This is the second of the 2010/11 season 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.
My 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 appose 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.
The best pre Christmas conditions for years have continued with the temperatures remaining well below freezing and further snowfall. It seems the winter weather is widespread throughout the UK, avalanche reports and warnings have been issued in the Pentlands.
The overall picture in the Highlands remains very similar to the last report but with change on the way the Cairngorms holding a huge amount of snow but as you move West of the A9 the snow accumulation drops substantially by Fort William. The West Coast has had snowfall over the last week but not to the volume of the East. This had led to deep snow on the higher routes on the Ben. Glen Coe has been forming lots of its lower level ice climbs again and plenty of people out enjoying them.
On a negative though it looks like there could be a thaw setting in over the weekend which could soak things a bit before a return to cooler temps at the beginning of next week. This should help to create a base which is needed for the longevity of the season.
There is still a huge amount of snow with nearly 2 feet lying in the garden. At the moment the best option is skiing with some excellent ski mountaineering conditions. There has been further snowfall which has been accompanied by winds so its important to observe the SAIS reports and what's happening around you. With a predicted thaw at the weekend this could accentuate any instabilities creating a very heavy wet layer on top. So not to much to report in the mountains until some freeze thaw cycles consolidate things which we could see over the coming weekend and into next week.
There has been some low level ice forming in the area there are two good strips of ice on the A9 between the Aviemore turnoffs and also the fall at the Slochd not worth a trip for it but if your in the area and looking for something to do in the evening now the wall has shut! A little further west at Laggan Mark Council climbed Oui Oui at Creag Dubh commenting that it was fine but the left side needed more freeze and by the time of writing this it will have had just that.
On Ben Nevis a very strong team consisting of Nick Bullock and Mat Heliker where making some hard editions to the Douglas Boulder. They started of with the first winter ascent of 'Nutless ' with a new direct start at VI,7 they also added 'Rutless' at VII,8 a direct finish to 'Gutless'. A new route was also climbed on Garbh Bheinn a small Corbet to give Simon Richardson and Roger Webb 'Contortion' VII,7. In the Mamores Andy Nisbet, Johnothan Preston, and John Lyall climbed 'Tippy Toe' IV, 5 on Stob Ban.
Plenty of climbs have been getting done with Gargoyle wall seeing lots of ascents and also the other harder climbs in the number 3 gully area. Among other climbs where, Darth Vader, Lost the Place, Number 2 gully, Strident Edge and Glovers chimney.
'The fresh snow also rimed up the crags again and Craig and Gary found Cutlass on Douglas Boulder, Ben Nevis to be in great condition. This is a fine route, steep with good hooks so long as the turf is very well frozen, which it is just now of course. The higher crags were busy as well with Gargoyle Wall and other mixed routes in the region of Number Three Gully seeing ascents' Mike Pescod Abacus
Although there is less snow than here in the Cairngorms there has been fresh snowfall on the West in the past week. This had led to windslab forming on slopes and with a rise in temperatures over Friday and into the weekend this could lead to some significant instabilities and possible cornice collapses. Great care should always be taken with regard to avalanche activity during a thaw. The obvious effect being the snowpack becoming saturated and heavy and any cornicing the same.
People have also been taking advantage of the lower icefalls. The Sgurr Finnisg-Aig falls have seen many ascents with people reporting good ice a little wet with some water running behind but on the whole good. Steall has seen ascents although damp ones, the lower level ice will be affected by the thaw.
Good conditions in Glen Coe. Donald King and Andy Nelson made the first winter ascent of 'Satyre' a summer E1 5a on the central buttress Stob Coire an Lochan at perhaps IX,9,(for more details see UKC news report). A little further South than Glen Coe in the Arrochar Alps Andy Turner repeated Dave MacLeod's 'The Cathedral' X,11 - see this UKC News report.
Alan Halewood was hot on the heels of Andy Turner and Donald King who where out to have a look at Blue Ribband,
'We followed tracks to the base of the route where neither Andy, nor Donald were displaying any signs of tiredness after their hard climbs of yesterday and Lukasz was hard at work with his camera. We followed them up the first 2 pitches and abseiled off (the higher snow covered pitches not looking so attractive and the last steep pitch unlikely to be well formed). The first pitch was solid and only a little damp whilst the second formed a steep dripping curtain traversed onto from the left.' Al Halewood, Climb When You're Ready
In the mountains people have been on routes such as Number 6 gully which has been done twice on Aonach Dubh. D Gully Buttress and Easy Gully on the Buchaille Etive Mor. Chimney route, Dorsal Arete, Moonshadow, Twisting Gully and Tilt on Stob Coire nan Lochan.
A little further West towards Oban Andy Spink climbed Lumberjack falls:
'Today Liam and I went to have a look at Lumberjack's Falls 3, 130m on Loch Awe side. At grade 3 its not the hardest route in the world, but rarely comes into condition as it's so low in altitude.
The climb is a great route for a short day, but also a fun wee adventure, as we open boated across the loch on a mirror like day the light and orange tones in the water was beautiful.
We found brittle steep ice, the ice screw protection was a little hollow at times, but adequate.
3 pitches of really good and delicate climbing was had. Liam's crampon snapped on pitch three, so we finished the route and in two abseils we were back at our packs'. Andy Spink Hebradien Pursuits
In the North West above Glen Carron Andy Nisbet, John Lyall and Johnothan Preston climbed a new line on Sgorr Ruadh. 'Woundwort' V,6. James Edwards combined ski's and tools to get a new line on Ben Wyvis.
Still snow in the North West but again will be affected by this thaw although with a return to colder temps early next week things should be good. I have not heard whether people have been on any North West Ice so you could always put a word in on the thread below if you have. Strathconnon is often a good place to look for ice during a prolonged freeze with some shorter icefalls forming around the Scatwell Slabs area and then some much longer climbs towards the other end of the Glen.
There has been plenty of activity on Skye with some superb early season conditions and ice developing.
Surely the earliest winter traverse has been made on the 29th and 30th of November. Skye based Mike Lates has been out with Francis Blunt and climbed a new line, 'Happy go Lucky' on Bealach Buttress. Martin Moran, Pete Mchperson and Francis Blunt climbed 'Shadbolts Chimney' first climbed at IV,5 by Dave Ritchie and Mark Shaw, Pete opted for an outside variation at VII,7. In Coire Scamadal- one repeat of Scamtastic by Robin Clothier and Doug Hawthorn on sat 4th and one new line called Greymane wall, possibly VI,4 by Doug & Ewan Todd on 8th.
Keep an eye on the winter climbing forum for Mike's very useful conditions updates.
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 weekends plans, have a great season.
Dan Goodwin, Mountain Plan
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