This week saw the second of the winter skills courses being run for the SYHA this season. There was plenty snow with great conditions, so the course ran from Torridon. Over the three days we covered a huge variety of skills and put them to the test on some of the spectacular Torridon mountains.
Day 1 we headed up Beinn Damh and on the way looked at avalanche avoidance, did some self arresting and introduced the use of crampons and ice axes to reach the summit. The rain started on our descent, but we were rewarded for our efforts with some delicious home made lemon drizzle cake on return to the Hostel – thanks Em!
Day 2 was extremely mild, so the walk in to Coire nan Laogh was a warm one! We zigzagged our way up snow slopes, passing some old avalanche debris, to reach the summit of Tom na Gruagaich. The conditions were icy on the summit plateau, so we stuck our crampons on to make movement a lot easier. It was a complete pea souper all day, which allowed for excellent navigation practice.
Day 3 we decided to go for a bigger day to put into practice all the skills learned and headed up the West ridge of Liathach to the summit of Mullach an Rathain. The snow had had quite a fright due to the mild temperatures and over night rain, but the final push to the summit definitely required the use of crampons and ice axes. The cloud lifted off the summit as we ascended, rewarding us with fabulous views over the surrounding mountains and out to sea.
A wonderful few days spent in the winter Torridon mountains and we pretty much had the place to ourselves, we only saw 5 people the whole time! Thanks to Claire, Debbie, Jocelyn and Jeffrey for their wonderful enthusiasm, humour and company. Haste ye back!
It was an early start in Grantown for bike collection and a pack-up from Elephant in the Pantry, Kevin and Amber followed me to Nethy Bridge as the grey turned to blueish and we put the bikes together for a day on the classics of Cairngorm.
Kevin and Amber were on a break for a week all the way from Los Angles, California and were looking for a back country bike adventure as part of their trip. A bit a trail comparison was inevitable, and sure enough they had only seen dry dusty trails for some time, so it was only fair that the Scottish trails were a touch on the damp side just for variety.
Out of Nethy, up and over to Ryvoan for the first stop of the day, the bothy was in fine order, with a resident whittler producing some finely crafted sticks! Had to convince our guests this doesn’t happen every time! Enjoyed the descent with a quick photo stop at Loch Uaine, then onto Glenmore Lodge and a closer look at cornering and anticipation skills on the berms there.
Weather began to get away from us at Loch Morlich, with a pack up under the trees (nice quiche!) then onto Badaguish for some singletrack fun, over Sluggans and begin to close the loop to Loch Garten and back to the start.
It was a big day in the end, lots of pedalling, some good fun on the descents and definitely some new MTB experiences to take back to California. Nice to pedal with you both.
With the threat of wet and wild weather for days two and three, we decided to attempt the traverse of Liathach with the feeling that if it was a long day, we wouldn’t be working too hard tomorrow given the forecast. The legs got a good workout and as time was ticking along, we took the bypass path on the South side of the Pinnacles to keep things moving.. What a great path, precipitous but easy on the legs!
There was a bit of digging deep into the reserves as we reached Mullach an Rathain at the West end, and after a lengthy descent we got back for a well deserved tea.
With Rain bouncing of the Youth hostel and gale force winds at the summits we went for a low level walk round the back of Beinn Eighe to hopefully get some views. Around lunchtime the rain stopped, we got our views and by the time we got back to the car we were dry. It turned out pretty nice in the glen, and we walked round to the Torridon Inn for a lovely meal later on.
Windy and dry forecast, and tired legs, we headed up to bag Tom na Gruagaich, one of the Munros on Beinn Alligin (the jewel mountain of Torridon). It was pretty windy near the summit, which caused some worry, but we got there and enjoyed some stunning Torridon views and then got ourselves back down the coire to shelter for lunch. The sun was out with a good stiff breeze so no midgies.. awesome!
I met Harry, David, Richard and Vahan at Torridon in the lashing rain last Saturday morning, wondering how much fun we were really going to have today!
Beinn Alligin was our target and by the time we drove up to the Carpark, the rain had eased a bit and the forecast was for things to gradually improve as the day went on. We practiced a bit of basic navigation on the path that led up towards the foot of the Horns of Alligin. Everyone made short work of the first section of scrambling before reaching the horns proper and I could see that we would have no problems, even with the awkward descent of the first Horn. The weather wasn’t the best but sometimes its better like that. We scrambled along in mist, then windows of stunning scenery would open up then close again without warning.
After the Horns we had a stiff pull up onto the summit of Sgurr Mor, the first Munro. From here it was mainly walking with a few steps of scrambling before reaching the summit of Tom na Gruagaich the second Munro of Alligin. We had some good views from the summit but the mist soon closed in again and followed us down the mountain, perfect timing!
