Monday, 2 January 2012

A Snowy Start to 2012...

Descending from NC Gully

My 2012 Scottish winter season started with a snow filled day in Glencoe. Reaching Coire Nan Lochain required negotiating waist deep drifts of new snow being blown around on strong south westerlies. I’m working with Max & Brian and students from the University of Limerick giving them an introduction to the delights of Scottish winter mountaineering.

It was raining as we left the car park but this soon changed to heavy snow which continued to fall throughout the day with an obvious cold front blowing through around 12 oclock. Conditions weren't ideal for introducing the use of crampons and ice axe but we perservered finding a steep wind scoured slope to practice good footwork and ice axe arrest. After a quick bite to eat we headed around the back of the corrie and soloed up the steeper left hand start of NC gully which provided an 'interesting' adventure, at times chest deep in snow while being battered by a continuous stream of spindrift from above! Crossing the shoulder we descended by the right hand start in knee deep snow.

One team retreated from the first pitch of Central Ordinary Route (IV 4) reporting unfrozen turf and spookily loose boulders. I expect the teams on Dorsal Arete found similar conditions on this notoriously unstable route but they all topped out without mishap.

In the shelter of the corrie there was surprisingly little windslab around with the snow pack being light and unconsolidated but folk on the ridges reported some big unstable looking cornices. There was no sign of any avalanche debris but the snow was still falling and being swept across the crags as we headed down . With a forecasted rise in temperature to above the summits in the early hours of tomorrow there should be plenty of avalanche activity to observe on the students second and final day with us.

Max's group below Central Buttress

The team in NC Gully

Traversing below the crags with SC Gully (III) prominent on the left