Snow has been building up nicely over the last week. On the west coast we have had a good amount of snow, down to the roads on a few occasions, interspersed with quite quick thaw freeze cycles. Snow - thaw - freeze cycles are great for locking snow in place and building good climbing conditions. We are still in the building phase, but it is looking promising. The outlook weather forecast looks OK as well, with mixed weather but generally cold for the next couple of weeks.
After the Christmas feast it was nice to get back out again to burn off some extra calories, especially to find some snow and ice around to play on. This week I have been delivering an Intro to Winter Climbing course with Laura, Simon and Kenny.
Yesterday we went to Stob Coire nan Lochan where we found a nice little ice cascade. We placed some ice screws and climbed the ice on a top-rope before walking round into Broad Gully. Buried axe anchors got us up Broad Gully with a stomper at the top, the first graded winter climb for the team. Today we took it to another level by climbing Curved Ridge. This now has quite a lot of fresh, soft snow on it which made the climbing quite insecure. Handholds were buried but the snow was useless for ice axes. Foot ledges were also hidden, so it was all a bity tricky. The team took it in their stride though and we topped out into very strong westerly winds. It was a battle to get down to the top of Coire na Tulaich and we had to be careful with the build up of fresh snow at the top but we got down into the coire and out of the wind.
Rannoch Wall was plastered in snow today and it would have been a good day to climb Agag's Groove or Engineers Cracks. The turf is well frozen above 600m or so. So, mixed climbs that do not need any ice are pretty good to climb right now. There are a couple of crusty layers in the snow which is not ideal since the thaw - freeze cycles this week were very quick (over night) so the snow has not been fully transformed into snow-ice. A few more, deeper thaw - freeze cycles will do a good job of bringing a few ice climbs into condition.
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.