Lakes Winter Update

The last week in the Lakes has seen some really nice days of sun and lower winds, the freze-line has dropped below the summits on a number of occasions but its not been cold enough to bring ice or mixed routes into condition with the temps going into plus figures up high during the days.  Many of the gullies have been climbed though on OK neve at times, often aided by an early start, there is still loads of snow cover up high and many of the easy gullies are complete.  The Red Tarn face gullies and Brown Cove Crags gullies are still complete, the Nethermost to Tarn Crag gullies are also looking complete, the easy gullies of Great End also and the Bowfell area has plenty of snow still with South Gully and the Great Slab being well covered.

The overnight freezes have given some OK  frozen snow at times for climbing but it has been marginal and cornices have been worth watching all week as they are now a little saturated and heavy, large cracks have appeared behind the Helvellyn headwall cornice between the ground and snow, this is the snow pack starting to part with the warming ground and could eventually give a full depth avalanche as it did a few years back…

The classic edges of the Lakes are still snow covered, Swirral Edge is still well snowed up high and despite the daily thaws the tracks are well trodden and icy, crampons and axes definitely recommended.  Pinnacle Ridge is bounded by snow but dry on the crest throughout with a finishing snow slope.  The conditions definitely have a Spring like feel currently..

I have had some easy climbing this week but the softening snow, great cover up high and good weather has been amazing for skiing, some of the best skiing I’ve had in the Lakes, always brilliant and honestly no place I’d rather ski when its like this!

The Raise tows are by all accounts good currently with ‘Spring snow’…

South facing crags would have given some great rock climbing at times this week also with some snow about for atmosphere!

Thanks for the great shots below from MovieIt.

See http://www.movieit.co.uk/ on Facebook to see some more brilliant Lakes shots from Steve Ashworth from this week – https://www.facebook.com/MOViEiT

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Guided Climbing for http://lakelandascents.co.uk/ last Sunday, Gully 1 on Helvellyn.

 

SCNL, Central Buttress Ordinary Route

Much nicer weather than forecast today in Glencoe and still some good conditions holding out in Lochan.  Not quite freezing during the day but getting cooler nights now so hopefully stuff will soon firm up a bit.   Few routes getting climbed today, reasonable release from SC Gully also as things warmed up the morning.

We climbed CB ordinary route as a day 3 to a guided climbing course which was great and a popular option today, the condition was fairly good throughout and improved with height, first long pitch was all good though and the thaw has now revealed some gear which is good!

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Ben Nevis, Castle Ridge

After a nice start on Nevis today a strong Southerly picked up and we had some fresh snow blowing in and adding to some reasonable wind-slab build up from yesterday.  Plenty of debris about, Castle Coire having avalanched across the traverse path.  Reports of naturally triggered slides up in Coire Ciste also, this changed our day plan and as many teams were converging on the Douglas Boulder routes we headed onto the ever reliable Castle Ridge which was in good condition and better with height.  Lots climbed on the Boulder, not many venturing higher up bar a team on Tower Ridge which was climbed by a few yesterday as well as NE Buttress.  Lower ice has suffered Sundays thaw badly with the routes around Carn Dearg looking thin or gone, the Shroud came off in once piece!

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Where the Shroud was…

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SCNL, Twisting Gully right-fork

Just cold enough in Lochan yesterday for Twisting to hold out, not screws on tap but ok.  Other teams on Dorsal Arete, SC Gully (big cornices), Central Buttress Ordinary route, Scabbard Chimney… all seemed OK but a good freeze would help.  Approaches etc were OK.  Some fresh snow blowing in and putting some wind-slab down.

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Pinnacle Ridge, St. Sunday Crag

Another good day today, weather held out until mid afternoon. We went up to Pinnacle Ridge on St. Sunday Crag, a great route for teaching mountaineering skills on. Some snow about, especially higher up, generally dry scrambling lower down though.

Working for http://www.mountainguides.co.uk/  today…

Much warmer today into the afternoon with rain forecast up high, so another freeze will be needed to bring the snow back hard and stabilise the cornices which will be worth avoiding currently.  Still plenty of snow up high around Helvellyn with Striding Edge being snow covered over its full length.

Tarn Crag

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Brown Cove Crags, Helvellyn

Good day running a mountaineering course today for http://www.mountainguides.co.uk/

After a few days of the freeze-line being above the summits there was a temporary dip last night to below 700m.  The wet snow had hardened up reasonably well in places but did vary a bit, the turf was not frozen except for in some of the most exposed places at the crag top.  Very windy today but warmed throughout the day with overnight ice starting to melt by mid morning.  Gully’s still have plenty of snow in and there is some good cover high up, though a lot less than last week now.

