Thursday, January 06, 2011

Northern Cairngorms climbing and Avalanche conditions

Winter climbing conditons in the Loch Avon Basin (see pictures taken yeaterday) and the Northern Corries are pretty good at the moment. I have heard of people complaining about too much snow and icy cracks but hey, it's winter, so just adjust your objective to suit; there are lots of options.
I was on Carn etchachan yeaterday and found excellent conditions and useful ice in many places. However, the avalanche conditions are quite dangerous in specific locations. On Tuesday and Wednesday morning the wind had a southerly aspect to it loading the newly fallen snow onto anything that was vaugly North in aspect; i.e. most of the climbing venues. I triggered an avalanche on the Goat Track at 9.30am whilst ascending via its blunt spur on the (climber's) right and the avalanche propagated sideways and upwards. The old icy layer from the weekend that i have previously mentioned is acting as a very dangerous sliding layer and will probably be in the pack for some kind to come till we get a strong thaw to melt it.
We continued up the ridge and joked that we had now made the Goat track safer for everyone else! I noted whilst descending down to the bottom of Hells Lum that the snow had a good chance of avalanching here also even though it is on the windward side (probably due to snow accumulations coming down Hells Lum) and again the danger came from the hard icy layer at the top of the old snow pack. Whilst on the cliff i also saw the Grade 1 gully Castlegates Gully between Carn etchachan and Shelter Stone spontaneously avalanche at about 2pm from the top to the bottom.
We had the luxury of being able to do part of the walk back home in the daylight and i noted dangerous slopes on many different aspects. We walked over 1141 and down the ski area. Watch out for the tops of the easy gullies in the Northern Corries as they looked awe full when we walked passed them. The wind changed in the afternoon to a more westerly wind but this will still continue to load a lot of gully exits in the Corries.

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