Saturday, December 25, 2010

A White Christmas

I hope that you have been enjoying this fantastic start the winter as much as I have. I'm currently on family duty and won't be in the hills again till the 2nd and so should probably catch up with the blog.
Last year we had an amazing start to the winter and many people were reminded of "How It Used To Be" back in the day when we had "Real Winters". Well, it looks like we may be in for a run off them if the weakened North Atlantic Ossilation has anything to do with it. Hopefully the news reports are not just a combination of wishful thinking by the winter sports fraternity in conjunction with bored journalists looking to fill column inches with speculation. Time will tell.
We have however seen a slew of interesting repeats and new routes being done. For instance on Beinn Bhan near Applecross Both the Godfather and The God Delusion have seen repeat ascents within a couple of weeks of each other rather than the more usual 10+ years of waiting for a successful ascent of the wall. It is probable that the Internet and the ease of access to quality information helps massively with this but the amount of strong climbers around now has mushroomed in the this new millennium. Winter mountaineering is probably no longer the weird esoteric pastime it once was (however when I was just explaining to my in-laws about mixed climbing then I did have a sudden epiphany that it is pretty weird and bizare!). The best website to get the real inside track on the more interesting ascents that I will be contributing to also is that run by Simon Richardson
The weather continues to be sub freezing but there is talk of a thaw in the next few days. This will be worth paying attention to and keeping an eye on the sais avalanche websites as I think that this will cause a significant increase in the avalanche risk. As you may know there isn't a fore sat for the NW but it is still worth looking at the west coast, meggy etc forecasts then looking at the weather and wind direction and using it as a guide. Generally the snow cover is still fantastic in the NW and places such as Sgurr fidhler have been in condition for several weeks now. Quinag and Sullivan are in great condition to for those who dislike even the thought of sharing their mountain with another climbing party!
When I can get to a computer (I can't load images via the iPhone) I'll put some pictures up taken from a recent first on the North side of Stac Pollaidh. This crag has excellent climbing with an even shorter walkin that Sneachda in the Northern Corries of the Cairngorms.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Skiing and Climbing in the Cairngorms

The snow pack has melted and refrozen and greatly stabilised in the Cairngorms. Melt- freeze grains characterize much of the pack, but an icy crust has formed that will present a very nasty sliding layer when the new snow comes in the next few days. Keep an eye on the SAIS forecasts which are beginning tomorrow i believe.
The crags of the Northern Corries and the Loch Avon basin are extremely verglassed and the steeper sections of the crags were mostly black, but have begun to rime up a bit. The turf is excellent.
The ski touring was pretty hard work in that the very icy surface of the snow was a pain to skin on and required a lot of concentration to ski on (especially when your edges were needing sharpening!)
I have again been skiing into and out of routes and have really enjoyed the speed of access (and retreat!). It isn't too difficult to climb ice in ski boots, why i wonder do more folk not do this?
The picture shows the build up of ice on Hells Lum as of Tuesday afternoon.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A thaw and the promise of a freeze

It is currently warmer in the Highlands of Scotland than in the South of England. The snow that has been a foot or more thick at sea level is finally melting and this melt should go all the way up the hill and help consolidate the pack and hopefully destroy some of the dangerous layers that have built up, particularly the new snow that fell / blew onto a weak surface hore layer on due west aspects.
The forecasters predict that the cold will come again possibly starting Sunday evening or Monday morning. This will be fantastic news and should give a solid base of snow for the rest of the season. All too often in the last 10 years we have had big snow fall events followed by a thaw and warm rain for a week or more which often took us back to square one.
I have been out again since my last post, however the wee boy enjoying the sledge ride in the photo has erased my memory card on my waterproof camera so i only have a few shots taken on the 'good weather' camera and have lost all the climbing shots.
The snow in the NW should easily last the thaw. I'll probably be in the Gorms this weekend but hope to go for a very long walk to a very good route on the winter solstice which is my preferred way of celebrating it.

Friday, December 03, 2010

More ski touring and new routing

The stable cold weather continues. I have been combining the planks and the axes and ski toured into Choire Mor on Ben Wyvis and climbed a new route there. It wasn't too hard and was a good long mountaineering day. I chose to go in from the East as the East and NE wind has significantly loaded West facing slopes and we saw the debris from several spontaneous avalanches all on East facing slopes. The snow surface had significant surface (something to keep an eye on when the new snow comes) on it but the pack on East facing slopes was reasonay stable.
I will put some pictures on when I get near a computer this evening