/ Abseil necesary on the Forcan Ridge?
Is it possible to avoid the abseil on the Forcan Ridge when the snow is unconsolidated? I know you are supposed to be able to downclimb to the sides but unclear as to whether neve is needed.
There's an easy downclimb on the south side of the ridge. This does not require consolidated neve.
Also have down climbed the abseil part in better conditions so depends on your abilities.
Don't try that. The alternatives are Grade I/II ie. easier than some moves on the crest but you must not fall! The abseil is fun though.
We did the bypass on the south side of the ridge when I did the route in March, in soft unconsolidated snow. It was initially an easy scramble down, but the traverse across the subsequent snow slope back onto the main ridge felt very unstable and dangerous. The snow sloughed away beneath my feet two or three times, resulting in my nearly losing my footing at one point, and shortly after we could see where there had been small natural avalanches on the same aspects in the last day or two. Scary stuff!
Abbing direct down the steep section would have been a lot safer.
I should add that on the day, the snow conditions on the south side were quite different to the crest and the north side of the ridge, due to greater exposure to the sun. The snow on the crest was reasonably well consolidated (and trampled down), and on the north side was hollow and suspect windslab. I can imagine that the southern bypass would be just as dodgy in powder snow. We didn't investigate the northern bypass, but it would have been a no-go in the conditions.
Definitely, the abseil is part of the fun- takes a 120 sling if you need to leave anything.
I've downclimbed the ridge directly in winter rather than use the bypass, I had a mix of semi consolidated snow and rubbish loose snow.
It was grade II at most but if you've any doubt a straightforward abseil would get you down it easy enough and the weight of the rope wouldn't be too much of a penalty.
Descent bypass on the south side will not be as serious as other sections you'll have already done. In testing conditions you'll appreciate a rope both before and after this.
Downclimbing direct isn't fun in my experience.
Downclimbing direct solo is probably for Grade III Leader and above. I wouldn't miss it for the world. :-)
Downclimb direct roped is Grade II.
Downclimb north side may seem easier than direct but the consequences of a fall are not good.
Downclimb south side appears easy and safe to most people but should be treated with respect because loose rocks, sliding off and jamming your feet all having potential for spoiling your day if you are complacent. Loose rock is a particular problem here and some indelicate gardening is done occasionally.
For maximum enjoyment, or when avalanche conditions threaten other descent routes, reverse the entire ridge. Take extra care with fatigue.
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