Scottish Winter Conditions - Full Report 5by Dan Goodwin - Mountain Plan Jan/2011
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Snow has been the main theme over the last week with some very heavy showers pushing through. The West has seen the brunt of these with the Ben and Glencoe under a heavy blanket of unconsolidated snow, the weather though has been on the whole very good with the morning clag often giving way to sunshine and clear views. If the weather forecast is to be believed then it should be all change again this time bringing a thaw in over the next few days before another dip, this will of course be the perfect pattern and should firm things up and continue to develop the ice further. It does look like a wild and stormy weekend though with possible high winds so keep an eye on the forecasts.
James Edwards, Roger Webb and Simon Richardson visited Creagan Coire Cha-no on the Eastern side of Cairngorm adding 'Daylight Robbery' V,6. Guy Robertson and Pete Benson were out chalking up the high numbers with the first winter ascent of 'Crazy Sorrow' on Lochnagar's Tough-Brown Face giving it IX,10.
It wouldn't be a winter report without at least one new route from Andy Nisbet he of course has been out exploring. He and Duncan Tunstal were in Glen Esk where they added the 150m-long Gro'lryc Gully (V,5) at Bruntwood crag.
It's been a nice week in the Cairngorms with teams out in the Northern Corries and quite a few teams enjoying good ice on Lurchers. We have had snowfall down to high street level over the last week certainly not as much as the West. This has created some avalanche risk with evidence of slides occurring. Many climbing in the Corries giving good reports certainly plenty of clearing and some reports of icy cracks.
Heading along the Laggan road to Creag Megaidh conditions have been very good with plenty of ice and also being slightly further East has not caught as much snow as Ben Nevis and Glen Coe.
Mike Pescod was out and reports:
"Creag Meagaidh got less snow during the week so Radek and I went there today. We got brilliant sunshine on the walk in and it was -6 celcius with a bit of a breeze blowing. I wanted to be quite cautious with the pockets of windslab so we chose to climb The Pumpkin which worked out very well.
The NW wind had scoured the top slope so there was no windslab on it at all. The climb is in great shape and has seen a few ascents, going by the steps and hooks. There was a team ahead of us, one on The Wand and a couple on Last Post, both of which had plenty of blue ice on them. Smith's Gully also had a big bit of blue ice at the bottom but Centre and South Posts looked to be well covered in fresh snow."
Mike Pescod, IFMGA, Abacus Mountaineering
The Ben has seen large amounts of fresh snow over the last week leaving lots of deep unconsolidated powder in the gullies, approaches and crag aprons. The weekend's predicted weather pattern should go along way to settling it all down. Plenty of teams have been out though over the last week and the morning clag has given way to some very nice days. Those teams have generally been sticking to the ridges and lower ice outcrops.
Alan Kimber was out climbing on the lower cascades:
"Loads of soft new snow making travel rather slow and tedious. Today we went up to the CIC Hut and practiced ice climbing on the various outcrops that are currently in good condition. However, if the forecast poor weather descends over the next week or so it will all change again"
Alan Kimber IFMGA, West Coast Mountain Guides
Mike Pescod was out on one of the safer options under deep soft snow, Ledge Route II:
"What a brilliant day! Angela, Barry and I went up Ledge Route on Ben Nevis today, choosing to avoid all the soft snow in the corries and gullies at the moment. The ridge was pretty tough going in places even so as it is buried in soft snow. There was more wind than forecast and more snow was being blown around but the sun was out, the views spectacular and the company great.
All the buttresses are very well rimed, even the overhanging bits. There was a team climbing Cutlass and a couple of teams on Tower Ridge. The Douglas Boulder Routes and Routes I and II on Carn Dearg Buttress would be good choices to climb just now as you can get to them and you won't be avalanched when you're on them!"
Mike Pescod, IFMGA, Abacus Mountaineering
Ledge route offers a great choice under these conditions but worth noting that the start is threatened by Number 5 Gully which does avalanche frequently. It's worth gearing up well away from the gully apron and then scamper quickly through to the starting ledge. Another area that is worth considering when things are looking unstable higher on the mountain is Moonlight Gully Buttress which offers some shorter mixed climbs. From the top of the crag which sits just to the left of Number 5 Gully its best to descend off towards the Ciste traversing easy ground rather than into Number 5 and down.
