Friday, 29 February 2008

Stormy with lots more snow over the coming week

It's been very wet and windy over the past few days with fresh snow falling in the mountains. The next week or so is cold and it looks as if we will have a lot more snow down to low levels. Whoopee!
Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Calmer, colder and clearer





The winds and freezing level dropped today so we got a good view of the Coire an t-Sneachda and the plateau.
We had had a good grade 1 gully climb putting into practise the skills learned over the past four days. Having said that, the effects of wind and spindrift blasting up the climb and freezing gear came as a sudden shock to Andy and Becky. Even the simplest of task became difficult or near impossible!
There was not as much snow as expected but what there was had repaired some of the damage in the popular gullies caused during the recent warm wet spell.
The paths, rocks and snow were glazed with water ice. On the descent we kept our crampons on until the ski area middle station.
In the gullies there was a mix of fresh powder, water ice, old neve and a breakable crust to play on!

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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A stormy few days



On Monday we had a good day in a sheltered hollow looking at snow anchors. We didn't really notice the winds until after we returned to the car and drove round into Coire Cas!
We looked at rock anchors on Tuesday and although it was a lot windier and wetter we manage to avoid the worst of the weather under the overhangs in a local gorge...
I've added a few extra photos fron Sunday's climb up the Goat Track on the coire headwall and of lunch on the plateau in a cosy snowhole ...
Sunday, 24 February 2008

Strong cold NW and snow showers





Quite different to the mountain weather forecast.
The day started with a pleasant surprise with a signed copy of Guinness book record holder Paddy Doyle's autobiography 'Record Breaker' (www.worldsfittestathlete.co.uk)!
Rain in Aviemore and in the mountains snow showers and strong gusty north west winds gave a real wintry feel to Sunday.
Kim, Paddy, Andy, Becky and myself headed into the Coire an t-Sneachda today.
The recent mild and wet weather has reduced the snow cover slightly though most of the main gully lines are more or less complete.
Jacob's Ladder, Aladdin's Couloir, Central, the Runnel, Crotched are still complete though Spiral is thin and broken. The Mirror Direct ice smear has now gone together with Red and Goat Track gullies which are broken and loose.
In contrast to yesterday the snow was frozen hard making making an ascent of the Coire an t-Sneachda headwall tiring and worrying in three season boots fitted with crampons.
Without rigid four season boots, step cutting was essential to provided opportunities for rest and additional security though Paddy managed to drive his axe shaft through the hard snow and ice as well!
Once on the plateau we gained shelter in some snow holes and had lunch before digging our own emergency shelters. Snow cover on east facing slopes and towards Ben MacDui and the Braeriach Corries is still good.
Conditions on the plateau were very atmospheric with periods of sunshine and great visibility interspersed with cloud, strong gusty winds and painful spindrift...!
Saturday, 23 February 2008

Mild dry and windy



Saturday turned out a lot better, brighter and drier than forecast. It was actually quite pleasant sitting in the sun on the dry heather next to a roadside snow drift for lunch. We had a good day going through the basic winter skills on spring snow sheltered from the high SW winds. Later on we drove up to the less sheltered Coire Cas carpark where we saw several cars that had their windows broken by the wind blasting - this is a fairly common occurrence and is not caused by local thieves as many southerners seem to think...! It's to be colder tomorrow so the spring snow should freeze up hard and be ideal for crampon practise.
Friday, 22 February 2008

Huge gusts and horizontal snow

Huge gusts and horizontal snow made driving difficult - as for the mountains - well put it this way, they didn't open the ski area!
Thursday, 21 February 2008

Wild, wet and windy today

It is very wet and windy here today and the ski area was shut due to the strong winds - up to 90mph or more in gusts (over 160 mph recorded by the Cairngorm weather station...!). We're glad we weren't out today!
However the good news is that tomorrow it is to snow down to 500m though it will still be very windy. Saturday still looks stormy but Sunday and Monday look to be very promising with more sun and freezing level below the summits.
We have two places available on this weekend's mountaineering and winter skills courses.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008

wind chill and light snow showers


With the wind chill, cold hands and snow flurries - it felt a bit more like winter today!
Still, on average it was a pretty good day with solid snow and reasonable visibility.
We had a good day consolidating our skills, looking at anchor selection, ropework and moving together over mixed rocky ground.
Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Yet another perfect alpine like day






