Storm Barra brought a good bit of fresh snow for us on Tuesday, on very strong winds. This snow is quite patchy because of the wind moving it to sheltered locations. We have had more snow since Tuesday and the freezing level has been going up and down a bit between 900m and 500m or so.
What does all this mean for us going out climbing?
It means that there is a good amount of unconsolidated snow above 800m which can make it hard to move around. Wind blown ridges are better for easy walking and the big gullies and steep slopes are places to avoid for a while. We have enough snow for avalanches already, including one that caught someone, and the big danger is of being swept into the many exposed rocks. Burials in Scotland are quite rare thankfully.
So, good route choices might be the Aonach Eagach, Curved Ridge, Forcan Ridge and other big mountaineering ridges. The Ben Nevis ridges (Castle Ridge, Tower Ridge, NE Buttress etc.) will be covered in soft snow that will make progress slow and awkward rather than hard. They are good objectives right now but will take time, and the days are short. Ice is growing, but it is not ready for climbing yet really. We will need some thaw freeze cycles for snow-ice to start forming, or a really cold spell for cascade ice to form.
What is good right now is the steep mixed climbing. I climbed Gutless on Douglas Boulder on Tuesday and another team was out on Cutlass before storm Barra arrived (just about!). Arthur (VIII,8) was climbed this week as well. I also climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor this week which was excellent, and always is. Buttresses are white and the rocks are frozen in place above 900m or so. Turf is freezing well - I found a few bits a bit soggy still, right in the deep chimney of Gutless, but exposed, big bits of turf were well frozen.
So, steep, snowed up rock climbs are good as well as some more turfy climbs like you find at Stob Coire nan Laoigh and on the West face of Aonach Beag.
The weather at the weekend could be challenging! It looks a bit warmer on Saturday with snow/rain and strong winds, but it might be a bit nicer on Sunday.
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.