Not too much to report from Aonach Mor which will also be buried under avalanche conditions. The crags of Coire Lochain don't offer much in the way of safe approaches when there is a high threat of avalanche activity. The most popular way in is through Easy Gully, this has avalanched this week of its own accord sending debris right down the Corrie to the Lochan below. It's also sporting a large cornice at the moment.
A good venue under heavy snow and with a threat of avalanche activity is to head east along the Laggan Road to Beinn a Chorain which offers its East Ridge as a long grade II giving you the safe advantage of being on a spur while enjoying a few mixed sections. It's also got a great outlook across the Laggan hills. Just beware of the navigation error lurking between the two tops.
Greg Boswell has been continuing his impressive season of ascents this time he climbed The Dual (IX,9) in Stob Coire nan Lochan.
Glen Coe has been subject to much of this heavy snowfall with teams finding climbing difficult with the main problem being able to clear a way through even just to the foot of the route.
There have been some nice days though and Andy Spink was out on the Zig Zags leading into Stob Coire nan Lochan:
"An 'interesting' day in Glencoe today! The new snow has made life heavy going on most aspects, so I opted for the Zig Zags, and a descent into Corie Nan Lochan [by the shortest route possible] The windslabbed easterly slopes boomed some what as we descended. I saw one person soloing Dorsal Arete today, having crossed beneath the two big gullies of Boomerang and Broad!?
I have never seen so much snow on the path before, waist deep in places. The Zig Zags made for a really fun and safe day and the sun was out all day! Things will look very different after the expected low and thaw."
Andy Spink MIC, Hebridean Pursuits
Mike Pescod was out with a client a couple of days prior to Andy and found a surprisingly nice day for Crest Route
"With 10cm fresh snow in my drive this morning, more falling from the sky and a forecast of very strong winds I didn't expect to be climbing Crest Route on Stob Coire nan Lochan under a blue sky with very little wind this afternoon! As Radek and I started the walk in the clouds started to break and the snow stopped falling. Plenty of fresh snow had drifted in the coire and had covered the rocks. The climbing on Crest Route was very good though as the fresh snow fell off easily."
Mike Pescod, IFMGA, Abacus Mountaineering
Things have been busy and snowy on Skye. Conditions sound to have been good with people out enjoying some good sunny days in the past week. Teams have been enjoying ice on 'escape from Colditz' and also some easier grade II ice on Winter Buttress.
A ridge traverse was done with some comments from the team on Mike Lates' blog:
"The ridge seemed truly alpine in appearance and appropriately an alpine approach of moving together provided maximum enjoyment in continuous but safe progress. Am Bhasteir had a massive covering of snow that made progress easier than in summer conditions.
There was even a soft landing below the bad step! We made good progress along the ridge despite the occasional bout of wading and arrived at the An Caisteal cave just as dark fell. There was a lot more snow than we expected in the cave so we decided to make our way past Bidean Druim nan Ramh to another bivouac site at Bealach na Glaic Moire. The 10ft deep drifts on the Bealach put paid to this plan so we found an alternative site to eat and lay our heads down at.
Sunday morning found us picking our way down the slopes of Coir a Mhadaidh and admiring the amazing views all along the ridge. There is an amazing amount of snow on the Cuillin and all the gullies seem complete (even Waterpipe Gully) and while it is mainly powder just now the mixed climbing should be in good condition and gullies should hopefully respond well to the upcoming melt-freeze cycle..."
Mike Lates Skye Guides
Ian Parnell on a visit found good conditions making an ascent of Storevegan VI,8.
There sounds to be a lot of deep snow right across the island making things a bit tough going in places, but with the weather changing to a thaw this may help to consolidate things and create some neve across the ridge. Watch this space and also Mike Lates' blog for the latest happenings on the Island.
There seems to be plenty of snow in need of a freeze thaw cycle but also ice to be found. James Edwards was out looking at climbing Silver Tear on Beinn Bahn but he found it not quite there yet. They climbed March Hare Gully making some safe travel decisions along the way to avoid various pockets of slab.
I have spoken to two teams who have also been out, one making a winter traverse of Stac Pollaidh. They found good conditions although a little powdery. The others made the traverse of An Tealach and they found much the same but perhaps more snow making things a little slow going, but with blue skies and sunshine and views across the Highlands they were not in any rush!
Thanks go to:
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 weekend's plans, have a great season.
Dan Goodwin, Mountain Plan