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Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Snowballs, cornice collapses and snow slough avalanches!

With the forecast rise in temperature after yesterdays heavy drifting that we'd seen and videod, snow stability was always going to be an issue and so it was!
It was less windy than Tuesday and the snow was surprisingly wet compared to yesterday.
We were originally going to sneak up the back of Fiacail Ridge on the more scoured boulder field but on the way past Twin Ribs saw what looked like a reasonable trail heading towards the rib and the snow was fairly scoured low down.
A few avalanche pits shows some very weak layers from yesterdays drift snow on top of firmer neve. We decided to go up and see if it was possible to access the Ribs using safe travel techniques but were concerned that this put us under the corniced slope to the right.
Rising temps and badly balling crampons as we moved up on the bouldery 'islands of safety' the cornice was looked more and more worrying.
A quick avalanche pit just as the boulder ran out onto the snowfield, failed on isolation, not good so change of plan, we started to head back down.
All of a sudden there was a whoof sound when sections of cornice broke off and several slow moving streams of avalanche debris were heading towards us on either side of where we had just wisely retreated!
With badly balling up crampons we quickly headed back down for lunch at the gear up boulder, then a quick tour of the coire.
We saw folk climbing in Aladdin's Couloir and just after us, another large group under instruction had headed up over the avalanche debris that had just missed us. They stood for some time UNDER the collapsing cornice, no doubt discussing our snow pits and fresh avalanche debris and whether it was safe to cross one by one, we had warned them too - bizarre!
So far Alan over the years has had the whole spectrum of Scottish weather and snow conditions and after seeing some of the climbers antics, coined the very apt phrase "climbers playing Russian Roulette" with avalanches and cornices.
Lots more photos on our Facebook page here
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