Archive for the ‘ski touring’ Tag

Winter Wonderland – Six Go Mad on Ben More   2 comments

Another day and another superb clear blue sky morning. Hopes were high that the sun would stay with us all day and deliver a classic. More Ski Mountaineering was on the cards so we ramped things up a notch and decided to tackle Ben More, the highest of the Southern Highlands at over 3,800 feet and a “serious” ski route according the guidebook.

Downside was a low start that involved a long trudge up the forestry tracks to reach the snow in Coire Chaorach. The heavy packs (carrying skis) and heavy ski boots on the feet makes for hard work but the views and awesome weather kept us going

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When we finally reached the open corrie and the snow we were indeed walking – or rather – skiing in a winter wonderland. Ben More beside us and Stob Binnein ahead

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Skis on and it was a sheer delight to slide effortlessly – well not effortlessly but you get the idea – over the perfect snow under a deep blue sky in blazing sunshine

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The perfect winter day with many stops to take in the views across the Southern Highlands, Lochaber and the Cairngorms glinting in the distance

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We reached the ridge and the views were just immense. Distant mountains and the light making waves on the sculpted frozen snow.

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It was full winter conditions, hard packed frozen snow dominating. The NE ridge of Ben More has a couple of steep rocky steps, far too steep for skis so we switched to crampons. You can see one of the steps in the photo below

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I found this especially tough. Steep snow in very heavy boots with an awkward and heavy sack and I was left way behind. As I trudged, wearily up the easier slopes you can imagine my “disappointment” as most of the group started off again just as I reached them rather than let me catch my breath. I was bloody furious. Luckily MM, who is a very kindly soul, waited for me to recover (and have a serious rant) and then walked with me to the point where we could put skis back on and I’d calmed down a bit. Once back on skis I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t a day for temper tantrums and I was soon back in the groove and “at one” with the mountains again

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The views were still sensational and the final slopes to this high summit were a delight

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As we celebrated the summit with some of our other friends who attained the summit the old fashioned way on foot, it looked like the weather might be selling us down the river again. Clouds gathered and for a while we had some rather moody views

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It was short lived though and almost as soon as the cloud appeared it seemed to vanish, We left the summit to a group camping there for the night (must have been a chilly night!) and started our ski route down

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It was tricky descent, steep, with a serious drop off to the left and mix of ice and rocky slopes. A couple of the group tried to head straight down and ended up having to remove skis and climb down. Me and JC headed right and found a decent route down (scarring my skis on the bare rocks) and down to the col.

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The plan had been to go over Stob Binnein as well but I announced that my climbing for the day was done and I intended to chill in the warm sunny col and top up my tan before what looked like a magnificent cruise down Coire Chaorach. Reports from other walkers seemed to indicate the slope to the summit was hard and icy making a ski ascent very difficult. GM decided to join me a more leisurely way down. In fact the others only managed to ski up a few meters before the rock hard icy slopes forced them to revert to boots and crampons and climb to the top on foot

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As an aside, I’ve always referred to GM as, well, GM (Geordie Munro). ED has pointed out that he is neither a Geordie or Scottish and as this is self appointed moniker we felt he needs a new one. ED provided several suggestions but seeing as GM is now growing an appallingly daft looking beard and has a appetite for plain boring oat based biscuits then The Hairy Oatcake seems more appropriate and will remain his identity on the blog until I come up with something funnier or more annoying, or hopefully both

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So, after an extended scoff of goodies me and THO headed down. The corrie wasn’t steep but it was completely plastered in snow and was a truly magnificent easy cruise down on perfect untouched snow. The earlier descent almost meant we were in the sun the whole way down.

I reset the exposure on my camera to a more average setting, hence the much brighter shots from hereon. I think I prefer the lower exposure ones from the first part of the day

You even get the added delight of some photos of yours truly looking like the hard mountain enthusiast he is

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The skiing brought many shouts of delight as we cruised down without a care. One of the finest hours I’ve ever had in the Scottish mountains. Wonderful skiing, blue skies and bright sunshine

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I like this photo for the rather bizarre fork-like shadow that THO seems to have created

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One of the fun parts of Ski Mountaineering is picking a route as the snow starts to thin out. We had a great time weaving in and out of snow filled peat hags on ever patchier snow, desperately trying to find the last possible spot to take off the skis. Eventually you end up on slopes more grass than snow with patches only a foot or so wide in places.

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All the while the views and the situation were unrivalled in recent memory

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When at last we decided skiing on boggy grass would be rather foolish we reluctantly took off the skis, fixed them to the pack and set off for the long trudge back to the car. Despite the weight and the distance to go we were all beaming smiles and feeling pretty damn good. Could we finish the day off to make it even more perfect? Hell yes:

  1. We managed to hitch a lift all the way down the forestry track with one of the guys working on the Hydro Scheme in the valley.
  2. We were back early, decided on a cheeky beer before we went back to the room to change and ended up staying a couple of hours (and several beers later) chatting with a group of very friendly locals in the bar
  3. When everyone else was back we enjoyed a fine evening of great food, more beers and  tales old and new with friends and friendships going back 30 years

That was a great day!

