This week has seen some really good winter conditions. We had a good cover of snow in most areas and even the Cairngorm Ski area is planning to open the top runs for the first time this season. There is still hope for a good winter.
The walk in to Ciste Mhearad was a bit challenging with white out conditions just before we got in. And I managed to dunk my right boot all the way into a snow covered stream. We made it up there in good time and managed to dig a comfy snowhole within 3 hours. Not the fastest I have done but it was pretty good timing.
The start of the 5 day winter mountaineering course was first wet on Saturday. We managed to find a decent spot for most of the skills. Sunday was pretty wild high up with winds of up to 70mph and blizzard conditions. Therefore we stayed low at the Glenmore forest and did a fair amount of map reading and navigation.
When we went up at Coire Ciste the next day we found some really good winter conditions with snow banking nicely on southerly aspects. We managed to do some emergency snow shelters and had a look at avalanche awareness.
On the expedition we went up to Ciste Mhearad and dug some snowholes on the southerly aspects in the area. There was plenty of depth there to make the holes comfy. At night the temperatures dropped to well below freezing. In the morning we walked up Cairn Gorm and then down the ski area. The all day breakfast in Aviemore was well deserved.
On Tuesday we have gone up to Ciste Mhearad for digging a snowhole and staying overnight. The original plan was to get up there on Monday but the wind was gusting up to 70mph. So that was a none-starter. The weather was just perfect for getting up to the Corrie and we started digging at around 11:00am. The first metre of snow was some of the hardest I have ever encountered. It was like cutting through concrete and had to use a saw to get anywhere. After that it was a bit better with much softer and wetter snow. We had to dig down and than in to make any progress, which meant that it took a little longer than usually and got done after over 5 hours of digging. This had to be the hardest snowhole digging I have done in quite a few years.
The night was very still and there was a magnificent orange growing (almost) full moon. In the morning we went up Cairn Gorm and then down Fiacaill Coire Chas.
So far this winter has been very mild apart from some good snowfall in October and December. The deep gullies still have some snow. However, even Easy Gully (Number 2) in Coire na Ciste is starting to get a bit thin on the snow. We really need some new snow.
The course went really well considering the conditions. We went up to Ciste Mhearad on Saturday to do all the “walking on snow” skills and had a day at easy gully at Coire na Ciste on Sunday. We had some winds of up to 40-50mph and even a few snow flurries.
Checked out the snow conditions at Ciste Mhearad yesterday to see if there is a chance to do some snowholing next week. The is an existing snowhole at the west side, near an old avalanche. There you get about 2.5m depth of snow. At the opposite side you get one spot with about 3m depth but this would need a bit of cooling as it doesn’t look very stable. All the snow is very wet and would be easy to dig but would also mean that you would get soaking wet and the hole would shrink by the morning. It might be an interesting night if we decide to go snowholing.
Last weekend a delivery from Grivel arrived. We have decided that this season we will upgrade some of our winter equipment. This meant to splash out on some good money on shiny Grivel crampons, ice axes, crampon extenders and crampon bags. What we got are:
1 Grivel AirTech Evo Ice axe (53cm)
1 Grivel G1 Ice axe (53cm)
3 Grivel G12 NewMatic Crampons (C2)
2 Grivel G12 NewMatic Crampons (C2)
5 Grivel Crampon Bags
2 Grivel 190mm crampon extension bars
I hope that this will go down well with all our clients to have newer and just a little better equipment for the coming winter seasons. I’m looking forward to using the new toys.
October saw some pretty windy conditions, just to finish off a rather windy season. However, there was a weather window which we managed to use and the Saturday saw some really nice weather with a lot of seals. We paddled from Kyleakin up the coast to Plockton and then stopped for the night at Duncraig Cove. Before that we made a little visit at the Highland Farm to have a look at some Lamas and rather interesting looking goats.
The railway station at Duncraig offered us some great shelter from the elements while we cooked and had dinner. The following morning we had a very short paddle top Plockton to finish the day.
This blog is dedicated to Martin who suggested to have it updated more often.
This year Unexplored Scotland has been sea kayaking on Islay for the first time. The original plan was to circumnavigate the island and tick off some of the whisky distilleries on the way. The trip would have been a challenge with good weather but unfortunately, that was not to be. After 3 glorious days of good weather, whisky distilleries at the shore and some wildlife the weather has turned. Force 5-6 meant that we had to put in a 3-day break and do the cultural thing on the island and visit Finlaggan, the capital of the Lord of the Isles, an archaeological excavation at Lagavulin and amongst other things.
On our last day we still managed to paddle around Loch Indaal to finish off a memorable trip on the exposed Island. Some of the highlights were the many seals and the best bothy (including an honesty library) I have ever stayed in.
This week was pretty windy with a constant South-Westerly wind around Skye. This meant that it was hard work paddling at times and that the areas we could go in 5 days was a bit limited. However, we managed to do quite a lot of good sea kayaking including a visit to Eilean Donan castle. We also encountered some friendly seals where we camped at the second night and saw some Otters too. One was just laving lunch when we spotted it.