Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These 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.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Earlier this week we helped Fabiana and team to complete the National Three Peaks in 24 hours. This is a huge achievement and the team did a fantastic job. The walks are tough and you need to be quick on all three of them. The only recovery you have between them is sitting in a minibus for several hours!

On the way up Ben Nevis they came across someone having a medical emergency as well and they did everything they could to help him. The guys worked together very well and supported each other all the way. Well done team and thanks to Mark for looking after them through the whole thing.

Today Andy and John enjoyed the Aonach Eagach and went out to The Chancellor on the way. It stayed dry for them this morning but the rain came in later on and for the walk down.

It does seem like the weather has warmed up a bit at long last. It is still quite unsettled but the temperature is much more like it should be at this time of year.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

What a great day for an introduction to scrambling in the Cuillin on Skye. I was with Pete, Al, Justin and Tim who have done a good amount of scrambling but nothing with ropes before today. We went into Coire a'Basteir and up to the ridge where the mist was just starting to form and swirl around the peaks.

We went up Am Basteir first making fast progress up the steady scrambling, looking at securing each other without a rope. We got the rope out for the bad step and worked out how to use Italian Hitches to make it safe for everyone as we climbed down. The view of Sgurr nan Gillean appearing out of the clouds when we were on top was excellent.

Back down for a go at the West Ridge of Sgurr nan Gillean gave us the perfect opportunity to practice moving together with a rope for security, Alpine style. This is the perfect technique for the Teeth near the foot of the ridge. Higher up we just walked with the rope in our hands and went back to moving together at the top as we went through the window. We also went down the SE Ridge a very short way now I know how good it is!

Going back down the West Ridge gave us another great training opportunity, abseiling down the chimney at the bottom. By this time the rain had come in so we were grateful for dry rock on both climbs and we went down the coire underneath Pinnacle Ridge for the long walk back to Sligachan.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

At last it seems like there is some green on the hills. Walking into Coire Laggan on Skye yesterday with Skylarks singing over head, flowers under or feet and green grass up to our knees it felt much more like spring (even though we are now in summer!). Jim, Aileen and I went up to climb Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, a tricky Munro with an involved route and several exposed steps at the head of Coire Laggan.

The clouds cleared and the sun cam out briefly to reveal several people out on various routes making the most of the dry weather. There was quite a cold wind though and it was another day for the yak wool shirt from Jottnar. The route up from Rotten Chimney is really quite airy - more exposed than I had given it credit for. I have been up twice this year now and was impressed by the situations both times. As part of the complete ridge traverse it is (just) another very exposed bit, but as a single day it stands out as quite a trip. Aileen and Jim did great and were happy enough without the rope in the dry grippy conditions.

Today we went for Sgurr nan Gillean by its SE Ridge. After so many years of exploring the Cuillin it was a surprise that I'd never been up this way, so it was a treat to go somewhere new. It is a long walk in from Sligachan and unfortunately the mist stayed down on the tops so we were climbing up into the gloom. There was no wind though and the very narrow crest at the top made up for the lack of view. It really is a fine ridge with solid rock making up entire sections of it.

We reversed the route and went all the way back around Coire Riabhach to Sligachan. After completing a traverse I have always descended the W Ridge and gone down Coire a'Basteir and I think this has been a good decision. It's a long way round by the SE Ridge and the path is really quite rough so it would be heavy going with post-traverse legs!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Well done to all the 88 teams of four people taking part in the Dream Challenges Ben Nevis Charity Challenge today. This is a big challenge starting with a walk up Ben Nevis including the walk from Fort William into Glen Nevis. After this warm up there is a cycle ride to Gairlochy for some canoeing on Loch Lochy then back on the bikes to finish in Fort William.

Abacus Mountain Guides supported and looked after them all on Ben Nevis in pretty poor conditions on top. If you are thinking of running a charity fundraiser event on Ben Nevis or anywhere else in the hills we can help - Ben Nevis Events.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

For many Munro walkers the Cuillin of Skye make up the biggest challenge. Jim has been picking them off one by one and we added a couple more to the list over the last couple of days. Yesterday the weather was dry, cool and calm so we went up Am Basteir. The walk in was next to the Basteir Gorge into the coire and up to the col between Sgurr nan Gillean and Am Basteir. On the col it was so calm there were one or two midges out!

The ridge up Am Basteir has the notorious Bad Step. On the way up the step is descended which is most often done with a little assistance from a rope. The summit gave us superb views over the Cuillin and the rest of the hills right across Scotland it seemed. Ben Nevis stood out with its cover of snow but there is little now on the Cuillin. Climbing back up the Bad Step is tricky but short lived thankfully!

