With the Avalanche forecast for Glencoe (the nearest forecast location) for today indicating low risk below 850m and moderate above 850m on South-West through West to North-West facing aspects and weather forecasts for the area suggesting only light new snow fall during the daylight hours John, me and a Falkirk Community Trust Introduction to Winter Climbing course of Finlay, Gillian and Kate headed for Creag Coire an Dothaidh above Bridge of Orchy. It’s a west facing crag with it’s base at 750m and top at 850m.
However, throughout the walk in the snow fell continuously and on the approach to the crag there was thigh deep unconsolidated snow. We had a quick look at the first pitch of Centigrade, which had been the original plan and decided we’d be much better off on steeper ground, where accumulations of the fresh snow would be less.
We climbed two pitches on independent lines up the buttress between the routes of Fahrenheit 451 and Centigrade. This still required a lot of cleaning of fresh unconsolidated snow, but was a safe option. We then abseiled back down to the base of the crag. This gave lots of opportunity for the team to learn new skills including an abseil retreat and see how decision making has to take account of conditions in winter.
There’s ice forming on the crag, but none of the classic lines are formed well enough for climbing yet. Turf was well frozen, where exposed on steeper ground, but soft where insulated by snow on shallower angles. It snowed continuously throughout the day and there’s lots of unconsolidated snow in sheltered locations from 600m. There was fresh snow on the road all the way back to Falkirk. A good day despite the conditions not being quite as expected. I’ll add some more photos to the Climbnow Facebook page.
I said I’d upload photos from last week in Creag Coire an Dothaidh, so there’s a few below. Thanks as usual to Mac for some great photos of Friday. Mac’s gallery on UKClimbing has some excellent shots and is well worth a look.
It was a sociable day in the Bridge of Orchy area today. Cameron and I bumped in to Neil, James and team in the car park. They were heading to Beinn Udlaidh and then on the walk in to Creag Coire an Dothaidh it was great to see Bruce and team. Both Bruce and Neil asked in passing if I’d seen Glenn Gordon’s Facebook post about Fahrenheit 451, being a little bit of a Luddite I hadn’t, which was both a blessing and a curse.
I first looked at climbing this route in 1989. It doesn’t form well often and I’ve never managed to be in the right place at the right time. The top section seems to build fairly regularly, but the bottom often looks lean and sketchy. Today it looked the best I’ve seen it, so Cameron and I decided to go for it.
We climbed the route in 4 pitches, 3 short and 1 long. The bottom was thin in places, there were sections where the ice had built over powdery snow and some of the higher ice, although great to climb, was dripping fairly heavily. However, Cameron and I had a good adventure and a long held itch has been scratched. When I got home I read Glenn’s post, if I’d read it before we probably wouldn’t have got on the route.
After finishing Fahrenheit 451 we nipped back around had a drink and some food and then climbed Centigrade. The middle section of this was fun, but below and above there was a fair bit of soft snow and sections of ice over powder again.
We walked out with Bruce’s team who’d had a good day on Salamander Gully and it was great to catch up with him. Back at the car park Neil, James and team were there again plus Greg. Again brilliant to catch up with him as I don’t see him often enough these days.
Below freezing down to road level all day today. Light winds and no precipitation during the day. There’s still plenty of unconsolidated snow around on lee slopes and areas that have cross loaded.
I’m struggling to upload photos this evening for some reason, so will add some when I get that sorted.
I’m just back from three days away with Andrew and Ged. The weather was challenging at times, but we managed to get something good done everyday.
On Friday we climbed the East Ridge of Beinn a’Chaorainn in strong South-Westerly/Westerly winds and rising freezing levels. The ridge was a sheltered popular choice for the conditions and it was pleasant to bump in to quite a few folk we knew.
Freezing levels dropped down again for Saturday to around the 500m to 700m level, but there was lots of snow forecast on strong Westerly winds. We opted for Creag Coire an Dothaidh. This again proved a popular choice with the coire as busy as I’ve ever seen it. We climbed the first pitch of Right Guard, a pitch in a similar line parallel to Fahrenheit 451, a short easy rightwards traverse and a dogleg pitch bringing us out on the top section of Centigrade. This gave us some very good climbing at around III,4. The turf on the first pitch was softer than expected, but above this very firm with a lot of ice around. Simon and partner climbed Salamander Gully reporting it good, but with a steep ice bulge and John’s team climbed a hard variation on Centigrade. There were several other teams on the crag, but I’m not sure what else was climbed. Fahrenheit 451 looked fat at the top, but thin and bold on the first pitch.
With a forecast of very high winds from the South-West and rain we headed for the Cairngorms today and spent the day in the shelter of Fiacaill Coire Chais looking at snowpack, snow anchors and emergency shelters. The ski centre closed early due to the wind, but the rain didn’t arrive until late afternoon. With freezing levels above the summits during the day the crags were looking black and ridges were completely scoured, but there were still big depths of snow in sheltered locations.