Thursday, 31 January 2008

Stormy and snowy to low levels

The ski area was stormbound today with fresh snow lying in Aviemore. This evening and tomorrow a lot more snow is forecast making road travel difficult or impossible on the high level routes. We're heading into the corries tomorrow or at least trying so will try and get some photos...!
Tuesday, 29 January 2008

The return of us and winter in Scotland

Just back from a great few snowy and sunny weeks in the French Alps to a surprisingly mild Scotland. We enjoyed some great ice climbing with virtually every route to ourselves in contrast to the queues of a few seasons ago...! Are all the Brits now going to Norway? We also enjoyed some fantastic 'James Bonds' style powder skiing in the gullies and through alpine forests down to the village. Again the skiing was surprisingly cheap and quiet. When we left the north facing routes were still good and building but the warm temperatures and the sun were taking their toll of the south facing routes such as Caturgeas (video). We also witnessed some huge ice fall collapses and avalanches on the south facing routes in Vallon Diable. See Fi's blog at http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary for recent conditions in and around La Grave in the Alps.

Back home in the Cairngorm's apparently it's been very stormy and wild which is ideal when you are abroad - the overall snow cover has been reduced recently by the mild and wet weather. The good news is that it is getting a lot colder and all the main gully line and corrie headwalls still have plenty of wet snow in them which is now refreezing solid. This will provide excellent snow ice for climbing on over the next few weeks.
Friday, 11 January 2008

Snow and settled weather in Scotland stormy in the Alps...!

Some useful links and photos if you are heading out to La Grave. We return on the 27th January 2008.
Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Wild with horizontal snow!

After the past few relatively calm days and good skiing we are back to the wild wintry weather.

Following last weekend the coires have been relatively quiet. Many west facing areas are wind scoured and good climbing has been reported on some of the buttresses.

With all the new fresh snow and storm force winds the avalanche forecast is again high at Category 4. This all is good news for future snow and ice buildup. However at the moment it's probably best to avoid climbing or standing below any deep snow filled gullies or coire headwalls until the snow consolidates.!

Last weekend there were several reported near misses due to the typical Cairngorm January weather and the fresh snow. Several weeks of strong winds (over 100 mph) with blizzards are not unusual in the Cairngorms for this time of year. These storms are the building blocks of a good winter season. Please remember to pack your goggles and several spare maps in addition to the usual winter kit. You need to be able to navigate in stormy whiteout conditions as well as in perfect weather - in fact bad weather is when you need to be able to navigate and make the right route choices...!

We will be ice climbing and skiing in the Alps over the next few weeks so there will be no further Scottish updates until after the 26th January 2008.
Sunday, 6 January 2008

More photos and a lot more snow on the way

Whoopee - Snow filled gullies...


The weather was a lot more settled today and for the first time for a few days it was possible to see the exact snow cover. In fact, it looked absolutely fantastic with all the north facing gullies and sheltered hollows completely filled with deep snow. As expected the tops and plateau looked a bit wind scoured. The storm force southerly winds and blizzards have really done the trick with all the north facing gully lines now completely filled.

In the Cairngorm ski area most of the middle runs looked to be complete with the East Gully, the Ciste Gully and West Wall looking especially good. Local skiers were making the most of today's more settled weather and were having fun descending the untracked powder in the Ciste gully. At least I think it was powder! The fact that many of the tows weren't working didn't seem to deter them though they might have had second thoughts when they reached the bottom...!

The White Lady and Cas gunbarrel have also been completely filled. For ski mountaineers and climbers returning from the plateau the Lurchers burn line has now been filled in.
The lower car park runs and Fiacaill ridge are actually filled with rock hard snow making an excellent base for the snow that's forecast for later this evening and throughout the coming week. On the downside whether the ski area will get the tows up and running quickly is another matter as it looked as though some of the cables are down or in need of maintenance.

Looking through the telescope it looked like most of the climbing gullies were banked up with snow and several of the popular ice lines looked good from our roadside viewpoint.
The snow seems to have consolidated remarkably quickly at 600 metres but whether this is case higher up on some of the climbs is doubtful. Certainly the gullies, scarp and cornice exits will require extreme caution especially as a lot more snow is forecast.

All in all it's an absolutely fantastic start to the 2008 winter season and the first time for a few years that all the main gully lines have been filled so early in the New Year.

