Monday, December 18, 2006

General Northern Cairngorms report

Was out and about today climbing with Tim Blakemore and here is what i saw... Sneachda is much Blacker than Lochain, The mess o pottage looks the blackest where as Fiacaill Buttress seemed the whitest. There is snow ice in most of the easy gullies and there was a line of white in Red Gully, but i can't comment on the quality. There is a very very thin Alladins Mirror Direct; its not there yet! The Goat track is an accident waiting to happen - it is really icy and a slip would be unrecoverable - this is the case with lots of places, icy old snow above nasty boulder fields. We went up the goat track and into loch Avon and over to Carn Etchachan. The shelter stone is mostly rock boot territory and it needs a lot more snow for Sticil Face to form up. Carn Etchachan is better but not awesome. The rocks are not rimed up till the top of the crag but the turf and ledges are holding snow and the turf is excellent and water saturated. We climbed Scorpion and found the crux a hard V or easy VI in current conditions (it's ice snow and mixed at the crux at the moment rather than ice). However there is absolutely no cornice to worry about. Hells Lum is holding good ice on its right hand side and these lines may be climbable at the moment if a little tricky perhaps for the guidebook grade.
If anyone finds my Terminator Crampons that fell off my 'sac between the top of Scorpion and the top of the Goat Track i'd love them back!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday 17th in the N.W.

High pressure is beginning to dominate and today and the N.W. is seeing beautiful weather. There is a healthy amount of snow about (see the usual pic of Ben Wyvis) and we can expect the weather to continue for the next few days as the high pressure pushes up from the Bay of Biscay. Hopefully the sunshine will cause some ice to begin to form in places such as Hells Lum. I'm hoping to head into the Loch Avon Basin on Monday so I can have a wee look see at what is about.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday 16th Dec

Oliver and I went into Corie An Lochain in the Northern Corries today in the hope that the steeper trickier lines would be rimed up. The turf on the walk in seemed pretty good, but as we got into the corrie we were dismayed to see the lack of rime on the steep ground. We noted that Savage Slit and Fall out Corner were both in good winter condition and the Slit saw a party on it. Sidewinder also had a party as did Euan Buttress and Y gully right branch. We followed the rime right to the tops of the cliffs and did Hookers corner and met a party from Falkirk who were having a great day out on the cliffs. Thanks again guys for throwing down the abseil anchor after we abbed back down the route. We were intending on another line in that area but Oli's lift was driving back to Edinburgh at 2pm, so we called it a day at that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sunday 10th Dec

The front on Sunday came a few hours later than i expected. The heavy rain only came on at about 3pm. However, the slight rain and the rise in temperatures of over 10 degrees in only a few hours had already massively depleted the snow pack.
Tanya and i thought about going up high for a walk but looked at Geoff Monk's MWIS forecast which used the word 'Impossible' to describe walking up high and thus decided on a nice lunch at the Glenmore shop and a short walk to Ryvoan Bothy behind the lodge. Not very hard core but the soup was nice!

Saturday 9th Dec

Oliver, Gareth and i made the long walk from the corie Cas car park, through Sneachda, up the goat track and over the plateau to Corie Sputan Dearg. We were intending on some exploratory adventure but found the crags to be totally buried with fresh snow that had blown over from the plateau onto the crags in the N.W. wind. Instead we tried for a second ascent of a tricky route but after the sun came out briefly for an hour or two some of the snow started to melt and trickle water down the cliff. The turf on the ledges stayed well frozen but the thin turf in the corners and cracks that the water trickled down thawed out so we abandoned the climb (just after Oliver took a 5m+ fall!)
We waded up an easy gully to the side and became slightly concerned as to the safety of the snow pack near its top. We found a safer way up onto the plateau, but thought that the snow would go through a dangerious period of instability with the arrival of the warm weather front.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The snow is going.... going...

The weather in the West and North West this week has been the type of weather that would convince Noah on the need for the Ark. Continuous torrential rain all the way up the mountain has more or less put the snow pack back to scare one in the N.W, save for the odd bit here and there.
Today we are enjoying a kink in the isobars over Scotland and i caught a glimpse this morning of Ben Wyvis in the sunshine and blue skies. You can judge for yourself the effect of the rain. The snow has hung on a bit more in the Cairngorms as there has been a bit less rain there (the rain has been coming in from the west), but winter climbing is off the cards this weekend. Go for a walk (or do some DIY!) and expect the weather to deteriorate gain this weekend.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Some snow depletion... but also consolidation

No playing for me this weekend; i have a house to rebuild before Christmas Eve, when I'll be going to the Alps for a month or so. However, with a temperature in my study of 7deg C even typing at the computer seems like training for winter!
Heavy rain at all levels over the past few days combined with a very low lapse rate (the temperature gradient between sea and mountain level) has depleted the snow pack in most areas of Scotland. This is no bad thing, as the moisture will have gone into the turf and the clear skies last night and over the next few days (hopefully!) will freeze things up and we should see the development of some ice lines if temps stay cool. Amy and Nic from Alpha Mountaineering walked up Ben Wyvis today (pictured) and experienced stunning views over to the Fannaichs and beyond. The North West is where it's at!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A forst foray of the winter

