After a 1 month absence of Winter with inversions and two figure temperatures on summits we seem to have winter back. The snow cover has recovered and it all looks and feels very wintry. The Winter skills course this weekend was pretty good with 2 people on it so we could get through the skills pretty well. On Sunday we had very poor visibility from late morning and the wind started to pick up too. This was just like the forecast predicted.
Or is it only temporary Winter? The temperatures are forecast to raise again. But then I only need enough snow for 2 more courses and we certainly have enough about to cover that.
This was long due for me. I joined an avalanche awareness course, which was organised by the Chris Walker Memorial Trust. What a great course. In the morning we had a look at the theory of avalanches and some interesting statistics. in the afternoon we headed up to Coire an Lochain and made a large snow pit to look at different layers. Even considering the mild conditions we had in the last few days with a lot of the snow gone we still managed to find 4 layers in that old snow pack.
This week has seen some really good winter conditions. We had a good cover of snow in most areas and even the Cairngorm Ski area is planning to open the top runs for the first time this season. There is still hope for a good winter.
The walk in to Ciste Mhearad was a bit challenging with white out conditions just before we got in. And I managed to dunk my right boot all the way into a snow covered stream. We made it up there in good time and managed to dig a comfy snowhole within 3 hours. Not the fastest I have done but it was pretty good timing.
The start of the 5 day winter mountaineering course was first wet on Saturday. We managed to find a decent spot for most of the skills. Sunday was pretty wild high up with winds of up to 70mph and blizzard conditions. Therefore we stayed low at the Glenmore forest and did a fair amount of map reading and navigation.
When we went up at Coire Ciste the next day we found some really good winter conditions with snow banking nicely on southerly aspects. We managed to do some emergency snow shelters and had a look at avalanche awareness.
On the expedition we went up to Ciste Mhearad and dug some snowholes on the southerly aspects in the area. There was plenty of depth there to make the holes comfy. At night the temperatures dropped to well below freezing. In the morning we walked up Cairn Gorm and then down the ski area. The all day breakfast in Aviemore was well deserved.
On Tuesday we have gone up to Ciste Mhearad for digging a snowhole and staying overnight. The original plan was to get up there on Monday but the wind was gusting up to 70mph. So that was a none-starter. The weather was just perfect for getting up to the Corrie and we started digging at around 11:00am. The first metre of snow was some of the hardest I have ever encountered. It was like cutting through concrete and had to use a saw to get anywhere. After that it was a bit better with much softer and wetter snow. We had to dig down and than in to make any progress, which meant that it took a little longer than usually and got done after over 5 hours of digging. This had to be the hardest snowhole digging I have done in quite a few years.
The night was very still and there was a magnificent orange growing (almost) full moon. In the morning we went up Cairn Gorm and then down Fiacaill Coire Chas.
Looks like the snow has returned. Lets hope there is some more on the way.
So far this winter has been very mild apart from some good snowfall in October and December. The deep gullies still have some snow. However, even Easy Gully (Number 2) in Coire na Ciste is starting to get a bit thin on the snow. We really need some new snow.
The course went really well considering the conditions. We went up to Ciste Mhearad on Saturday to do all the “walking on snow” skills and had a day at easy gully at Coire na Ciste on Sunday. We had some winds of up to 40-50mph and even a few snow flurries.
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.