For the last two days I have been working for Plas y Brenin on an MIC Assessment Course. The Mountaineering Instructor Certificate (MIC) is the highest UK based climbing and mountaineering qualification and it's a priviledge to be able to work on an assessment with such an experienced team of other assessors. Yesterday we went to a venue I have never been too as well, Sron na Creise which is omn the other side of the Glen Etive road to Stob Dearg, Buachaille Etive Mor. This was the first of two client days and with another fall of fresh snow all the way down to sea level it was always going to be a tricky day.
We found a few pitches of fun climbing close to the two ice climbs described in the guidebook. We were not on ice but we had some nice mixed terrain leading up to three huge boulders. A swift abseil back down and a walk across the very wet moor got us back to the road right on time. As it turned out, the weather was very good and we soaked up the expansive view right across Rannoch Moor, down Glen Etive and, of course, across at Buachaille Etive Mot. We also saw avalanche debris at 500m big enough to ruin your day if you got caught up in it. The wind was blowing lots of loose snow around creating quite a bit of wind slab. Other Abacus Teams were climbing The Zig Zags, Ruth's Rib on Aonach Mor West face and Pinnacle Face Route on B Buttress, Aonach Dubh West Face. Everyone found soft snow and windslab!
Today was rather different weather. Very strong winds and a rise in temperature with precipitation for a good bit of the day made it even more tricky to climb anything. The Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach was a good and popular choice and we used the shelter to teach all sorts of things about winter anchors and belays. It was a wet day at this altitude and we got pretty soggy around the edges so we went back down at a reasonable time. The wind had dropped by the afternoon and we even saw a glimpse of blue sky. The thaw did not go very high or last very long so don't expect the snow to have settled much high up.
So we have an amazing cover of snow now on all the mountains in Lochaber. The Zig Zags had thigh deep drifts at the start of the climbing and there is lot sof windslab around as well. Route choice is going to be tricky for a while and it would be worth staying on ridges and buttresses for a while as well as having a really good idea of what is above you. Thanks to both Matt and Mark for looking after me over the last two days, you'll both be great mountaineering instructors.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.