This week Abacus Mountain Guides have looked after groups walking up Ben Nevis as the first of their three peaks challenge, taught climbing skills on Curved Ridge, practiced for the Alps on the Zig Zags and Stob Coire nan Lochan, all in fabulous sunshine and light winds. The mornings have been frosty with the snow frozen hard but once the sun is up its warmth gets to work to soften the snow pretty quickly. Since it is the start of the Easter holidays my children are off so whe Owen asked me to go ski touring with him I jumped at the chance.
We went to the Cairngorms where there is much better snow cover than over west. We walked a short way from the top car park at 600m before we could start skinning up Fiacail a'Choire Cas to point 1141. Hard snow made this tricky as soon as it got steep but once we were on top the snow was already soft in the sunshine. We went over to Stag Rocks and found Diagonal Gully. We'd had a tip off that had been skied and the snow was good all the way to Loch Avon. This is what we found, along with a good few ski tracks leading into and down the gully. The snow was certainly soft for us (someone who also skied it today said it was soft already at 10am) . Great fun skiing all the way down to one of the most impressive places in Scotland, Loch Avon Basin.
It was hot down by the loch with a very alpine feel. The skin back up was mostly on a track but we made a few adjustments due to more rocks revealing themselves with the melting snow. The slopes around Hells Lum crag had soaked up a lot of heat and, sitting on steep heather, made me think about the chance of full depth avalanches, despite the low hazard today. We kept to a route going through rocks to minimise any chance and got up fine but I did hear a slightly wierd whoompfing kind of noise at one point.
A very nice skin across to 1141 and down into the ski area got us back to the van. There are plenty of rocks to avoid, both going uphill and downhill. We certainly thought it was very much worth it toay and it will be good for several days more too. A trip up to Ben MacDui would be excellent and there are lots of other routes to enjot. Pinnacle Gully and Y Gully would not be much fun but I did not get a look into Castlegates Gully to see what it was like. Back home, there is still gully skiing on Ben Nevis but not much elsewhere. There is, however, great rock climbing in the warm sunshine, biking on (mostly) dry trails, brilliant walking in the glen and on the summits. Get out and enjoy the wonderful weather if you can.
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.