayed in the bothy, however two tent groups decided to stay out for the night and test the warmth of their sleeping bags! On Tuesday we headed back to the bus looking at some more navigation and emergency procedures.

The peninsula is a cracking are for navigation although I imagine when it is not frozen the ground would be wet and boggy under foot.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Oui Oui is a No

Approaching Oui Oui

I headed over to Oui Oui yesterday morning in the hope to get a route in before the AMI meeting in Aviemore that evening. We had heard rumours of it having been climbed and from the car it looked OK. However when we got to the base of the route it was running with water and looked very think in places. We spent the rest of the morning playing on the ice below the main route (about 10 meters of easy angled ice) and then hunting the rest of the crag for possible climbs, there were non. After that we retreated to Aviemore for lunch and some Christmas shopping!

The Cairngorms are still very much buried and will not be any good for climbing for a while, reports of it even being slow getting into the Ciste crag with snow shoes on! Ben Nevis has good conditions on the harder mixed routes but many of the easier routes have not had enough freeze thaw to create any solid ice or neve. One group reported poor conditions on Glovers Chimney. The best climbing at present seems to be in Glen Coe were many of the lower ice lines are coming into condition.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

First turns of the winter

My plan today was to head out to the Lecht for a short tour but on arriving at the last little steep bit up to the ski centre there were cars coming backwards down the road! So a quick change of plan had me drive along the A939 looking for somewhere to park the car. I found somewhere just west of Bridge of Brown and headed into the Cromdales for a short tour.

The snow is still lovely and soft, there has clearly been little wind transportation, however there is no base to it at all so can be a little challenging at times. The video below was taken from Carn na Sroine (510m).

The roads in the area are still fairly bad although passable.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Last few places left on winter courses

Places on my open winter courses are now booking up quiet quickly. Below is what is left so please get in touch if you are interested.

Info and dates are also on the website You can also download PDF's from the website by clicking on the course name.

As always I also offer bespoke guiding and instruction so if you don't see what you want please just drop me a line

Winter Skills Weekend 2 Day Course (£150 per person)
- 8th to 9th January 2011 - 4 Places Left
- 12th to 13th March 2011 - 4 Places Left

Winter Mountaineering 3 Day Course (£325 per person)
- 6th to 8th December 2010 - FULL
- 26th to 28th January 2011- 2 Places Left
- 21st to 23rd March 2011 - 2 Places Left

Winter Climbing 3 Day Course (£350 per person)
- 27th to 29th December 2010 - FULL
- 12th to 14th January 2011 - FULL

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Snowed in!

Deep snow on the coast!
There has been an incredible amount of snow on the east coast over the last 4 days. I have not made it anywhere near the mountains in the last 3 days as just getting to Elgin normally 10 minutes in the car took 40 minutes on Saturday! Laura and I went out for a potter on the skis today just to get some fresh air.

Both Cairngorm and the Lecht were storm bound today but I imagine when they open the skiing will be awesome. Fingers crossed the roads will be cleared by Tuesday for some skiing.

West Highland College Navigation

Ben Nevis from Cow Hill
I was working for West Highland College last week across in Fort William. I spent some time out with both the 1st and 2nd year students looking at Navigation. Both groups have an assessment coming up in the next week or two so we were doing some fine tuning of skills already learnt.

The west has not had nearly as much snow as the east and the climbing conditions are reported to be great (although I have not been climbing across west yet!). Bill climbed West Chimney on Saturday and reported great conditions and I know many of the mixed routes have been done on Ben Nevis.

The east is very much buried under the snow and my mountain biking that I have planned for last Friday was cancelled!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Lots of Snow

There is loads of snow around in the Cairngorms at present, but not all of it is great for climbing. Reports of the cornices building and causing problems above The Runnel area. Lots of unconsolidated snow on Yukon Jack on the Mess of Pottage, with same being reported form The Milky Way in Lochan.

Reports from the slopes are that the skiing conditions are quite good so may be skiing should be first choice at present! The forecast is for cold weather to continue for another 10 to 14 days at least with more snow in the east and less in the west.

I am off to the west coast for work at West Highland College tomorrow, summer hill skills, should be interesting!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Early start for - Snow and Avalanche Reports

The SAIS have decided to start early this year the below is from their blog

In view of the current  snow cover and weather forecast the SAIS will be providing weekend Avalanche Hazard reports for the Lochaber and Northern Cairngorms areas until the full service starts on the 16th December 2010.

The conditions still seem fairly good for early season on the Northern Corries with the snow starting to settle down a little after the mid week instability. Sneachda was quiet yesterday when Monty was in climbing Hidden Chimney with John.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Cairngorms Conditions

I have been stuck at home over the last few days with a stinking cold but thought I would report back on what conditions have been found in the Cairngorms so far this week.