Another beautiful day with fantastic neve in the gullies. (care needed with flake belays and loose rocks where the cover is thin)
This morning the Coire Cas carpark was fairly busy though not overly full. The skiing looked a lot better than expected and didn't seem too icy.
Many of the Coire an t-Sneachda gully lines had several climbing teams in them though it wasn't too bad for the February school midterm break. We witnessed a nasty slide into the rocks when a member of the party ahead tripped, slid and tumbled head first into the boulders some way below. A rescue helicopter was on the scene later so I hope he wasn't too badly hurt.
Somewhat unnerved after the incident the approach to our climb was taken with even more care than normal with guys really concentrating on their crampon footwork...! Later we managed to get Jacob's Ladder to ourselves apart from another guided party ahead.
At the top we had a leisurely lunch in the sun while enjoying the spectacular views across Scotland.
The weather forecast for tomorrow doesn't sound as nice but you never know...

Winter Mountaineering course 23rd February '08

Looks like another lovely day on Cairngorm for our Winter Mountaineering course - photos later.
Just a quick note to say that we still have two places available on the 23rd to 27th February Scottish Winter Mountaineering course and several places on this weekends Winter Skills course...

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Monday, 18 February 2008

A dusting of snow today

Calm and overcast with a dusting of snow. Despite lower air temperatures on the summits the snow drifts at 600-700 metres were starting to soften slightly by late morning. This made digging belays and buckets a bit easier than of late!
The snow was still hard on the higher slopes. See http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary.
Over the weekend many of the easier gully routes were reported to be in good condition with belay stances, foot and axe placements all already in place...!
Sunday, 17 February 2008

More cloud and a bitter NW wind today





Not so pleasant today with mist and a high windchill making it feel a bit like winter again.
The higher crags and summits were misty and starting to rime up although apparently the summit of Ben MacDui was clear and in the sun for a time. See http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary.
We had a good day of navigation, snow shelter construction and basic ropework up on the plateau.
Saturday, 16 February 2008

A frozen Loch Morlich and another perfect alpine day





The start of a new winter skills, winter mountaineering and private guided course and again another perfect day in the Cairngorms.
The hard frozen snow was ideal for crampon work and step cutting. In fact the snow didn't seem to soften even in the sun and care was needed with ice axe braking. The snow is very icy and rock hard so any sliding or braking could quickly end up as breaking...
In the north and east facing slopes there is very little change in the snow cover from last week - it's just a lot harder!
More details can be found at http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary

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Thursday, 14 February 2008

Sunny on Cairngorm cold and misty in Inverness


Little change another sunny day in the mountains although it was cold and misty in Inverness. Due to a last minute cancellation we now have one place available on this weeks (16th to 20th February) winter mountaineering course and winter skills weekend.
Wednesday, 13 February 2008

More Pictures from today







An absolutely stunning day with superb snow ice..

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Fantastic weather and neve





Plenty of thick ice - well flat thick ice...!
Another absolutely glorious day with rock hard neve in the gullies and corrie headwalls.
Several of the popular gully lines such as Jacob's and Aladdin's were fairly busy. It really looked superb especially around the Trident and Spiral gully areas. However, Red and Goat Track gullies were thin and broken and the Mirror Direct thin.
Buttress routes such as Pygmy and Fingers Ridge were bone dry and in great rock climbing condition. They would be best climbed with boots as opposed to crampons though crampons and an ice axe are essential for the approaches and descents! Care needs to be taken in areas of thin cover to avoid dislodging loose rocks onto walkers and climbers below...
We walked into Coire an t-Sneachda and up onto the Cairngorm plateau and Hells Lum via the goat track on superb snow ice. Even in the sun the plateau snow was firm and made for easy walking.
We had lunch and a snooze in the sun overlooking the mighty Shelterstone crag and the picturesque partially frozen Loch Avon.
On our return via Lochain Buidhe and Coire an Lochain we had great views of the Lairig Ghru and the sparkling arctic alpine corries of Braeriach. A great day to remember.

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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Warm, sunny and icy!


Bryony, Dan, Jim and Neal enjoy the views across Scotland from their comfy belays. See also http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary



Another lovely day with very little wind. In the shade the snow is becoming very icy so it's ideal for climbing on and practising crampon footwork though on the downside front pointing and digging out belays is now hard work! Axes and crampons are essential for walking due to the hard icy snow and rocky run-outs. Take care with loose rock where the snow cover is thin.
Tomorrow looks like another great day before the arrival of cloud and colder conditions.
Monday, 11 February 2008

Warm in the sun with hard snow in the shade!


