Last time I climbed Taliballan we all used wrist leashes, it was so long ago. It must be over ten years ago in fact, well past the time after which I can call it an onsight again! So Louisa and I went for the long walk up to Stob Coire nan Laoigh today in the Grey Corries and we had a great time. We knew the crag was well rimed and the turf frozen since Lou and Guy climbed there a couple of days ago, and it was looking even better today. The northerly wind we have had for a few days now with some snow showers and cloud down on the crag has frozen the turf solid, rimed up the rocks and even formed a few dribbles of ice.
Taliballan climbs a steep corner system with bulges and great ledges for belaying on. The crux is a corner on the first pitch with a crack that is just too big for comfortable torquing. It's like an off-width torquing crack. However the quartzite rock is generally pretty helpful with thin cracks for picks, plenty of chockstones and positive ledges for frontpoints. Despite having some steep sections, a good bit of cunning will make the moves relatively amenable.
For a 70m climb, there is an awful lot of climbing. Most routes have some hard sections and some easy sections. On this crag and especially on this route, every move is a winner. 70m of climbing feels like much more. Having said this, there is no need to do it in five pitches at the guidebook says. The first two pitches run together very well, as do the third and fourth pitches. Then it's just one pitch to the top.
It looks like the temperature will go up during tomorrow and we will get a bit of a thaw over the weekend. It does not look like it will be a turbo thaw though, no pineapple express. Instead it will get the snow wet and provide a bit more water to form ice when the temperature drops again in the second half of next week, fingers crosed!
Douglas Boulder has a collection of very good mixed climbs that do not rely on ice or neve at all. When the wind is strong or conditions higher up, these can be brilliant outes to enjoy. Having climbed Gutless and Jackknife a couple of times it was about time I got onto Cutlass so that's what Sally and I did today. It was ace!
Cutlass climbs a huge corner which is really obvious from below. There is a slabby ramp to get to the start of it and you are straight into the over-hanging crux moves from this belay ledge to get into the corner. With no ice in the big corner crack apart from a good few bits of verglas, there were plenty of chockstones and a couple of thin cracks to get the picks into. Tiny foot placements on the left wall intersperse the better foot ledges in the corner and the moves in between are fantastic. There was plenty of protection today so it was just about ideal conditions for climbing. At the top of the corner there are a few turf moves and the turf was fine to use, not solid but frozen.
The third pitch gets you right into a chimney from which it is not as hard as it looks to escape onto easier ledges and the SW Ridge of Douglas Boulder. When Scott climbed this route a few years ago he found the corner crack to be choked with ice which he used for his picks all the way with his feet out on the rock ledges on either side. The protection was pretty spaced for him since he didn't have ice screws with him! It just goes to show how varied these climbs can be. Today was snowed up rock with a bit of turf at the top. In a couple of weeks it could be very icy.
Ken and Andy climbed Slab Route in the Trident Buttresses which is also a very good early season climb to do. Again, there is some turf to get onto the slab that needs to be frozen and the ridge above the climb to the plateau is superb. It looks like we will get a few cold snowy days coming our way. The snow came down to sea level while we were climbing which made the drive back down the forest track the trickiest part of our day!
Victor (my springer spaniel) and I went for a quick bike ride up towards the CIC Hut this afternoon to see what's what and what's white. Snow fell down to 400m last night after a warmer day yesterday with rain at all levels. We did not get as much as further east in the country but the crags and the tops are covered in a white sheet (not quite a blanket and certainly no where near a duvet). It stayed cold all day though and there were puddles of ice on the path at 600m above sea level. The steep cliffs near the CIC Hut have dribbles of ice on them too showing it has been cold enough to freeze the drips and start to freeze the turf.
The great gullies only have a little snow in them and they will not be fun to climb yet. We need much more snow to build up first. The great ridges will be fun to climb with soft snow on the rocks but no build up yet to smooth off the ridge. They will be slow going, especially if you don't know the route yet. The best climbing will be on steep, rocky mixed routes such as Gargoyle Wall, Sioux Wall and Strident Edge. All of these were climbed over the last couple of weekends and none of them require any frozen turf. It looks like we will get another cold weekend and I'm sure there will be more people out climbing these modern, early season classics.
It was a cold and bright weekend on the West Coast with snow on the tops above 600m or so. There's not a great build up of snow but with a cold wind from the north and cloud hitting the crags we had some rime growing on the rocks. Above about 1100m there was enough white rime and snow on the crags to make them sufficiently wintry for some climbing. The turf is not well frozen at all and there's plenty of loose rocks; typical very early season conditions.
So, choosing a solid, rocky route with no turf that's high on the mountain is a good bet for the best climbing. Number Three Gully Buttress fits the criteria and Sioux Wall and Babylon were climbed as well as Tower Ridge and Ledge Route. It still amazes me that climbers can jump on Sioux Wall as their first winter climb of the season but that's the high standard of climber that Scotland (and a summer of training) produces!
We will get more snow tomorrow before it warms up and melts it all away for the rest of the week. It was a nice start to the winter though. What will the next six months bring for us? Lots of adventures, however much snow we get!
The first proper snow of the winter has arrived. We woke to a little snow lying on the tops above 900m on Saturday morning and we had a few showers during the day that brought the snow line down to 600m. Over night we had more substantial snow falling down to 600m but today was bright and sunny.
Tomorrow will bring wet and warmer weather with trong winds and the freezing level rising to 2200m or so. This is only temporary though. The forecast is for colder weather for the rest of the week so we should see a little snow building up above 600m and the ground will start to cool down.
On your marks, get set ...... go!
What a wonderful day for biking at Laggan Wolf Trax and what a great team of students from West Highland College UHI to be riding with. Top MTB coach Emma Holgate and I were working with students on the adventure degree courses who want to up skill their bike riding and start thinking about MTB leadership. Yesterday we were at Nevis Range riding the trails and improving braking technique, body position on the bikes and weight shift followed by a whole lot of cornering. We managed to stay dry just about all day yesterday, but today it was full on sunshine all day.
We warmed up on the green at Wolf Trax, an under-used gem of a skinny single track trail. If you can stay on the trail around all the wee corners at any speed you are doing well. The orange jump and berm trail has had some work done on the top half which makes the jumps a lot more jumpy and the surface smooth as a smooth thing. We rode both red trails as well with the team dropping the drops and rolling the rocks with ease. Well done team, great riding.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.