Paul James, MIC - - Winter and Rock Climbing Conditions

Monday, 22 March 2010

22-03-10, Snowdonia - Summer ML Training

This week I am working on a Summer Mountain Leader Training Course based in North Wales. Snowdonia is warmer and wetter than Scotland was. Yesterday we had a Micro Navigation day on Crimpiau, mist and rain came in later in the day. Today we have looked at Emergency Procedures, Rescue and River Crossing hazards. Very windy with rain and warm +2 degrees on summits. Rivers were up slightly but not raging. Most snow has disappeared and I very much doubt winter climbing will be on the agenda again until the end of the year.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

18-03-10, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Warmer temperatures and very windy today. Snow is getting very heavy/wet/slushy at present, full depth avalanches may occur. We headed in Coire an t-Sneachda today, anywhere high was out because of the wind, most slopes were out because of the slush factor. Second day of PJ Mountains Winter Skills course with Craig and Caroline, we did some navigation and emergency shelter digging. The buttresses are black, stripped and there were a lot of single point release wet avalanches evident all over the corrie. A few teams attempted to climb but either didn't manage to climb or decided to abseil off routes. The wind picked up through out the day and made standing still very hard!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

17-03-10, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Today I was working on a Winter Skills course with Craig and Caroline for PJ Mountains in the Cairngorms. The weather started fair but steadily got windier throughout the day. The Highlands is going through a massive thaw at the moment, freezing level has been high or above the summits the last 4 days, with that there has been some rain. All of this has completely saturated the snow pack and as long as it doesn't all melt away will firm up nicely, but at the moment it is soggie and mush! We headed into Coire Laogh Mor then to pt 1028, on the way we looked at crampon skills, ice axe arrest and avalanche awareness.
Coire an Lochan yesterday, more rock showing through the wet snow, some big cornices above The Vent and Milkyway, generally wet and mushy snow!

I did a cheeky bit of Ptarmigan Spotter Spotting of my own yesterday also!

Friday, 12 March 2010

12-03-10, Glen Coe - Winter Climbing

Scotland has returned starting yesterday, a slight thaw has started and there was wet slushy snow falling at about 800m, windy and claggy. This was the last day of a MIC training course and we headed into Stob Coire nan Lochan. We looked at teaching leading and climbed NC Gully II (Tim leading - photo above), descended Broad Gully I, then went up Dorsal Arete II (busy), descending an easy gully on the right hand side of the corrie then ascended another head wall of snow further right. A busy day and a lot of ground was covered, the snow is starting to become a little slushy and there was wind slab pockets developing with the strong westerly winds. Today we heading up to west face of Aoanch Dubh in an attempt to climb The Screen IV (photo - right), before it melts away, but unfortunately we were a little late. Freezing levels have been at about 900m for the last few days and this has affected the thickness and stability of the ice. It looked big in places but as you topped out it would be thin and there was a waterfall clearly visible between the rock and the ice. So we decided the risk was not worth it and headed down. There were a few teams climbing Number 6 Gully, but even that won't last very long if the freezing level doesn't drop soon.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

10-03-10, Glen Coe - Winter Climbing

The last couple of days we have had more high
pressure weather. No winds, cold in the shade, ice in abundance, most snow is hard neve, sugary in places but mainly hard. Yesterday I was climbing on Beinn an Dothaidh near Bridge of Orchy. We climbed Taxus III, a nice ice route. Most of the routes are in good condition at the moment. Today we headed into Stob Coire nam Beith to climb on the massess of ice at the bottom of the crag. There is lots of snow in the corrie, and the gorge; which is non existent, filled in from an avalanche two weeks ago. Again there is lots of Ice and the routes look in great condition, the easier gullies maybe a little banked out. the west face of Aonach Dubh, looks in good condition holding lots of ice in Number 6,5 and 3 gullies and The Screen. The forecast is for warmer temperatures and some precipitation tomorrow, but hopefully normal service will resume on Friday! Photos, Right - Tamsin climbing Ice at the bottom of Stob Coire nam Beith, Below - myself climbing ice/snow on the second pitch of Taxus, Above - Stu climbing ice in Stob Coire nam Beith.

Monday, 8 March 2010

08-03-10, Glen Coe - Winter Mountaineering

Summit of Stob Dearg, Buchaille Etive Mor, Glen Coe.

The last couple of days I have been on an MIC training course, based in Glen Coe. Sunday we headed to slopes on Stob Coire nan Lochan. It was another warm and slightly damp day. The freezing level slowly dropped to about 700m. Today was a much brighter and colder day. The saturated snow pack of yesterday is now fully frozen at all levels. The skies were blue and the sun was warm. We climbed Curved Ridge II, on Buchaille Etive Mor. Despite looking to be quite rocky, it is in awesome winter condition at present. There is a cheeky ice pitch variation at the start (right - photo). We traversed onto Crowberry Tower before finishing to the summit and dropping down a grade I gully into Coire an Tulloch. All in all a great day out.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

05-03-10, Aonach Mor - Winter Skills

Today I was working for Jagged Globe on the West. It was the last day of an Introduction to Mountaineering Course. We headed to Aonach Mor to do some navigation and have a journey to the summit. It was back to normal Scottish winter, with horizontal slushy snow and strong winds. We managed to navigate over to the Nid ridge and walked up to the top Station. Because we were in a whiteout and with strong westerly winds we decided not to go to the summit in order to safely avoid the cornices. Hopefully the temperature will get colder again and freeze up the slush!

04-03-10, Coire an t-Sneachda - Winter Climbing

Today I went climbing with Gary in Coire an t-Sneachda in the Northern Corries. We headed to Fiaciall Buttress with knowledge that the approach slope is OK (from an avalanche point of view) and that some of the routes had been climbed recently and hence cleaned from some of the neve and ice. We climbed The Seam IV,5, which has a great, well protected last pitch. Photo - right, Gary finishing the difficulties on the last pitch. The rest of the corrie is completely buried under snow, however Fingers Ridge, Fluted Buttress Direct had rock showing through the white!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

02-03-10, Liathach - Winter Mountaineering

Beinn Alligan and Beinn Dearg, Torridon from Liathach

Today I went to Torridon, in the hope that the rumours of there being less snow in the North West were true. It is true, and the sun shone. I did the Liathach Main Ridge Traverse II. This is a marvelous high level ridge route that links 5 peaks with 2 Munros. It is mainly walking but has several technical grade II moves ascending and descending the Pinnacles section in the middle. There is less snow in Torridon and looks like Applecross and Sgurr Ruadh have escaped the last great dump also. This is good for climbing conditions, as it allows us to get to and from the routes with out being avalanched and all the ice and rock hasn't been buried. The snow is firm on the north face and there is a fair amount of ice present, however there is some windslab about in places. I wouldn't have thought any climbing is happening in the Cairngorms or on Creag Meagaidh but people have been climbing the low level ice routes on the west and Beinn Udlaidh right hand side, but to be honest the North West is where it is at. I will be heading back there sometime this week.
Easy ridge walking between 'The Pinnacles'

Pinnacles and Mullach an Rathain