Lots of routes have been done in the Northern Corries so far including Original Route, The Seam, Fingers Ridge, The Message, Savage Slit, Deep Throat etc. However the easier routes are mainly buried under unconsolidated powder at present and will need some good freeze thaw to bring them into condition.

The weather over the last few days has been good in the mountains but strong winds have now returned (100mph today) and it will start to move the already unstable snow around even more. There have been reports of a fair bit of avalanche activity already with a slide coming out from below Goat Track Gully and the Cas Head Wall releasing as well.

So there is plenty to go at in the Cairngorms but route choice is as ever critical.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Mountain Safety Weekend

Scotland at 4pm!

I spent the weekend at Glenmore Lodge working on the Mountaineering Coucil of Scotlands Student Safety Weekend. This is normally a great fun weekend with loads of students keen to get some top tips, as well as being a great chance to catch up with some other instructors I have not seen for a while and this year was not exception.

On Friday I a gave a talk about the qualifications structure and looked at some scrambling ropework skills in the morning and then in the afternoon took a group out navigating. On Sunday I was joined by a pair of students form the Aberdeens Larig Mountaineering Club (I was once a member!) and we spent the day in and around Glenmore Lodge looking at introductory rock climbing skills. During the course of the day we covered tying on, belaying, attaching ourselves to a belay, placing and removing gear, abseiling and movement coaching.

Friday, 12 November 2010

New Logo for the Van!

I have been in Inverness this morning getting my logo on the van! The weather has turned stormy again in the Mountains, however there has been a fair bit of snow put down. Conditions reports are suggesting that it is hard going in the lee areas as the snow is deep and that turf that has been covered by the snow is still not frozen, so pick your routes carefully if you are heading out this weekend.

I am off to Glenmore Lodge to work on the M C of S Student Safety Weekend. It is always a good weekend for catching up with other instructors and passing on some knowledge and skills to the Students of various Scottish University Mountaineering Clubs. Saturday will be spent in and around Glenmore Lodge and then on Sunday I will be out somewhere rock climbing (which could be a little chilly!).

I am hoping to get out next week to get my first winter route of the season done!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Summer Mountain Leader Training

I will be offering Summer Mountain Leader Training courses in conjunction with Bill Strachan (MIC) at 'Scotch on the Rocks Guiding' next summer and we have just set our first course date for the 24th to 29th April 2011.

For more information please have a look here or just drop me a line at

More dates will be released over the next few weeks.

I wish I could bike like this!

Almost too amazing to be true. I love the people who look on in total amazement in the back ground!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Snowing in the Cairngorms

MLTS Workshop

The Northern Corries from Glenmore Lodge

Stunning views across Loch Morlich

I was at Glenmore Lodge yesterday for the Mountain Leader Training Scotland SPA and CWA workshop. This was a great chance to discuss issues with the two awards and share some ideas with others who run and work on these courses. We spent the morning discussing various topics and then spent the afternoon in the climbing wall looking an topics in the Climbing Wall Award including the teaching to lead falling and belaying to clients on the Climbing Wall Leading Award.

It was a cracking day outside with a good dusting of snow in the Cairngorms and a number of routes being done. It is a little wild in the mountains today but more snow is forecast and it looks like there will be a lull in the winds on Tuesday and Wednesday before it all gets a little wild again over the weekend.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Half Term Holiday - Open Boat Paddling and Biking

As it was Laura's half term holiday last week we managed to get some open boat paddling in. Neither of us had ever done any open boating before but we thought it would be a great way to travel so we booked 3 days instruction with Dave Rossetter (Standing Waves We had a great three days (even though the weather was aweful!) paddling on the lochs and rivers around Callander. I can happily recommend Dave as a coach if you fancy some open boat instruction in the future.

Once home we managed so squeeze one more bike trip in before Laura had to go back to work. On Sunday we headed out to Gleann Einich from Aviemore, this gives a good 30km trip which is fairly non technical (rough land rover track) with the odd river to cross (stepping stones in place). It takes you deep into the Cairngorms and some stunning scenery.

Pentland's Biking

Laura and I managed to squeeze in a mornings biking on Tuesday 26th October before heading into Edinburgh for lunch with my parents!

We headed to the Pentland Hill just south of Edinburgh and parked at the Harlaw Ranger Base car park and did a 18km loop south from here via Glencourse Reservoir. The Pentlands do not have that many tracks that are set up for mountain biking however they do offer a good half days exercise. If you want more info then pop into the Ranger Base and they will show you some good routes.

