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.