I have just returned from a two day expedition in the Lochaber area with the Falkirk High Tops Team. On Monday we used the Aonach Mor gondola to gain height before traversing round underneath the west face. The conditions on the west face of Aonach Mor looked excellent and safe in the avalanche condtions that we seen on Monday.
From here, we made the ascent of the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach. The route was in perfect condition. After gaining the summit we traversed to the summit of Carn Dearg Mor before descending to the CIC Hut to overnight.
Yesterday, we had an early start to allow us to make use of the excellent weather forecast for the morning. After re-ascending to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg we traversed the CMD arête in perfect conditions to the summit of Ben Nevis. After spending time on the summit, the team and John descended to the Glen Nevis while I returned via the North Face car park to the Gondola station to retrieve the bus.
Conditions on the North Face of Ben Nevis look very serious at the moment. Careful route choice would be required for those choosing to climb there. Lots more photos can be seen on the ClimbNow facebook page.
Mac has kindly sent through some excellent photos from yesterday. There’s a few below and you can see some more on his UKClimbing Gallery. Click on the images below to see them in a larger size.
Mac, Steve and I nipped over to Hell’s Lum Crag today and climbed Deep Cut Chimey. The slabs below the main chimney were banked out with good firm and generally scoured snow allowing a fairly direct approach, although some ingenuity was required to find a belay.
Once in the chimney conditions were generally very good, with nice ice and only the odd section of more powdery snow. The route is a classic, requires a good variety of techniques and has a superb back and footing exercise to finish. Not a bad route for Mac and Steve’s first of the season.
There isn’t a huge build up of ice on Hell’s Lum and most of the ice routes look on the thin side. Additionally, there’s a lot of wind slab above routes like The Sneer and a huge cornice forming above Hell’s Lum itself. The day started sunny with a South-West wind and finished with light snow on a more Southerly wind as we returned to the car. Significant accumulations of wind slab were forming in sheltered areas. Snowing steadily at Drummochter as I drove South.
On Saturday and Sunday I was out with Mike and Tim looking at Winter Climbing and Leading. They’re both rock climbers, but haven’t done much in winter.
On Saturday the Coire was busy, so we looked at safe route choice and then climbed Jacob’s Right Edge covering some winter protection they may not have seen before (e.g. pegs & warthogs); finding rock gear in winter conditions and some snow anchors. On the walk out we stopped in Coire Cas and looked at snow anchors in more detail.
On Sunday the Coire was quieter, but still fairly busy, and we opted to look at ice screw placement on the area right of Alladin’s Mirror. I lead through the slabs above, before the Mike and Tim took over swinging leads with me soloing alongside up to join the flat step on Pygmy Ridge. I lead the final section of Pygmy Ridge, so they could get a feel for some more mixed ground.
Generally good firm snow, where scoured, with the odd section of crust. Pockets of usually soft wind slab forming in sheltered areas with plenty of wind movement of snow on West and South West winds. Some sizable cornices in the coire.
Following my return from the Alps yesterday, today I have been in Glencoe with the Falkirk High Tops Team.
We walked in to Stob Coire nan Lochan passing a number of teams walking out due to a good number of observed avalanches. Some teams had been pretty close to the run out from these.
Our intended route was Dorsal Arete. However, on inspection of the coire we decided that the approach and potentially the exit (it had a small droopy cornice) would be to serious. Therefore, we climbed the North East Ridge before traversing the coire rim and descending back to the valley.
During the day lots of snow was being redistributed. Exposed ridges were very icy and required careful cramponing.
As I reported earlier in the week, I am out in the Alps at the moment with Paul, Chris and Colin. One of the reasons for this is to allow us to prepare for our upcoming Greenland trip. We spent today at the Saint Gervais ski area looking at essential skills for safe travel in glacial terrain on skis. These included; ski belays, crevasse rescue skills and avalanche search techniques.
The Saint Gervais ski area is massive and has a vast amount of terrain for all abilities of skier. More photos from the last few days of ski touring near Saint Gervais can be seen on the ClimbNow facebook page.
Tomorrow, I am returning to Scotland and will be writing a report on Saturday from the Glencoe area.
Today the team and I made the short drive from Saint Gervais to the ski area of Flaine. The reason for our choice was the Desert de Plate. This vast area offered us a good number of ski touring options on moderate terrain and therefore a good level of safety in the current avalanche conditions.
We had a good day ski touring on Les Forts des Plate as well as making the ascent of the Tete des Lindars (2560m). From here there are amazing views of the Mont Blanc Massif.
Today, the lads and I have Les Contamines. This brilliant ski area is also an excellent launch pad for a number of top class ski tours.
Currently the avalanche conditions in the Alps are serious. Therefore, we chose to ski the Rochers des Enclaves (2465m) as it allowed us to follow ridge type features and terrain less than 20 degrees. We did not start the tour from the top of the Buche Croisee ski lift as described in the guidebook but entered near the Chalet de la Croix to avoid the initial steep descent. This added one hour to the tour but massively increased safety.
The snow on the descent to Hauteluce via the Lac de La Girotte was in good condition above 1500 metres.
For the next few days I am going to be out in the Alps with Paul, Chris and Colin. Today, we visited Combloux which is a ten minute drive from Saint Gervais Les Bains. Here, we completed the classic ski touring summit, Petit Croisse Baulet (2009m).
The conditions on the ascent were good. We skied a different route in descent. The snow above 1700 metres was still mostly powder. Below this, the warm temperatures had begun to make the snow heavy.
John, Doug, David and I were out climbing with Falkirk Community Trust today. Given the recent winds we opted for the walk over to the Loch Avon Basin and had an excellent day.
David and I opted to nip around to Stag Rocks and climbed Truly, Madly, Chimbley. The first pitch had good, firm snow, ice and turf. However, the chimney/cave pitch had a deep, hollow layer of unconsolidated sugary snow. I decided on a rising traverse out left below the chimney, which gave a delicate variation pitch at a similar grade and rejoined the original route above the through route.
The recent strong winds have scoured exposed areas of the plateau, which are very icey. There are large areas of hard wind slab on sheltered locations, particularly North through to East aspects and careful route choice is required. Turf is well frozen where exposed, but soft where buried by snow.