Saturday, February 27, 2010

NW is best

Cairngorm Ski road shut? Avalanche hell in the west? Get yourself up to the NW! Conditions continue to be excellent. Have a look at the pictures taken from a traverse of Beinn Liath Mhor showing Sgorr Ruadh, Fur Tholl and Liathach.
The recent fresh snow is there in localised isolated windslab patches and gullies but there is stacks that is accessible. Climbers have also been active on Beinn Bhan today and in the last few days, the new snow not making it that far and the Belach Na bar road to Applecross was open today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Intro Ski Mountaineering and snow conditions

I was out yesterday in the last of the fantastic weather (for a while) giving a refresher in Ski mountaineering on my local hill, Ben Wyvis. This peak is ideal for ski mountaineering as it has several different approaches and descent options to suit all abilities.
The day was windless and sunny, but i did note the harbingers of the next weather front, which i now bucketing down snow a i type this.
This is going to be a major headache as i have seen very well developed surface hore on all aspects (even sunny south ones) and this will cause an extreme (Cat 5) on all aspects in some locations. The next few day are probably days best spent doing other things than being an avalanche poodle. I'm already hearing of the first avalanches on the west coast and i think that this will be a bad couple of days.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Liathach and Poachers fall

Chris came up for his annual steep ice day and we went to have a look at Poachers Fall on Liathach as much of Ben Nevis seems to be buried at the moment. The route was in ok condition but the temperature (-12 in the morning) had made the ice very very brittle and i made the decision to bail off the 4th pitch when one axe dinner plated nearly taking the other off even though it was two feet away. If it warms up a bit it should be fine.
There was some slab on the way up to the base and an impressive build up of surface hore which will cause serious trouble if it doesn't get destroyed by wind or warm temperatures before the next dump of snow.
I've heard of not one but three (!) impressive hard routes being done on the Dubh Loch near Lochnagar in the last few days. Apparently the weather will change in the next few days. Watch chi this space.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Torridon and Beinn Eighe

Another glorious day today. How long will this continue? There was no sign of the coastal snow showers predicted for today but at 1pm i noted high sirrus cloud forming to the south above Skye so maybe this is the beginning of a change.
We went into the Triple buttress corrie on Beinn Eighe where a party was on West Buttress and Malcolm Bass and Simon Yearsley were busy adding a new line up on Fuselage wall near the line of Ace. Incidentally, Simon runs the very successful camper van rental service, Big tree camper vans, which i have begun to see out and about on my travels to the climbing areas of Scotland. These give a great mobile base when you want to tour round the climbing areas of Scotland. I predict that they are going to very much in demand this Spring when the Skye ridge season starts.
We went up Fuselage Gully and then traversed the Masiff in the sunshine. Hard work but someone has to do it! Snow stability was mostly pretty good; i only noted some localised slab deposited on one side of the gully exit which were easily avoided on the other.
I'm probably on Liathach tomorrow. Apologies to Harpic for spelling this incorrectly two days ago and well done on the new VII, 7 in Corrie Na Cane on Liathach (yes i have spelt the name of the corrie wrong on purpose!)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Torridon and Beinn Alligin

The snow predicted for coastal hills today didn't arrive; rather it was cloudy with a very light fall of anow flake for about 5 mins. Otherwise we were again treated to perfect blue sky, sunshine and only a breath of wind to remind us that it was winter.
We went to Beinn Alligin which is in fantastic condition. We ascended Deep South gully and then turned right at the top crossing the horns and doing the full traverse.
Snow stabitity was very good and deep south gully is probably the best route of its grade that i have done in 15 years of winter climbing in Scotland period. We have been running out of adjectives and superlatives to describe the conditions this week. We are on Beinn Eighe tomorrow.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Torridon conditions

Ive been out and about in the NW, specifically in the Torridon valley. We have had 2 days of very cold weather which is growing the ice nicely. Today we did Hillwalk gully on Liatech which was excellent with no avalanche danger on the top bowl. We then traversed the Liatech massif. There is a great build up of snow on the traverse and our crampons were rarely on rock.
Team strong have been on Beinn Eighe cliffs but i haven't heard what they did, the conditions would have been great, they must have been quick as their campervans had gone by 5pm when we got back to the car park.
Today was glorious with sunglasses pretty essential and no wind at all. The sun has affected the snow on the south side of the ridge traverse but with anti balling plates and diligence it was ok. The weather may continue like this for a couple of days fingers crossed. I have some stunning shot on my other camera but can't find the cable and my computer has been unexpectedly turning itself off after having a critical error. Knowing nothing about technology i'll probably just ignore it for as long as possible and hope the cable turns up.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sneachda new snow

