West was best!

Its been a bit of a busy week for me this week. I feel like I’ve been all over the place with the weather being just as varied as the locations.

Monday started with a less than prefect forecast, high winds and lots of snow meant that the ski road up to the Cairngorms was closed, so plan B saw us out in the hills a little closer to home. The day was spent walking close to Newtonmore, in the Monadhliath hills.
These fairly accessible hills have a very wild and remote feel to them,which is only enhanced by the fact that most people seemed to drive on past them, meaning that its more than likely you’ll have the place to yourself.
Eamon and Colly approaching the summit of Creag Liath.
 With the weather set to stay pretty wild in the east we began to look at other options for the rest of the week. One place that immediately sprung to mind was the Isle of Skye.
Skye is somewhere that I have spent a bit of time exploring during the summer, and have always wanted to visit in winter. With the forecast looking reasonable for Wednesday we packed up the car on Tuesday night and headed west, with the plan of sleeping in the car for an early start.
3 in the back of the astra, cosy!
We were up and on our way before first light, with the stars shinning in a clear sky it was looking promising! Our objective for the day was pinnacle ridge, a classic ridge line of Sgurr nan Gillean, consisting of 5 pinnacles, with the 5th being the summit.
Eamon getting to grips with holding an ice axe! The 5 pinnacles can be seen in the back ground.
The ridge is a great mountaineering day out, with intricate route finding, and lots of ascent and descent, including an abseil of the 3rd pinnacle. We were moving at a steady enough pace until we came to the top of the 4th pinnacle. Snow conditions meant that the down climb into the gap between the fourth and fifth pinnacles didn’t look too inspiring so we decided to do a few abseils, not as straight forward as it sounds! It was 3 pm by the time we were down below the col and with another few pitches to reach the top and a tricky decent down to meet the tourist path (which we didn’t want to do in the dark!) we made the decision to bail down the eastern slope, getting back to the car just after 5 pm, a great day out.
Mountaineering on Skye feels like a proper adventure and was a welcome change to the Northern Corries!
After some well earned fish and chips, it was back to Laggan to start four days work with Queens mountaineering club on the west coast.
Eamon and Colly approaching the 3rd pinnacle.
Thursday was giving the best chance of good weather for the next few days, so we headed to Buachaille Etive Beag, for some winter skills and some great views, an excellent introduction to Scottish winter, if only it was always like this!
Winter skills under a clearing sky.
Up top, what a day for it!
What a difference a day makes! On Friday we headed into Glen Nevis. After a soggy start we got up above the snow line and experienced some rather full on conditions, a bit of a shock to the system after the previous day, an excellent introduction to the real Scottish winter!
This is more like it!
Saturday and Sunday were scheduled to be climbing days, with all the recent wind and snow in the hills, and a less than prefect forecast for the weekend it was going to be hard work!
On Saturday, with strong south easterly winds and snow showers forecast, I headed for the east ridge of Beinn a Chaorainn with Matt and Laura. Neither had done any sort of winter climbing before so the ridge offered a good option for getting to grips with moving on more technical ground without it being too sustained, allowing us to move fast and keep warm. The wind direction also meant that we could drop into the lee of the ridge from time to time, and our decent down the south ridge would be scoured so reasonably easy going under foot.
Laura and Matt with the foot of the ridge showing in the background.
At the top and still smiling!
I finished off my four days work with queens on Sunday, heading up to the the far Eastern Buttress on Aonach Dubh with Jo and Stephen, but unfortunately without my camera! The avalanche and weather conditions on the hills where fairly serious, with lots of snow from the previous day loading many of the higher slopes, so the elevation and aspect of the crag made it a good option for the day, our only gamble being the freezing level.
We left the car park in some pretty grim weather to arrive at a rather soggy Eastern slant, our planned route for the day. With the freezing level just above the top of the crag, the conditions and snow cover got a little better as we climbed higher. It was a proper little adventure, with marginal climbing conditions and a broken crampon thrown in half way up the route for good measure! We arrived back at the car a tad on the damp side, but happy to have had a good day on the hill, even with the less than prefect conditions.

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