Cairngorms Winter Report

Here’s a quick round-up of the Winter Courses I (Mark) ran in the Cairngorms from 16th – 23rd February 2017.

Day 1

Kent and Sam wanted to build on their confidence in the Winter Mountains, We had 2 days together looking at a variety of different things from Navigation through to Anchors. Day 1 was spent on Fiacaill Ridge (GI/II).

Navigating in to the ridge
Moody Looking
Kent and Sam
Fiacaill Ridge
Descending the Goat Track in Coire an t’Sneachda
A lean looking Coire

Day 2

Day 2 we headed up into Coire an Lochan and did Y Gully Right Branch (GII)

Northern Corries looking beautiful in the morning
Heading into Lochan
Kent; the Mountaineer…
Looking into the gully
Sparse snow cover on the top of Lochan

Day 3

Day 3 was the first of our 2 Day winter skills course, Alastair, Liz, Rachael, Nick, Fran and Myself headed into Coire na Ciste to work on some funamental winter skills.


Cutting Steps


Avalanche Test (It was unbreakable!)


Ice Axe Arrest (make sure you keep those feet up and look away from the axe!)


Snow Bollard


Descending back to the Ski Slopes!


A fine finish to a Fine day!

Day 4

Day 4 saw us heading up onto the slopes to the side of Coire an t-sneachda and over to ascend Cairngorm

Beautiful Views up to the Northern Corries


Stunning Sunshine up to Coire an t-sneachda


Remarkably clear



Efficient Ice Axe use


The finishing slope


Almost there…


A lean looking Corrie


Emerging into Sunshine


Plenty of parties topping out


The “summer like” saunter over to Cairngorm


Yours truly giving the Thumbs up to Scottish Days like these


A victorious party on the summit of Cairngorm R-L: Rachael, Alistair, Liz, Me (Mark), Fran, Nick


Looking over to a moody Ben Macdui

Day 5

So, it was fairwell to the participants of the Winter Skills course, and Kent & Sam. It was Hello! however, to Al, who I have had the privalege to go climbing with in the Summer and the Winter before in the Lakes, this was our first foray to Scotland together.

We started off with a lovely ascent of Jacobs Ladder (I) in Coire an t-sneachda.

An unfortunate damp start to the day, in Newtonmore


Looking better in the corrie but very lean…


The riskiest part to the day is always boulder hopping in soft snow!


Al on the start of Jacob’s Ladder


Lean conditions but good snow in the gully



Very stripped; looking into the Loch Avon basin


Descending to Aviemore for a coffee

Day  6

Faced with a not so ideal forecast and a good thaw passing through the UK, we were a little unsure of what to do today, the choice was made to go up and see how Coire an Lochan was looking, we headed up to have a look at Y-Gully Right Branch (GII) and found it still in fairly good condition, with a little rocky step in the middle. Some chaps we saw had other ideas and were “dry-tooling” on Savage Slit (Winter GV,6) which was in definite summer conditions (GSevere)

Coire an Lochan


Al using his imagination to conjure up snow…


View down to Glenmore


Approaching the base of Y Gully


Some reasonable dribbles of ice, that were covered in snow a few days ago


A “winter” ascent of Savage Slit


Old Snow, but good neve in places


Topping out of Y Gully Right Branch

Day 7

The forecast today was even worse than yesterday (but, at least snow was forecast) it was the 70mph winds we weren’t too keen on.  The weather looked better elsewhere however. So we decided to head to Lochnagar. Driving through Aviemore we glanced up at the Northern Corries and they looked like Mount Doom, had we made the right choice?! As you can see the weather on the way into Lochnagar was splendid (and on the way out) however, the wind was howling through the corrie and we made the correct decision to head back down and make plans for the following day, it was good to stretch the legs though!


Beautiful Spring woodland in Glen Muick


A sandy beach on the side of a mountain?!


Today lent itself very well to photography


View to the sunshine in the Glen…


…and a different view in the opposite direction!


this is where the wind hit




Beautiful and wild Lochnagar from bealach between Lochnagar and Meikle pap


Al, remaining upright!



and…we’re back in the sunshine!



Day 8

Our last day together today and the weather sure did turn! Storm Doris bringing welcome snow all over Scotland and way down into the valley! We headed up to do Fiacaill Ridge (sic) and were not disappointed!

A good morning in Newtonmore!


An expression of wonder “What is this falling from the sky?!”


The ever present Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta)


Fiacaill Ridge


Al, enjoying the ridge


The start of the steep bit


Descending in the white after a great day

There was then a small break, where I headed back to the Lakes to dry kit and have some quality family time, before heading back up to the Cairngorms to meet Ally and spend 2 great days in the Cairngorms.

Day 1

Ally had booked onto our Winter Skills weekend and we sure got some skills done! With 2 very different days! Day 1 was super windy and snowing, which gave us some very good conditions for looking at Navigation and how snow behaves, we headed up to Coire Cas to look at fundamental winter skills.


Our BC (Base Camp) in Coire Cas


Crampons on (that bag very quickly got covered in snow!)


One of many “Winter Hacks” – removing crampons with a pole tip


Descending through fresh snow (I wonder what tomorrow will bring)

Day 2

The previous evening I took Ally to see one of the free winter lectures at Glenmore Lodge, Phil Sanderson did a presentation on Avalanche awareness, all of which Ally and I had covered during the day but, it was good to recap on a lot of it in a warm and dry environment.

Today we headed up into Coire an t-Sneachda with a few plans, we ended up doing Jacobs ladder, and after the snowfall from the previous day and evening, we found it in good condition, after doing some Avi checks we continued upwards. I had planned and did carry out some more in-depth (pun intended) checks I did bring along a shovel, which proved very valuable for tunnelling the cornice at the top of the route!

We also met some chaps from Avon Mountaineering club, Nick and Paul, who followed us up the route.

On our descent via Fiacaill a Corie Chas we had a look at some anchors and abseils and checked out the windslab that had been created in Coire Cas.


The start to a very good day



Beautiful snow formations


Beautiful cloud formations


Snow all the way to Glenmore, and up on Meall a’Bhuachaille


A confused Ptarmigan


Ally (enjoying!?) post-holing


Some surprisingly firm conditions on Jacobs Ladder


This picture doesn’t do the cornice justice


“The Hole”


Myself, inside my creation! Happy to have had a shovel in my pack!


Ally emerges


Ally enjoying the good sport of cornice caving!


Nick approaches


Nick, happy to be out in the sunshine!


Paul, very happy to be out in the sunshine!


No words


A splendid Bynack More


Lunch Stop


Fiacaill Ridge and Fiacaill Buttress looking fine, but some fairly loaded slopes just left of centre


Days like these


An azure sky and an azure Loch Morlich


Ally getting to grips with the South African abseil
A great end to a great weekend





























About Author

Mark Walker
Mark is a highly experienced Expedition Leader and Climbing guide. With over 20 years mountaineering experience and 10 years leading experience over 6 continents. Mark has led a variety of expeditions to the far corners of the globe. Mark specialises in technical mountaineering and remote trekking expeditions. Mark grew up in the English Lake District and knows the area inside out - he offers superb local knowledge and can take you far from the crowds!


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