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Thursday, 25 December 2008

Stonking neve in the easy gullies

Over the past few years we've always done a route on Christmas day. Again as in the past three years the weather was calm with a high pressure inversion, rock hard neve and bone dry rock - really fun to climb on!
This year there's a really good choice of the easier gullies to go for in Coire an t-Sneachda and after a late start from the Coire Cas carpak at 14.00 hrs I still managed to get three routes in on frozen snow before it got dark at 16.00 hrs.
Jacob's Ladder and Aladdin's Couloir have a line of rock hard bucket steps all the way to the top and through a choice of exits in the cornice on Jacob's. It's best to avoid the steps apart from at the cornice though as the snow is softer and easier to place the axes away from the steps...
Central Gully Left and Right are both good with some thick ice at the top of Central Left.
The Runnel is straight forward neve all the way to the cornice at the top (apart from a couple of metres in the chimney).
Crotched Gully has a slight easily outflanked bare section at the bottom. Spiral is complete and good. The other gullies and ice routes looked OK too...
On the otherhand the buttresses are more or less bare and very dry. Routes such as Pygmy Ridge and Fingers Ridge being good big boot summer routes after a snowy alpine like approach. Despite the gullies being frozen I saw a large rock fall from Aladdin's Couloir at 14.50 hrs. Care needs to be taken when moving off the snow onto rocky mixed ground to avoid dislodging loose material onto parties below...!
The Cairngorm plateau to Ben MacDui has got a good covering of neve and crampons are useful if returning via the ski area!
YouTube video pan of the Coire an t-Sneachda on Christmas day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRsC752RCBA
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