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Winter Wonderland – Ski Touring in the Tarmachans   4 comments

Our winter trip to the Southern Highlands has been a fixture now for 10 years. In that time we’ve had a few days of sunshine and a couple of days of proper winter conditions. We’ve never had both together and the weather has always been mixed although the weather has never been a complete washout.

This year, our 11th, the forecast looked promising with high pressure and cold weather following a snowy spell giving much hope for a great conditions. Drawing back the curtains on the Friday morning gave substance to that hope.

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Lots of deep fresh snow equals a chance for some ski touring. I abandoned TBF to the tender mercies of the Sheffield Boys while we headed to Lochan na Larige for a high start. We had park below the reservoir as the road was blocked by snow and ice.

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Spoilt for choice with the mountains plastered in snow above 500m, and after much debate we settled on Meall Nan Tarmachan.

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The weather and views were just breathtaking. How often is it you’re glad you remembered sunglasses on a day out in Scotland. We ploughed our trail up towards the ridge that carries the baggers path to the summit

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Alas the Scottish weather nipped at our heels as a bank of grey cloud drifted in and started to cloak the higher summits. We were even treated to the almost unheard of sight of MM struggling with tiredness (he had just flown back from a business trip to Brazil!)

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By the time we reached the summit it had reached us as well so it was the briefest of stops, tinged with a little disappointment that the fine start to the day had petered out.

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Luckily skiing downhill is great fun even in the cloud. This descent enlivened by my attempt to ski an extremely steep gully badly broken by deep footprints and with boots not adjusted properly. Ratio between ski and fall about 20:80! 🙂

We skied down to the track and then back up to the ridge for another descent back to the car. The fickle Scottish weather turned again and the sun came out

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Not sure what I did with the camera settings but they came out rather dark and broody looking but still capture the essence of what was a cracking ski descent

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The snow was a little heavy but fluffy enough for some wonderful easy turns as we picked a superb route through the crags and gullies

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I seem to have lost the ability to keep a camera aligned to the horizon as I’ve got older. However this particular shot seems to be best yet. Pretty sure Loch Tay would empty rather quickly at that sort of angle. 🙂

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The patches of blue and the sunlight on the mountains, backed by dark clouds was just magnificent

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This shot of GM in action is my favourite from the day

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The descent went on all the way down to the dam and the massive water pipe that pops out from the base

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For most of us climbing under the pipe was the only time we took skis off all day. MM made a very brave effort at trying to limbo underneath without taking them off. A then made it look easy!

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Blue skies, a ski munro, two cracking descents, and ski to/from the car on excellent snow with great company. Does a day get better than this? Watch this blog to find out.

Boys (and Girls) Weekend – Uphill and Downhill on Meall Ghaordaidh   6 comments

More snow and more skiing. Well more rain and more skiing to be honest. Courtesy to GM for a good number of the photos, a deserving chance to see me in action again for a change, again I’m the short-ar5e in the green jacket

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

A grey and dreary day with the promise of deterioration does not make for an enthusiastic breakfast. Still, snow down to relatively low levels is a rarity in Scotland in these globally warmed times so best make the most of things. A bit of ski touring was called for and a combination of a new Munro for Mad Malcs and some route planning by JB picked out Meall Ghaordaidh. The fact that it’s also a new Munro for me of course had no bearing on my decision

Downside is the start in Glen Lochay is low and Meall Ghaordaidh is a pretty big bugger. The snow wasn’t down as far as the road so some spirited walking in the damp drizzle was called for to get to the snow. Problem with ski touring in Scotland is you often have to walk up hill to get to the snow. This has two main disadvantages. Firstly you have to wear ski touring boots, a combination of downhill boots and plastic mountaineering boots, which despite the marketing blurb are deeply uncomfortable to walk in. Secondly as is obvious from the photos and any degree of thought, skis are cumbersome and heavy, making for a heavy pack when combined with winter gear.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Not a an ideal start, heavy pack, sore feet, and drizzle. But here’s the thing. In the right conditions ski touring is a very fine way to gain a summit, especially when the snow is deep, heavy and soggy on a day like this

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

We stopped to slap on skis after 45 mins slogging up from Drumcroisk but from there progress is so much easier and swifter.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Skis take the uncertainty out of the terrain and you can set into a smooth climbing rhythm. Those heavy skis and uncomfortable boots are suddenly a bonus. It’s still bloody hard work, don’t get me wrong but you get a much better return for your efforts. I’m pretty sure in heavy wet snow there is no way we’d have got to the top. In fact we were up and down in around 5 hours.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

There is a certain pleasure even on a miserable day like this in the steady progression skis give you. On foot this would have been a real grind, a grim relentless rigour of exhaustion and wet feet. My recollection of the climb was of hard work laced with good humour and enjoyment.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

We had a swift lunch under a boulder, surmising quite correctly that the summit would be unpleasant. A chance to capture the grim cheerfulness and take some very suspicious selfies.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

