So over the past week or so I have been out climbing both in the east and over in the west and the general theme has been snow and lots of it!
This winter the focus for myself is on preparing as best as I can for my upcoming BMG Winter test and so with it a heavy onus on getting to know venues like the Northern Corries in the Cairngorms and my way around Ben Nevis very well, and with thought to guiding clients around. Along with becoming familiar with these venues the bulk of my time will be spent practicing the skills needed to become a Guide to put me in the best possible place for my assessment at the end of February.
Earlier in the week I climbed in Coire an t-Sneachda and ended up on a very cold and snowy ‘Pot of Gold’ on the Mess of Pottage. The Cairngorms (like the west) have had considerable snowfall above about 600m on and off throughout the last 10 days. Add to this strong wind of variable direction moving the snow around creating cross-loading on many slopes and the result has been a continually changing avalanche forecast. The persistent cold temperatures are doing nothing to help transform the snow to ice and for climbing conditions to improve a thaw and refreeze is badly needed. The forecasts for next week are at this stage conflicting, however a mid-week thaw looks likely across all mountain areas so we will have to wait and see what happens. Climbing in the Corries was best described as cold, hard work with lots of digging to get into and up routes. That said the skiing has been amazing with a lot of touring happing on the plateau along with descents of many of the couloirs and the same over into the Loch Avon basin and beyond.
Over in the west I guided Green Gully a couple of days ago and found much the same amount of snow up high. It was a fair wade to get about up high, but on the day the conditions felt stable enough to get about. Green Gully is climbable by snow ice as not that much actual ice has formed and gives good sport around grade IV at the moment. I believe Comb Gully is in much the same nic and there were other teams out on Thompsons Route, Tower Ridge and Ledge Route. The ridges will be hard work with all this unconsolidated snow but no doubt there will be a good track up them this weekend.
So all in all very wintery out there but certainly some transformation needed with the snow for climbing. Be wary of avalanche danger with all the fresh snow about and keep a regular eye on SAIS for up to date avalanche forecasts.