Check the UKC Winter Conditions Page for up to date info on which routes have been climbed.
Please check the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service and the Mountain Weather Information Service while planning your trip, there are some very unique and dangerous avalanche conditions at present.
Winter mountaineering often involves gathering all the information that you can to help make a decision on where is best and safest to head for. Keep in mind that all the information that you gather may not appear that way on the ground when you get there and that the decision making and info gathering is carried out throughout the day.
Superb conditions continued for the most part over the last week, climbing Jacobs ladder in the evening light on Monday arriving at the top to clip my ski's on and slide back down I thought this is the winter! Brilliant blue skies and cold snowy and icy conditions have been the dominant theme over the last week with many taking full advantage. Stood on the summit of Cairngrom earlier in the week in clear blue sky conditions a film crew was busy doing some work and I over heard a guy having his sandwich say to his mate 'if that's filming for the news I'm screwed as my boss watches it and I phoned in sick this morning with food poisoning' the conditions proving too good to miss for some.
However things have taken a turn from the azure blue skies with a return of the snow and in a pretty dramatic way it started snowing hard late last week. A huge amount of snow has fallen right across the Highlands this has also been accompanied with some strong winds creating lots of drifting and consequently wind slab will be forming its also worth remembering that prior to the dump the cold settled period created a large blanket of surface hoar, this will be lurking under the new snow creating a very unstable layer. It will be very important to get the avalanche information reports, listen to what people have been experiencing on the hill and think carefully about what objectives you have chosen, the route will always be there for another day so make sure you are.
Lochaber and Glen Coe
Its been a busy time with many enjoying the good times on Ben Nevis with clear skies and good ice certainly on the low to mid ice, still a requirement for the all important build up for those higher lines such as Psychedelic Wall. This new snow though will help with that and possibly send the climbing well into the spring.
Blair Fyffe and Ian Small were out on Ben Nevis and on fine form creating a hard new mixed line 'The Past is Close Behind' VIII,8
Here are a few words from Blair:
"The line we did on was good but hard and sustained. The first couple of hard pitches (pitches 2 and 3) tended to be thin hooking between good haven of turf (it had a lot of good turf on it for a Ben mixed route). The 4th pitches was a steep corner line, but with some very helpful; chock stones that unfortunately ran out just before the end of the pitch. The fifth and sixth pitches were of a slightly different character, slabbier but bolder. Luckily there was some ice and neve on the slabs, that really helped. it was quite a long day, we eventually reached and descend ledge route about ten and got back to the house about quarter to one in the morning".
The lower cascades have been seeing plenty of traffic again and are not a bad option at the moment given the high avalanche risk higher on the mountain. Prior to the big dump people were out enjoying great conditions. Routes that were climbed in the last week are Hadrian's wall, Point 5, Vanishing, All the major ridges and Italian Right Hand.
On Aonach Mor things have been in good shape Tim Neil commented that things on the Central Buttresses were the best option offering the only passable cornice options at the moment. Routes that have been climbed in the last week are The Roaring Forties, Left Twin, Right Twin, Siamese Twin and Morwind.
Down in Glen Coe Andy Turner has been busy climbing a new route at Beinn Udlaidh (details to follow) and also making a repeat of Tempest Neil Greshams M9 but Andy climbed it in true Scottish style removing the insitu gear and without using a top rope. The area sounds to be in great shape "Glencoe has had great great nick this last week, but the harder buttresses have been stripping in the sun. Classic gullies in SCNL brill" said Tim Neill - IFMGA.
The Arcteryx Dream Team were out in Stob Coire nan Locahain, they climbed Unicorn with Innes Papert perhaps making the hardest female lead on a Scottish winter route. Other routes climbed in Glen Coe over the last week are North West and Central Gully on Stob Coire Nam Beith, Number 6 Gully and also the direct finish on Aonach Dubh, Dorsal Arete, Scabbard Chimney and Central Buttress on Stob Coire Nan Lochain. Still plenty of ice further south with many teams enjoying the ice climbing on Beinn Udlaidh.
