Scottish Winter Conditions: Full Report 10

This is the tenth of our regular series of Scottish winter conditions updates from Dan Goodwin of Dan gives a round up of what has been climbed, where good venues for the weekend might be and also some very important links to avalanche and weather information.

Sunset from the Aonach Eagach© wee jamie, Feb 2010

Check the UKC Winter Conditions Page for up to date info on which routes have been climbed.Please check the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service and the Mountain Weather Information Service while planning your trip, there are some very unique and dangerous avalanche conditions at present. Winter mountaineering often involves gathering all the information that you can to help make a decision on where is best and safest to head for. Keep in mind that all the information that you gather may not appear that way on the ground when you get there and that the decision making and info gathering is carried out throughout the day.General OutlookLast weekend saw a rise in temperatures bringing a thaw to the mountain areas which has helped to consolidate the snow pack. During this week there has been a return to blue skies and clear nights giving us the all important freeze thaw cycles although, as the week ends it is back to a gradual thaw. Generally in the winters over the last few years my winter work runs to the end of March or early April but this year seems very different and there's a strong possibility that things will roll on through to May. Given the amount of snow, certainly here in Aviemore, things will push on for a long while yet… The Cairngorm ski area has been hinting they may run into May!Things have settled with regard to avalanches; the thaw and freeze helping to consolidate the snow pack. I witnessed a large slide under the Fiachaill buttress on Saturday which may have released on the deep faceted layer provided by the surface hoar a little while ago, it would certainly be worth bearing that layer in mind as the recent thaw in the Cairngorms may not have been deep enough to penetrate it. People have been out on the crags though, enjoying the sunshine and good conditions. Lochaber and Glen CoeEnjoying fine ice on Point 5 Ben NevisUKC News, Mar 2010© Rob JarvisThings have been good on the west but the lower ice climbs such as Smoking the White Owl and Steall Falls will have melted out with the recent thaws. The Ben has been seeing plenty of action; Rob Jarvis was out earlier in the week on the classic Point 5, “Despite the fine weather and conditions it felt like a quiet day on the North Face of Ben Nevis….unless you wanted to do the Orion Face or Minus Gullies that is. John and I sought relative solitude on the little know Point Five Gully!Conditions were good with a well-ploughed furrow marking the way, belay ledges and cornice exit – no route finding problems on Point Five!All the Minus Gullies were done and various teams climbed (and soloed) the Orion Face and Zero Gully. The recent thaw had 'tidied' the lower mountain up a bit and you could produce a fine photo topo for the CIC Hut Ice crag at the moment. No teams were on Observatory Buttress but the ice is building”Rob Jarvis IFMGA: High Mountain Guides It sounds like many of the classics are being done but there is still more call for build up the higher you go. The Minus Face has seen quite a few ascents with 1, 2 and 3 all being done. Orion Direct, Point 5, Rubicon wall, Zero and Vanishing have all been climbed in the last week as have the major ridges. Things to perhaps keep an eye out for over the next thaw this weekend and into next week will be falling ice and also any cornicing starting to drop off. Over on Aonach Mor Turfwalk, Morwind and Easy Gully have all been done. Aonach Mor is very much a place to keep an eye out for cornice collapse it forms very large ones around Coire Lochan.Moving into Glen Coe: On Stob Coire nam Beith Central Gully was done. Numerous traverses of the Aoanach Eagach have also been done.Mike Pescod was on Crowbery Gully, reporting on conditions he commented: “The lower chockstones are not well filled in but there is good ice to get around them. Higher up there is lots of snow but it is all soft and there is little ice. We had to go around one pitch on thin ice to get to The Junction but the Junction Pitch itself is fine. The Cave Pitch was quite thin as well. So, as ever, Crowberry Gully is a great adventure and perfectly climbable but not for those of a nervous disposition!”Mike Pescod IFMGA Abacus Mountaineering

Parties enjoying the ice on Ben NevisUKC News, Mar 2010© Rob Jarvis

Cairngorms?large cornices have formed around the Slant and Jacobs Ladder area – they are in the sun for quite a bit of the day and one section looks very large and unstable…?

Coire an t'Sneachda snow conditionsUKC News, Mar 2010© Dan Goodwin
Mess Of Pottage conditionsUKC News, Mar 2010© Dan Goodwin