Looking warmer tomorrow again so only a temporary return to full winter up high, Snow Forecast reckons 1750m for the freeze-line potentially tomorrow night with some rain so likely to soften everything again and cornices will be worth staying clear of.  Turf will need a full freeze again and the rock is fairly black on the crags now.

Snow Forecast – http://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/Raise/6day/mid

Still loads of good cover though for a winter walk or for skiing with some tactical route choice!  Raise no doubt will still have plenty of cover.

Today there were lots of people climbing the gullies and various snowy link ups on Brown Cove Crags.  We linked up some of the small gullies and snow slopes in the Stepped Ridge area taking in a couple of the rock steps higher up.  None of the mixed sections with turf were in condition really and so we avoided, plenty of good snow cover still so easy to skirt around.  Proper winter blast up top today, fairly wild with hail!

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Winter Mountaineering skills, Striding Edge

Good day out looking over mountaineering rope-work today, bit damper up high today so crags looked black where steep and snow much wetter.  Another freeze will only make things better though, especially in the gullies.  The freeze line went above the summits today but is due to drop again to 900m again tomorrow so fingers crossed…
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Striding Edge
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Viking Buttress

Great End, Central Gully left-branch

Amazing weather in the Lakes today, a nice change from the recent storms!  We had an Introduction to Winter Climbing course running today with Derek.  We went over all the skills required to take on grade III ground, ice screws, rock belays, movement coaching, snow pack interpretation and some ice axe arresting as well.

We headed for Great End today with a few back up plans depending on the snow condition.  It was just cold enough last night with some wind scouring taking place to bring the gullies into reasonably good condition, plenty of snow obviously and evidence of avalanche activity over the last few days, but the wet snow from yesterday had hardened up to a usable level and was actually good snow ice in places.  The ice-fall pitch was snow ice with the odd screw possible but generally a bit bold, the security of the placements varying as well so a confident approach required.  Some wind slab about, mainly on East facing slopes but also with a bit of cross-loading at the gully tops.

All in all an amazing day to be out on the Fells today whether climbing, walking or skiing!

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Scafell Pike

 

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Langdale Pikes

 

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Cornice on Central Gully left

 

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A very snowy Custs Gully! ski descent?

 

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Great End

 

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The crux pitch

 

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The Lakes ski tows at Raise needing to be dug out today

Winter Skills, Red Tarn Cove

Fairly wild up high today and with a little fresh snow, finished up nice though with some impressive wind transported snow happening… we had a winter skills day up at Red Tarn Cove which gave some great varied conditions with lots to talk about.  The snow pack also presented some interesteing weak layers quite deep down,  not a threat at this stage but good examples to talk over.  There was a little fresh wind slab about by the end today however.

Bit milder last night and today had things feeling a bit damper and the crags looked a bit blacker where steep, a frost tonight is forecast though so things may come good again quickly if its cold enough.

Thanks to the team for a great day out!

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Lakes Conditions, Helvellyn

Brilliant conditions on Helvellyn today, soft snow build up on the approach slopes but good neve once steep in Gully 1.  Francis and I climbed Prince of Darkness V/7 followed by an attempt at something new that turned out to be harder than it looked and bold which we backed off (will return soon with more bulldogs!), we then finished up Rape and Pillage 4/6 with the Viking Buttress arete finish, all in great condition with well frozen turf, loads of useful ice and snow plastered on the rock, but gear is very hard won!  I think I found 3 pieces on the main pitch of Rape and Pillage and I know where it is…

Nice morning then wild into the afternoon with wind and snow, so there will be fresh accumulations to be careful of and there were spindrift avalanches coming down by the end.  Due to warm up tomorrow but it could still be worth a look as it was 1 degree in the Patterdale Valley when we left this afternoon.

If things do strip or soften up tomorrow a colder night tomorrow night as forecast could help consolidate the snow for Sunday.  Still plenty of scoured hard icy areas to watch, people were looking cautious on Swirl Edge today, probably very icy I’d guess.  The softer snow about today and great coverage means skiing will still be great.

More great shots from Steve at http://www.movieit.co.uk/ and Francis at http://francisbluntmountains.com/, thanks!

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Something new attempt, 3 deck outs later!

 

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Francis on Prince of Darkness V/7

 

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Looking down at Red Tarn

 

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Looking up Gully 1

 

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Attempting something new

 

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Rape and Pillage

Mark Rock Climbing Course

‘Having spend three days in the mountains with Paddy I’ve got to say he’s the best guide I’ve ever worked with. Everything was pitched perfectly for my individual level - the choice of climbs, the balance between learning and mileage on the crag, all suited my level of experience. In three days I went from never having climbed trad to leading VD, seconding HVS+ and ticking off a classic mountain route, all thanks to Paddy’s professionalism and enthusiasm. Can’t wait to get out there again!’