Scottish Winter Conditions - Full Reportby Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC Feb/2010
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Please check the†sportscotland Avalanche Information Service†and the†Mountain Weather Information Service†while planning your trip, there are some very unique and dangerous avalanche conditions at present.
Winter mountaineering often involves gathering all the information that you can to help make a decision on where is best and safest to head for. Keep in mind that all the information that you gather may not appear that way on the ground when you get there and that the decision making and info gathering is carried out throughout the day.
2010 is the winter that just keeps giving! Blue skies and plenty of snow is the theme at home in Aviemore at the moment. This week has seen lots of snowfall across the Highlands adding to an already very healthy snow pack in many places. Last weekend saw a rise in the temperatures but again they fell this week bringing with them plenty of fresh snow . The colder airflow looks set to continue for a while yet. It's half term week and it's certainly very busy with hordes of people in the Cairngorms and plenty of people out right across the hills taking advantage of Nevis ice, Cairngorm mixed and the ski mountaineering on superb powder.
It's certainly worth avoiding the honey pot areas this week or choosing a route that may be a bit less travelled rather than risk getting caught in cues at Tower Gap or in the car park frenzy at Cairngorm.
Busy times on Ben Nevis with a report in the forums of people finishing Tower Ridge with head torches and a few crowded stances on Point 5. The CIC cascades are still in place with many taking advantage of the 'La Cremerie' style teaching ground.
The Minus face has been seeing some action over the last week with all three getting done in previous seasons it's been a bit bare but this season has started to see a return to form.
Blair Fyffe and Ian Small climbed Minus 2 last week. Jon Morgan, Stan Halsted and Nick Wallis climbed Minus 1 at the weekend.
Jon sent his comments in having obviously had a great weekend hit:
Above it was a delight of perfect neve snaking its way up to NE ridge.Various lines were possible here, and it very much had the feel of an alpine goulotte hemmed in by the sidewalls of the gully. We had done Central Grooves on Stob Coire nan Lochain the day before, which we thought might take some beating, but Minus certainly did that. Two 4-star routes in the weekend, but Minus One really was the weekend prize- another 4 star route but totally eclipsed Saturday."
Minus 3 gully was also climbed this week. Elsewhere on the mountain North East Buttress has seen plenty ascents including the Slingsbys chimney start. There has also been plenty of ascents of the classic Vanishing Gully, one of my most memorable ascents with Duncan Lydon a long time ago where some serious wobbling and frustration occurred due to having only drive in screws, I think there will still be 2 or 3 lying in the rubble at the foot of it. It's worth noting snow conditions for Vanishing as the fan at the foot can be quite a threat with the possibility of being washed into the Gulch terrain trap below.
Other routes that have been climbed in the last week include Tower Ridge, Green Gully, Comb Gully, Point Five, Good Friday climb, Number 3 Gully buttress, Ledge Route and Moon Light Gully Buttress. The later makes a good choice when there is a high avalanche threat higher up the mountain.
At the higher end of the scale Sioux Wall VIII,8 also saw a repeat this week. There has also been plenty of people enjoying getting the summit in by the mountain path.
On Aonach Mor over the weekend I saw plenty of people out and some having some considerable problems with corniced exits and quite a few needing a rope from above to help them through. With the approach to the crag often being made by walking to the top of the ski area and heading down Easy Gully its worth taking 5 minutes to walk along and check the exits before committing from below. When I looked in last weekend Easy Gully had a large cornice but was well frozen in but was very steep and undercut with most teams abbing in via bollards.
The Strong team of Blair Fyffe, Dave Evans and Andy Newton climbed Stirling Bridge which required considerable clearing and they chose to abb off avoiding the corniced top out.
Other routes climbed during the week include Left Twin, Siamese Twin and The Web. The West face's long spurs have also seen ascents.
Heading south and into Glen Coe, Stob Coire Nam Beith has had ascents of Central, North and Summit Gully. Aonach Dubh has also seen Number 6 gully climbed. The Aonach Eagach traverse has seen lots of parties crossing it. Stob Coire Nan Lochain has also been busy with Boomerang Gully, Dorsal ArÍte, Central Grooves, Tilt, NC and SC gully, Twisting Gully and its right hand finish, Raeburns Gully and also Forked Gully are among those done in the last week.
Sliding further south Beinn Udlaidh has been seeing a great run of good ice conditions with plenty of people enjoying the routes among those climbed this week are Captain Hook, White Caterpillar direct, Sunshine Gully, Quartzvein Scoop and Peter Pan Direct.
Snow snow snow! But plenty getting in done in the winter wonderland. It's very busy here at the moment with what must be the best piste skiing in years combined with a holiday and good weather has made for some very busy roads and car parks, which at the moment are full by 9, the crowds also seem to empty the supermarket by 6!
Over the last few days a lot of snow has fallen adding to the already very well built up crags. This hasn't deterred people though and looking round the Corrie there is plenty of people climbing and hovering the lines out.
Conditions for mixed climbing will be hard going with plenty of digging and the gullys will at the moment hold lots of powder and the risk of wind slab in the exits and around the steeper parts of the Corrie rims. The ice climbing will be improving greatly with clear nights and sunny days it's the perfect recipe for Lurchers. Routes that have been done that stand out are Chancer over on Hells Lum, Sticil face on Carn Etchecan and the Cascade on Stag Rocks - mostly ice climbs this will have been helped along by the sunny days and clear nights.
Other routes climbed have been, Hidden Chimney, Fingers Ridge, Fluted Buttress, The Genie, Haston Line, Western rib, Red Gully, Wavelength, Fiachaill Ridge.
At the Southern end of the Cairngorms things have been good with ascents of the classic Cumming Crofton on Beinn A Bhuird. Lochnagar and also the Dubh Loch.
The North West has seen plenty of fresh snowfall over the last week. Climbs have been done this week are George on Liathach and Central Buttress on Beinn Eighe. I also know that people have been enjoying good ski touring conditions on Beinn Wyvis. Watch out for the fresh snow and keep and eye on what's happening underfoot.
I'm afraid I haven't got any info on Skye this week - Anyone got anything to add?