This is the seventh 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.
Great conditions in the Highlands for winter climbing. Now the storms have passed and winds eased people have been back out again this week and found some great conditions. Ben Nevis has seen the Orion Face come into condition - a good storm with fluctuating freezing levels is just the recipe for Ben Nevis. A strong French team staying at the hut nipped up it earlier in the week along with many other Nevis classics I should say.
I met one of the Frenchman in Alan Kimber's car park the day they were due to head up - smoking a roll-up with coffee in hand looking relaxed, I asked him what he was hoping to climb: 'Urr most zings I zink' and shrugged off a grin !
At the end of last week there were some big avalanches created by sharp rises in temperatures. Number 5 Gully on Ben Nevis, a known blackspot, had a huge fan of debris below it. It also created some particularly nasty slides - one witnessed by Mike Pescod - washed through Great Gully on the Buchaille with a mass of water, snow, ice and rocks.
In the back of the Grey Corries on Stob Ban I saw evidence of the same sort of avalanche as the Corrie floor was awash with muddy rock-strewn snow and ice. A reminder that a dramatic rise in temperatures can create lethal conditions.
During the weekend and week running up to now there have been a mix of fresh snow, some thaw and some good over-night freezes which have created good conditions. There are still areas threatened by wind slab and cornices so care should be taken when planning the weekend hit.
Should the forecast be right things will be staying cold where it matters but might be a bit windy and wild in places, but in short... get a bag packed and head north, plenty to do!
Simon Richardson and Sandy Simpson where out making the first ascent of 'Eagle-Eye' VII,6 on Eagle Buttress on Lochnagar.
Good climbing in the Cairngorms, a friend of mine just climbed 'The Message' (Thursday) and had a great time finding good solid neve and turf. The crags have been looking a bit blacker but the easy gully lines and ice climbs are in good shape.
Ron Walker was out with clients and headed for Jacobs earlier in the week and found good conditions:
"It turned out less windy than forecast with excellent snow ice on wind scoured aspects. With strong winds being forecast and yesterdays fresh snow I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd also heard tales of avalanches around the Goat track and Red Gully areas.
Anyway we decided to climb today as Wednesday's weather sounded worse and headed into Sneachda! In theory the NW aspects should have been scoured which would avoid the worst of the high avalanche risk and I was right. There was a large area of windslab below Jacob's Ladder but this was easily avoided and once in the gully it was fantastic neve all the way to the plateau."
Ron Walker Talisman Mountaineering
Heading West a little along the Laggan road the conditions on Creag Megaidh look superb. I walked in on Thursday to get a couple of shots and quickly went up easy gully. The Post face looked to have superb ice on it and teams where on many of the other classics.
Tim Neil and Keith Ball made the 2nd ascent of 'Stormtrooper' on Ben Nevis which sits on the upper right side of Number Three Gully Buttress. Tim and Keith headed back the following day to make the 2nd ascent of 'Archangel' VII,7. Also on Ben Nevis on the Little Brenva face Ewan Lyons along with Ewan Olivarius made a 6 pitch direct start to Route Major giving 'Right Major' IV,6.
I headed up onto the Ben last Saturday with a group expecting some wild weather but quite the opposite it was a fine day and plenty of evidence the storm had done some good things to the routes. Most notable was that the dots where joined on Orion Direct which has since seen one ascent that I know of from team France.
Hadrian's Direct looked huge and had two teams on it and is visible from the road below. Point 5 and Zero also looked in great shape. There was evidence of large avalanches out of most of the larger gullys but things had settled significantly by Saturday but then promptly unsettled themselves overnight for Sunday.
Alan Kimber was out on Ledge Route with clients on Sunday:
"I was on Ledge Route and until mid-day the temperatures were pretty cool. Later on it started to rain and the temperature's rose a little. Plenty of action on various routes, including Vanishing Gully, although I did not see the outcome of that ascent. Other teams returning home from both the Grey Corries and Curved Ridge reported similar weather patterns. A week of freeze thaw cycles looks to be coming along. Hadrian's Wall Direct., Point Five Gully and possibly Orion Direct look to be in reasonable shape from a distance."
Alan Kimber, West Coast Mountain Guides
Vanishing Gully has proved popular with quite a few teams doing it this week along with the Compression Cracks ice towards Castle Ridge.
There has since then been some significant snowfall which will have created some avalanche hazards on open slopes, aprons and gully exits. On Sunday teams where choosing not to descend number 4 due this.
