/ Which week for winter climbing?
I'm about to book a couple of weeks off work to get into Scottish hills. I'm already reserving a week for the forthcoming end of Feb meet.
So what week will be best weather wise? I'm thinking last week of Jan/first week of Feb.
What do you want? I.e. gradewise? Most gullies for I/II are in great nick in April and May when the weather can (and that is an important can,) be a lot better. I also like late season conditions on the Ben (late March, early April,) for ice routes, though you need a cold night before.
What are routes that you want to do or what grade do you want to be climbing?
Personally I think I'd go for end of January if you already have the end of feb booked theres a pretty good chance the weather / conditions will be different for atleast one of the two trips.
Prebooking winter climbing trips to scotland is a very risky business IMO. If its not too warm then it's too windy to climb or too snowy to drive anywhere (with possibly very high avalanche risk too although this can normally be negated with sensible venue and route choice if you can get there!!)
Really if you can your better leaving it until the last minute and paying more for flights / trains / accomodation. Atleast this way you can guarentee that you will only go for good weather / conditions.
Personally I think late march, April and May are too big a gamble to pre book a trip. The last few seasons have had a tendency to be better earlier on also IMO.
That said the very best conditions I've found in scotland have been during late march and april on the Ben.
If I lived nearer however I would be more inclined to go for it but it would be opportunistic and based on conditions at that time. There is no way I would book weeks in advance. Having said all that late Jan early Feb is probably a decent bet and there is nothing better than Ben Nevis and Glencoe in nice conditions.
> What are routes that you want to do or what grade do you want to be climbing?
II to III (poss IV if all planets align for us)
Looking at the usual honey-pts of Cairngorm, Ben Nevis, Glen Coe etc so we'd welcome other suggestions that have either a local bothy or access to mountain huts/bunk houses etc
I realise it's not an exact science, and that is partly the fun. When conditions are challenging then I like having to find alternatives - long mountain walk and the like.
Thanks for comments so far
> Personally I think April and May are too big a gamble to pre book a trip. The last few seasons have had a tendency to be better earlier on also IMO.
I agree that buttresses will be black, but gullies will be complete with lovely neve... Early season may be better for mixed climbing conditions, but weather is much more likely to be miserable. Add to that daylight from 0930 to 1530 and it makes a day out much more serious. Walking into a new crag in the dark in the rain, topping out in the dark in a blizzard and having to navigate off over unfamiliar terrain. Compare that to light at 0700 and dark at 1900 and a much better chance of good weather and you should see what I mean.
It still depends (in my opinion,) on what climbing the OP wants to do.
1/ get year planner and affix to wall
2/ get blindfold
3/ get darts
4/ put on blindfold
5/ throw darts at year planner
6/ remove blindfold and see if any darts have lodged in period from november to may
7/ if they have, book that week
That method is probably as reliable as any
if you can keep it flexible and go at short notice, then that's your best bet. if like most of us you have to book leave in advance, then you just have to pick one and take your chances. being flexible about destinations and being prepared to travel can help- we've stayed near ft william as the ben/aonachs, glencoe, kintail, meagaigh and even the northern corries are all realistically reachable in a day, and it would be a poor show if there wasnt something you could do at one of them...
Well I can think of plenty of seasons in the last 8 that were not really good for winter climbing gullies in April never mind may. Either too wet and rainy or too hot.
But then I had a cracking climb up Gardyloo this May Bank just gone.....
If I had to choose I'd go for mid Feb and early March but as jonnie3430 says in some years, April can often have the best classic grade 5 ice conditions on Ben Nevis.
It very much depends on the area, type, and grades of the routes.
Snow and ice routes are often better late season while mixed are better in the summner.
Personally I look forward to March and April, though again as Curly has rightly said, the last two years haven't been as good as the previous few years in late season.
> That method is probably as reliable as any
> Snow and ice routes are often better late season while mixed are better in the summner.
This is the reason I bought a campervan. Fed up of 3 seasons spent pre-booking hostels since they all got booked up about a month in advance, only to get up there and be greeted with either horrible avalanche forecasts, or thaws and rain. It did help being prepared to ski or walk as well, but weekends still felt a bit wasted. Especially if we were booked into a hostel in the Cairngorms, conditions were vile, but over in the West routes were getting done.
I'm still limited with time, since I work many weekends, but now whenever I'm off, we'll go somewhere. It's not unheard of for us to change plans as to where to go when we're halfway up the motorway as forecast updates come in.
YEAR 2000 - Ben Nevis, 20th March 2000 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_Ijo_Ajdos
YEAR 2008 - Point Five, 21st April 2008 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21y1k-nPCJw
YEAR 2009 - Coire an Lochian, Cairngorms 12th April 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdcSJvxdMBE
YEAR 2010 - Cairngorms 20th May and well into June 2010, all the gullies were still complete for skiing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CblvpRWOyso
YEAR 2011 - Nice easy climbing in the easier Cairngorm gullies, 27th March 2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSMbc6LH8KQ
YEAR 2012 - Great Gully, Cairngorms 25th March 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb1NmJcx0XU and then we just went skiing everywhere in the Cairngorms for the next few weeks!!!
Lots more on my YouTube Channel going back to YEAR 2008 and photos on my other old websites going back to 1998...
"Fed up of 3 seasons spent pre-booking hostels since they all got booked up about a month in advance"
Not true I always find one (normally much better than the obv choices) at a day or twos notice in the honey pot areas!
Fair enough but for pre booked trips its about general reliability rather than the odd good day / week. Also some of those years were awesome weather in April / May and far more suited to summer rock (even in the mountains) than winter grade I gullies.
It's also worth bareing in mind the OP was after grades II - IV which is different in relieability to the large grade I gullies.
19th of January is my average day, but I'll try to do an average on Fingers Ridge...
Cheers chaps (non-gender specific)
I've just been told I can only have one week... so I think I'll wait until nearer the time and call it as-and-when the weather looks good. I've never not found somewhere to stay, either in Fort William or Aviemore so that really isn't an issue. I reckon that anytime in Jan/Feb is a fairly safe bet - we will get something done at least.
The week before we're there.
> Cheers chaps (non-gender specific)
> I've never not found somewhere to stay, either in Fort William or Aviemore so that really isn't an issue.
Do you have a car? Or are you using public transport?
We'll be in a car
> We'll be in a car
I suggest you take a tent and stove too, there's plenty of spots near the winter carparks that you can stick your tent up and it saves paying for a night of accommodation when you are getting up at 5 in the morning anyway... I spent a week after New Year once in the NW trying to climb in miserable weather, we'd use the tent for a night or two, then find a b&b or hostel that had space so we could dry kit out. It lets you follow the whim of the weather really well too.
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