We went back to Sneachda today as the new snow (several inches) last night and this morning would only have made things more problematic in Lochain. As it was actually getting up the ski road was problematic enough as the road was shut and we had fun and games getting up when it eventually did open at about 10.30am.
We went to the Mess o pottage as this had seen traffic in the last few days and i hoped to pick out the old foot steps of previous parties under the new snow. It would appear that the new snow has fallen on gentle winds as the crystals were not broken and packed into wind slab very much in the corrie. A pit dug on the crag apron revealed two weak layers in the top 12 inches above the icy layer and an interesting weak layer below this with what i think were weakly bonded faceted crystals below it (i didn't have my hand lense though)
We picked our way up and started up the slant and then finished on hidden chimney which gave a good short day. There was more snow beginning to fall as we left the car park at 4pm and it will most probably snow all night. One thing to watch for is when the wind pick up there is a lot of new snow waiting to get transported about.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Northern Corries - Lochain

Today i went into Lochain and noted that it was much quieter than Sneachda today. A party was on Savage Slit another party followed us up Milky Way and that was it. A party made a probably wise choice of backing off the Vent but i think this was climbed yesterday. Last night several inches of new snow fell and in my opinion the avalanche risk has increased since yesterday as bad areas of slab are now far more extensive. We spent quite a while choosing a safe line to the start of the route (as did the Savage slit party i noted) and then found the climbing slow due to the massive accumilations of snow on the cliffs. Under the surface snow there i good climbable nee but all the usual belays were very very buried

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Northern Corries report

We have been in the Northern Corries this weekend. Most of the gully lines are seeing traffic as is the ski road up there; today both top car parks were full by half eight and the halfway car park was half full! The corries were not though as busy as i had feared and whilst many climbers were about (see picture) i didn't see too many queues. Today the freezing level was very high, mid crag perhaps and the gentle thaw cause the snow to ball up on the crampons; a major hazard. I witnessed a lucky climber have both her feet slip when leading. Luckily she managed to stay on and avoid a 50+m fall and was very thankful for my top rope thrown to her!

Friday, February 12, 2010

NW conditions

I haven't been out for several days as i have had a nasty cold, diagnosed by my loving wife as strain M-A-N 1 flu! However we have had fresh falls of snow up high most nights this week topping up the already superb snow levels in many places. The winds haven't been strong but i suspect that it will have blown about. Alas i can't give any indication as to the avalanche conditions i'm afraid but there is certainly snow to play in.
I'm out this w/e and pretty much every day for the next 2 weeks with only the odd day off so i'll try and post the snow conditions that i find. I'll be in the Cairngorms this w/e and then the NW for most of the other time i think.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

NW and Cairngorm conditions

There was a thaw in the west on Thurs which made an appearance over Inverness side on Friday. This has helped stabilise the snow which was wet all the way up the hills in the thaw. The freeze started slowly on Saturday and came with more precip (probably snow up high but i was in the valley in the rain on Sat). The weather was calmer, dryer and quite a bit nicer today. I was in the Cairngorms ski touring this morning. We hoped that we might be lucky with the cloud level but our optimism for an attempt at the 4 big tops was miss placed and the cloud level was at around 950m all day. We turned back at the Summit of Macdui but the snow on the plateaux was really good even if it was total white out adventure skiing.
Sneachda was very busy with over a hundred folk. A lot less folk in Lochain mind!
The snow in the Cairngorms has obviously also thawed all the way up the hill and refrozen as it was pretty bomber and would be great in the gullies. There was a bit of fresh snow being blown around so exiting gullies could well not be on bomber safe neve.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Yet more snow and avalanches

We have continued to have new snow each day Sat, Sun, Mon and Tues, more so over near the west coastal hills. Much of it has either fallen or been re-distributed on a Northern wind and slopes from East through to West slopes are places where you will find windslab. On Tuesday on Beinn Eighe my team triggered a massive cornice collapse (think transit van size) which fell down a southern aspect slope triggering this. We were all fine and just watched it fall as we walked passed on our ridge line.
Northern aspects MAY have wind scoured gullies, several i saw were but don't take this as gospel for every where as there are many local winds to take into account.
The brief sunny spells have triggered spontaneous point release avalanches on southern aspects. Northern facing crags are well rimed and the turf is frozen. However, expect walking times to be almost doubled as the snow is calf deep in the valley and waste deep in places up high.
But on the whole conditions are brilliant, and it is defiantly winter!
If wading through snow is not your thing, then going inland 20+ miles will find you on crags with less snow. The turf is well froen on the crags in the far north at the moment, if i say any more then i'm making it too easy, go explore!