Friday, 2 March 2012

Winter's end?? (posted by James)

A disheartening amount of snow left in Coire nan Lochan

I went for a bit of a run over The Aonach Eagach this afternoon. I didn't pack an axe or crampons, there was definitely no need. I did most of it in a t-shirt…indeed the ridge felt more summery today than it has when I've crossed it in May before.

Since the 20th February an almost continuous thaw has slowly but surely chewed away at the snow covering the peaks of the Highlands. There has been very little respite in the retreat of the snow, and the amount of melting that has happened on some individual days has been fairly shocking.

Not in the best winter condition....

So we're now in the unfortunate position of starting March with a similar amount of snow across the Highlands to what you'd find in late spring. Winter climbing has been pretty much destroyed in Glencoe… all the ridges and buttresses are bare of snow, there hasn't been any frozen turf for about 2 weeks and no ice remains.

Indeed pretty much the only complete winter routes remaining are Broad Gully in Coire nan Lochan, and un-named easy snow routes on Bidean nam Bian and Stob Coire Sgreamhach's North-East flanks. Although the snow will re-freeze on sunday, it looks like the mild conditions return again later in the week.

Large remaining snow patches on Bidean nam Bian's North-East flank

I would like to do one or two late season snow-routes in the next month, but as far as I'm concerned the winter climbing season is pretty much over. I think you'll find a fair few who agree with me as well, although or course we could still get a cold spell. But unless it is prolonged with fresh snow, the routes I want to do will not be in condition again until next winter.

Beinn Fhada's Summit Buttress

I already seem to have slipped straight back into "summer" mode…i.e mourning the end of the thrills and adventures of the winter and training for some challenges during the months to come. My motivation for hillwalking at the moment is pretty non-existent, so I've been focusing on running and gradually increasing my fitness yet again.

Doubtless I'm not alone in hoping for less rain this summer than we got last year!


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