Staying in touch and a short winter wander Cha-no to that nearly ended with a serious injury.

I often get asked why I write the blog it’s easy to answer as I get so many stories contacts from it. It is great to hear from past friendships and from other mountaineers some now gone and families trying to find put more about them. At least once a week I find or catch up with old pals.

I am back home know trying to sort out a broken boiler but hope to be back on the hills soon. How I have missed them. Yet it was important to stay in touch and visit folk again. So please feel free to comment on anything you read but remember that we should always treat everyone with respect whatever their views.

It’s also important to remember the lesson from Call outs or adventures. It’s the way we gain experience yet few offer up tales and many lessons are lost. So let’s hear the odd tale “I learnt about mountaineering from that”

One of my tales:

I was recovering from several operations a few years ago and would wander alone up from the lower Cairngorm car park Coire Na Ciste onto the cliffs overlooking Strath Nethy. It had a huge healing effect on me. There is a winter climbing cliff that is not too busy away from some of the crowds that throng the Northern Corries.

This small east-facing winter crag was first developed in the 2010/11 season. The cliff has a short approach (less than one hour from Coire na Ciste carpark) and short routes allowing you to climb many routes in a single day.

Whilst it’s still nowhere near as popular as Lochain/t’Sneachda, Cha-no is no longer as secretive as it once was. As such it’s very likely that you’ll bump into other people. However, if you turn up with a mindset to climb anything (including unclimbed routes) as opposed to just the small number of popular routes, you shouldn’t be queueing!

You can download a SMC PDF mini-guide to this crag from

It’s only a short walk about an hour and your up on the plateau. It was very early winter December and I arrived about 1100 and decided to wander up to the cliffs. I had all my kit crampons etc with me the snow was down to about 800 metres and blowing across the plateau slowly like a silent serpent.

It’s a pretty quiet area at that time of year but I thats why I love it. I was soon crossing above Coire Loagh Mor. There were patches of hard water ice in places where the streams had frozen but they could be avoided as there was also a lot of snow as well. It was not worth putting crampons on as I could see the ground and avoided the ice by going to the snowy areas. This is a wet area and low lying ice that forms here quickly as its very high up.

I was loving being out again walking slowly but enjoying the wildness and the views. I love early winter and could make out other footsteps ahead so there may be a few climbers on the cliff. It’s a lovely wander but it was clear but often I have had to navigate to where the routes start. I often go to the 1028 metres high point to confirm my navigation then look for familiar landmarks.

This day it was fine though no problems finding the cliff and most most folk abseil or down climbing from the ridge to the bottom of the cliff. I could see a pair climbing and was surprised by the amount of snow about.

The Crag

I watched them for a while and had lunch and took some photos. I noticed that the weather was changing and snow started to fall steadily and quietly . The wind got up and I decided to head home. I was now in cloud so took a bearing and headed back. It was getting late and the light was slowly fading.

Busy cliff.

I had been recently advised that I had the start of Cataracts in my eyes. I had noticed this in poor light that my vision was not 100% and was aware as was my doctor but on a long list with the NHS to get fixed.

I wandered back the snow was drifting and I followed my bearing. To be honest I forgot about the water ice and as the snow hit heavier I never saw the frozen stream. I fell and even though it was flat I went sliding down the ice on my back. I could not stop and I could see the Corrie rim in front of me ? My ice axe was on my bag I was using my poles. The only way I could stop was to direct myself into a Boulder.

The area on another day covered in snow but has ice underneath.

I stopped lay there my ribs were sore but I had not gone into the corrie. That would have been serious. I felt a right idiot but stumbled back to my van and was aching. It was getting dark and managed to get home. I had visions of what could have happened and how serious it could have become . Even worse it would be the Cairngorm team who would have picked me up.

There are lots of lessons to learn.

Lesson 1 – Treat a winter walk with respect even a short one. Get away early !

Lesson 2 – I should have put my crampons on or at least had my axe out and poles away.

Lesson 3 – as you get older you do not react so quickly so take it easy.

Lesson 4 – in poor visibility or light be aware of your limitations. My Cataracts did not help.

Always tell someone whenever you are going into the mountains !

Comments welcome

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Friends, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, Scottish winter climbing., Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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