Mike Pescod was out during the week with clients:
"A ridge of high pressure brought a calmer and dry day to Ben Nevis. With lots of soft snow in the gullies and open slopes Mike, Scott and I decided to climb low down on the side of Tower Ridge. Fawlty Towers was busy so we climbed the groove line next right and found nice climbing with steps of grade 4. We emerged on the ridge right at the diagonal ramp leading down into Observatory Gully so we had an easy exit. Other teams were climbing Vanishing Gully (looking Great), Tower Ridge, Cutlass, Observatory Buttress and Zero Gully. There is lots of ice around - Point Five Gully is very fat - but it might not all be very good. The team in Zero Gully was making slow progress but the three teams on Observatory Buttress were going well. Mega Route X and The Shroud are both showing a bit of ice forming. The Minus Gullies need a bit more. All the buttresses were well rimed including Anubis and Echo Wall! Warmer conditions tomorrow will take away all the rime though before another freeze on Thursday."
Mike Pescod, Abacus Mountaineering
It sounds pretty snowy in Glen Coe at the moment one avalanche was observed in Twisting Gully on Wednesday. The crowds have been out and about though with some routes getting very crowded, can you guess which one check out Alan Kimber's website for an amusing image on the 'Dorsal Grat'.
Andy Spink was out having a look at conditions in Stob Coire Nan Lochain prior to a course starting:
"It was raining on the walk in but by mid morning it had cleared up rather nicely. It felt warm and a little quiet in the coire. We were concerned about the new snow and the large cornices hanging over most of the gullies. We were keen to seek out an alternative to the Dorsal Arete and it's ques. So we headed over to the Boomerang Arete area and found some great mixed ground, neve and easier ridge climbing.
Half way up We heard an avalanche go off in the snow fan above Twisting Gully. Two climbers were climbing at the time and We were very happy to hear their shouts of relief after the avalanche had settled!
A large crown wall could be easily seen below the cornice on the right hand side. We had met a couple gearing up to do Twisting, luckily it all happened before they got to close. It is known for it, but to see it at first hand was pretty thought provoking! We continued cautiously!
There were parties out on Crest Route, loads of folk on Dorsal Arete and quiet a few folk enjoying the lovely North East ridge up and over the summit."
Andy Spink, Hebridean Pursuits
Good and wintry on the Isle by the sounds of things.
Mike Lates held a winter climbing meet which was timed perfectly with a return to winter in the Cuilins:
"Winter returned just in time for our Skye Winter Meet with a mighty storm on Thursday making the approach to the Glen Brittle hut the most hazardous part of the whole weekend. The north end held loads of snow with a mix old & fresh snow, verglass, rime & crud. The south end had appeared black by comparison but had left the cracks iced & turf frozen. 14 of us got out Friday, Sat & Sunday and all of us returned, eventually
Highlight of the weekend for me was BC Buttress, my first winter route on Thearlaich which gave 3 superb pitches of 5 with good protection all the way.
Looking forward to the weekend ahead the temperatures are dropping right down after a brief thaw so everything we found last weekend with bells on would be my prediction. The Ridge crest is too rocky at the south end for fast enough progress on a Traverse attempt. Drifted powder could slow progress a bit too depending on route choice."
Mike Lates, Skye Guides
Am afraid a bit of a blank should you know anything please post below. But if you know of something that's in and your keeping it to yourself have a good weekend and let me know after......!
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
Thanks go to:
- Mike Pescod - Abacus Mountaineering
- Mike Lates - Skye Guides
- Alan Kimber - West Coast Mountain Guides
- Ron Walker - Talisman
- Andy Spink - Hebridean Pursuits
Weekend Weather Outlook
UKC Area Reporters Web Pages:
- Ben Nevis - abacusmountaineering
- Aonach Mor - sandypaterson
- Skye - skyeguides
- Northern Cairngorms - talisman-activities
Dan Goodwin runs Mountain Plan; a company that specialises in mountaineering courses throughout the Highlands of Scotland in both summer and winter. Dan has been climbing and mountaineering since a young age and has spent a lot of time in the Alps climbing in the Chamonix area, the Ecrins, the Italian Dolomites, Swiss Urner and Oberland Alps and also the Austrian Venedigar, Otztal, and Stubai Alps as well as throughout the UK and further afield.
- You can read more about Dan and about Mountain Plan on his website: MountainPlan.com