Last weekend I had a winter skills team out on the Sunday and we headed up the Fiachaill Coire an t Sneactda taking lunch at the notch with views across Sneactda, and it certainly gave me a view of the Corrie that I hadn't seen before; ski tracks everywhere, skiers queing at the top of Aladdin's waiting for climbers to come up, climbers on lots of routes. One team on Belhaven did very well with the heavy duty clearing.
The Goat track was full with climbers and walkers going up and down, snowboarders descending, ski mountaineers heading up and skiers coming down! The build up is amazing, I noted going up Jacobs ladder that Hidden Chimney's direct start is little more that a few moves and the Slant may go on skis for the bold. However the already built up snowy conditions will have become even more so and with a large amount of unconsolidated snow on the routes.
The ice over the back in the Loch Avon basin sounds to have been in great shape Steve Hammond and Mike Gale skied Diagonal route and then climbed The Cascade on Stag Rocks claiming it to be in great shape. Mark Chadwick climbed Sticil Face on the Shelter Stone also in great shape. One team headed to Lurchers by ski enjoying some great fat ice pitches. Quinn has also been climbed at Lurchers.
Routes that have been climbed in the last week are; Pygmy Ridge, The Runnel, Western Rib, Fingers Ridge, Belhaven, The Seam and Seamstress, Savage Slit Fiachaill Couloir and ridge. Something that might be an option given the snow and avalanche threat is to ascend the Fiachaill Ridge and abseil into routes like the Seam and Invernookie.
Creeping west on Creag Megaidh things have been great the Dream Team climbing Smith's and Ian Parnell met up with Guy Robertson for an attempt on Ecstasy but found it missing some crucial ice but came away with a mix of The Fly and Ecstasy giving a possible VII,7 The Extastic Fly. Other routes that have been climbed are Smiths, Pumpkin, Diadem and The Wand. Also the East Ridge of Beinn a Chorainn has been getting some ascents a good choice when avalanche conditions are risky of which they will be at the moment so great care must be taken.
Again with many areas this will have a huge amount of new snow lying and its an area out with the SAIS so you need to make your own assessments on the avalanche conditions. Plenty has been getting done over the last week Ian Parnell and the Arcteryx dream team where out climbing on Beinn Eighe visiting German super star Innes Papert got stuck in climbing Blood Sweat and Frozen Tears with Ian Parnell and they also climbed a new line on Beinn Eighe's far East wall Little Nipper given VI,8, what a great week for Ian to show off the very best of Scottish winter climbing to the visitors.
Other routes that have been climbed in the area are Pelican and West Buttress on Beinn Eighe, March Hare, Mad Hatters Gully and The Chimney on Beinn Bhan. The main ridge traverse on Liathach has also been getting some teams.
Mike Lates reported in the UKC Forums on the 23rd of Feb:
Very little has changed since last week with a beautiful blanket of white crystals lying unconsolidated over the entire Cuillin - See UKC Photo.
The ridges will be superb on the very top but slow going on approach and in the cols. Ice can be found at mid-level in many corries.
Went up to look at Coire Scamadal last night as it's been nearly 2 weeks below freezing now. A very different view from January with almost no build-up on the walls so dry has it been. However the stream lines of Scamtastic and Scamadaladingdong (see photo) are both well built up above their cruxes and may well be worth a visit in the next few days if the hard freeze continues. Roadworks close the road north of Portree between 10-45am and 4pm until 5th March but shouldn't affect climbers.
UKC Area Reporters Web Pages:
- Ben Nevis - abacusmountaineering
- Aonach Mor - sandypaterson
- Skye - skyeguides
- Northern Cairngorms - talisman-activities
- You can read more about Dan and about Mountain Plan on his website: MountainPlan.com