Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Winter update

The great start to the season has continued over the last week and a half. I headed up Sron Na Lairig last week with Dessie, Davie, Kev, Craig and Anna and we also met up with Craig, Suzie and John. It was a very social gathering on the hill! This was my first time up here and it was a really enjoyable wee route, at no point hard but enough to keep it interesting. A quick trip up to Stob Coire Sgreamhach to finish off the day.

The next day was another stunner so a trip back on the Ben was in order. We chose Ledge route to continue with theme of ridges and were treated to nice conditions and a glorious view from the plateau. A descent down No. 4 gully lead us back down again, after a very kind chap who had just ascended the gully shared his hip flask with us!

Definitely feel like I've been having too much fun recently so I needed to knuckle down for some navigation practice for my assessment. I headed up Beinn an t Sneachda near Kinlocheil in properly foul weather. Some good legs through deep snow and clag certainly felt useful!

Grim but useful conditions!

The next day was a trip up the Tourist track to get to some good snow for practice of snow anchors and general winter skills. The path it self was covered in a very slippy layer of water ice and I reluctantly had to put crampons on from just before the Lochan! After all the fresh snow the path itself beyond the Red Burn was properly covered which seemed to pose some problems for the day trippers. Thankfully the sun was out and there was very little cloud.

On Monday Glenda and I headed down to Glen Loy and I did a quick circuit up Beinn Bhan. Some good hard patches of neve forming which was encouraging for yesterdays plans on the Ben. From Banavie I could see that there was certainly some more ice forming on the CIC cascades...

Yesterday Kev, Davie and myself headed up the Ben to look at either the cascades, the Curtain or Tower Scoop. Unfortunately all were too thin to climb. Kev headed back down the Glen to check out a project so Davie and I settled on Tower Gully. The snow was surprising unconsolidated with a crusty layer covering fairly loose powder underneath. There were also a fair few large slabs in the  gully that we were careful to avoid. Not ideal conditions but still good fun. I tried a small ice step near Tower Scoop and after 2 axe placements the water came spurting out like a burst pipe. Definitely time to give Tower Scoop a miss after that! The cornice was small at the top of the gully and we topped out to beautiful blue skies and sunshine. The moment of leaving the dark and cold gully and emerging into the sun is truly one of the special moments in Winter climbing and this was certainly a memorable one!

Davie enjoying the cornice

The Ben is definitely shaping up nicely. Some more snow and a few freeze thaw cycles should definitely improve things.