There's firm conditions on the plateau and a lot of ice is developing on sun exposed aspects.
The Coire an t-Sneachda and Lochain buttresses are rimed and icy and the gully lines filled with good snow and ice. This gives good first time axe placements below a thin covering snow and hoar frost.
Although the climbing is excellent, finding quick reliable protection and belays can be tricky with the rock and cracks covered in a layer of ice.
The popular easy to mid-grade ice routes are all well formed with water ice although the ice is brittle and isn't fat enough for reliable ice screws in some places.
Today the exits on the NW and N seemed solid and very straight forward due to minimal cornice buildup.
We had a late start and easy amble into an unusually quiet Coire an t-Sneachda.
We saw one team in Hidden Chimney, two teams on Patey's Route and Terms of Endearment, a team on Pygmy Ridge, a couple of teams in Central and the Runnel. Alan F and George Mc were on Wavelength (variation?) also two others were in Broken Gully and a team on Fingers Ridge.
Considering the excellent climbing conditions, calm weather, clear skies and sun a total of about twenty odd climbers in Sneachda must be a bit of a record!!!
We finished our route and had an easy walk across the plateau and down into the well covered Cairngorm Mountain ski area. Cover on the plateau is excellent though not the ideal silky smooth surface for skis! On foot conditions were firmish with a mixture of snow and water iced rime just below the surface that provide fairly easy walking.
Away from the mountains there is a thin covering of fresh snow as well as the old snow from last month. Many of the low level icefalls are starting to look fat again though some are still thin towards the top.
At the Slochd the cross country ski tracks aren't particularly good compared to the past few weeks being a mixture of solid rutted ice and frozen mud from the foresting which is covered with powder snow... The tracks at Glenmore may be better due to Bill Wilson's £30,000 piste machine!!!
The sunny cold and calm weather and good winter climbing conditions in the Highlands are set to continue for quite some time....