I’ve spent the last four days with Alex and Doug trying to work with the weather rather than against it. We met at the Corran Ferry on Thursday and headed out to Ardnamurchan hoping this would stay under the forecast weather. We climbed the West Flanks of Creag an Airgid and Meall Sanna, both giving good scrambling/easy climbing on rough gabbro buttresses and slabs. We avoided the rain, there was some wet rock but plenty of friction even when wet.
The forecast for Friday morning was very wet and windy, so we had a deliberate late start and walked in to the CIC Hut in the afternoon before climbing and descending a soggy East Gully of the Douglas Gap as things started to cool down late afternoon. Friday night saw temperatures drop and some fresh snow. We had a great day on Saturday climbing North Gully, Creag Coire na Ciste, heading over the summit of Ben Nevis and down and along the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. Bigger gully features that had held snow had firmed up well. Ice was starting to reform above 700m, fresh wind slab was forming on westerly winds.
Today we needed a short day and headed east to the Cairngorms to get away from the worst of the weather. We scrambled a couple of the winter lines in Creag na h-Iolaire in summer conditions; I would not recommend this as there is a lot of very loose rock. There were snow/hail showers down to around 600m on a strong westerly, but these were only settling above about 850m.
I have just finished a brilliant weeks off piste skiing and ski touring at Alpbach in Austria. As a venue I thought it was outstanding with plenty of skiable summits and a huge amount of terrain. Additionally the mountains were quiet.
I hope to get back sooner rather than later.
It was glorious weather in the Cairngorms today for a Falkirk Outdoors Ski Mountaineering day with John, Holly, Lucy and John. We were able to skin from the car park and up on to Fiacaill Ridge before putting skis on our packs and climbing the ridge. The ridge itself was generally well scoured, but you wouldn’t have had to drop off too far on either side to find areas of unstable snow.
We then skied around over Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and pt. 1141m. The skiing on the plateau was either on scoured icy snow or pleasant hard packed slab. We were able to carefully ski from 1141 around the rim of Coire Cas before dropping down in to the coire from Fiacaill a’Choire Cas before descending through the ski area. The snow was consolidating in the sunny weather, but there are likely to be instabilities in some locations for a while. Climbing teams were reporting having to clear a lot of snow from the buttress routes.
Yesterday Andy, Rob and I chose to visit Creag na h-Iolare on Mam Suim in the Cairngorms. This is a rarely visited mica-schist crag about 2km north-east of the Coire na Ciste car park. It’s needs snow low down as the base of the crag is 700m. It’s quite vegetated and loose in places so could have done with a bit more consolidated snow, however it worked pretty well for the conditions on Saturday as many of the routes are on ridges or ribs. I think we climbed Central Ridge and Loose Rib, which I mistook for Picasso. Unsurprisingly Loose Rib has a significant area of loose rock near the top and we chose to move left in to the gully to avoid this. See the SMC journals since 2014 for route descriptions.
Today I went for a dander up Meall nan Eagan and Carn na Ceardaich near Dalwhinnie. This kept me below the worst of the weather.
It snowed pretty much all day on Saturday with the wind starting as a south-westerly and moving round through easterly to north-westerly. Even at around 700m there was a marked increase in snow depths through the day and snow was down to Aviemore level on Saturday evening. Today there was less constant snow with periods of sunshine low down followed by squally showers. Above 800m it appeared to be in cloud most of the day. The wind was mostly north-westerly today and there has been a lot of wind movement of snow leading to scoured areas and significant drifting, wind slab and cornice development.
This week I have been helping to deliver a Winter Mountain Leader Training course. There is large accumulations of snow in many locations. Careful studying of the avalanche forecasts and careful route choice is necessary in the current conditions.
John and I were in Glen Clova today with a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors winter climbing team of Amanda, John, Ross and Steven. The decision to visit this area was based on it probably being the best weather option and this worked well as the sun shone for most of the day and the north-west to south-west winds were surprisingly low.
We climbed Boustie Buttress on The Snub side of the Corrie of Clova. This III,4 route isn’t a classic, but has some good climbing and was a sensible choice for the day as it was on a scoured aspect when many of the normal venues in the area were looking loaded with fresh snow. Details of the route can be found in the 2015 SMC Journal or on the SMC Website. Snow was down to around 500m this morning with south through east to northerly aspects looking heavily loaded above 700m. The sun shone all day and by the time we were leaving the snow line had raised to around 600m. Buttresses exposed to the sun were stripping fast and sun wheels were present on many aspects. The turf at crag height was firm, but softening in the sun or where exposed to dripping water. There was very little precipitation during the day. Where exposed to the sun the snow pack had become moist above 800m.
Yesterday Jane, Chris and I took the opportunity of the more settled morning weather to nip up Ben Vrackie.
There was snow from about 600m, which significantly increased above 750m. Plenty of evidence of wind movement of snow on strong south-westerly to north-westerly winds. Some ice around above 650m, but mostly thawing in the morning sunshine.
This week I have been helping with the Guides winter test. Full winter conditions have returned to the Cairngorms with lots of snow, ice building and frozen turf.
Congratulations to both the candidates on their efforts in, at times, tough conditions.