George Mcewen and Allen Fyffe on Alladins Buttress, Northern CorriesUKC News, Mar 2010© Dan GoodwinThings remain snowy in the Cairngorms with many starts almost banked out, earlier in the week I made a solo of Mirror Direct which was perhaps 3 or four moves on perfect hooks and steps of which you can just reverse and walk out. In years to come I may neglect to mention it was done in the year it almost banked out completely!Plenty of routes have been getting done though; George McEwan was out in Coire an t'Sneachda with Allen Fyffe on Wednesday and he commented:”The ice pitch I led earlier (very thin although not steep) which was very thin and poorly protected, till a small ice boss in which I managed to place two good screws, was just another way of starting Prodigal Principle (V.5). Fyffie reckoned the ice we were on had not been climbed before and I certainly saw no steps or marks on it – but who knows. Still both pitches were great fun and good quality. Not sure about conditions elsewhere in the corrie although what I have heard from others climbing is that many routes are still very icy and giving good sport. Wavelength seems to have become very popular this season. Stuff looks good, but with the warming up a lot of that rime ice will be coming off and being a problem as it falls.”George McEwan Senior Instructor Glenmore Lodge One area to be wary of at the moment is under the very large cornices that have formed around the Slant and Jacobs Ladder area,they are very large and in the sun for quite a bit of the day, one section looks very large and very unstable.Routes that have been climbed over the last week are. Wavelength, Fluted Buttress, Stirling Bomber, Fingers Ridge, Fiachaill Couloir and Ridge, Savage Slit, The Third Man and Chute Route. Ski touring conditions also remain great although the recent clear nights have made things a touch 'firm' under ski! Sliding along the Lagan Road to Meggy and things are still being done there with one team who I spoke to last night raving about about the conditions on Smith's Gully. Routes that have been done in the last week are. The Wand, Smith's Gully, Last Post and South Pipe Direct. North WestMullach an Rathain, Liathach© wee jamie, Mar 2010This seems to be where it has all been going on with some new lines and many classics getting done. The recent freeze-thaws will have helped bring the snow pack together and consolidate it, whilst also building the ice.Malcom Bass and Simon Yearsley have climbed a new line on Luch Corrie of Seana Braigh. Malcolm commented: “A quick note to tell you about our new route in Luch Corrie of Seana Braigh. Having been on the Ben and been impressed by the amount of middle height ice, we took the risk of going in to Luchd to look at a line we've been waiting for since 1998 when we did A Girls Best Friend on Diamond Buttress.On that trip we'd seen some unclimbed corners on Flowerpot Buttress and guessed they would ice up. We went back in April 1999 hoping they'd be iced, and they were – but the central slab wasnt icy so we had to beak out right to make Saxifrage (reported in the SMCJ, but never appeared in the current guidebook). But this time we were in luck and the central slabs were icy enough for us to get across and up, after a start up the left hand corner line.  The second and fourth pitches are the highlight of the new line, being truly mixed using both ice and rock. We were lucky with travel conditions getting the campervan up to corriemuzzle (after digging out a couple of drifts), and then cycling most of the way up the Strath. It was fantastic to get this line after the long wait, and it was so varied, pulling hard up the steep icy slot,  then balancing delicately out across the slab, then romping up turfy corners.  The route name is inspired by the Cormac McCarthy book (very grim), the critical long drive up the sometimes dodgy estate road (less grim then the novel) and the fact that we're on an extended road trip around Scotland in a campervan (quite pleasant actually!!) ” Route Description:The Road, VI,6. 275m. *** 10th March 2010. Malcolm Bass and Simon Yearsley.  A natural icy line up the steep ground to the left of the Crest of Flowerpot Buttress. Varied and excellent climbing. Start in the snow bay with an icy slab/corner at its top left.Also Blair Fyffe and Andy Turner made a trip to Achnashellach crag of Sgurr na Feartaig where they added a new as yet unnamed 90 metre VI,7.Other routes that have been done over the last week are Poachers, Salmon Leap, Access Gully, Umbrella Falls, Footless Gully all on Liathach. On Beinn Bhan Mad Hatters and March Hares Gully.Isle of SkyeMike Lates commented in the UKC Forums:Conditions since the weekend have been superb for Traverses, snow lines and ice. Slight warm up due tomorrow, Thursday but freezing level around 900m should leave most exiting routes in good condition as the temps cool again next week. Some classics that haven't seen ascents (?) since the great winter of 1986 may even be in such as Waterpipe Gully and White Wedding. Something for everyone with the suntraps at Elgol and Neist getting some finger muscles flexed again apparently. Come on down….. Mike Lates – Weather Outlook

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Mountain Weather Information ServiceAvalanche Outlooksportscotland Avalanche Information Service UKC Area Reporters Web Pages:Ben Nevis – abacusmountaineeringAonach Mor – sandypatersonSkye – skyeguidesNorthern Cairngorms – talisman-activitiesFurther links: Traffic Scotland

Dan Goodwin on the Skye RidgeUKC Articles, Nov 2009© Dan Goodwin

Dan Goodwin runs Mountain Plan; a company that specialises in mountaineering courses throughout the Highlands of Scotland in both summer and winter. Dan has been climbing and mountaineering since a young age and has spent a lot of time in the Alps climbing in the Chamonix area, the Ecrins, the Italian Dolomites, Swiss Urner and Oberland Alps and also the Austrian Venedigar, Otztal, and Stubai Alps as well as throughout the UK and further afield.You can read more about Dan and about Mountain Plan on his website: Diesen Artikel inkl. Bilder auf anschauen