This is the twelfth 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.
Check the UKC Winter Conditions Page for up to date info on which routes have been climbed.
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.
Some wild weather has swept across the Highlands with the end of last week seeing some very high winds and heavy rain and also freezing levels has risen dramatically.
There is a very definite spring feel this week. I was out on the Ben on Saturday and once the weather had calmed down the results of the warmth were not too bad. Lots of ice has hung-on although it has gone mushy in places. Iain Small and Tony Stone were out on the Saturday and made a repeat of Blair Fyffe's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner and many other teams have been getting the classics done. The snow cover remains high in the East with the Cairngorms still well covered but again a very definite thaw has seen the snow line creeping up the hill and some black crags. Over the last week the freezing levels have fluctuated giving some limited freeze thaw cycles improving the ice on the Ben and giving some firm snow mornings in the East.
Lochaber and Glen Coe
The weekend was busy on the Ben with many teams out finding many ice lines still intact after a serious thaw and some pretty wild weather. The snow line remained patchy just above the hut but as you gained the Corries there is still lots of snow left.
Mike Pescod has been out for much of the week and commented:
"Wet, warm and windy today on Ben Nevis. All the snow is wet and ready to refreeze next week into perfect ice climbing. It was certainly mushy today though and, after a bit of swithering, John and I went for Diana on Number Three Gully Buttress. We missed out the lower chimney by going up Tramp for a pitch but the upper thin face section was fantastic. The ice is hanging in very well in Coire na Ciste. This was only my second trip there this winter since I've spending so much time in Observatory Gully." Mike Pescod IFMGA Abacus Mountaineering
Temperatures do look to lower over the coming weekend which should do great things on the Ben.
James Thacker enjoyed a good day on Slav route over the weekend along with others and he commented:
"Although choices are a bit more limited than in recent weeks, conditions were generally good on the mountain. We opted for 'Slav Route' VI,5 (along with Mike Pescod and Radek) while other parties climbed 'Orion Directissima' VI,5, 'Orion Direct' V,5 (Alan Kimber), 'Astral Highway' VI,5, 'Zero Gully' V,4 etc." James Thacker Mountaineering
I kicked my way up through Number 4 Gully on the Saturday with a group and met teams coming down who commented on Green Gully and Thompson's having had a good time - things where mushy but climbable, the guy in Green said 'climbable but not for those after protection'. The snow was certainly soft but with a freeze on the cards this could change.
Mike Pescod has also been out on Aonach Mor's East Face commenting:
"Mike and I had Aonach Mor East Face to ourselves so we abseiled in and climbed Morwind. It was not at all cold when we went down and the patches of ice on the route were all detached and falling off under our feet. However the turf is well frozen and the larger patches of snow and ice were great. By the time we got back to the summit the temperature had dropped and it was definitely below freezing." Mike Pescod IFMGA Abacus Mountaineering
Other routes on the Ben that have been climbed are: Orion Direct, Point Five, Green, Comb, Slav Route, Astral Highway, Zero, Thompsons and Ledge Route.
Down in Glen Coe much of the ice will have gone in this current thaw and also further south on Beinn Udlaidh and Beinn an Dotheidh. Many of the gullies should be holding the snow which with a refreeze will make some low grade routes such as Central Gully on Stob Coire nam Beith a real pleasure.
Routes that have been climbed over the last week in Glen Coe are: Dorsal Arete on Stob Coire Nan Lochain and Curved Ridge and North Buttress on the Buchaille.
Very much a thaw on here at moment, but there have been some overnight frosts and today walking in to the Corries it was on firm snow, walking out though it was softening again. It was also rain and sleet at 1141. I also noted some pretty large blocks peppering the approach to Fingers and the Goat track, The Red Gully area can be pretty bad for this so watch out up above when around there. Teams were out climbing with people mainly in the easier gullies due to the buttresses being black and dripping. There is quite a lot of ice dotted around the Corrie - one team was on Mirror Direct which seems to be extending as the snow level recedes. It was hard to see much else as the cloud was as thick as mashed potato giving hardly a glimpse of your own boots at times. Walking into the Larig Grhu earlier in the week there was all but no ice on Lurchers crag and hardly any snow, although looking further up there was still plenty of cover.
Hopefully as the weekend temperatures drop this should improve things well. The Ski mountaineering should remain for some time yet giving some nice spring skiing.
Routes that have been climbed over the last week are: Hidden Chimney, Belhaven, Goat track gully, Red Gully, Fiachaill Couloir, The Couloir, Spiral, Broken, The Runnel and Pateys Route.
Over on Lochnagar Polyphemus gully, Scarface and West gully where climbed.
Its been quiet in the North West over the last week, but having not been there myself in the last week I don't want to comment too much. Feel free to comment in the thread below if you have been in that direction. Given the temperatures and rainfall any snow that remains will be high and soft. I should think that much of the ice will have washed away by now as well.
Isle of Skye
Mike Lates of Skye Guides commented:
"Time for this report to switch to another forum next week and start reeling off the glorious new rock climbs and venues to be aiming for this spring.
There's not a good climbing option that springs to mind just now- the old snow is virtually gone but there are some quite solid sections to give cause for a wee bit of caution. There's fresh smattering forecast and the rocks are all pretty cold for climbing in the Cuillin. I'd still advise carrying crampons in case some of the snow patches get a solid crust or a sharp frost puts black ice just where you don't want it. With temperature dropping and strong winds this weekend I'd be struggling for coastal climbing ideas too, although Kilt dries fast and is on the right coast for shelter.
Scrambling is where it will be at until temperatures rise a bit. Minimal rack and moving fast enough to stay warm. There are scores of options in addition to the better publicised classics. Take the opportunity to research the most complex part of the whole Ridge with a round of Coire na Creiche with over 3km of continuously taxing terrain to cross and navigate between Sgurr a' Mhadaidh and Bruach na Frithe (9hrs, 2 or 3 abseils).
If you're a Cuillin virgin you could start by taking yourself up something like one of the ridges (NE or NW) of Sgurr a Bhasteir, (both grade 1 but with grade 2 scrambling options if dry), then round to Bruach na Frithe as a good safe option with some scrambling that won't scare the pants off you."
Weekend Weather Outlook
UKC Area Reporters Web Pages:
- Ben Nevis - abacusmountaineering
- Aonach Mor - sandypaterson
- Skye - skyeguides
- Northern Cairngorms - talisman-activities
- You can read more about Dan and about Mountain Plan on his website: MountainPlan.com