Part 1: Climbing Fiacaill ridge
When Chris and I booked our first winter skills trip, flights were so cheap we booked a second trip for the next month in case we liked it. Naturally we loved it, and the next year did two trips again, and this year plan another two. A second trip so soon after the first helped us reinforce what we learnt on the course - rather than waiting another year before putting those skills in to practice.
We decided to hire a private guide for the first day - a great investment. We asked our instructor (Tim Oates) to help us progress our skills, learn some ropework, and ideally go some place photogenic. He suggested Fiacaill ridge - a grade II winter climb in the Cairngorms. Not too challenging, but plenty of interest and areas to test our skills.
Since our trip the month before, much of the snow had gone - a very different experience. The winds were low this day, which made the whole experience much easier. We’d hoped for more ice and rime on the ground, but weren’t lucky this time. Still, dry rocks are better than wet ones.
Fiacaill seems a popular destination with climbers / mountaineers. There are tricky sections, but everything can be avoided if wanted - so you can pick what you want to tackle.
This was probably the most nerve-wracking bit of the day - a very exposed step. There’s probably a 500ft drop down the side. Tim made sure we were completely safe - but that does little to quell the fear. This is also where axes come in so handy - a ready made handle to help you take that big step.
Our thanks to Tim for an enjoyable day that well matched our aspirations. I imagine we’ll attempt the ridge again on our own one day to see how far we’ve progressed.