I’m just back from four days based in Newtonmore with Alex and Doug. On Thursday with freezing levels well above the highest summits, very strong south-easterly winds and heavy rain forecast we gave up on winter altogether and headed to Sgurr Ghiubhsachain near Glenfinnan. We scrambled up the North-North-East Ridge. This ridge is described in “Scotland’s Mountain Ridges” by Dan Bailey and we followed the scrambling sections pretty much as described. The ridge gives broken scrambling with sections up to about V-Diff on rough gneiss in a beautiful setting, with all scrambling/climbing being avoidable if desired. More importantly it was out of the worst of the wind and rain on the day.
Friday it cooled down, but winds were still very strong from the south, so we had a short day climbing Fiacaill Ridge in the Cairngorms taking in all the difficulties. The ridge was coated in verglas, the turf on the upper section was well frozen and there was fresh snow falling and giving a coating of white. We descended via the Goat Track on soft old snow, with a little layer of sticky fresh snow. Coire an t-Sneachda was still looking very black with all gullies looking broken at that point.
Saturday was forecast cold at height, 30 to 50mph winds changing from South-East to South-South-West and snow throughout the day. We wanted to find some climbing, so headed to Creagan Coire a’Cha-no, where we thought the turf would have been frozen in the SSE winds and we’d be sheltered once the wind had swung SSW. This worked well and we climbed Captain Fairweather, Short Ridge and a possible new Grade II up the right side of Short Ridge abseiling in each time. The crag was relatively sheltered, but belaying at the top was quite wild and there was snow blowing in to the gully lines and sheltered locations all day.
Today we needed a shortish day to get Alex back to the airport in time, so we nipped along to the Creag Meagaidh area and climbed the East Ridge of Meall Coire Choille-rais. I’ve been meaning to take a look at this ridge for a while and wasn’t disappointed. It gives a very good Grade II mountaineering line similar to it’s near neighbour the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn; it’s a shorter ridge, but feels more continuous and should receive more attention. The turf was soft where insulated low down, but very firm higher up. Despite the forecast it snowed above about 600m all day on light winds varying between Southerly and North-Easterly.
Four good days in good company despite some unhelpfulness from the weather. I’ll put more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page.