For Sundays adventure we were going to up the ante a bit and see how everyone would cope with the Am Fasarinen pinnacles on the dramatic ridge of Liathach. The weather forecast for the day was much better than the day before but standing on the summit of Spidean Choire Leith, the first Munro on the east west traverse, in the mist and lashing rain. I think everyone could have come up with somewhere they would rather be. Luckily by the time we had reached the start of the Pinnacles the weather had improved slightly, no views but the rain had eased. We slowly made our way along the crest using the rope for the more exposed sections with the visibility constantly improving to give us some views down into the glen. Then, just as we finished the last part of the scrambling the mist cleared and we were in sunshine with blue skies above while the remaining section of the ridge stood out draped in mist on the North side and bathed in sun on the south side. We had amazing views from Mullach an Rathain at end of the ridge and could finally relax knowing that it was all downhill from here on.
Thanks to Harry, David, Richard and Vahan for their good company on two great days.
Ged, Ricky, Oscar, Dave & Stuart had planned a bit of a mountain biking road trip to Scotland and to help them get the best of the trails in the NW asked me to guide them for a couple of days. I was joined both days by Charlie from Torridon Activities as part of his preparation for his Level 3 assessment and on Sunday by Ian Sikora who I ride and guide with both in Torridon and across in The Cairngorms.
The forecast for our first day was for strong, or gale force winds, windchill and driving rain or sleet – certainly not the conditions to be attempting to ride anything too high up in the mountains. Having met the group in the morning to discuss their experience and aspirations it was agreed to drive north to Poolewe where we would ride into the spectacular and remote Fionn Loch. The above photo shows a break in the weather, this along with some determined riding meant that we got all the way to the Causeway and across to Carnmore Bothy for a late lunch. This was despite a few visits by the pinch-flat troll who lives near the bottom of the first descent by Martha’s Peak! For some the return ride across the Causeway had to be timed to avoid the frequent squalls that blasted down the loch. Riding in a remote environment such as this demands respect. Charlie & I pointed out that whilst risk cannot be eliminated we can reduce it by taking decisions such as using a bridge with a detour instead of wading a river in spate. All the way out we were battered and often brought to a halt by the 40mph headwind. Stuart re-grouped at the top of the final descent to the woods before everyone had a chance to relax at bit and push the pace on the trail as it dropped and weaved down to the gate. Two hours back from the Bothy to the cars was good going in these conditions.
Sunday’s forecast was for the weather to move from Westerlies to Northwesterly near to midday so I was perfectly happy to go for the Classic Torridon Loop with the group. After all this is what they’d come here for! Our warm up ride and climb up through to Coulin was a contrast to the day before with time for looking at the ‘Big Country scenery’, photos and detours to retrieve riding glasses! Neil Morrison the head keeper at Coulin Estate met us on the climb to the Pass but he did not stay too long as I think the lads were planning to put their bikes in his truck. Warp speed to the railway station with no cafe, a smooth ride on the re-surfaced Lochcarron road and then it was time… Time for the climb from Coulags to the Annat descent. This technical climb can sap tired legs, split inner tubes and break hearts but the new hydro scheme track has certainly taken the sting out of it to the bridge. But no flats for us so there was time to relax and have some lunch at the bothy just in time for the weather to improve as promised. The hike-a-bike to the Bealach na Lice was in pretty good nick so it did not take us long to reach the top of the magic carpet that is the Annat Descent. Keen not to spoil the flow of this famous descent we choose two natural stopping points to allow me to ride ahead and get photos. The rest was flow, flow, flow and more flow.
It was a pleasure for myself, Charlie & Ian to meet and ride with Ged, Ricky, Oscar, Dave & Stuart.
Dave and I met the students on a particularly ‘minging’ day, so it was appropriate to try and stay under the weather and head into the North Face of Ben Nevis to find some firm snow without getting hammered by the weather. We got up to the the bottom of Observatory Gully, got used to moving around on varied underfoot conditions and the wind stayed manageable for the time we were out.
Day 2 Dave went to Buachaille Etive Beag to introduce some of the students to different aspects of Scottish winter, including building snow shelters. Arlie and John wanted to learn to lead climb in winter, so we went to the sheltered climb Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach in Glen Coe to give some calm conditions to learn in. Good snowy conditions ensured that it felt very different to the summer rock climbing they had plenty of experience in. Things are harder in gloves!
Day 3, We all headed to the gondola at Nevis Range. Arlie, John and I started early with the 0800 climbers gondola so we could go to the classic mountaineering route Golden Oldy. We had to finish early enough so they could catch an evening flight from Glasgow, so the pressure was on! With lots of fresh snow, I was in snow plough mode, breaking trail for us and the following parties. The rewards were great frozen turf, fantastic views and a brilliant climb for all.
Dave headed up Aonach Mor, and made it through the challenging ridge conditions over to summit Aonach Beag, with opportunity to get some imaginative winter skills training on the way… Good job!
Clients are treated as individuals and we listen to what you want to achieve in the mountains, on the crag or on the trail.