Cairngorms Jan 2014 Lessons learned

Cairngorms in a weekend?  Totally possible.  We left Bridgend at 4pm on Friday and arrived in the ski car park at about 1am.  Sleep for 5 hours and then up at 6am, starting the walk in at 7am.  Up the Fiacaill Ridge, back down the goat track and then a bit more crampon work on the goat track.  We also had a good look at the Goat Track Gully.  The following day we got up at 6am, were at the car park by 7am, then up the route by 12:30, in the corrie by 1pm, at the car by 2pm and home by 11pm or so.

Generally both days went really well.  The avalanche forecast was good.  The weather, while it was a bit windy was reasonable.  Conditions were good, the snow was solid and the gullies were full.  We got up there safely, did two routes and got back home in time.  We definitely could have been faster on the second route.  Which was Goat Track gully.  We did it in two 40 or so meter pitches and one short 15 meter pitch.  All things considered we could have been a lot quicker on that route, but most of that was due to my descision to trail the ropes up the slope to the bottom of the route.

On the first day we went up the Fiacaill ridge.  Joe got pretty cold on the belay.  It was quite exposed to the wind and he got rather cold.  This meant that he struggled with seconding the route.

Lessons learned:

1 – Don’t trail ropes up snow slopes.  It doesn’t work.  The ropes are to heavy and prone to getting tangled.

2 – Belay jackets aren’t optional.

Now for a few photos from the weekend.

Joe at the start of the Fiacaill Ridge:

Blurry selfie for the win:

Joe standing under Aladdins butress.

What a daft idea (aka 8a in a year?)

So last year I thought I really ought to get off my arse and try to do something hard.  I sorta did I guess.  I got a bit better at trad and finally got up into HVS, just about.  But there wasn’t much effort there really.  I didn’t focus much on any specific improvement.  I did a load more core exercises and started fingerboarding.  Also I spent quite a bit of time on my running doing a couple of ultras and I did up my house.  The ultras ate into valuable climbing time, so they’re out.  The fingerboarding was a start, but it’s not really very planned out, it’s pretty random.  So that’ll change.  The core exercises simply aren’t enough, I need to put more effort in there.  A couple of years ago I read an article in a mag which had a quote from Stevie Haston, which was:

“Train hard, rest, don’t eat. It’s a power to weight thing. In fact it’s a weight to powerful fingers thing. It’s not rocket science. Laurence went from F6a to F8a+. Any man or woman can climb F8a within a year in my opinion. All they have to do is everything in their power to do that and not get injured.” Stevie Haston on

Obviously to plenty of climbers, 8a is a fairy tale grade, something that most people will never actually climb.  Being of a rather stupid disposition, this has stuck in my mind.  Now I don’t seriously think that I’ll get to 8a in a year.  However what I do plan to do is focus on improving my climbing as much as possible.

Over the next few more posts I’m going to lay out a slightly more detailed plan, but here’s it in a few simple steps:

  • (re)Start and continue weekly (and daily) yoga
  • Maximise power to weight ratio (i.e. loose a bit of weight)
  • Get technique training and improve technique as I feel it’s a weak spot
  • Improve finger strength with a proper fingerboarding training program
  • Rest (i.e. spend more time chilling with the wife) properly



Southern Cairngorms Winter Crags

Lochnagar – North East Corrie

Southern Sector – 950m, 1000m,North West facing –

Main Sector – 900m – North East and North West facing

Good mix of routes at most grades

Coire lochan Na Feadaige – 900m – North East facing

Two III and a V

The Stuic & Whacky Butress – 1000m – North East and North West

Good mix of I – V

The Dubh Loch Crags

Spittal of Glenmuick or Glen Clova approach

Creag An Dubh Loch – 730m NE to E

Not loads of winter routes.  Mainly rock routes.

Glen Clova

Winter Corrie – 650m NE

Good mix of routes

Corrie Fee – South Wall – 550 North East

Good mix of routes I – V

Corrie Fee – North Wall – 550 – South East facing

Small handful of routes III to IV

Craig Maud – 600m North East facing

Pinnacle Ridge II

Jaunjorge – 550m South facing

Not many routes at II – V