Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Southern Cairngorms

Having spent the past 2 days in the Northern Cairngorms seeking out the snow, we decided to have a change of scenery.  One look at the SAIS Southern Cairngorms blog last night and one picture provided the inspiration for todays adventure.

With the Cairnwell side being closed, we had the pistes to ourselves for skinning, had the mountain hares, ptarmigan, grouse and (possibly) the dottrel for company as we skinned over to Carn a'Gheoidh, and the pistes to ourselves as we whizzed our way back to the car.

And that will be my last winter work for this season on the planks.  The crows will be cleaned, serviced and packed away for the next few months.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Above the clouds once again

We didn't plan to head over to Beinn MacDui today, but the conditions were so good, we just decided not to stop.

It is certainly getting thin lower down but once you're on the higher slopes, there is still no shortage of the white stuff.

Once again the majority of the highlands were under a blanket of cloud and we seemed to be in a little sun pocket.  Needless to say that the sun hat, sun glasses and sun cream were left at the car, so for another day my face feels slightly tight and sore :(

Monday, 21 March 2016

Normal service has resumed

After a weekend of not wearing suncream and organising the last Skimo race of the season, it was time to get back to normal.

So today, we had to wear Goretex and look at a map and compass.  Bit of a shock to the system if one is perfectly honest.

No more Skimo blogs for at least 8 months - promise ..... (*fingers crossed behind back*) 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Bothy Life

It can't last forever, so it was time for the old burds to have another mini adventure in the local hills.

From the Cas Car Park, shooting around the side of Cairn Lochan to Ben MacDui.  Awesome weather and extremely grateful for the planks.

A glorious evening sunset, with numerous "ooo's" and "ahh's" before a very quick ski down to the salubrious accommodation provided by the Hutchison Memorial Hut.

We were fully expecting to walk the final section, but ski's off at the hut.  Lancaster Hotpot, cake and custard and certainly not enough Port consumed.

The gamble played off this morning as we returned to Loch Etchachan before skiing down to Loch Avon (yes, still frozen enough to ski across) before the final skin back up Coire Raibeirt.

One more ski descent which took as all the way back to the car park.  

Ptarmigan spotted: lots
Grouse spotted: lots
Calories consumed: probably not enough
Clouds spotted: zero excluded the blanket of low cloud far to the north
Stars spied: lots
Happy burds: two

Sunday, 13 March 2016

It's thawing in Noggyland

It never froze last night for the first time and today was wet.  It was nice to get first time pick placements but not good news for the ice.

Needless to say that for me to get under the 20kg weight limit tomorrow, the loo floor is working flat out.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The valley that keeps giving

There is absolutely no shortage of ice to climb.  There is starting to be a shortage of muscles to climb the ice however.

With only one day left, the burning question is, what to do tomorrow ...

Friday, 11 March 2016

Breaking glass

When I swing an axe, I want to hear a 'twang' and feel the vibration down the shaft.  It's the sound that dreams are made of.

However, the start of Rjukanfossen did not deliver the 'twang'.  It was more like breaking glass - lots of glass.

Thankfully, after the first pitch the ice became more friendly and we cruised to the top.  This is by far the biggest I have ever seen this waterfall - normally the right hand side is still flowing but absolutely no indication of that today.

It's great climbing so late in the season; the place is quiet and everybody is friendly.  Happy days.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Amenable Ice

When I climb ice there are a few things that go through my head:

#1 If it looks steep, it's going to be harrowing (for me on the lead that is).
#2 If it looks amenable, it's going to be steep.
#3 Always take at least one more ice screw that you think is required.

#4 If you can't see a hold, make a hold.
#5 Every pick placement is a bit of gear.

So today, we had a truly fantastic time, climbing amenable ice with enough ice screws for the entire ice climbing population in Rjukan.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Over the sea and far away

It's that time of year, for the annual trip to Norway with Gregory.  Having spent the past 3 years exploring different areas - to various degrees of success due to conditions - we decided to return to Rjukan.

Without doubt, the place is plastered in ice, which is good because I like ice :)  What is more impressive is that it is quiet, really quiet.

I have just paid over £3 for a can of cider - one of the small poxy ones at that - and am now watching Norge telly in which I can't understand a word.  Happy days ...

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Little country with big terrain

For a little country we have some awesome terrain.  The first thing you need to be able to do is find it.

Second day of our Mountaineering 4 Skiers course with the Avalanche Geeks and it was all about finding the terrain and exploiting the terrain to your advantage.

We could have just dropped in, but it would have been a shame to not use the new skills that Blair & Ali learnt yesterday.

A steep little entrance into An Cul Choire and down into the CC Chute provided an excellent descent, followed by an awesome skin (I actually quite enjoy skinning) back up to Stob an Chul-Choire before jumping into the lower part of Summit gully and then the homeward ski/skin.

Next course in now next winter - book fast because this is an awesome course :)

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Mountaineering 4 Skiers

Our annual Mountaineering 4 Skiers course kicked off today which we run in conjunction with the Avalanche Geeks.  We opted to remain on the East today but far enough West to have a fairly pleasant day on the hill.

The great thing about working with the Geeks, is that I can translate all that American chat, and the Geeks can translate my broad Aberdonian accent.  Now that we've done all the techy stuff, tomorrow we're going to find the cool stuff to ski putting into practice all the new skills.  Time to head West me thinks ...

Friday, 4 March 2016


I loved the walk into the Ben yesterday - the route was quiet, the skies were blue and the conditions looked great.  More to the point, my rucksack was light (super-light) and I was collecting the rack and the rope gun at the CIC hut.

When I climb on the Ben with Rich, I never look at a guidebook because I have the talking guidebook with me and no matter what I suggest, Rich has probably climbed it before.  The other thing about looking at guidebooks is that the descriptions never give the route the justice that it deserves.

Rich had his eye on The Shield, but it's hard when you don't have any reference point for what is in condition or what is not in condition.  Until you swing the axes, hear the reply off the ice and feel the ice you just don't know.  So, The Shield will have to wait for another day.

Not to be disheartened we swung around the corner and had a stonking day on Gemini.

There's a lot of climbing to be had :)

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

From fast to slow

I could talk a lot about this:

© Mr Drew Photography

but I won't.  If you are interested in nearly 100 racers embracing the Skimo scene, go here :)  Instead, a more mellow approach is required.

Well I say that ...  We all got our excuses in before we left the car park.  

Derek:  "I'm on my really heavy boots and I'm on my really heavy powder skis". 
Catrin: "I'm just back from fiddling with penguins and haven't walked more than 10km in the past 4 months".
Di: "It's Tuesday and I'm always slow".

However, Derek is in training and Catrin is never unfit.  So for 5 hours, we all breathed very hard and was grateful to have to stop every now and then to check the map and eat chocolate.

The touring was pretty naff to be honest and to have to pole very hard to get to the car at the end of the day was just the final insult.  On a positive point, Derek has ticked off some very remote Munro's that would otherwise be a very low, boring walk - some hills are just designed to be skied.