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.