Scottish Winter - Full Report 1by Dan Goodwin Dec/2010
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As with the reports last season the aim is to give a rough view of what's happening with regard to conditions and also some of the current new lines and repeats. With all the information available on the net it's worth noting that the mountain weather and conditions change very quickly giving sometimes completely different conditions to the day before. As such this and also other information such as blogs and forums should be taken as indicators as opposed to definitive. All the resources available such as this, blogs, avalanche reports and weather reports should help to build a picture of what's happening but the important thing is that you head out with an open mind and flexible approach checking things as you enter the mountains. You may have Point 5 as the weekend's choice but if on approach things are not right change plans and head elsewhere.
It's time to get the winter reports up and running again although the original plan was to get them going in the New Year but it seems winter has different ideas and is in full swing in the Highlands. Winter has been rumbling away since mid October with early snows and frosts but it's in the last week that things have kicked in with some very low temperatures and large amounts of snowfall in some areas.
As the title suggests its in the east that the majority of snow has fallen making for difficult travel, avalanches and buried climbs while in the west low temperatures and less snowfall has made climbing very good with ice forming across the Ben.
The Scottish Avalanche Information service has started early this season with the Northern Cairngorms and Lochaber areas operating a weekend service before normal service commences in all the areas on December the 16th. Please check these - it's a public service and provides very useful information. They also have separate blogs for each area which provide some useful images and information. Links at the base of this report.
The Cairngorms saw the first routes climbed this season with several early ascents of the usual snowed up rock in late October. Pygmy Ridge, Savage Slit, Fallout Corner, Bulgy and Fingers Ridge all saw early ascents. Andy Nesbit and Alex Kelly made the first ascent of the 'Roslyn Chapel' a 50m V,7 on the Fluted Buttress. On the wall left of Belhaven on the Fiacaill buttress saw Pete Mcpherson and Martin Moran make a very hard first of ascent of 'Omerta', VIII, 9 (see UKC News).
Since late October the winter has rumbled along until a very abrupt plunge into wintry weather occurred last week. Low temperatures and heavy snowfall over the last week has led to some very difficult travel conditions with drifting and icy roads. Today (30/11/10) was the first time the Cairngorm ski hill was able to open the road having spent the last few days battling with large drifts and a submerged car park. I was there for a ski and got some good views into the Corries which look buried. There was certainly no one in there and no evidence of tracks in. Breaking trail into the Corries would be very hard going. There has with this snowfall been some strong winds which will have made the approaches and exits very unstable. There has been some big slides in the Corries and there will be some more. Extreme caution would be needed travelling on the slopes within the Corrie. Check the avalanche reports and weather and then keep a constant eye out when your on the hill. In reality it would be best left for a little while to give it some time to settle down. Routes that may offer a safer option would be on the Fiachaill Buttress by using an abseil descent from the ridge as these climbs don't have scarp slopes and you can abseil to the belays thus avoiding the approach slopes.
Lower down at Creag Dubh a team went to have a look at Oui Oui which they didn't climb but thought it was very close and since then we have had some very low night temperatures which have it in condition very soon.
Ben Nevis came into condition for some early season mixed climbing towards the end of October. Martin Moran and Francis Blunt where out and made an early ascent of Babylon. Since then many ascents have been made on these increasingly popular hard mixed climbs, Slab Climb and Cornucopia saw ascents. Kenny Grant and Guy Steven climbed Sioux Wall and Darth Vader. Lakes based Stephen Ashworth was up with Paddy Cave and climbed a new line 'Apache' to the right of Sioux Wall at VIII, 9. Pete Mcpherson and Martin Moran made another repeat on Andy Turner's testpiece 'The Secret' VIII,9.
