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Thursday, 2 May 2013

Excellent ice climbing for Winter never mind the Summer!

A ridge of high pressure arrived late on Wednesday and with clear skies and a hard overnight frost being forecast (minus 5). The prospects were looking good for some late Winter (Summer!) ice climbing, in the Cairngorms on Thursday morning. 
One problem though, the weather forecasts were all slightly different with the BBC and Met Office showing the weather deteriorating markedly by early morning, whilst the MWIS had the weather showing as good until the afternoon. 
I decided to pack and set the alarm early for 5.00am and would look out the window to see if the sky was starry and blue and if the trees were still - if not perfect I'd go back to sleep! 
The alarm went off and it looked good, with a golden sunrise, clear sky and still trees. A quick breakfast and a long half hour drive to Cairngorm had me climbing by 8.00 am. The weather, snow and ice conditions were really good until 9.30am although by 10.00am it was cloudier and the wind had picked up, with a few snow flurries.
By 11.00am it was getting quite blustery on the plateau with heavier snow and graupel and some snow sloughs. It was still fairly calm climbing in the coire but by then with over dozen winter routes, several variations and link ups, I was content (knackered!) and happily headed home.

Aladdin's to the Goat Track - showing some of the routes climbed today which included several variations of the Mirror Direct and an unlisted ice fall and chimney (III) between Aladdin's upper Rib and Pygmy Ridge, Red Gully, several variations of Goat Track Gully and several short ice pitches even further right and the descents routes via Aladdin's Couloir and Central Gully Left.

Mess of Pottage - Jacob's Ladder and the upper Jacob's Edge together with Hidden Chimney Direct and the Slant as descent were just just some of the routes climbed this fine (Irish!) Summer morning...

Aladdin's Mirror Direct (IV,4)
There are several good variation of the Mirror Direct Icefalls that don't normally form. The ice was so good I did the center and right before heading straight up above the 'Mirror' to an exposed ice chimney at Grade III running through the upper rock band of rock onto the plateau left of Pygmy Ridge - a really nice but unlisted line. On that note most of the classic ice routes are well banked and were full of good ice. Routes such as Patey's Route and Broken Gully Direct looked to be in excellent condition. After climbing the Aladdin's icefalls, I headed down Aladdin's Couloir and across to climb Goat Track Gully which is well banked out. I then traversed right below the cornice to climb and descend several short fun ice falls, before heading back left to climb a 'neved up' Red Gully and onto the plateau. It was around 10.00 am and the plan was to head back as it warmed up and the weather was starting to deteriorate, by descending Central Gully Left. On the way out I decided to traverse across to the Mess of Pottage to look for a black 240cm in-situ sling in Jacob's Ladder!
I first climbed a banked and well iced Hidden Chimney Direct and then descended the lower Slant to head up Jacob's Ladder for the missing sling - which was gone! However having made the effort, I realised I had just enough energy to do another route, so continued up to the Jacob's Ladder cornice, which thankfully was well frozen and straightforward. 
By now being well and truly knackered the plan was to head down at 'Windy Col' but realising the cornices and snow conditions were still good, I could still bag another two routes! I descended 'The Slant' then up Jacob's Edge for the FINAL route this time! 
An early start and finish by noon gave me nine guidebook listed and four unlisted winter climbs - not bad for the start of Summer (Irish)...:-)

Hidden Chimney Direct (IV,5)!
All the crags are very banked out making some of the slabby routes much shorter and straightforward due to ice. I was tempted to climb the Haston Line but decided on Hidden Chimney Direct which was great...!

Central, Runnel, Crotched and Spiral Gullies
Most old cornices can be bypassed by the ribs and ridges at the side of the gullies though not all and I descended by Central Left which was the easiest!

It's been raining and snowing heavily since I arrived back so conditions will have changed with fresh snow for  the skiers. With more snow being forecast they'll be fresh cornices and a higher avalanche risk on many routes this weekend so check the latest Cairngorm SAIS report here!

There are more photos from the 2nd May 2013 on my Facebook album here.

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