Checked out the snow conditions at Ciste Mhearad yesterday to see if there is a chance to do some snowholing next week. The is an existing snowhole at the west side, near an old avalanche. There you get about 2.5m depth of snow. At the opposite side you get one spot with about 3m depth but this would need a bit of cooling as it doesn’t look very stable. All the snow is very wet and would be easy to dig but would also mean that you would get soaking wet and the hole would shrink by the morning. It might be an interesting night if we decide to go snowholing.
This weekend saw some really great weather. Well Saturday wasn’t that good really but we made the most of it and got though a lot of skills. On Sunday we went into Coire an t-Sneachda and got onto steeper slopes. We also had a look at using crampons there and used them on the ice fall below Fiacaill Ridge. Most of the snow we cam across was pretty stable. All in all it was a fantastic Easter weekend with great sunshine and a fantastic group.
The weekend saw some great weather and milder temperatures. There was also very little wind. On Saturday at Coire na Ciste it was very quiet and only skiers were in the area. At lower slopes the snow disappeared from more exposed areas and was very soft underfoot. On Sunday we went higher to have a look at steeper slopes and work with crampons and harder snow. Furthermore we had a look at cutting steps and climbing up and down small cornices.
The weekend saw again some winds from the east with some snowfall and spindrift. The road up to the Cairn Gorm ski area was therefore impassible. On Friday we walked up to the Sugarbowel car park and then down to the stream. There we did some avalanche awareness and ice axe arrests. After that we went up to the Cas car park and saw the extent of the spindrift. Poor visibility to less than 50m and the snowplough couldn’t really clear much of the snow.
On Saturday we went to Drumochter to get away from the strong winds and have easy access to steep slopes. We managed to go through quite a lot of skills and have a look at some of the big cornices there. Sunday saw some calmer weather. The wind has eased and it was easier to have a look at some rope work.
The last 5 days has seen some really mixed weather. On Saturday we had milder weather with some spindrifts. Because of this the snow gates to Cairn Gorm Mountain were not open. Therefore we went to Drumochter, which had some really good snow conditions. The snow was a bit soft, but really good for doing the sliding skills like ice axe arrest. Sunday looked like much the same but according to other people there were some inversions.
Monday we managed to go high and saw some impressive inversions from 1000m. This meant that we managed to see all the higher tops, while the glens were foggy. When we walked up for the snow-holing on Tuesday the weather was great with some hillfog. However, when we started digging it all cleared up. The snow was in part very easy to dig and we had our snowholes ready after 2 hours. This called for a beer, opened with an ice axe (number one mountaineering tool). We started to do some navigation to get to the summit of Cairn Gorm. The visibility was very poor and you could stand 20m away from a big feature like the weather station on the summit or a ski tow and not see it. We then bailed out early in the morning as there were SSE winds gusting up to 60 mph forecast.
This weekend we had some mixed weather. The avalanche report reflected all the fresh snow we received in the last few days. On Saturday we went up to Coire na Ciste for building emergency snow shelters and checking on the avalanche conditions. We also did some ice axe arresting and cutting steps on some neve snow nearby. On Sunday we headed down to Drumochter because the snow gates at Cairn Gorm were not open. There we encountered a lot of deep snow, which at times was knee deep.
The start of the 24-28 February winter mountaineering course saw some really good weather and mostly low avalanche risks. However, the beast from the east with Siberian winds was looming. By the last night when we were out snowholing it hit us. In the morning we had zero visibility and temperatures of -10C or colder. Therefore we just walked straight down the hill. Just before we got to the Ptarmigan Station near Cairngorm I managed to fall down a wee drop. I ended up in soft snow coming up to my armpits, to the amusement of everyone else. 🙂
This weeks course was fantastic with some good winter weather. Monday has stripped some of the thinner snow lower down, when it rained at summit level, but high up it managed to consolidate very well into nevee at most areas above 800m.
The snowholing from Tuesday was really good at Ciste Mhearidh. There were some hard layers but even though it was some crafting we managed to finish digging after 4 1/2 hours. It’s not the fastest but not the slowest snowhole digging I have done. In the morning we were rewarded with some fantastic sunrise scenery.
The weather was quite variable with high winds on Saturday and some mild conditions creeping up to summit level on Sunday. Even on higher ground the fresh snow was well bonded.
Had an excellent group this weekend and everyone has learned a lot of new skills and it was pretty good fun.
Even though it was very windy with gusts up to 60mph on summits we managed to find some good, sheltered areas to practice all the skills on our winter skills course.