This weekend was the 2010 AGM for AMI (Association of Mountaineering Instructors) at Glenmore Lodge. The two days were also an opportunity to carry out some professional development with over 100+ like minded instructors. I undertook the BMC FUNdamentals and Learn to Train workshops looking at coaching developments in climbing which provided plenty of discussion and new ideas. Nick Bullock gave a great evening lecture after dashing back from the Shelter Stone as described in his entertaining article for UKC. A very successful weekend for the Association with plenty of interesting developments planned...
The thaw is continuing on the west coast of Scotland but there's still plenty of snow to play with. This week I'm working on a mountaineering course for Adventure Peaks. For day one we headed up to Aonach Mor to introduce using ice axe and crampons. The area around the Nid Ridge gave us snow, ice and rock to look at footwork, step cutting, ice axe arrest and crampon technique. A good solid foundation on which to build for the rest of the week as we venture on to steeper terrain. Down in the car park we met one team who'd made a quick ascent of Tower Ridge on the Ben but not much else to report with the current warm conditions.
Today was spent on Aonach Mor with Mark Diggins of the SAIS looking at recent developments in avalanche forecasting. This is part of Jagged Globe's ongoing program of instructor development. After a morning discussing the merits of a holistic approach to forecasting and putting a few myths to bed we headed round to the Nid to have a look at the current conditions. Despite a relatively benign snowpack we were able to identify an unstable layer of grapnel, probably laid down last Monday, at around 800m on a north easterly aspect although some force needed to be applied to get it to shear! The SAIS have just rolled out a great new feature on their website which documents significant avalanche activity from the last 30 years totaling some 10,000 avalanches. To continue to develop this feature please report any notable avalanches on the SAIS reporting page.
Back in the Lakes for the week it was time to start putting in the miles for Everest. Today was a 23 mile trail run from Caldbeck to Cockermouth. The temperatures were very warm but a blustery south westerly kept us cool. We started running in heavy showers but these soon cleared and we finished with a nice sunset over the coast. It looks like much of the snow has been stripped from the Lake District fells although there were a few patches left up high.
Heading south back to the Lakes the continuing thaw was very evident as I drove up through Glencoe. The snow pack is now totally saturated which will give excellent neve once it freezes again but not looking good for the next few days I'm afraid.
After a good session on the ice wall at the Ice Factor yesterday, we went looking for ice despite the continuing thaw. We headed up a very icy path to Ben Nevis to have a look at the CIC Cascades and the Gulch which were both reported to still be in existence. Both were still hanging in just so we made a very soggy ascent of the Gulch at about grade II / III.
The remaining snow pack was heavily saturated and it looked like there had been some avalanche activity in Coire na Ciste and a the foot of Number 5 Gully. There were a couple of other teams in the Gulch, climbers on the right hand CIC Cascade and we bumped in to a lad who'd post-holed round the CMD Arete. Several of the river crossings were treacherous with weak snow bridges over fast flowing water and despite temperatures of 8 oC at sea level today the track to the North Face car park is still sheet ice.
A pitch of soggy ice in the Gulch.
Sarah exiting through a shower.
Gareth on the final moves
Gareth & Sarah above the Gulch (II/III)
The CIC Cascades. The right hand fall was climbed today.
After our efforts of yesterday we opted for an easier day climbing a variation on Zig Zag Direct (II/III) on Gearr Aonach. Despite the forecast the day dawned clear with a good freeze down to sea level. The expected strong winds were absent and it was a very pleasant if icy walk up towards the Lost Valley. Once on the Zig Zags we made good progress until a traverse round on to the front of the buttress gave us a series of snowy shallow chimneys and broken ground to the distinctive prow of Gearr Aonach. We made a quick descent of the Zig Zags which are in excellent condition with a good trail through knee deep snow. Other teams had continued along the Gearr Aonach ridge finding a safe descent in to Coire Nan Lochan. However we did see some fresh tracks heading up the avalanche prone Broad Gully which would seem a foolish option given the current conditions!
Sarah enjoying the climbing.
Gareth ready to do battle with copious amounts of snow.