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Saturday, 5 January 2008

Ski road now open but too windy for skiing


The the A9 and the Cairngorm ski road are now open but it's too windy for skiing. However as you can see from Alan's McKay's independent WinterHighland site webcam the runs are filling in rather nicely... It's a pity a large organisation such as Cairngorm Mountain cannot get their own webcam to work properly! The WinterHighland webcam can be found at http://www.winterhighland.info/testcam/
We've already a had a great start and good climbing conditions over the festive period so let's all hope that all this fresh snow is blowing into the right places for a bumper 2008 winter season.
Friday, 4 January 2008

More snow and closed snow gates

Snow fell overnight causing problems on the roads. This morning the ski road was closed for a time due to drifting snow on the link road.
It was later reopened only to be closed again later with cars and skiers evacuated, according to the BBC...! Good cover in the forest trails brought out many x-country as well as the evacuated alpine skiers...!
In the Alps, and a few years ago in Scotland this amount of snow wouldn't have caused any problems. Nowadays nobody seems to be able to cope with it...
On Cairngorm the snow continued drifting onto the ski runs and blocked the funicular tunnel! North facing aspects and gullies are continuing to fill up with soft deep windslab so best avoided. Other areas are wind scoured. See the Cairngorm SAIS avalanche forecasts.
This evening the A9 is closed at Newtonmore due to snow. No doubt only a few cm as opposed to a few metres that was normal in the past!
Over in the west there has been a lot less snow. Today Oli reported good climbing on White Shark on Aonach Mor. There was good ice, hard snow on the climb though with some fresh snow on the traverse to the foot of the crags. The cornice exit presented little problem on solid wind scoured old snow. This could all change tomorrow as the wind changes direction...!
Thursday, 3 January 2008

Camera found, photos from 31st December 2007

Just a quick note to say that Andy has found his camera... I've just received this photo of Kirstine climbing the last pitch of Jacob's Ladder on the 31st December 2007. Photo courtesy of Andy Nisbet

Very wintry today


After the storm force winds of yesterday and the forecast for significant snow in the east Highlands today, it turned out a far less arduous day than expected! The roads weren't blocked and although the SE winds were extremely cold they weren't as strong as yesterday and so didn't affect mobility too much. The snow showers were fairly light with most of the snow being blown off the plateau and down the scoured icy ski slopes. It was very wintry though with clothing freezing up and crampons and goggles essential...!
There were some deep pockets of windslab in north facing gullies and on lee slopes with big drifts of several metres in some of the sheltered hollows. Elsewhere the snow was relatively sparse and wind scoured. Where the snow did accumalate it was ideal for quickly building snow shelters and digging avalanche pits. A lot more snow is forecast for tonight and tomorrow so conditions will change.
Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Cold, wild and very windy in the Cairngorms


The temperatures have dropped so the old snow is now refrozen and wind scoured so excellent for step cutting and crampon practise. There was limited visibility, light snow showers and wind driven ice particles during the day which gave Catherine, Jason and Michael a taste of winter and what is to come. I must remember to pack my goggles for tomorrow!
Although some of the fresh snow was drifting into to sheltered north facing hollows the bulk of it seemed to be being blasted down the hill!
We met Fi , Trevor and Clare who had a tough fight to get up onto the plateau to dig snow shelters. They had a quick return to the car park with the tail wind behind them. See Fi's blog at http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary.
We also met several climbers who had a good day on the popular grade 1and 2 gullies and they reported little change from last week. That will soon change though...
On returning to the icy car park it was minus one and care was required in getting into the lee side of the car to avoid the car door and contents being blown away! Wild you might think but actually fairly typical Cairngorm weather in the past for January in fact ideal for filling up the north facing ski and climbing gullies.
Over the next few days we will hopefully get a lot more snow and conditions will change with the avalanche risk increasing significantly in the corries and in many of the gullies. Road access could be a problem in some areas too.
Tuesday, 1 January 2008

New Years Day

It's been a damp and atmospheric day in the Cairngorms. Danial and Steven went for a walk over to Ben MacDui returning via Cairngorm summit. The overall snow cover is similar to the Christmas period with a mixture hard snow, slush and ice on the plateau. Visibility was poor on the plateau so good navigation skills were essential! Tomorrow will turn cold again so the snow and trails will freeze and become very icy in places.
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