Monday, 30 March 2009

Fortune favours the brave

Despite sustained snowmelt caused by rain and mild temperatures overnight, this morning I decided to walk into Coire nan Lochan to see what was left. It rained more or less constantly up to the coire and by the time I stood beneath the cliffs I was soaked!

The snow was pretty saturated so I was doubtful about gully lines, but I decided to start up the Grade I/II rib to the left of Boomerang Gully anyway. The lower stretches of all the gullies were in bad shape. At the dog-leg near the ice step in Boomerang Gully, I entered the gully proper and found a lot of excellent (albeit thawing) neve. Towards the centre of the gully the snow was softer but I stuck to the left edge, which was solid all the way up.

The mixed step had nicely frozen turf and some damp ice on it but was very straightforward in the conditions. I topped out into torrential rain and galeforce winds which blew me off my feet more than once. Conditions on the descent were very difficult indeed.

Looking at the top-outs of other routes, Broad Gully had no cornice but all of the other gullies carried large and very dangerous-looking cornices. SC Gully and NC Gully looked particularly bad, with the top-outs consisting of saturated windslab, something Boomerang Gully was mostly free from.

Note that the thaw is so rapid that the conditions I observed this morning will even by this point be completely different: I doubt any of the gullies will be safe from this afternoon onwards, unless the weather changes. However, a really solid freeze will bring them into excellent shape. Whether this will happen is anyone's guess!

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