Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Short Saturday Ski

Last Saturday’s forecast could have gone either way, but seeing how bad it was for Sunday John & Ann decided to head into the hills to see what was on offer. A bright and sunny morning soon deteriorated as we got up Deeside and a quick U-turn soon after Ballater got us up Glen Muick for the first time this year. On the way in we noticed three things: 1, it was much windier than forecast, 2, for most of the time Lochnagar was missing, and 3 there was a very nice looking snow-filled and sunlit corrie on the NE side of Conacraig.
By the time we had got through the woods on the walk-in we had confirmed numbers 1 and 2, and were not feeling very enthusiastic about heading straight into the wind to get up Lochnagar by a route we have done many times before in much better conditions. So number 3 swung into action. We headed straight up the side of Conacraig and after 10 mins of deep heather-bashing reached the first snow. Progress improved dramatically and we were soon up onto the plateau-like summit area. 
Skinning up. Loch Muick in the background
At this point we realised how sheltered we had been because we struggled to make any progress into the wind. Soon we turned around and headed for the NE corrie. The combination of icy snow and the wind meant that this didn’t take long; even with skins on we shot along, almost out of control at times. 
Wind-assisted blast across the top
Once at the top of the corrie and in as much shelter as possible (not much) we engaged in a session of the winter equivalent of the Mad Midge Dance, the Slap Yourself Around the Head with Sticky Skins Dance. It also decided to snow and rain on us at the same time, a novel experience. That done we had a brief spell of responsibility digging a snow pit and found some surprisingly deep weak layers, but not that weak for a slope that was only between 20 and 30 degrees. We had a great descent on fantastic ski-anything snow and got down to about 550 m, which would be about as far down as you would want to go anyway. An early first lunch in warm sunshine prepared us for the skin back up. This didn’t take long and we cut over a shoulder to get back to our ascent route. Being on the south side the snow was much more spring-like and we had a fun time linking steep patches to get as far down as possible. 
Lovely teles all the way down
Altogether a great little day out considering the weather; we didn’t get too wet, had most of the day in sun, had two wonderful descents, got to the Ballater butcher for a pie and home in time for the rugby.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Windy Weekend

The weekend at the beginning of February saw the club off to Laggan to the Bunkhouse at the Roundhouse- a new and excellent venue for a small meet.

Despite the wild forecast for Friday evening  travelling wasn't too bad. Saturday was due to be very windy so we got down to checking forecasts and looking for suitable ventures.

Yvonne, Linda, Roddy, Mark, Andrew and Judith set out for a Graham on Creag Ruadh. We started out up the ridge sheltered from the wind in a bit of sunshine and in the snow. But gradually it became more overcast, windier and snowy. Once at the top of the ridge it became much wilder and our summit was completely out of view.  The intrepid trio of Roddy, Linda and Andrew headed into snow to get along the ridge while the others headed on the circuit down.  It was good to get out.


Ann and John decided to go skiing on Geal Charn and managed to get up as far as 750m which was good going in the wind and snow.

We were all glad to get back to the bunkhouse in the afternoon, enjoying tea and cake, chat and the usual high standard AMC meal.

Sunday was another day of howling gales in Laggan so we all headed off after a leisurely start. Mark and Judith found the sun beside Granton and decided to get out for a walk along the Spey  - a good option for a wild day higher up.

Marvellous Meagaidh

 Having made the very lucky decision to have a long weekend over west for John's birthday, Ann & John took full advantage of last Friday's brief weather window to get out and enjoy all this snow we have been hearing about. The choice was the Creag Meagaidh group, which was a good call as the weather for the first half of the day was nothing like as good as forecast.

After a hack up through the trees from Aberarder we got the skis on at around 600m and skinned up Carn Liath, the first Munro, in intermittent snow showers. Snow on the ground was perfect though, bit of fresh on a good base. Although it was pretty windy on the top the clouds stared to part so Plan B was put on hold and off we set for the full traverse.

In the woods
Ascending Carn Liath, wondering if we were doing the right thing

Bracing against the wind on Carn Liath
After that the pictures tell the story really. Great snow cover and quality, and slowly improving weather through the day. 

Coire Ardair from Carn Liath

Approaching Min Window

In Min Window, traversing the only ice we found all day

Looking east along the ridge

Cornices on Coire a Chriochairein

Ascent from The Window

On the plateau, looking towards Moy Corrie

Coire Ardair
We went right around to Sron a Ghoire, then had an excellent run down the corrie on a mix of powder and soft slab which only got hard right at the bottom. The only complaint was that Ann's legs were too tired to tele the whole of it. Forgot to check how low we got but 450-500m wouldn't be far out. To cap it nicely we got a zoomed picture of us in the avalanche blog for the day, taken as we approached the Min Window. 
Approaching Sron a Ghoire

View south from Sron a Ghoire

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Monadliath Ski

Last Saturday, as part of the Laggan meet, Ann & John headed into the Monadliath for a spot of ski touring. We went up Glen Markie from Spey Dam. Sadly the snow line was just too high so we had a few km to walk up the track until we could turn up Piper's Burn towards Geal Charn.

View west towards Creag Meagaidh. At least we didn't go up there.

Crossing the Markie Burn
Skis went on just after the stream crossing and the ascent went well until we got to around 650 m. Then the weather, which had been slowly deteriorating, got really wild and combined the plentiful spindrift with lots of fresh. By 750 m we could barely see our own feet and while we might have carried on had we been on foot (and forgetting the depth of soft snow to post-hole through), it was no place for skiing. Most of the descent was horrible, straight into the wind and total whiteout for much of the time. No seasick feelings but several falls into hidden drops. Snow was not too bad, but a bit crusty in places.
Emerging from the whiteout at the edge of the corrie