As a quick plug if you are local to Edinburgh and use the Pentland Hills then the 'Friends of the Pentlands' is a great organisation that help maintain and raise awareness for the Pentlands -

Monday, 25 October 2010

Family time then some biking

Laura and I have headed down to Edinburgh during half term to see my parents and brothers family. We had a great weekend catching up and doing various family things, however the weather was just too good today to stay at home so we headed to Glentress. It was busy but the centre has such a good set up once we were on the trails we did not see that many people. There can't be that many places in the UK were you can have such fun for just £3, oh plus the new tyre and inner tube for my bike!

The weather looks like it is going to turn a bit damp in the next few days but I am sure we get out some more!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Winter Video

A taster of the courses, instruction and guiding that is on offer this winter. For more info have a look at

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Witch's Trails

The view of Ben Nevis from the top of the World Champs trail

Monty happy to be at the top of the World Champs the fun begins

Monty and I spent the afternoon at the Witch's Trails next to the Nevis Range today. The glorious morning turned into heavy showers but the trails were still great. A dusting of snow has fallen with there being more in the east than the west. Reports of routes being done in the Northern Corries already! Looks set to stay cold for a few more days with snow showers on and off.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

More Biking

What happens when you don't wear shine pads!

I headed out biking again with Laura today. We headed to Aviemore and although we got caught up in all the traffic for the half marathon (well done to all those who were running) we still managed a great circuit in the woods. It is defiantly turning wintry and it looks like we will have a reasonable amount of snow in the Cairngorms over the next week.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Mountain Biking at Wolftrax

I spent yesterday at Wolftrax on a Bike School Scotland course, being run by Jules Fincham. We spent the day looking at core skills for mountain biking including breaking, balance, pumping the bike, jetting, drop offs, roll offs, track stands, manual front wheel lifts, power assisted front wheel lifts and rear wheel lifts. As well as putting these all together riding a number of the trails.

It was a great course and I could not recommend Jules highly enough he is a great coach/instructor/teacher as well as being good fun! I am sure I will be back for some more once I have master this set of skills!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Summer ML Training - Lochaber College

Confidence roping
South African Abseil

I have been working with Bill Strachan over the last 3 days running a Summer Mountain Leader Training course out of Lochaber College.

Monday saw us looking at the unplanned use of a rope in Glen Coe, we spent the day at the foot of Buachaille Etive Mor. Anchor selection, belaying, abseiling and lowering were all looked at. Tuesday had us heading on to the ribs that come down onto the tourist track on Ben Nevis from Meall a t-Suidhe, here we looked at leadership styles and managing a group through steep ground and then some confidence roping to finish off. Today was a centre based day looking at emergency situation including river crossings, mountain rescue situations and preparing for the 2 day expedition that the group head off on tomorrow morning.

The weather has been brilliant across in the west with cold nights but clear skies and sun during the day. It looks like it is going to change a little tomorrow but it still looks fairly good for this time of year!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Nethy Bridge Biking

Laura at Loch a' Chnuic

Laura had a few hours off from work today so we headed of to Nethy Bridge for some mountain biking. We headed out  via the forest lodge to Loch a Chnuic along the landrover track and then back via Lurg taking in some good single track. It was a cracking day and this part of the Cairngorms is so nice and quiet, we only passed one other group all day.

I am off to the West Coast tomorrow to work on a Summer ML Training at Lochaber College with Bill Strachan and am then doing a bike course with Jules Fincham. Looks like the weather it is going to be good as well! 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Winter Course Dates 2011

The nights are now closing in up here in Scotland and it is definitely feeling like winter is coming!

I have put this years open course dates on my website, however I have also put them below! You can download PDF's from the website by clicking on the course name.

As always I also offer bespoke guiding and instruction so if you don't see what you want please just drop me a line

Winter Skills Weekend 2 Day Course (£150 per person) - 8th to 9th January 2011 + 12th to 13th March 2011

Winter Mountaineering 3 Day Course (£325 per person) - 6th to 8th December 2010 + 26th to 28th January 2011 + 21st to 23rd March 2011

Winter Climbing 3 Day Course (£350 per person) - 27th to 29th December 2010 + 12th to 14th January 2011

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Damp Sandstone!

Monty and I headed down to Cummingston this morning for a quick climb. However the tide was again very high and the rock a little damp. As a crag it often does not fully dry at this time of year as it does not get much sun. Anyway we managed a handful of routes and then headed home. Perhaps the last visit to Cummingston until after the winter now.

Laggan Wolftrax

James and I had planned to head over and do the Burma road on Tuesday but strong winds put us off as the high point is 700m! Instead we headed to Wolftrax for some more single track fun. The weather was not as nice as Monday and the car park was deserted! We also realised that the cafe was shut for the day so we decided to do a half day and then head back to Aviemore for lunch! We had a good 3 hours doing both the red trails and the orange trail a few times.