A glorious alpine like day with sun, blue skies and frozen snow. It felt more like April with warm sunshine and yet hard snow in the shade. Conditions were ideal for teaching ropework and digging snow belays. In the shade the snow surface remained frozen throughout the day yet it felt like summer when we were having lunch sitting in the sun. Remember to pack the shades and sun block. With the high pressure and over night frosts ice is starting to build again. All the main north facing gully lines are complete and should provide enjoyable climbing over the next few days. South facing rock buttresses will provide good rock climbing too - Scotland at it's best...!
Sunday, 10 February 2008

Spring snow



Misty this morning clearing this evening. A good fun day of navigation up onto the plateau for snow craft and snow hole construction. More details at http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary. The spring snow provided good but narrow ski runs and conditions.

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Saturday, 9 February 2008

Warm and windy but still plenty of snow in the gullies




After a brief freeze last night the temperature rose overnight. Today it was fairly windy in Coire Cas and crossing the Fiacaill ridge for a view into Coire an t-Sneachda was quite hard work. Our Mountaineering Group was with Ron and Kim and our Winter Skills Group was with Fi and Lorraine. Thanks to both Kim and Lorraine for their help today.
The main snow cover is on the North East facing slopes and in the gullies which are fairly banked out with spring snow in places. Interestingly there are some alpine-like crevasses forming about four metres back from the NE edge on the Coire Cas ridge headwall (possibly last weeks snow pack starting slip on the old icy layers below?).
We met a few climbers that had been climbing in Aladdin's Couloir and they reported it as softish but straight forward. There were also climbers in Jacob's Ladder and the Slant. No doubt lots of other easy-ish snow routes were being climbed too. The buttresses are black though with snow on the larger ledges. The main runs in the ski area such as the Cas and the Fiacaill ridge still look good though a bit narrow in places.
Tomorrow's weather forecasts are totally contradictory with cold temperatures in some and warm in others. Not much sun forecast though but at least the winds are to drop and to come from either the SE or SW depending on which weather report you read...!
Friday, 8 February 2008

Warm and windy in Inverness and conflicting weather forecasts

Overnight and morning rain then sunshine and strong gusty winds took the roofs off a few buildings in Inverness. The main climbing and skiing gully lines still have deep snow though any superficial snow has now melted. At home tonight 21:00 hrs. the sky is clear and the winds have dropped. The temperature outside my house at 400 metres is 2 degrees Celsius and the remaining patches of snow are freezing! The mountain weather forecasts are all over the place and have been constantly getting the wind speeds and temperatures wrong. Last week the winds were a lot stronger than forecast. Tomorrow they are NOW forecasting strong winds so lets hope they get the forecast wrong again...!!! The BBC's forecast was more accurate last week and so far seems promising for tomorrow and the coming week. If that is the case like last year when we had a similar inversion, we could be in for some great alpine conditions on the higher hills with sunshine, warm hands and good solid frozen snow ice on the north faces. Fingers and toes crossed! We have two winter mountaineering and winter skills courses starting tomorrow so will hopefully get some pictures and video clips for the blog.
Thursday, 7 February 2008

Milder and blacker though plenty of snow in the coires

In the east it was not as wet as forecast which has avoided the snow melting as much as it could have in heavy rain. The main coires and gully lines still have plenty of wet snow though the lower hills and forest trails are black and meting fast. Due to the depth of snow at Slochd, today is the first day in over a week that I've managed to get my car close to the house...! Depending on the forecast it looks as though it's to get colder with overnight frosts again on the higher slopes from Sunday and into next week.... In fact it looks rather good for Monday and Tuesday with blue skies, sunshine and cold temperatures in the mountains....!!! See http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/5day.shtml?id=3077
Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Breezy but nice day, nice skiing, nice climbing, pity about the forecast!


A sunny and less windy day. The main roads are now clear although there is still icy snow in the forest trails and lower hills. There's now great covering of snow in the ski area with the snow fences now buried in places. The climbing looks good too. On the downside looking at the weather forecasts we are in for a stormy, wet and warm spell from tonight onwards so conditions will change. The avalanche risk for tomorrow cat 4. Lets hope hey get the forecast wrong....!
Monday, 4 February 2008

Colder but still windy

A report from Fi
"And I thought yesterday was windy!
Today there was meant to be a lull in the wind in the morning but we didn't experience it! I was out with a group from Highpoint Mountaineering with Omar, Hassan, Will, Matt and Rich. The strong wind and spindrift did not deter us from heading up into Coire Cas. It was only when the gusts started to blow us off our feet, we sought a lower location for our ice axe braking practice................"
See http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary for more details and photos.
Sunday, 3 February 2008

An overnight thaw, high winds (132 mph) and wolves...!


