Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Beinn Bhan and NW conditions

The conditions in the North West and West are much better for climbing than in the Cairngorms. There is a lot less snow there than in the Gorrms, where skis are pretty essential for moving around unless you are lucky enough to be able to follow an 18 stone snow plough about.

There was fresh snow yesterday in the NW and W and the snow has only thawed at sea level briefly before re - freezing and making walking conditions very tricky (witnessed by two of the UK's finest winter climbers on a new VII in a 33 hr round trip to Knoydart but loosing man points for admitting to wearing crampons on the foot path. Only joking!). There is more snow today falling.

The snow has a hard surface crust caused by vapour transfer in the snow pack meeting the very cold air. The snow bellow this is very faceted (sugar snow) and has very little strength properties. This is a hazard worth keeping an eye on for the future. This top icy layer has a small amount of surface hore on it and if this is not destroyed by wind or a thaw before the new snow fell is a really dangerious layer to look out for and may well be patchy so not spotted by a pit dug in one location but it could exist a couple of metres away on the same aspect.

I have been on Beinn Bhan (Ben Van) and after changing the plan several times due to prevailing conditions ended up climbing Great Overhanging Gully on Giants Wall. This is easier with ice but we didn't find any at all. Indeed a very experienced party had a very 'challenging time' on Sillver Teaar which is in very very poor condition.

There is very little mountain ice on Liatach, Ben Eighe and Fur Tholl basically because we need it to thaw, freeing up the water during the day for it to trickle down and freeze at night in the lines. Please take great care if you go to Poachers Fall etc area as the slope at the top will be a prime avalanche trap.

Best think mixed, low level ice or get on the planks; its not often that you can ski tour right from the car or in my case right from the front door! Indeed i am trying to get a page up on the website about ski touring...


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