Going East on Friday night wasn't without it's troubles. The Lect pass was closed due to drifting snow so it was the long way round for me coming from North of Inverness. However, Simon and i walked into Lochnagar on Saturday and were rewarded with a blue sky winter day. We saw the clouds over to the west and felt we'd made a good choice! The snow level started just above the level of the car park but walking into the corrie wasn't too difficult. The main cliffs are quite buried in fresh snow and will benifit massively from a thaw and then a re-freeze. We chose as exposed a line as we could find and found that the exposed turf to be well frozen but the large patches on the ledges needing care when used (the snow is insulating them slightly). We climbed in the Southern sector of Lochnagar and managed two new V,6's and one grade II (all un-named at present). These were all around 80m and the V,s packed quite a punch in each of their pitches. All were excellent outings and any of them would be good for an easier second day for those who don't fancy the walk over to the main corrie.
I noted cornice build up and windslab surface layers about 10cm thick as we were decending from the top. This was on a NW facing aspect and was being eroded and re-deposited by the local wind swirling around the corie as the day progressed. This snow wasn't a problem as we decended but might be something to be aware of if the temperature does rise and cause a period of instability. Indeed, a good deal of old avalanche debris from the previous snowfall was evident on this NW aspect.
Another party was on the route Central Buttress (II) which was a good choise under the heavy powder.
The road back over the Lect pass on Saturday evening had been cleared but snow had blown on it and care was still required!

Friday, November 17, 2006


I caught the briefest glimpse of the hills this morning and quite a lot of snow has been put down in the last few days. Reports from the Northern Corries were of black buttresses and only 'firm' turf on Tues. Reports from the west coast are telling of difficult access to the back of Corie Na Ciste on the Ben and avalanche activity on those slopes to approach the crag has been seen. The turf on the Ben was not frozen at the lower levels and was very buried by fresh snow up high. Its been hammering it down with snow in many places across the Highlands today and the A9 is shut north of Aviemore bue to the volume of snow and accidents on the road. Access to the mountain crags (and access on the roads) will be a deciding issue of a chosen destination this weekend. I'm hoping that there will be less snow over to the East and am going to try and drive over there tonight. Fingers crossed...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Where has all the snow gone?!

Last night and this morning it was quite cloudy and hard to see the hills. This afternoon the clouds cleared and all the snow of Ben Wyvis has gone. The picture is from a slightly different angle, the previous pictures concentrated on the East end (right hand side in the image) of Ben Wyvis. Today has not been as cold as the last two days and it could have been that the cloud layer and moist air minimised the lapse rate so it wasn't as cold as you would expect.
The weekend will be great for climbing at Reiff or Diabeg or walking up a hill so all is not lost!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A second day of winter

No Blue Skies in Corie an Sneachda was climbed today and other folk were in Lochain on the high buttresses. The turf in Lochain was reported as variable. The crags don't appear super wintry from Aviemore and there is more snow on Braeriach as is usually the case, but when up close the crags are rimed up and wintry. Whether this will last till the weekend though is debatable. What is good news however is that this cold spell is sucking the heat out of the hills and firming up the ground which is what we need after another of the 'hottest since records began' Octobers.
Ben Wyvis showed this morning how superficial the snow up here in the N.W. is. This photo was taken exactly 24 hours after yesterdays and the snow loss from what little sunshine there has been is evident.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Our first real frost of the winter came last night down to low levels. It has been about or just below freezing on the tops for a day or two now and the ground is starting to firm up and this big freeze will help, but it will take several more days to freeze the biggest bits of turf.
There has been a dusting of snow in the NW, see the image taken of Ben Wyvis from near my house this morning. There was a healthy amount of whiteness on it, but by the afternoon it was apparent that this was quite superficial. The north aspect crags in this neck of the woods probablly aren't in as good a condition as we would hope. However, Corie nan Lochain in the the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms has good conditions up high, routes such as 'Hormaster' V,6 have been climbed. This area is often one of the first climbable places in Scotland each year as the wind gets funneled up between No.3 and 4 Buttresses and very quickly rimes up these routes.
Hopefully a few more days of cold weather will secure a good solid ground freeze for the rest of the winter snow to come and seal in.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Promise of Winter?

It's been raining canines and felines these past couple of days, so much so that Dingwall, my local town saw parts of it evacuated due to flooding. Some local wags saw this as an opportunity to sail up and down the High street in their boats!
I avoided all this as i was down in Edinburgh working for Alpha Mountaineering as a safety consultant for the upcoming Irvine Welsh TV series 'Wedding Belles'. The weather was incredibly windy but the rain (mostly) stayed off.
It seems that the first snows have fallen on the tops last night and the air temperature up there is currently below freezing. I think that it will take a wee while yet to freeze the saturated ground, but it's a sign that winter could be around the corner.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Well, it's midnight on the 21st October and the cats and dogs are falling from the sky. There's 2 inches of standing water in the yard and it's 13 deg outside. Me thinks winter is a fair way off yet.