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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Limited snow but good ice building in the Corries









Quite a busy day in the Cairngorm's with lots of routes being climbed in unusually icy conditions.... :-) A good winters day out despite me suffering from a cold and just wanting to move to keep warm!
There's limited snow depth but surprisingly good ice build-up on many routes, including some of the popular low grade ice routes! A number of folk out including John L soloing the icier gullies. The big easy snow gullies on NW aspects still have limited snow build-up compared to the last two years, so no ski descents down Jacob's Ladder or Aladdin's Couloir yet - however the NE aspects are now much improved with Cairngorm's Point Five or Half a Gully looking skiable!
Still very much early season conditions so grades will need to be treated with a pinch of salt - some are easier, some the same and some much harder! The recent wet weather  has provided a good water feed for ice build-up on the drainage and weep lines.
In Coire an t-Sneachda the westerly aspects have been scoured with buttresses quite black although with a white marbling of ice in the grooves and corners. Photo of a rather black 'White Magic' here!







Over on the higher Coire an Lochain the buttresses are looking much whiter and more rimed. The plateau is scoured and icy with deep drifts in some sheltered hollows. Climbing conditions range from a mix of slabby powder, some neve and some quite thick ice. Protection is tricky due to iced up cracks and fairly sharp crampons and axes will make the climbing more pleasant on even the rocky mixed routes!
It's worth mentioning that with the icy conditions under foot and with the exposed rocky run outs, poor crampon work our slipping is not an option.
A few of the routes we saw being climbed include, The Message, Hidden Chimney, Central (L&R), Runnel, Crotched Gully, Grooved Rib, Red Gully, Fingers Ridge. Invernookie, Fiacaill Ridge with John H and Dave on The Healing to check out the Hurting ;-)
Mark C was out again on the other side of the plateau on Scorpion! He some good links to other routes being climbed there as well as photos of Loch Avon and the Hell's Lum area. For more details see Mark's blog here
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