Kevin & Amber sample some not so dusty trails in the Cairngorms…

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.

blog by Ian Sikora, thanks again to Nicola at Elephants in the Pantry, Grantown on Spey for the lovely cake & quiche and Lindsay at BaseCampBikes, Grantown on Spey for sorting Kevin & Amber with some great bikes!

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SYHA Torridon Munros August 2017

SYHA Munros course 28/08/17

Day 1

Iain, Alison and Mickey.

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.

Day 2

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.

Day 3

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!

Iain Murray

Spidean a’ Choire Leith
Liathach ridge
great path
more mist
Mullach an Rathain
local wildlife
The final steps onto Tom na Gruagaich
Amazing views!
Happy Mickey!
Windy summit
More local wildlife
More beauty!

Beinn Alligin & Liathach

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.

blog by Dunc Maclennan, nineonesix-guiding

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Full-on in Fisherfield & The Classic Torridon Loop.

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.

blog by Jim, nineonesix-guiding

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Cambridge University Mountaineering Club Lochaber meet.

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!

SYHA winter skills February 17th, 18th and 19th

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The SYHA Torridon winter skills course was looking very marginal at the start of last week with mild conditions and a rapidly disappearing snow pack, the mountains were more like May than February.

I met a very international group at Cairngorm lodge hostel which consisted of German, British and Portuguese. Everyone was really enthusiastic and eager to get crampons fitted to boots, some people did not have boots, which was a bit alarming but fortunately they were able to rent some the next morning.

Day one.

Coire Na Ciste seemed to be still holding some snow so for the first day I thought this would make a good start. We left the Ciste car park and headed into the coire. The first snow we came across was very promising as the overnight frost and made the conditions bullet hard.

For some of the group this was their first time walking on snow we quickly covered the various techniques for ascending descending and traversing snow slopes on some low angled ground. We then had to move rapidly on to cramponing as we were going to be unable to make further progress up the mountain without their use.

We made our way up the Coire na Ciste and over to Ciste Mhearad to have a look at the quite elaborate snowholes which had been constructed. After a quick bite to eat the team put their navigation skills to the test taking a bearing on Cairngorm summit, the last objective of the day, other than getting back to the hostel!  The view eastwards were obscured by some low cloud but the situation was still spectacular with views to Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda and Lurcher’s Crag. We made our way back to the car park making the most of the remaining snow patches to practice ice axe breaking.

Day two

The warm temperatures had significantly softened the snow pack and I felt pleased that we had the opportunity to do so much crampon work on the previous day. We focused on navigation, beginning in the car park by finding out what everyone’s double pace count was for a hundred meters. Then we broke down the journey to Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda into sections and navigated to the bottom of the ridge. Although the snow pack was wet and soft the steep snowless ground proved more challenging as it was still deeply frozen. For this reason, we put crampons on for the descent from the ridge into Coire an Lochan. Here the group experienced much steeper although more forgiving snow conditions than the previous day which stretched comfort levels for some people. Avalanche assessment was covered but more in theory than practice as the risk was Low with a fully consolidated snow pack. We talked about islands of safety and safe route planning using the previous day’s forecasts and the avalanche report. Some final legs of nav from Lochan saw us safely back to the car park. 

Day three

Having spent two days in the Northern Corries I felt a change was required. I knew that the snow conditions would be very sparse elsewhere but the snow that was left in the Northern Coires was not going to provide the group with much more learning. We decided to do a Sgor Gaoith as a round trip from Geal-Charn descending down Allt a  Chrom-alltain. Again safe route choice was discussed but in theory only due to the lack of snow. The group navigated themselves round the route using the techniques learned during the previous two days and we soon arrived at the dramatic summit with views down to the windswept Loch Einich, impressing some of the group who had summited this peak several times before. Once again, we were able to use the remaining snow patches to ease our way back down the mountain and practice our breaking skills.

A very satisfied group arrived back at the car park. Although the three days had not been typical winter weather we had made the best of the conditions available to us.

Many thanks to Marta, Sergio, Jamie, Jeff and Matthias for your great company and laughs during the three days.

blog by Dunc Maclennan, nineonesix-guiding

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