Today by contrast was wet and windy with almost no view at all. We had hoped to reach Sgurr Alasdair before the rain came in but the mist was very wet in the morning so we got soaked anyway. We went in to Coire Laggan and up the Great Stone Shoot which is a test of perseverance at the best of times. In the wind and wet mist we did wonder what we were doing there once or twice!

We made the summit in good time though and stayed only briefly to get a photo before retreating back down the shoot. This is much easier in descent! Two more tricky Munros to add to the list for Jim and not many more to go to complete the set.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Well done to Josh, Ben, Adam and Kersha who all made the long trek up Ben Nevis today in aid of Help For Heroes. They all worked extremely hard and earned every penny they have raised.  

It was a brilliant day with non-stop sunshine. It was hot in the glen and even hotter on the snow with the reflected heat. The snow cover is still extensive and deep. From Corner 6 at 1100m there is almost continuous snow cover all the way top the summit where it is 2m deep. Tower Ridge is just about clear of snow though and it had a few ascents today.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Another sunny and warm day for Kevin, Paul and me to get out on our mountain bikes. Kevin and Paul have enjoyed all sorts of great trails including the Ciaran Trail down to Kinlochlevel, Glen Kinglass, Glen Sligachan and even to the summit of Ben Nevis. So we chose a suitably technical and rocky trail, the circuit of Beinn Fhada from Morvich.

I have ridden this loop a couple of times before and both times in warm sunshine so it was great to keep this going today. The trail starts at Morvich and heads south east past Glenlicht House and to the wondeful waterfall on Allt Grannda. A big climb finds great single track undulating and descending to Camban Bothy where the trail eases off to the head of Glen Affric near the Youth Hostel.

A sharp left turn finds a long gentle climb up a good trail that eventually gives up being a trail 1.5km before Loch a'Bhealaich. The bealach this is named for is Bealach an Sgairne, the Gates of Affric. It is a narrow rocky col that is the high point of the loop and the start of the fantastic descent to Morvich - narrow, technical and with great views all the way down. Paul and Kevin did a great job riding this route and their solid technical skills helped them make the tricky bits flow. When you can this has to be one of the best trails in Scotland.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Buachaille Etive Mor was standing proud above Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe today as the second group of Lochaber and Lorn Ramblers Scramblers worked on their scrambling technique and confidence. We went for the south side of Stob Beinn a'Chrualaiste again where we were a couple of weeks ago. However this time we went up Split Buttress first.

We looked at all sorts of things to help upwards progress and build confidence. We also worked on some simple things to keep each other secure and stop a wee wobble turning into a tumble with a bit of spotting. The route is a bit loose with plenty of rocks on the ledges and some turf and heather in places. A bit more traffic would help clean up the route and it would be excellent if this happened.

From the modest Stob Beinn a'Chrualaiste and its fabulous views we went along the hillside to find the Pink Rib. I was nervous about finding the top of this route as it is not very distinct. However the change in colour of the rock is very obvious and easy to spot. We did a bit of rope work practice for emergencies before heading down the Pink Rib back to the West Highland Way. The weather was warm, calm and dry ... much more like what it should be at this time of year.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Billy Connolly said "There are two seasons in Scotland, June and Winter". Well let's hope that's the case because May certainly did not feel very summery at all. On Tuesday, with fresh snow down to 700m on Ben Nevis and about 30cm of it in most places I went for a look at some ice climbing. This was 2nd June! Unfortunately it had gone just a bit too warm and wet with rain at 1000m for us to be happy to give it a go. The fresh snow was wet and heavy and there was plenty of recent, large avalanche activity evident under Number Five Gully, Number Four Gully and Observatory Gully. Still, it was worth a go just for the craic. How often do get a chance to go ice climbing in Scotland in June?

Yesterday gave us a wee respite with a ridge of high pressure floating over Scotland. I met up with Sandy and Bryan in Glen Brittle to have a go at their remaining Cuillin Munro Sgurr Mhic Choinnich. This is a wonderful peak sitting at the head of Coire Laggan, surrounded by Alpine scale faces and ridges of clean rock. Walking in to Coire Laggan just to soak up the atmosphere is a great experience that is recommended to everyone, whether or not you go any further up towards the main ridge line.

Getting to the main ridge line involves the An Stac screes. This is a large area of particularly mobile scree which saps the energy of your legs in ascent. We found a quite reasonable line up to the left of the screes by traversing hard under the buttresses and avoiding just about all the loose scree.

Up on the ridge it was cold and there was a little recent snow still melting away. The rocks were mostly grippy but the mist came in and the snow melt made them quite wet so the last hundred metres or so to the summit were made all the more tricky. Along with some of the most exposed scrambling in the UK it was quite a test. Bryan and Sandy did a great job though and we made it to tick off the last of the Skye Cuillin for them both. Well done and good luck with the rest of the Munros, hopefully in warmer weather to come.