Monday, 7 February 2011

Aonach Mor Avalanche

Bucket seat and buried axe belay

This week I've been joined by regulars Jude & Sue for an introduction to winter mountaineering. With plenty of scrambling and walking experience behind them and big plans for the future we opted for a technical skills day up on Aonach Mor to give them a good foundation for the rest of the week. All the ice was buried under plenty of new snow so the crampons stayed in the rucksacks but we were able to look at kicking steps, ice axe arrest, bucket seats, ice axe belays, abseiling and emergency shelters.

The wind increased throughout the day leading to some significant loading on the slopes around the Nid. During a introduction to avalanche avoidance in a safe location a shovel tap test triggered a 40' by 20' slab avalanche around us which was a useful teaching aid if a little dramatic. The slab was around 3" deep and comprised of soft windslab which had been laid down in the last hour. At the time we were investigating a weak layer of grapnel approximately a foot down. There's a lot going on in the current snowpack. Further around the ridge there had been a significant cornice collapse with a big debris pile covering an area of approximately 100m by 60m with some blocks fridge size. With full on white out conditions developing we headed down early for a debrief over coffee and cake!

South African abseil off a snow bollard

Keeping control of the ropes as the weather comes in!

Perfect conditions to run away for a coffee!