Coire Choille-rais

12th February 2023

With little change anticipated in the prevailing conditions today, I though I would make a visit to Coire Choille-rais which lies just to the south west of Coire Ardair. I had been in here many years ago in search of early season ice climbing, which is mentioned in the guidebook for the area.¬†I don’t recall finding much, but I do remember Coire Choille-rais is a striking coire, with a remote and and almost primeval feel. It certainly felt that way today.

The steep and tussock ridden approach from the A86 is interesting enough. Here a waterfall passes over an outcrop of what appears to be granite, and there could be some high standard bouldering to be had here if the rock was not liberally coated in slime. A quick check on the British Geological Survey’s ‘Geology Viewer’ tells me that it is part of the¬†Scottish Highland Ordovician Minor Intrusion Suite, and therefore pegmatite and leucogranite. Igneous bedrock formed between 485.4 and 443.8 million years ago during the Ordovician period.

In the coire itself there was evidence of avalanche activity from snowfall on the 9th February which then transitioned quickly to rain at all levels. The slow thaw of recent days appears to have affected this coire less than Coire Ardair, my technical appraisal being that maybe it is just a small cold hole.

I was able to climb up through the coire onto the summit of Meall Coire Choille-rais which is an excellent view point in its own right. Here there was evidence that previous cornices had slumped back to a semi recumbent position, reducing the threat of collapse. There is still the potential for large cornices over the big cliffs of Coire Ardair and on Beinn a’Chaorainn. If they remain they will be prone to collapse.

The snowpack however is generally stable, and provides a good example of a spring isothermal melt-freeze snowpack. Some lingering wet snow instabilities still exist near the surface in very steep locations of a North, North-East, East and South-East aspects above 850 metres. As the thaw progresses these will start to dissipate. In other areas the snowpack is moist, well consolidated and stable. The Avalanche Hazard is low.

 

The summit of Meall Coire Choille-rais. Some interesting terrain in here. This gully line (East Gully – I) was first recorded as having an ascent on 13 March 2022, although it was noted as potentially being climbed before. This gully appears fleetingly from the A86 and I have always thought it might make a good ski descent. The thought of carrying my skis up through the tussocks has so far put me off. The ridge to the left incidentally is the ‘East Ridge’ (I/II) which I have always thought might make a good short option, especially given the popularity of the nearby ‘East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn.

 

Wild swimming anybody?

 

Lochan Coire Choille-rais. A wild and striking coire where you are unlikely to meet other people. Note the brown ice in the back left of the image, indicative of wet avalanche debris crossing the surface of ice having been jettisoned from the NE facing gully above.

 

Looking across to Beinn a’Chaorainn on the western periphery of the SAIS Creag Meagaidh area. Just visible in the sun in the middle distance is a crown wall from a windslab avalanche, most likely from the 9th Feb due to intense precipitation and overloading as snow turned to rain.

 

The vast majority of cornices were observed to have melted back to a semi recumbent position. However, there might be a few out there hanging on, and the threat of collapse remains.

Comments on this post

  • Stan Wygladala
    12th February 2023 11:43 pm

    Quite an incredible report. Never been there but now feel as if I have! Thank you.

  • Keith Horner
    13th February 2023 9:56 am

    Another excellent and informative report – a combination of mountaineering history, geology and snowpack assessment – great stuff. I have seen the coire previously from the ridge leading round to Sron a’Ghoire but never visited – the summit looks like a worthwhile objective for the view along Glen Spean and Laggan and the panorama of hills to the south/south-west.

    • meagaidhadmin
      13th February 2023 7:19 pm

      Thanks Keith, The summit of Meall Coire Choille-rais is well worth a visit. A good view point as you suggest.

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