An overnight thaw, rain and avalanches off Aviemore's house roofs meant no need to scrape the car windscreen.
It was quite a contrast to Friday and Saturday with the lower hills and roads being quickly stripped of snow.
Horizontal rain, high southerly winds were the theme for today with skiers and climbers quickly retreating from the Coire Cas and Coire an t-Sneachda at around 09:00 am this morning!
We looked we saw and we quickly went to a more sheltered location... Al H had the same idea!!! It was still very windy but at least the car was protected and we were heading for a little sheltered notch about half an hour from the Coire na Ciste carpark. An ideal day for looking at kit selection, navigation in strong winds, snowcraft, negotiating cornices and snowhole construction. It was wise choice as the winds were a lot higher than forecast making progress on exposed ridges almost impossible. The winds continued unabated throughout the day with winds up to 132 mph recorded by the weather station.
Today the Nottingham students club were doing their own thing so I had Colin, Gavin and Alexander from our weekend winter skills course with me. As Colin and Alexander are both doctors and are interested in expedition medicine the Cairngorm weather was nigh on perfect. It was perfect for experiencing mild exhaustion while ploughing through deep snow against 70-80 mph winds. Perfect for looking at the effects of windchill and hypothermia. Perfect for looking at clothing systems that kept you warm and dry. In fact perfect arctic weather for the two wolves that were checking us out nearby...!!!
Despite the thaw many of the gullies in the ski area and in the corries have actually benefited from today's drifting snow and thaw and should freeze up again overnight.
On Saturday many of the wind scoured areas such as the Mess of Pottage in the Northern Coires provided good easy climbing. Apparently some of the ice routes are still OK too? Winds permitting it should be even better later this coming week as long as there's not too much fresh drifted snow.

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Saturday, 2 February 2008

Blustery but nice at times



Today turned out better than expected with the ski road opening at 09:00 am and the walk in less arduous than yesterday. With the better visibility it became apparent that the higher north west facing slopes of Cairngorm had been wind scoured and that the bulk of the fresh snow was on the lower slopes. As expected the north east facing slopes had the deepest cover of fresh slab (though in places less than expected!).
Karl's and my group had a good day looking at route selection and safe travel techniques before looking at ropework and anchor selection - Al H had the same venue idea... ;-) Tracey and Ian's groups had an enjoyable day in Coire Cas while Jonathan's advanced group looked at the more technical aspects of climbing at a road side crag!
On Friday several of the club committee took advantage of the good snow cover in the Glenmore forest to learn x-country skiing and Chris was spotted later on Saturday descending Coire an t-Sneachda in unique style having climbed Fiacaill Ridge with the Nordic skis strapped to his back...! The cross country ski tracks at Slochd look good too.
Fi was with one of our weekend winter skills groups today and found good neve and ice for crampon work on the upper NW facing slopes of Cairngorm. More details can be found at http://www.marmotte.co.uk/blog/diary.
The forecast for tomorrow is not so nice with heavy precipitation and strong winds being again forecast...

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Friday, 1 February 2008

Very deep snow and blocked roads


Very difficult road condition today with the A9 blocked at Drumochter and the snow gates closed on the ski road. We had a large group from Nottingham University MPS with us today and had to rearrange our meeting arrangements due to the road conditions. We eventually got everyone together and up to Glenmore before splitting into five groups for winter mountaineering skills, intro and advanced winter climbing. Travel on foot was very hard going and time consuming with knee and even chest deep drifts to wade through. Great winter conditions for testing stamina, snow stability, navigation, gear and goggles in a blizzard but with an average travel speed of less than two kilometres an hour not great for getting anywhere quickly...! Saying that, the different groups visited Coire na Ciste, Coire Cas and the Chalamain Gap and found lots of fresh snow everywhere. Tonight I haven't been able to get home as the old A9 at Slochd had not been cleared with snow up over the bumpers I had to abandon the car and travel on foot for a mile to collect my kit. The back roads in Aviemore haven't been cleared either with the wet snow now freezing hard. The weather is to be slightly better tomorrow with the return of strong winds on Sunday.

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