Paul James, MIC - - Winter and Rock Climbing Conditions

Friday, 31 January 2014

30-01-14, CMD Arete, Ben Nevis - Winter Mountaineering

 I have had a coupe of days on the west working with a keen Irish hill walking team. Wednesday was a windy day and slightly wet with a freezing level around 850m. Buachaille Etive Beag, had a saturated feel to it. Thursday very cloudy, less windy, but still 30mph ish Easterly, the freezing level down to 400m, snow pack very crisp and well rimed on Easterly aspects, still plenty of dry hard wind slab everywhere else. We did a round of Carn Mor Dearg, CMD arete and Ben Nevis, mostly in poor visibility until the descent down the tourist track.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

28-01-14, Ben Nevis - Winter Climbing

On Ben Nevis today, very nice weather. Loads of snow from CIC hut upwards. A few teams out on the Douglas Boulder, a team trying something on Carn Dearg Buttress, a team on NE Buttress - not sure they made it to the top, a couple of teams heading to Moonlight Gully Buttress. Garry, Kath and I climbed Direct Route on the Douglas Boulder. A fairly large avalanche has happened across the base of West side of Tower ridge and the debris has filled up the Gulch.
Pitch 3 of the snow field start.

Large avalanche crown wall from West Gully past Vanishing gully.
CIC hut not quite buried!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

25-01-14, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Mountaineering

On top of the difficulties on Fiaciall Ridge.
Back to Coire an t-Sneachda to try and complete yesterdays itinerary, this time with success. A very wet start with heavy rain in the car park and for the first 30 minutes of the day, until we reached the freezing level and even got a view. The winds had eased to a manageable 40mph. We ascended the Twin Ribs and then took the Fiaciall Ridge direct, like everything at the moment there was plenty of snow on the ridge, the summits hard and icy rime everywhere. We found a couple of teams topping out on Belhaven and Invernookie - 'horredously buried, no runners, couldn't see anything and baltic'. From a distance we saw some fairly mad people topping out on Aladdin's Couloir. Massive cornices around the top of Sneachda at the moment, there must be loads of wind slab on the scarp slopes.
Mess of pottage, Aladdin's Buttress, Fluted Buttress.
Number 4 Buttress, a team on Savage Slit.
Top of the Runnel.

Friday, 24 January 2014

24-01-14, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Blasting

Extremely windy today, very hard to walk or stand. Plenty of wind slab formed on lee slopes. In the morning, the path was frozen, but throughout the day the altitude of the freezing level rose. Many people turning back and walking out from 10am on wards. We were mean't to be taking a team climbing, but with the strong winds and avalanche conditions that was impossible. The team have never been out in winter so it was good to experience some Scottish blasting, see what works and how to stay comfortable, but to get used to moving around with axes and crampons also. It has been quite a spicy week and it is set to continue a bit longer!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

22-01-14, Creagan Coire Cha-no, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Descending Recovery Gully.
Still reasonably windy today, but not as wet. Plenty of drifting snow above 800m on the southerly wind. We headed to Creagan Coire Cha-no. The Anvil buttress is nicely rimed with some useful snow, the Arch wall buttress looked buried, Recovery gully had some well scoured icy patches and a very steep top in the centre.
Arch Wall buried, slightly NE facing.
Plenty of drifting throughout the day.

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Monday, 20 January 2014

20-01-14, Lurcher's Crag, Cairngorms

 No Ice on Lurcher's, well a little, not enough to climb. A nice day, the snow pack has firmed up after it saturation over the weekend.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

19-01-14, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Aladdin's Buttress.
 Another ming-fest today. Windy, sleety and warm - not a pleasant combo. Day 2 winter skills, we did some  winter navigation to get into Sneachda and some slush emergency shelter digging, couldn't stay outside in it too long though. We are going through the most substantial thaw this season, most low level snow has depleted but 800m upwards there is still plenty. I couldn't really see the crags that well, some black rock is showing but I imagine there is still loads of snow hanging in there also. Temperature is set to drop over tomorrow so that should transform the snow into fine neve.
Ptarmigan doing their thing.
Students doing their thing.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

18-01-14, Cairngorms - Winter Skills

Today we have had some filthy weather. There has been some new snow falling and it is being blown on to W-NW-N slopes. We mainly had sleet at around 850m and didn't go any higher, poor visibility and quite windy. It was the first day of a weekend winter skills course. Coire Laogh Mor had plenty of snow from 700m upwards, to practice some essential winter skills. We noticed some cracking underfoot where the new few centimeters of wet soft slab hasn't bonded to the old pack. Higher up it must be worse and probably harder wind slab has formed on N-NW aspects, making avalanche hazard likely on these steep slopes.
Self arrest.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

16-01-14, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Some more climbing in the northern corries today. Strange temperature inversion this morning, -2 on summit, +2 in Ski car park and -2 in Aviemore. The positive temperatures and rain from yesterday haven't affected much of the snow on the buttresses. Low level snow has depleted, but the crags are still plastered with some unhelpful snow. We climbed on the Mess of Pottage, along with many of teams. Some avalanche debris was a at the base of Jacob's Ladder, probably cornice collapse? We climbed Pot Duddles, not a great route or in great condition, slabby, with some ice hidden under some cruddy snow, hardly any runners. Many other teams on Hidden Chimney and the Direct, Slant, Haston Line.

Avalanche debris bottom of Jacobs Ladder.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

14-01-14, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Top difficulties of Patey's Route.
 Final day 3 of private guided climbs in the Cairngorms. Another fine weather day, light winds, blue skies, cold temperatures. We climbed Patey's route, in cracking condition, not guidebook grade IV,5 more like III, a couple of steeper steeps, no overhangs or scratching about! A spike in the temperature with precipitation forecast for tomorrow, this won't be pleasant if your out in it, but we could do with it to get rid of some of the fluff.

Monday, 13 January 2014

13-01-14, Coire an Lochain, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Cairn Lochain
A slight raise in temperature last night and some new snow. Paths very icy and there is now some soft slab around too. The approach up great slab in Coire an Lochain had some patches of spicy new snow, in general avoidable. Everything still buried only a couple of other teams in the coire and didn't seem to climb anything.


Coire an Lochain.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

12-01-14, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Coire an t-Sneachda today. Windier than yesterday but very similar conditions, arrived at coire floor at 9ish many parties insitu on Patey's Route - looks to be in excellent banked out condition, quite a few teams headed to Mess of Pottage, many teams around Fingers Ridge, Goat track gully, Red Gully. Everything still buried, hopefully there won't be too much overnight snow, will start to make for some interesting conditions.

Red Gully.
Red Fingers.
Aladdin's Buttress. Patey's route and Doctors Choice well banked out.
Fingers Ridge.

11-01-14, Coire an Lochain, Cairngorms - Winter Climbing

Back to Scotland, straight to the Northern Corries. Snowpack quite stable, hard icy neve crag approach slopes, tiny pockets of fresh snow. The buttress are buried under some very unhelpful sugary rubbish. Many routes massively banked out with vertical just off vertical rock having the sugar. Much digging and boldness is required for most routes, unless they have seen plenty of traffic or easier under such conditions.

Ewan Buttress Direct start.
Buried Number 4 Buttress.
Coire an Lochain

New Year 2013/2014 - Dolomites - Ski Touring

Ski touring in the Fanes region of Dolomites.