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January 2023, Storms and ice

Having a look around Ben Nevis mid month and finding plenty of ice moving up to Coire na Ciste

First post of the year and its been a busy start to 2023. We have been pretty busy with various winter skills and winter courses running and have also been out and about making the most of the often stormy winter conditions. As winters go though its been a good month. Since we hit the ground to freezing temperatures mid December in start contrast to the heat of Northern Kenya its remained good and wintry in the mountains since. January is the Highlands is often characterised by stormy days, fluctuating temperatures and short daylight hours. This has been no exception. The winter here needs that freeze thaw to help develop a reliable snowpack and develop the ice climbing on the higher mountains of the West Coast.

We got the year underway with a bit of a treat on the Isle of Skye chancing upon a good looking forecast and some winter in the air we headed for a Hogmanay on the Cuillin ridge which provided. A beautiful day with wispy atmospheric clouds gave us a good mountaineering day on the Northern end of the ridge

From there the year started busy with some winter skills in Glencoe and the West Highlands. A good skills day on Ben Nevis an area which I don’t often see folk in for winter skills sessions despite it providing some great training ground for delivering skills essential for winter travel. It is a long walk in but worth it If its in good condition. Its also a spectacular setting which inspires those setting off into the sport. Huge cliffs steeped in history gives a glimpse of how far you can take your mountaineering. I also had a winter night navigation workshop to deliver and chose Stob and the area at the end of the Grey Corries traverse which is where I stumbled out the dark on my winter mountain leader assessment many years ago.

We also had some mentoring days with Andy Spink in the east using the fiacaill ridge and Twin Ribs to have a look at various things and current thinking. Jo and I also popped into the Northern Corries to have a climb in the Fiacail Buttress climbing the Rib and ‘Just another Routlet’ a grade three finishing on the crest of the ridge. A nice pitch, looking on UK climbing it seems there are a few more routes in this area than you find in the guide. The area to the right of the Seam always had quite a few ribs and pitches that make good areas for practice and training routes which it seems now have names. We have also had a few non starters with some pretty heavy winds and storms passing through making it fairly unattractive an option to set foot out of the car and into the weather. I had a quick look and found success though during a very cold and stunning Friday at the burn which runs up the line of the access chair at Glencoe mountain. A great set of steps, bulges a little canyon section which comes together to give a good few metres of ice to climb. Almost a perfect combo being able to drive to the bottom climb the ice, have a coffee at the top and catch the chairlift back down! Sadly it doesn’t come in that often but when it does and you are in need of half day activity its well worth a look.

Jo heading up the Groove of just another rootlet III in the Northern Corries

There has also been a few nice turns and tours on Cairngorm with a nice little day at the end of the month with Dad who was up for the annual Eagles Ski Club dinner meet. The weekend wasn’t blessed with the best skiing Scotland can produce. There has been some nice snow days and currently the ski areas have their pistes in tact but there isn’t an abundance of powder as we are currently undergoing a bit of a thaw.

Dad and Jo on a windswept Cairngorm

We are heading into a busy February with plenty on over the month. We do have some availability during March for winter skills and mountain journeys so please feel free to get in touch for further details and dates. I have also added to the site a knowledge page which will feature a few mountain based topics and how too’s over time this should build to be a bit of an archive. We have also added a taster style day on Cairngorm which is tailor made days on the mountain which you can find out more about here.

In the Cuillins for Hogmanay

Till the next time ice in Glen Coe

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