Yesterday was a ‘white box’ day. From beneath the corrie approach into Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe. We arrived with a few other teams to be presented with complete snow cover and wall to wall mist. As is often the case when traveling into an area with which you are familiar, complacency can lead to being lost very quickly. Trudging along behind a set of footprints in the deep snow, we arrived beneath the climbs, but not sure of the exact entry into the corrie. We were not alone in that respect. A fairly general compass bearing aiming off on the toe of Summit Buttress, brought us within earshot of climbers above us in the cloud.”Which route are you on?”…led to the reassuring cry of …”Scabbard Chimney”…Enough to restore confidence in the general location of Dorsal Arete, which was our chosen climb. The climb was deep in snow and all of the belays were buried, leading to some ‘creative’ security on the ascent. Fortunately the wind was not a big problem and we had just enough visibility to use the heavily corniced edge as a navigational handrail for making a good descent back into the corrie, where the cloud had lifted enough to allow some views and easier navigation home in the rain. I was working for West Coast Mountain Guides again. A number of other parties in the corrie climbed Original Route in very good conditions and also Scabbard Chimney, which by all accounts is easier than normal and has a convenient abseil descent.
A very fine, but misty day at times on Ben Nevis. Teams going towards The Shroud, Castle Ridge, Tower Ridge, N.E.Buttress and The Curtain. Another rope on Right-Hand Chimney Route on Moonlight Gully Buttress reported poor placement. I climbed Ledge Route with Jon and Jess and the snow was variable. Some good and some bad, some solid and in other places very deep.Thanks to the Irish team who broke trail to the foot of the route.
The cairn at the top of Number Four Gully is buried, as are most of those aiding navigation off of the summit. None of the easy gullies were being climbed today and all have monster cornices guarding the exits. Take care in that department. A fine day working for West Coast Mountain Guides, who had at least three teams on the mountain today.
Before heading off to catch our flight we tackled a little roadside gem, which had been mentioned to us in the hotel bar. Just down the road from Cogne, near Epinal. The belay at the top is a long way back on ice screws. It is also possible to walk in from above and lower down this pitch for top-roping. The walk in is down the road from the tunnel in the road, where parking is available. At the moment, if you drive down to the yellow crane you have gone too far. Next week the crane might have been removed!
Another successful day on the ice with West Coast Mountain Guides working for Bruce Poll. Local knowledge picked up by Bruce, found us at a different location on the north side of the Aosta valley. Good weather, a simple 45 minute approach and ice climbing , with bolted anchors. Check out a French book called Alpine Ice, or go onto Italian ice climbing forums for details. As often is the case, the routes can get crowded, but we were there at a weekend! Views up the valley towards the Grand Combin, add to the beauty of this spot. Parking can be a little cramped. The route we climbed was Gomarra, II 3+, with harder options at the start and finish.
Compared to yesterday when we arrived in Cogne, today the sunshine Gods were leading the pack! An early start on the classic Cascade Lillaz .enabled us to stay ahead of the arriving coach loads . There were probably around two hundred people in the gorge today and all were having fun, working for the ‘Boss’ of West Coast Mountain Guides Bruce Poll.
We finished the main climb and descended by simple snowy tracks to the foot of the middle pitches and enjoyed more good ice.. Plenty of teams out working on the side walls and no avalanche issues at all in this area. A number of harder routes above the gorge were being climbed. We descended for well earned beers at around 1600 and it started snowing again.
Assisting Adele Pennington yesterday, we kept our heads down and visited two very good little hills above the West Highland Way, just an hours trek up from Lagangarbh. Fine views all day in between the wicked squalls, no avalanche hazard to speak of and good practice with map, compass and GPS. Obviously from the attached photos, I drew the lucky card:)
Finally! A brilliant day and no rain. A dry wind is blowing from the east-south-east, pushing away the Atlantic depressions. But not for long I’m afraid! According to many teams who have been up climbing, the unconsolidated snow is making for laborious progress. One group with Chris Thorne took the first pitches of Route One on the Great Buttress of Carn Dearg, as far as the traverse off to descend beneath the Curtain. They reported loads of snow clearing, reasonable gear, but nothing very icy or frozen. Any turf is buried deep beneath the snow and therefore not much use, or solid.
Storms arriving again shortly.
Poor visibility and windy conditions reported by teams arriving back at Calluna Slow going on Castle Ridge and mixed conditions on Green Gully.