Yesterday I drove East to the Cairngorms to spend the day with Andy and Emma who are both serving members of the armed forces and looking for their first taste of Scottish winter climbing. My journey was slow progress due to snow lying over the A86 – on the 1st April!?! Andy and Emma were driving from Ballater which meant they had unavoidable detours due to blocked snow gates, this had a knock on effect of not leaving the ski centre car park until gone 11. Luckily the guys are fit, coupled with a progressively improving weather forecast we managed to make good time into Coire an t’sneachda. On the walk in we covered some basic winter skills and talked about avalanche avoidance before donning crampons and axes and heading up to The Mess of Pottage. The crags were well coated and looked to be in early season condition after a couple of days of snow and some consistently cold temperatures. Both Emma and Andy have some experience of rock climbing so we jumped straight on Haston Line (III,4) to see what they made of it. After the fun first pitch Emma claimed the upper pitches were ‘too easy’ so a quick jaunt back under the buttress delivered us at the bottom of Opening Break (IV,5) which, containing nothing more than snowed up verglassed slabs was a bit more of a challenge. After a bit of scratching, slouching on the rope and some muffled swearing the guys made it to the top, triumphant in their first taste of winter climbing. Not many other climbers out, a couple of teams on Mess of Pottage but very quite for the Northern Corries (I am sure this will change over Easter weekend). Today I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides.