Sunday, 16 January 2011

Mountaineering in Glencoe--how things currently stand

Many readers will be aware that Glencoe has recently been ravaged by an extremely serious thaw. At first we thought it might just be the sort of minor thaw that takes away cosmetic snow and firms up the snowpack, but as time passed and the torrential rains didn't cease, it became clear that this one was big, and that it was going to do serious damage.

As things stand, all low and mid level winter courses have been destroyed, with almost total loss of snowpack below 800m on most slopes. Above this level the pack has been reduced to patches on some aspects, although climbers who have ventured out in the appalling conditions report some larger areas of snow remaining on the north faces. All cliffs have been stripped.

It seems likely that only a handful of winter routes remain complete on the Glencoe mountains, and these will be the higher easy gullies: Great Gully on Bidean, the NE Face on the same mountain, and Broad, NC and Forked gullies on Stob Coire nan Lochan. Given my own observations and what I have heard, I believe it highly unlikely that any other winter climbs are still complete (many will now be completely bare of snow and ice).

Freezing levels are, however, dropping--and some wet snow was deposited on the highest areas today. By midweek it seems likely that the sodden pack will be refreezing, so perhaps we can salvage some climbing until the next big dump of snow.

It's worth also adding that, with the rapid snowmelt and heavy rains, all rivers and burns are in a condition of high spate, resulting in very dangerous river crossings and widespread flooding.

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