We pressed on to the summit, into the cloud and the weather turned truly nasty. It was amazingly swift how the wet and slushy snow turned to rock hard ice on the summit ridge (a warning for all as to just how swiftly conditions can change)

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

The summit was blasted by icy winds and spindrift, barely time to pat the cairn, recognise the tick before changing to downhill mode.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

And here’s the other very obvious good reason for ski touring. Coming back down is swift and FUN! The icy summit slopes in a white-out proved interesting as did trying to ski in the snow equivalent of porridge.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Laughs and thrills were had by all as we picked a route through the snowfields, arriving at the bottom of the snowline precisely where we’d started. No better way to descend a big Scottish mountain than on skis

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

By now the snow of high up had turned to rain and as we de-skiied it rained with a real vengeance. I haven’t been that wet returning from a day in the mountains in some years. Actually I tell a lie, I was this wet after last years walk up Ben Venue but you get my drift.

Meall Ghaordaidh. skiing, ski touring, ski mountaineering, glen lochay, duncroisk

I was soaked, my feet hurt and my shoulders ached. Was it a good day, you bet your ass it was! And Munro 215 to boot. Wins all round especially as we passed the parked cars of the other party still out on the mountains in what was now pretty much torrential rain. Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing 🙂

Memories of Snow – Sledging and Skiing in Herefordshire   4 comments

Sitting here on a cold and very wet Sunday, my thoughts drift back 3 weeks to a time when the white stuff was all around and there was fun to be had. After a heavy dump of snow on the Friday it was only right and proper that we took the kids out for some sledging.

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

I live in a pretty much countour-less world around my village but a short 20 minute drive takes us to Ewyas Harold on the Welsh border where there is a top-notch sledging site that you can park at the bottom of. Perfectly sculpted, the slope is steep and long enough for some pretty fast rides with a decent run off at the bottom so you don’t come an unfortunate cropper if you run out of control (other than a strategically placed metal water trough for the sheep and cows but that’s by the by). It’s local popularity ensured that the slopes were well polished by the time we got there ensuring some very swift descents

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

Needless to say the kids had a great time and so did the adults.

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

A few photos and a nifty little  video below courtesy of my HD Headcam to get the vibe.

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

Alas the camera wasn’t able to capture the highlight of the afternoon. TBF took a ride and headed straight for a ramp that the braver kids had made. She hit it at maximum velocity and bounced a good couple of feet into the air before landing in a most undignified manner in the snow. It was the funniest thing I’d seen in a while and the kids were in hysterics, mainly due to the fact it was so unexpected. She survived the incident without major injury I should add. If only I’d had the camera on.

Ewyas Harold, Sledging

The next day it was time to try some skiing. The weather was pretty dreary and my previous experience of skiing in the Brecon Beacons wasn’t great. Loose unconsolidated snow on heather and tussocks does not make for great downhill skiing. What I needed was close-cropped grass and Hergest Hill possesses plenty so it was off to Kington. You can drive pretty much to the top but I figured the road would be undriveable so I parked up in town with a view to walking or skiing up (I have touring skis and skins to climb hills). Have to admit I felt somewhat conspicuous walking through the town in ski boots with skis strapped to my pack, gathering curious looks as I went. Luckily there was enough snow on the side and middle of the road to ski on so I was able to get the skis off my pack and skin up the narrow road, gaining more quizzical looks as I went. Once on the open hillside  I was in proper touring mode and apart from a few brave sledging souls (the weather was pretty grey and grim) I had Hergest Hill to myself.

Hergest Ridge, Ski Touring, Kington, Gladestry

Passing the usual Monkey Puzzle tree markers on the summit I decided to try and ski down the other side of the long ridge to Gladestry.

Hergest Ridge, Ski Touring, Kington, Gladestry

It was at this point I was reminded that what feels like a hill on foot is not quite the same as a hill on skis. The slopes down to Gladestry were nothing like steep enough for any white knuckle adrenaline and I just gently cruised down, barely putting a turn in. Someone else had been up here on skis and I followed their tracks down. After a brief pause above the village (the final slopes are steep and covered in gorse) I simply retraced my steps back over the top, another gentle and unexciting trundle although it was good to be out on skis.

Hergest Ridge, Ski Touring, Kington, Gladestry

The top section of the road was steep enough for a few turns and little more excitement but there were cars skating around on the lower slopes so I cut across the fields back to Kington. There were some pretty decent little runs across the fields, although the right of way traversed far too many stiles for my liking (I haven’t yet worked out a technique to ski over a stile). Trying to ski down a narrow rutted farm track was an interesting sensation! The last run of the day was the best, a steep private driveway that no-one had cleared gave a nice few turns in some decent powder to finish. In truth there was enough snow on the pavement on Kington to ski on, but I figured trying ski down a narrow pavement next to a busy road probably wasn’t all that smart. Not exactly ski-mountaineering but a fun afternoon out in the snow. Good practice for my proper skiing trip to France the following week

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