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Sunday, 24 February 2008

Strong cold NW and snow showers

Quite different to the mountain weather forecast.
The day started with a pleasant surprise with a signed copy of Guinness book record holder Paddy Doyle's autobiography 'Record Breaker' (www.worldsfittestathlete.co.uk)!
Rain in Aviemore and in the mountains snow showers and strong gusty north west winds gave a real wintry feel to Sunday.
Kim, Paddy, Andy, Becky and myself headed into the Coire an t-Sneachda today.
The recent mild and wet weather has reduced the snow cover slightly though most of the main gully lines are more or less complete.
Jacob's Ladder, Aladdin's Couloir, Central, the Runnel, Crotched are still complete though Spiral is thin and broken. The Mirror Direct ice smear has now gone together with Red and Goat Track gullies which are broken and loose.
In contrast to yesterday the snow was frozen hard making making an ascent of the Coire an t-Sneachda headwall tiring and worrying in three season boots fitted with crampons.
Without rigid four season boots, step cutting was essential to provided opportunities for rest and additional security though Paddy managed to drive his axe shaft through the hard snow and ice as well!
Once on the plateau we gained shelter in some snow holes and had lunch before digging our own emergency shelters. Snow cover on east facing slopes and towards Ben MacDui and the Braeriach Corries is still good.
Conditions on the plateau were very atmospheric with periods of sunshine and great visibility interspersed with cloud, strong gusty winds and painful spindrift...!
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