Scottish Winter Conditions: Full Report 13by Dan Goodwin - Mountain Plan Apr/2010
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This is the thirteenth of our regular series of Scottish winter conditions updates from Dan Goodwin of MountainPlan.com. Dan gives a round up of what has been climbed, where good venues for the weekend might be and also some very important links to avalanche and weather information.
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.
Last week when sending the report in I was starting to think 'rock shoes' but on digging the car free of snow this week perhaps the rock shoes can stay where they are for a bit. Things seem to have taken a dramatic turn to winter again, any concerns over snow cover for the Easter weekend can certainly be allayed.
Last week saw a thaw to all levels and some pea soup mists around the summits. This week things started well with Monday being a stunning day in the Cairngorms and in many Highland areas. With the snow pack well frozen, making walking easier, the buttresses went back to white and there was plenty of fresh turns to be had. From there the storm progressed and has dumped large amounts of fresh snow to all levels and was brought in on some very high winds. This means great care needs to be taken with regard to avalanche conditions, wind slab will have been growing rapidly and to some significant depths on many aspects - please check the reports and keep checking what's happening around you and underfoot until you get back to the car.
It will be worth keeping tabs on the travel situation as there have been road closures due to heavy drifting and many public services will be disrupted. Currently the access road to the Cairngorm ski area is shut but they are digging away hoping to be open as soon as possible, you can check the status on their regularly updated site. Winter will be going for quite a while yet with these storms. As is often the case when we reach the settled spring - high pressures with sunny days and cold nights in the mountains - the cover has been well stripped back but this season could be different and may leave excellent late season ski touring and healthy cover on Ben Nevis to feed the ice.†
Plenty to be doing on the Ben still and will be for some time yet. Many teams over the last couple of days have found to much snow to even get past the hut with high winds and drifting snow causing difficulties. Prior to the storm Ian Parnell and Greg Boswell made a possible second ascent of 'Ship of Fools' VIII,7 on the Indicator Wall Ian made some comments on his blog which clearly indicate the route is not for the faint hearted:
"It turned out that the route was in different condition than on the first ascent. Whilst whiter the crucial ice patches were often not weight bearing and so I climbed a little to the right of Iain's line. Not as elegant but still highly exciting. The quality of the white stuff made sure that all 3 of the top pitches needed our full attention. All in all a superb route and great to pull over the top and belay on the summit trig point of the Ben."
More on Ian Parnell's Blog
Elsewhere on the mountain people have been continuing to enjoy the classics with people remarking on good quality ice on the Point, Orion Direct and Astral Highway, Green Gully and many others.
Al Halewood had a tussle with Two Step avoiding the crowds heading into the Observatory gully area, he commented:
"Straight away it was obvious that the snow ice was great for axes, fine for feet but useless for screws - fortunately there is a little rock gear on the route but it felt quite bold. We climbed it in 4 fun pitches, the 2 steep steps in the middle of our pitch 3 providing the crux as there was a lot less ice on them (and no protection nearby). Great to top out into the sun and no wind listening to parties in Green Gully and somewhere over towards Central Gully Left or Right." Al Halewood Climb when You're Ready.
The Ben will require some settling time after this dump, keep a wary eye as to what the snow is doing on the approaches. The snow looks to continue through to Thursday before an easing in both the snow and wind.
Routes that have been climbed on Ben Nevis this week are: Astral Highway, Orion Direct, Zero, Point 5, Hadrian's direct, Green Gully, Two Step, Ledge Route, Albatross and The Great Glen.
On Aoanch Mor there sounds to have been some cornice dramas with one team reporting to have spent quite a while digging a tunnel to gain the top out. Morwind has also been done in the last week on the East Face.
In Glen Coe things will be very snowy indeed at the moment much of the ice has been stripped out over the last few weeks and so it will be more the mixed lines that might be best to head for. Things like North Buttress on the Buchaille can be good options under heavy snow.
Routes that have been climbed in Glen Coe over the last week are: South Gully on Beinn an Dotheidh on Stob Coire nan Lochain Dorsal arÍte, NC, Ordinary Route and a team where seen backing of SC gully perhaps due to conditions.
Looking out my window in Aviemore digging is the first thing that springs to mind ! Over the last 48 hours a huge amount has fallen to all levels. This has been accompanied by high winds causing considerable drifting. Its been causing considerable drifting in the garden so the effect on the hill will be very substantial. The week started well with all the remaining snow getting a good freeze the crags also went white again with many teams out climbing in the Corries and ski mountaineering on the tops.
Greg Boswell was on the hard routes again this time with Guy Robertson in Coire an Lochain where they made the second ascent of 'Pic and Mix' IX,9 this was put up by Tim Emmet and Ian Parnell and can be viewed on the DVD Hard XS.
Ron Walker was out on Monday and commented on great teaching and climbing conditions:
"Snow and weather condition were near perfect for teaching climbing although a few pockets of fresh slab required extra care.†
We returned via the Corrie rim and the Cas Ridge on a mix of rimed sastruga, neve and firm slab. As expected the west facing slopes had been scoured and rimed while the south east facing aspects were slabby.†
We chatted to quite a few of the local climbers and guides and it sounded as though most of the easy to mid grade routes in the NC's were in superb climbing condition."
Ron Walker, Talisman Mountaineering
Dad and I had a ski tour on Monday with the tops and plateux having great cover and on certain aspects particularly coming into Sneactda around windy col great pockets of soft spring snow, some aspects in particular the steeper par of the Fiachaill Coire Cas its scoured very icy neve. Having a look over the back I could see plenty of ice but it did look thin and patchy so perhaps not ideal but with some new snow and some freeze thaw action things could easily return. You can still easily ski from and to the car and with the fresh snow arriving to and from Tesco.
As with the other areas keep a close eye of the snow conditions with regard to avalanches things will need to settle a bit when the wind and snow die down. When the skies clear we should have a fantastic winter vista to look at and play in.
Routes that have been climbed in the last week are; Most of the easy gullys, Pygmy Ridge, Fingers Ridge, Mirror Direct. Over in Lochan Central Crack Route, Ewen Buttress and the Direct, Never Mind and the Couloir.
Also on Lochnagar Polypemus Gully, Amphitheatre Route and The Black Spout.†
Am afraid no info on the North West, I think speaking to a family in the Beuly area they are not getting the amount of snow we are here in Aviemore. If any one has been out or is in the area then feel free to update in the forum thread below. No routes recorded on the UKC page ! †
"I do like being wrong! for those with mixed ambitions on skye the combination of wet rock and wet snow falling could rime up the north facing crags very quickly over the next few days. Snow level is under 300m but very thin covering. this is preferable to a big dump and looks like most of it is missing the far north-west over the next 2 days." - Mike Lates Skye Guides
Dan Goodwin runs Mountain Plan; a company that specialises in mountaineering courses throughout the Highlands of Scotland in both summer and winter. Dan has been climbing and mountaineering since a young age and has spent a lot of time in the Alps climbing in the Chamonix area, the Ecrins, the Italian Dolomites, Swiss Urner and Oberland Alps and also the Austrian Venedigar, Otztal, and Stubai Alps as well as throughout the UK and further afield.