Scottish Winter News and Conditions - Final Report 13by Dan Goodwin - Mountain Plan Apr/2011
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So to the final report of the season and I hope they have proved useful to those heading for the hills. This feels like it's been a long season as the first forays into the Corries came at the back end of October and will linger into April on the higher tops. It's been a great winter with good mountain conditions and for a spell good low level ice conditions. Lets hope that this spell of good winters keeps going and that next season brings us another good one.
The winter still goes on with routes being done despite a significant thaw. The Ben would currently be the best place to aim for if good ice is what you're after. On the whole mixed conditions would be difficult if not impossible to find as all the rock I have seen has been black and the turf has been thawing out rapidly. With a freeze which has crept in above 1000mts in the Cairngorms then the extensive snowpack should refreeze giving some excellent low grade gully climbing.
Many people have been out in the last week climbing things, quite a few teams in the easier gully lines of the Northern Corries and also Mirror Direct which is hanging in there still. There were teams in some gullys that are not in winter condition such as Red Gully, which is not a safe choice in a thaw. While over on the west efforts have been concentrated on the higher ice climbs such as Indicator wall, Smith's and Good Friday climb.
In short: There are things to do but be careful of climbs falling down (ice routes) and go high on the Ben for the best results.
Good cover remains in the area with all gully lines being complete at the moment and things beginning to freeze above a 1000mts and some fresh snow.
Great care should be taken if going near Lochan in the Northern Corries as the great slab in showing signs of movement with large cracks developing at the top. The great slab is the prime example of a spring season full depth avalanche. The snowpack sits on a series of granite slabs and as the temperatures rise this melts the snow and ice from the crags which runs under the snowpack lubricating the slabs, the snowpack itself gets saturated and heavy until it simply slides on the wet slabs.
Ron Walker was out earlier in the week linking some of the gully lines to make a day out:
"We had a late start today and despite this still managed to get into the upper Coire Cas carpark without the usual 08.00 am start! The skiing still looked good on the main runs though the Northern Corries were very quiet compared to normal. Despite a good buildup in many of the grade 1 and 2 gullies and great cover on the Cairngorm MacDui plateau we had our chozen routes to our self. The Mirror Direct was still complete and there were climbers on Red and Goat Track Gullies which are definitely NOT complete!! The weather wasn't quite as nice as expected and the snow still quite soft on the approaches. However the snow soon firmed up the higher we climbed with some really good ice on our climbs, the Runnel LH, Spiral Gully and in on Fiacaill Couloir. It got very windy and wet by late afternoon with some worrying ferocious gusts almost blowing me off in Fiacaill Couloir!"
Ron Walker, Talisman Mountaineering
Ben Nevis was looking a little damp earlier in the week when I was up there. We had a good tour round on a winter skills course so I got to see most areas on the mountain. It was a busy weekend with lots of teams out. Point 5 looked to be in good condition with plenty of teams on it. I spoke to two lads from Edinburgh uni who had climbed it mentioning that low down a hole had formed but it was fine to climb round it. Bruce Poll has been on the Ben over the last week and reports:
"A week ago today Padraig and I were on way to Hadrian's Wall Direct, as part of WCMG CIC hut week. Some un-forecast rain and melt were hurling ice, rocks and water down near the route, we scurried away quickly to climb ridges.
Exactly one week on, with very little wind and fresh powder down to the base of the Douglas Boulder, the mountain was locked in a freeze. Hadrian's Wall Direct was a joy, the holes where a week ago water had poured were filling with fresh water ice, no drips today. Screws went in to the hilt. The fresh snow had insulated the fresh ice and softened it to first time every time placements. What a contrast and what a joy. I could never have guessed it would have been that good, and I do climb and work a large amount of the winter on the Ben.
I do not think it will be like that tomorrow, but watch the weather, and keep trying, some days you get really rewarded. We were also in Point Five last week and that seems to have transformed back into very acceptable life too.
Quiet day on the Ben today, Tower Ridge empty. Nobody followed us on Hadrians. Point Five had two parties. Smiths empty, Indicator Wall one party."
Bruce Poll, West Coast Mountain Guides
Mike Pescod has also been out on the Nevis ice and comments:
"Colder again today with a little light snow above 800m. The snow firmed up a bit and the climbing was good. Mike and I climbed Central Gully Right Hand on Creag Coire na Ciste. This is a great wee route with several steep bulges in the main section of the gully. The ice is good and the views today were superb. Dave climbed on the Little Brenva Face which has some very good ice as well just now. It can get a bit mushy in the sunshine but today there was enough cloud to keep the ice good. Seems like we might get some fresh snow accumulating above 1000m over the rest of the week so it's not all over yet!"
Mike Pescod, Abacus Mountaineering
Very much a spring feel in Glen Coe certainly as far as mixed climbing goes things will not be in condition turf will no longer be frozen and the rock black. There is still snow in the deeper higher guillys. In short only the easier gullys will offer any winter mountaineering.
I suspect that things on the isle have now finished for this winter season and only a few patches will remain on the ridge.
If anyone knows of anything please feel free to post below. My suspicion is that there will not be much remaining in the area.
Thanks this week go to: