Reports - winter conditions and activity

Friday, March 29, 2013

Raven Crag Gully 29-03-13

Brilliant conditions on the classic Raven Crag Gully ice-falls today.  We were out for a 'Cold Climbs' route today and on hearing this was in it seemed too good to miss, it was of course fairly busy but moved along OK with everyone enjoying a very social atmosphere.

I think this must be one of the best ice routes I've done in the Lakes and is justifiably popular and great value!  The mixed lower pitches were also great with the upper ice-fall as the finale.

Raven Crag Gully IV/4(5)***
 1st Pitch

 Main Pitch


Thursday, March 28, 2013

First Ascent of 'Fragile Mind' VIII/9, Bowfell

Today I went up to Bowfell with Tom Hodgkin to see what was looking good.  North Buttress was by far the best option and many steep mixed routes were looking good on there, also Cambridge Crag was fairly plastered.  Fight or Flight was as white as I've seen it...  Bowfell Buttress had snow on the ledges but looked stripped where steep.  There was loads of mad snow formations about and the approach along the climbers traverse was a bit dodgy in places, I'd recommend a different approach for now... We walked out by Mickleden which was quick...

We climbed a link up of a couple of different routes, the main crux pitch being unclimbed in winter.  The route climbs the arete right of Soul Vacation VIII/8.  The crux pitch of the route is also the crux pitch of the summer E4 5C Mindprobe.  We started at the extreme left end of the bay/shelf from which routes such as Skint and Single start.  This avoids the first pitch of Mindprobe which didn't look like a logical winter pitch.  The majority of the first pitch of Soul Vacation could also be climbed to gain our starting belay and add another pitch to the route...

After the main pitch of Mindprobe we finished up the top pitch of the existing winter route Fragile Existence VII/8, hence the name 'Fragile Mind'.  The crux pitch which is E4 in summer gave an awesome winter pitch, small hooks up thin shallow cracks climb a steep groove above a short overhang, small hooks and spaced small gear gives an absorbing pitch and one which was hard to grade, as its not massively long I suggested VIII/9?  The top pitch of Mindprobe might also be possible in winter and would give another hard pitch to this route.  The route was climbed ground up and attempted on-sight but unfortunately lobbed off the tenuous hooks on the crux pitch twice.

Fragile Mind VIII/9, North Buttress, Bowfell.

P1 - (9)  From the extreme left of the bay/shelf below 'Skint and Single' step left around the arete, climb a short corner and climb directly up through a short overhang to gain the parallel cracks running up the steep groove.  Follow these on thin hooks with some small gear possible.  Step right when possible onto an obvious ledge and around the arete to belay, this is the same belay used by Fragile Existence.  

P2 - (7)  Follow the top pitch of Fragile Existence....

Fragile Mind VIII/9
 Snow scoop below the Buttress

 Crux pitch

 North Buttress

 Crux groove


 Bowfell Buttress

 South Gully tracked

Another view of North Buttress

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Crowberry Gully, Buachaille Etive Mor 26-03-13

Brilliant conditions today on the Buachaille, the rock was plastered and the wind has scoured away the majority of the fresh snow.  Some deeper snow up top and on descent into the coire but generally seems OK and the descent down Coire na Tulaich is tracked and fast.  Crowberry Gully is in brilliant condition with hard old scoured snow and just enough ice, but not too much!

A brilliant classic route....

Today was day 2 working for

Crowberry Gully IV/4***

Coire na Tulaich

Monday, March 25, 2013

No.6 Gully, Aonach Dubh 25-03-13

Great conditions on Aonach Dubh today.  We climbed No.6 Gully IV/4*** which was in great condition all the way.  Some avoidable slab about and the descent into Coire nam Beith was fine and quick.... Much better weather now, wind has calmed, and lots of routes are looking great!

Any one thinking of driving to the top car park for Ben Nevis north face will be best calling the Forestry Commission first as most of the access track is blocked by fallen trees from Saturday.

I was working for today.

No.6 Gully IV/4***

 'Deep Cut Chimney' looked good...

 Church Door Buttress etc.

'Elliots Downfall', not touched down...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

SCNL Glencoe, 23-03-13

Snow down to sea level last night and wild winds lashing the highlands gave Glencoe a transformation today with snow drifting across the road and airborne snow from valley level up.  We were the only visitors up to Lochan today which put on a great show of full on winter conditions.  The crags on route which I'd thought might be a little sheltered were getting blasted by returning winds and there wasn't really any shelter to be had once out the car door where goggles went on and stayed on until back at the car again.  Loads of mixed routes well snowed up, very cold, big areas of windslab about but also hard wind scoured snow around much of the crag apron from what I could see.  We did some of Dorsal Arete before the lobbying started to bail down the Gully, so we bailed off down.  We also looked at some lead climbing on a small crag on the way out before heading for the car.

Good work Ivan and Bobby, another good day out, you always bring the best weather!

Things are due to settle a bit now from Monday so there should be some good conditions about with many lower venues possibly giving good conditions.  Whilst there is a lot of wind blown snow in places the actual amount that came down wasn't that much, many areas will likely be wind scoured with areas of slab down wind, lots of cross-loading as well.  'Smoking the White Owl' IV/5 below the top Gondola station at the Nevis Range has seen a good few ascents and is an option for lower ice.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ski Touring, Helvellyn area 19-03-13

Today I went for a ski tour over Helvellyn via Swirral Edge, after a few descents I ended up at Red Tarn and went over Catseye Cam to finish with a descent back to Greenside.

There was a fair bit of snow about and above Red Tarn the slopes were well loaded up, in particular the north facing slopes, the north sides of Striding and Swirral Edges were holding a lot of snow.  There's a lot going on up there, some areas scoured to the old snow (top of Swirral is hard old snow for a few metres), some areas of wind-slab, some areas of deep fresh snow that hasn't yet been wind blown, soft cornices etc.  I doubt that much of the fresh snow that's there will blow around too much as its heavy and slightly damp snow generally.  It felt much warmer than forecast on the summits and I'd say it was only just freezing on top.  There was also next to no wind blowing, so no fresh slab forming today.  That said it has been windy at some point and there are drifts and definite areas of older slab, some of this easily slipping away on the old layer of hard snow below.

The skis today were the way to travel and it would have been hard going without them.  I had fresh tracks shortly after leaving Greenside for the whole day and saw no one all day bar a few at Greenside.  Its not often to be the only person up to and out of the Red Tarn area all day, and with everything snowed out and no track anywhere to see it had a nice wildness about it today, great to have the hills to your self occasionally in the Lakes....


 Route to Red Tarn

 Helvellyn Trig point

Helvellyn X bench 

In terms of climbing, the old snow/ice will still be good but very buried.  The easy mixed is also buried and I'd not be totally sure about the turf?!  The steep rock was black on Viking Buttress as far as I could tell.  With careful route choice a moderate mixed route might be an option, steep enough not to be buried but not so steep as to have shed all its snow etc, hard to say...  The approach and exit slopes from routes will also be worth treating with care.  Ski touring will be great, despite the snow being a little heavy there's a good covering, better viz tomorrow will help for the big turns!

 The bottom of the crags above Red Tarn.

Viking Buttress base, the steeper wall of the crag just visible above.

All in all there is scope for a great winter day out but with fairly careful route choice and flexible planning required... and probably some trail breaking!

Last Friday...
Last Friday we had a great day out with 2 Intro to Snow and Ice climbing courses running and a Navigation course also.  Steve and I went up to Great End for the climbing which gave a full winter experience once above the freeze line!  Kate, Sophie, Donal and Mark all took the full winter experience in their stride!  Steve went up Central Gully Left III, and I climbed SE Gully III.  Both were in good condition but will be loaded up now I'd guess...  Alex also had a good day out with Ellen navigating.

Here's a photo Mark sent through of the crag on Friday, the weather cleared for the walk out.  Theres been lots more snow since this was taken!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Winter Courses still Available

There is still good winter conditions in the Lake District and Scotland so we will continue offering these courses and days out over the coming month.  Some courses will be possible for longer so get in touch for details or to discuss conditions...

Visit our site for other courses/info -

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dry Tooling Performance Weekend Course 26th-28th April 2013

This will be a unique opportunity to receive coaching and instruction from top performing mixed climbers. Whether you want to learn about the best ways to train for winter climbing, get into dry tooling specific climbing or just want to have a go and try out the latest equipment, this could be for you!  No prior experience required...

The diverse new dry tooling dedicated venue, The Works in the Lake District will be the venue for the days out with full board and accommodation included as well as evening lectures and much more...

Please get in touch for full details...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mountain Skills - Expedition Medicine

Great weather on the fells today, blue skies to start and cold all day.  Easy routes good around the Lakes for winter climbing, Great End looked great, Gable looked black and surprisingly thin on snow cover.  The snow line has generally risen today across the Lakes and the Pennines certainly looked a lot whiter.

I was out doing a general mountain skills day with as a part of the great week course they run in the Lakes each year.

 Great End and Gable today


 Rope Stretcher

ML level rope-work 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Cairngorms 05-08/03/13

I've been working all week in the Cairngorms running a winter climbing course for

Its been a great week of changing conditions and climbing and the team have been good crack and met the winter challenge head on...

A change in the weather on Thursday brought all the steep mixed routes back into great condition, most other routes were already looking good, though there is now a reasonable avalanche threat in many areas.  We moved away from the Runnel on Thursday due to the amount of fresh debris at its base.

A selection of shots from the week below.

Patey's Route IV/5 **

Abb descent...

 The Vent

 Looking at ice threads

 Lead climbing instruction

Steep mixed looking good again!

 Good ice on The Vent

The Seam IV/5 ***

Celebration brawl at the top... Concentrate!