Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A promising two weeks (posted by James)

Summit Buttess Ordinary Route, Stob Coire nan Lochan

After a late start the winter has definitely got going fully now, very fully in fact. There's been some very heavy snowstorms in the Western Highlands over the last two weeks, and there is now a huge amount of snow accumulated high up.

Thinking back to this time last year, there was in fact less snow build up on the higher tops than there is now in Glencoe and Lochaber. It was far, far colder though…and persistently so. There's no sign yet of the low-level ice-falls and double figures below freezing that characterised early winter last year.

A climber on the crux of Dorsal Arete

As I'm writing this the wind is howling through the glen, and an area of deep low pressure is burying the mountains with snow. It's all really good in the long run this - Ben Nevis has already seen a lot of routes done, and given the amount of snowfall things could shape up really nicely on the North face in the coming weeks.

Stob Coire nam Beith

When I was up there last week I was surprised to see the Castle Gullies already totally banked out (far earlier than last year) and ice routes like Mega Route X already fully formed.

Mega Route X, Ben Nevis

There's also been a lot of exciting news coming in of some very significant ascents - Greg Boswell's name associated with many of them. His onsight second ascents of "Defenders of the Faith IX,9" and "The Knuckleduster VIII,9" are big news - not to mention his first ascent of "The Big Cheese VIII,8" on Ben Nevis.

Something that has already struck me again this year is just how small the world of Scottish winter climbing can be. I so often see the same faces again and again on the hill, in the Clachaig, the same names filling up winter route logbooks on UKC… A lot of people come up from England and the Central Belt to winter climb. But it strikes me that number of true winter activists is quite small. Mainly guides and dedicated locals like myself, those of us who are out all the time in the winter come across each other surprisingly often.

It looks like temperatures might rise a bit next week, but there's still no sign of any general thaw. Fingers crossed! I'm starting to appreciate long periods of bad weather like this for one thing….it increases my psyche levels day after day, so once good conditions arrive again I'm in precisely the right mental state to contemplate a challenging solo. It always seems to work. Bring it on!


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