Climbing is considerably easier going here with the West receiving the cold temperatures but no where near the snowfall that the Cairngorms have received. Ice has been developing with the Curtain showing good signs but perhaps a little more to go, the 'lower cascades all have ice visible. Al Halewood made a quick solo on Gardh Gully on the flanks of Tower Ridge on Monday and had this to comment:
"There is a good deal of ice smeared around the Ben, bits on the CIC hut falls and the Curtain (would want to be a little thicker before most of us wanted to climb them though). The higher IIIs and IVs like Glovers, Comb, South, Central (and North) and Central Trident are all white and show some ice. It was after 2 when I got into the Ciste via the icefalls to the right of the 'gulch' . So I nipped across to climb Garadh Gully which was sporting its usual two short pitches of Grade III ice to give me a little fun. There was running water behind the lower pitch (spurting out on me as I took my tols out). The Italian Climb looked sporting, Comb looked white and had footprints running into it. Up higher the harder routes on No.3 Gully Buttress looks good so there is plenty to go at on Ben Nevis- just watch out for the odd patch of freshly wind deposited snow. There is plenty of obvious scouring and visible windsalb to walk around."
Al Halewood MIC - Climb when you're ready
With the temperatures remaining low and the weather stable there should be some good climbing to be had on the Ben this weekend.
In the Grey Corries Guy Steven and Kenny Grant where on the excellent Taliballan V,6 on Stob Coire an Laoigh in the Grey Corries. A crag which should be in great condition at the moment as it requires a good freeze but not to much snow. I am unsure on the track situation at the moment I know that last winter there was logging going on and a lock appeared on the gate. Perhaps someone in the know could comment in the forum?
In Glen Coe people have been climbing in the main Corries of Stob Coire nam Beith and Stob Coire nan lochan. With many reporting good conditions.
Jamie Bankhead sent over his comments from Glen Coe:
"I had 3 days up on Bidean at the end of last week as it was considerably whiter than elsewhere; this will often be the case. Did the Gash on Wednesday which is a spectacular chimney line that could however have used more consolidation. North Route Direct on Diamond buttress on Thursday - this route is a total sandbag at grade III in early season conditions! I got a tip-off that West Chimney was in amenable condition so made the slog up again on Friday (the walk-in from the Elliot's farm makes the SCnL approach feel like a bus ride). It was as promised, with good neve just where you wanted it, fantastic climbing and amazing situations. Crypt Route has also been getting done. More snow blew in over the weekend but I've been climbing elsewhere (Glenshiel and Grey Corries). The impression I get however is that SCnL is rimed again and that tops of routes have become quite troublesome with new snow. There's been a lot of transportation and pockets of windslab, some where you least expect them, are inevitable. Routes I know of getting done include Neanderathal on Lost Valley buttress and a "thin" Moonshadow on Lochain (this is a great route by the way; should get 3 stars) but there will have been plenty more. As far as gullies are concerned Twisting has been done in "mixed" conditions, NC looks like it's built up but SC hasn't and Boomerang has a mixed pitch at the bend (and is probably full of cross-loaed windslab)."
Jamie Bankhead, Ice Factor
If you have fingers of Steall then I noticed Dave Macleod has been sport climbing in Glen Nevis - climbing a new 8b+ through the icicles!
Should be some good things to be had over the coming weekend.
The North West has had some great climbing conditions over the last few weeks but has also received a good dose of this current snowfall although not as much as the Cairngorms.
On Druim Shionnach in Kintail Andy Nisbet, Rosie Goolden and Mark Davidson made the first ascent of 'Lemon Groove' V,6 on the West Face. James Edwards and Roger Webb where out very recently on the South Face of Stac Polliadh and made the first ascent of 'Enigma Variations' which sounds to be pretty fierce looking on James's blog.
There is snow to the road and things are well frozen. I have heard from two parties who where out ski touring and found some good conditions.
I have also heard from one team who made the traverse of Liathach enjoying a good winter challenge.
Another option for a little ice climbing that might be worth a look would be the icefalls in Strathconnon. With a sustained freeze the glen often offers a wide range of icy smears and short climbs close to the entrance of the Glen. Further up the Glen are some much longer ice climbs that would still need a little more time to form fully.
If you have been out and about and feel you have some useful info then feel free to message me through my profile on UKC.
Hopefully these will be of some use in the weekends plans, have a great season.
Dan Goodwin, Mountain Plan
Thanks to the following people for help with this report: