Sunday, January 31, 2010

More snow

It has been snowing lightly on and off all day today here in Snowdonia. I spent the morning at Nant Peris at the rescue team base for a team training session. Half way home the pager went off so I spent the afternoon assisting a casualty down from the summit of Snowdon. We were flown to Halfway House but had to walk the rest of the way due to the low cloud. There was snow down to the road and valley temperatures have barely risen above freezing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clogwyn Du again!

I have been joined today by regular client and friend Jason for some winter climbing. Yesterday was fairly warm and this has resulted in the snow level lifting to about 800m. On Clogwyn Du it looked as though the crag had been stripped of hoar but had then started to re-form over night as there was some fresh hoar frost. First off we climbed Clogwyn Right Hand (III), the snow was soggy at first but conditions improved on the 2nd and 3rd pitches. The turf was still frozen and there was still ice in the chimney. We descended Easy Gully and then had a play on Tower Slabs which gave a nice 60m pitch of ice at about II/III. It is forecast to be colder overnight and tomorrow so hopefully the snow will firm up again.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Clogwyn Du

I teamed up with friend Huw today for a days climbing on Clogwyn Du having seen how good it looked yesterday and it didn't disappoint! We climbed Pillar Chimney (V, 5/6), descended Easy Gully (I) and then climbed Clogwyn Right Hand Branch (III, 3) and then descended Hidden Gully (II). The conditions were great with hard neve, frozen turf and ice where you needed it on all of the routes. The chimney of Pillar Chimney felt straightforward to both of us and there was enough ice to ease our passage and some cracking ice on the top pitch. Clogwyn Left Hand is not complete but other folk had also climbed Hidden Gully and we heard voices elsewhere in the Cwm but poor visibility meant it was not possible to see what they were on. A great day out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hidden Gully, Clogwyn Ddu

I have been joined for the day by regular client Roddy who wanted to have an intro to winter skills following the gift of an ice axe from Father Christmas! When we left the car in Ogwen it was a promisingly low 3c and we headed up into Cwm Cneifion where there was a dusting of fresh snow that had fallen overnight. We looked at the basic skills of using the boot, axe and crampons as tools, including some self arrest. We also looked at avalanche avoidance and then climbed Hidden Gully (II) onto the Glyders. We headed over the summit of Glyder Fawr and then descended the Devils Kitchen. The snow high up was well consolidated and the turf frozen but it was still all very soft below about 850m. I followed the gritter back down the A5 which is always a good sign!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Crib Lem, Carneddau

I have been out with Jim today who is on my mentor scheme. It got cold overnight and had been snowing on the tops over about 300m. There was snow down to the road in Ogwen when I drove through this morning. Jim and I headed into Cwm Glas Bach on the Carneddau. This small Cwm sits above Llech Ddu and is North facing so holds the snow well. On the walk in the snow was simply fresh powder but once we got above about 700m the old snow patches stood upto our weight and gave us some nice neve to reach the base of our route, the Crib Lem (I/II). This is a beautiful little ridge that gave a lovely mountaineering route to the summit of Carnedd Dafydd. The snow was nicely consolidated underfoot, the rocks well rimed and the fresh snowfall added an extra air of winter to a great day out.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Freeze/Thaw looks promising

The thaw that has taken place over the last couple of days has stripped a lot of the snow from the mountains but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The gully lines and tops have retained a reasonable coating and there is more snow and colder temperatures forecast for mid week. This should provide a good solid base for some promising climbing conditions - fingers crossed!
I have been at Plas Y Brenin today being assessed for an Emergency Care in Mountain Rescue First Aid course. This involved a written exam and several scenarios. I enjoyed a nice walk on the Carneddau afterwards to clear my head!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Warning - High Avalanche Risk in Snowdonia

There will be a High Avalanche Hazard in Snowdonia this weekend so take care in your route travel.
Over the last 24hours a significant amount of new snow has fallen at all levels. Yesterday the A5 was only passable by 4x4 and the Llanberis Pass was closed.
Last night SARDA Wales were called to search an avalanche site at Aber Falls. A lit headtorch had been found but fortunately no person attached to it. Whilst probing the debris the snow as 5 metres deep in places.

In addition to the large accumulation of new snow temperatures are set to rise over the weekend. This will cause the snow to melt and water will add to the weight of the snowpack and undermine its stability. The ground will remain frozen so the water will have nowhere to go other than under the snowpack. The water running under the snowpack will further undermine its stability. Unstable windslab has formed on may aspects due to cross loading.

Be safe!


This came in this morning from a friend of mine who is on the Llanberis MRT and a helicopter instructor at RAF Valley:

Just thought I'd take this opportunity to warn you all of what would appear to be a significant avalanche risk at the mo.
I had the opportunity today to fly for an hour and a half in the hills (not checking out conditions, honest!). What I saw was quite frightening. There was a significant full depth avalanche on the ridge line directly above Nant on the ridge between Cwm Dudodyn and Llyn y Cwn, grid 614 584. Debris was almost down to Nant and it had a 3' headwall. I saw plenty of significant fractures on the ridge line on Esgair Felen, Glyder Fawr towards Llyn y Cwn also, grid 633 583. I think that there will be plenty of slips to come, especially so with the warmer/wetter weather forecast this weekend. Just thought it worth a warning if anyone is planning to make the best of the weather before it craps out this weekend. However the met office at Valley is quite confident that it will start to get very cold again next week though (probably means that we are in for a heat wave then!)
On a positive side though, the kitchen, Black Ladders and anything on the side of the Valley with the name I shan't mention! Looks fantastic. Great ski touring to be had in the Carneddau.
Be safe out there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Creag Meghaidh

I have had a big day out with friend Terry today on Creag Meghaidh. We climbed both the Wand (V, 5) and The Pumpkin (V,5) on steep ice but with some pretty wild weather at times. Nonetheless a great day. 

Wilder in the West

It was a bit of a shock today after the many days of cold clear weather to have to get the goggles out of the rucksack! This was Luke & James's final day of their winter mountaineering course and we wanted to look at snow anchors and snow belays. With forecast gusts of 90mph over the summits we stayed low and headed to Aonach Mor where the boys alternately lead grade 1 ground in some challenging conditions. This gave them a chance to put everything together from the last few days and add to their skill base. New skills included teeth gritting, extreme arm waving and extreme digging - as quickly as we dug a bucket seat the wind blown snow filled it in again!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Smoking the White Owl

It was lot warmer than forecast today with temperatures a couple of degrees above freezing in the Fort. A forecast of 50-70mph summit winds persuaded us to avoid the tops today so we headed for Smoking the White Owl on Sgurr Finnisg-Aig which is accessed from the Nevis Range car park. A 3km gentle walk through the forest leads to the base of the route which is a long water ice climb totaling 450m and given a grade of III,4. Today the lower pitches had melted out and we skirted round them to climb 3 long pitches of ice from grade III to IV. It would be possible to choose easier lines and the ice got better as we got higher but there was lots of running water and it was cruddy in places. I would wait for the next freeze before climbing it again! We had a good day with the boys enjoying their first ever ice climb and learning how to place screws, efficient movement on ice and ice screw belays.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dorsal Arete, Glen Coe

I have been joined for a 3 day winter mountaineering course by returning clients Luke & James. They have both done a winter skills course with me previously and for their first graded route we chose Dorsal Arete. Abacus were ahead of us but otherwise we had the route to ourselves and enjoyed looking at the skills required to make the transition to graded climbs from winter walking. It was another fine sunny day but with a brisk North Easterly wind making its presence felt - it was the coldest I had been this winter. We had some stunning views from the top and another great day out.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Wow, another gorgeous, fabulous, stunning day!!

For the final day of our 5 day winter skills course we headed up Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe and were treated to another day of perfect Alpine weather. The thermometer in my van read -9c when we left and -15c when we got back. There was not a breath of wind and the sky was flawlessly blue. There were teams on Curved Ridge but not a lot else and there was a slight temperature inversion but it was well below freezing on the tops. On the way down we had a play on some smears of ice and the finished a perfect week off with a drink in the Kings House Hotel.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

More blue skies and sunshine - wow!

It was -12c in Fort William this morning and it stayed cold, crisp and sunny all day. We headed to the summit of Aonach Mor and along the way via Aonach Nid we looked at some emergency use of the rope skills, ice axe belays, snow bollards and what to do in the event of witnessing or being caught in an avalanche. There were climbers on The Web but they reported cruddy snow making difficult going.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Stob Coire Nan Lochain

Today we traversed Stob Coire nan Lochain in Glencoe via its East and West ridges. It has been a stunning blue sky day with no wind and amazing air clarity giving incredible views. There was no fresh snow overnight and the strong winds yesterday had scoured the ridges for us giving hard neve to add to the satisfaction. There were no climbers out other than a pair on Dorsal Arete, they are all on the roadside ice that is littering the Highlands!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Stob Ban, Glen Nevis

The team and I broke trail into Stob Ban in Glen Nevis today, putting into practise all of the skills that we covered yesterday. We needed snow socks on the van to get to the car park after a couple of inches of snow overnight and were glad of goggles on the tops as the snow continued to fall and the wind picked up. We did well to get to the summit and then had to re-clear the path all the way down as it had drifted over since our ascent! A good physical day in proper Scottish conditions! The wind was blowing a lot of the fresh snow about and forming large areas of windslab so keep an eye on the avalanche forecasts and take care.

Monday, January 04, 2010

5 day winter skills course in Scotland

I have been joined for the week by returning clients Rosie, Ed, Mick, Rob, Martin & Frank for a week of Scottish winter skills. We have had another fabulous day of cold weather, blue skies and little wind. This evening it has started sleeting in Fort William so there should be fresh snow on the tops tomorrow. We headed to Aonach Mor and spent a day looking at ice axe and crampon skills and avalanche avoidance and had a great day out.