Great fun but I will check the cafe opening times next time before I go, or just take a packed lunch.

Highland Wildcat Biking

James on the way down the top section of the red run

On the way up the red!
On Monday James and I headed up to Golspie for some biking on the Wildcat Trails. I had never been up here before for biking but had heard great reviews of it so was keen to get stuck in! We did a few circuits of the red run there which was really good, but did not venture onto the black run, next time! The coffee shop by the town car park is also very good! Although the trails are free up here (as they are all over Scotland) there is a sign up asking for a £5 donation per car in the car park. We were happy to pay this as £2.50 per person for a days biking seemed like a good deal to me, however the pay and dispaly machine was broken so we could not pay! Never mind I will pay double next time I am up!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


With a bit of over night rain and no sign of the sun today Monty and I headed out on the bikes again. Today we headed to Strathpeffer just north of Inverness. The woods just to the north of Strathpeffer are home to the Strathpuffer 24 hour mountain bike race ( the next one is in January 2011. Before you ask no we are not training for it! However we did do a loop of the course that is cycled for the race and it is great. Really technical but not too hard and nice and natural. We then headed over to the other side of A834 and up onto Cnoc Mor which was a little damp but good fun. After all that hard work we thought we had deserved one of the famous Maya Hot Chocolates in Strathpeffer before heading home.

I am off down to Perth tomorrow for a Mountaineering Council of Scotland Safety Advisory Group Meeting, but it looks like it is going to be a good day to be indoors!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Climbing at Latheronwheel

Monty leading 'Reach for the Sky' VS 4b

Monty following 'Fancy Free' VS 4c

With a dry forecast Monty and I headed to Latheronwheel today on the Caithness Coast. This was my second visit to this area this summer, back in July we could not get on many of the routes in the Peninsula Wall area due to nesting gulls so that was the target for today. A good job too as with the high tides many of the areas were wet at the base. The peninsula area is only just affected by the tides and there is a good range of routes between Severe and HVS, the rock is generally good with sound gear when you need it. Although sunny it was still chilly and I don't think there will be much more rock climbing this season.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Flying Haggis

Laura had a rare day off today so we decided after some DIY to head to Fochabers for a quick blast around the mountain biking trails there. We did the Haggis which must be one of may favourite blue trails, after a not too bad pull up to the top of the hill it is just fast, flowing fun all the way back to the car. Lots of jumps, berms, table tops etc but all can be done at a gentle pace if you don't want to push it, and at 15km it is a reasonable distance as well. The trail does not suffer too much from the wet either, it drains well and does not get too boggy like the trails the other side of the A96.

All in all a great day out. Forecast looks good for the next few days so hopefully I will get a few final days rock climbing in before it gets too cold!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Mountain Biking at Abriachan

Monty and I headed out for a bike this morning after the heavy rains of the past 24 hours had ended (although there are still some fairly big pools around!). We decided to head for the trails just to the west of Inverness at Abriachan as neither of us had been before. There are 3 trails here 1 green, 1 blue and 1 red. We did the blue which was excellent, fast and flowing, well made and fairly dry and then we did the red! This was not so good, it is more natural than the other trails and at present is very wet and all the log sections are super slippery as they get no sun due to the fact that they are in the woods.

After a few bashes around this we headed down to the bike obstacle course. This has loads of drop offs, seesaws, logs, bumps etc although again they were slippery due to being rather damp at present. Anyway a great little spot for working on the skills and having a laugh!

Snow in the Cairngorms this morning, so fingers crossed not too long before the winter climbing arrives!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Although this is trying to sell their new range of axes it has some quite good shots. All you need for a little motivation to get ready for winter!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Bike Maintenance Course

I spent yesterday in Aberdeen on a bike maintenance course with the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative. This was billed as an intensive maintenance course and looked at everything that they do in a deluxe service. This included puncture repairs, removing and replacing wheels, servicing wheel hubs, servicing headsets, servicing bottom brackets, gear and brake adjustments and wheel truning. It was a great course and at only £49 for the day including lunch I thought it was excellent value. For more info see the link

Now I just have to get on a service my bike!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Mountain Biking

I have spent the last week or so out on the bike as the weather has not been great. An afternoon last Sunday was spent on the red ring a Fochabers and then on Monday I headed to Aviemore with Monty. We linked up some landrover tracks as well as a section of great single track between Bothy Bikes and Feshiebridge and back again. Today was spent at the skills circuit at Forres. Although small this is a great area with all sorts of skills areas including the jumps area shown above.

Looks like there will be more biking in the next few days as the weather is still fairly poor. It is certainly feeling like winter is on its way up in Scotland!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

New Blog!

This will be the new blog for 'Sandy Paterson Mountaineering' this winter but until then I will continue to use the News Page on