Helvellyn Conditions 14-12-11

Went up to Helvellyn today to see how things were looking.  Today was another wild day out, lots of fresh snow blowing about and breaking trail all the way, the main track to Red Tarn was buried and the snow was about 14 inches or so with some much deeper drifts.  Skis would have been great with a descent possible all the way back down afterwards!  The old snow that had just started to freeze now has a big load of wind blown snow on top, so route choice is crucial and there was a lot of spooky snow on the headwall area and the approach.  There was numerous crown walls around the headwall and across the gullies…

 Deep drifts above Red Tarn, that poles fully extended…
 Viking Buttress and No.1 Gully, the rock was well snowed up 
Viking Buttress, looking white with ledges buried

I climbed Gully 1 Buttress and some of V-Corner, with both routes I descended the face afterwards rather than top out as the exit slopes were showing the warning signs, big cracks appeared either side of me when having probe at it!  Lots of stuff slabbing away under foot also…  The routes are very buried now as the snow has been dumping down the face, some of the ledges on Viking Buttress are turning into snow slopes, if they’d freeze it will soon be Grade 2!  The V-Corner area had some great ice formed and some perfect snow ice where it wasn’t buried.

 A bit damp with swimming about…
Great snow ice showing through at the base of V-Corner
Great ice in the V-Corner area, the central fall giving a short steep pillar 

So its another dose of full winter up there, with route choice important, on many aspects, especially NE-E-SE were there is deep snow accumulation.  Anyone who skis will find awesome conditions tomorrow I’d think.  Climbing wise, today the ice was good, the turf I could see was good and there was good snow ice in places, but all with some swimming about thrown in.  Steep routes that aren’t buried and without exposed exit slopes could be the way forward.

Running Helvellyn Area 12-12-11

There is still plenty of snow cover around the Helvellyn area, the old snow that had a thaw is starting to freeze again and firm up on the surface.  There was a little new snow blowing about from last night with some pockets a bit deeper in places.  The turf up high was also showing the early signs of a freeze and there is some ice coating the exposed rocks up high.

The effects of the rapid thaw were clear to see with a number of large full depth avalanches, one into Brown Cove from the headwall between Helvellyn and Lower Man in particular had left a massive amount of debris all the way into the Cove.  There was also a fairly large one into Keppel Cove with a crown wall of about 2 metre (see photo below).

 Piles of wet snow and grit washed across the path from the stream
Large full depth avalanche in Keppel Cove

The Helvellyn Ridges are still really good, the rock now has a thin layer of ice coating it meaning a bit of care was needed without crampons.

Running down Swirl Edge

See also Steve Ashworths report from today at – https://www.facebook.com/EpicentreAmbleside?ref=ts

Pinnacle Ridge, St.Sunday Crag 11-12-11

Yesterday was another great day out, though was a big contrast to Saturday.  A lot of snow had gone and the rivers were high due to a rapid thaw on Saturday night with rain on the summits.  With so much snow about and a thaw with rain, we were keen to avoid anything with big snow volume or cornice exposure, it seems that water beneath the snow has caused a number of full depth slides around the Lakes, including the Helvellyn headwall were we saw the fracture line on Saturday (see photo on previous post).

More info on Helvellyn avalanche here – http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=486009

Pinnacle Ridge gave a great scramble yesterday, no crampons were needed though an axe was useful in places as there was still the odd patch of snow on the ledges.  Once on the top of the route there was still lots of snow on the descent side of the hill for some more snow skills.

Traversing the Pinnacles 

A good freeze now is needed for consolidation and to bring the turf harder.  With so much water and the ice that had started in places a freeze could bring some good ice in quickly.

Helvellyn Conditions 10-12-11

Was out on Helvellyn Edges and around the Red Tarn area today running a Winter Mountaineering Course.  Today gave a great winter day again and there was plenty of snow still being blown around in the wind.  There looked to be ice forming in the usual spots on the crag and exposed turf was frozen.  The ridges were well snowed up and in great condition, the gullies however looked to be a bit of a swim and some parties turned around after a probe.  A party climbed Bladerunner and mentioned that the turf was not deeply frozen in places.

 Snow low down still
 Plenty of snow up at Red Tarn
Wind still blowing

Lots of people heading out with skis again to Raise.

The headwall was also well loaded up with snow and plenty of wind slab about, there was as much snow as I can remember at the top of Striding Edge.

 Great conditions on the Ridges
Full snow cover at the top of Striding Edge complete with cornice

Whilst people were topping out safely from routes, the snow conditions felt quite serious in places and on a range of aspects.  A block test we did on a 35 degree slope, not steep, released as a slab with only the back cut of the column being made and no pressure applied….

 Block test suggests risky layers in places
This fracture line runs around almost the whole length of the cornice on the summit plateau, probably due to the thaw on Thursday

All in all still great full on winter conditions in the Lakes with a bit of good route choice called for.

Ski Touring – Lake District 06-12-11

Having been out yesterday and finding that a lot of the mixed routes needed a freeze I decided to go for a look around the Helvellyn area on the skis.  Today gave a fantastic day for ski touring with dry powdery snow up high.  That said, a bit of thought was needed as to where to go.  The snow we have had has come in on a W – NW wind so areas E facing have had snow deposited down their slopes.  Also gullies, river beds and any other depressions in the terrain have become cross loaded with good snow build up.  Whilst some areas up high are scoured to the ground, there is accumulations of a few feet in places.

Today I went up from St.Johns in the Vale towards Raise, for anyone who knows that route, I was able to skin from before the sheep fold and descend back to there afterwards without any scrapes!

I also stopped at the ski club tow and had a few runs, the snow there was fantastic and due to perfect loading by the wind was near the tops of the snow fences in places! The guys reckon its some of the best coverage in years.  Perfect start to the ski season for the tows, its well worth the trip up there at the minute, updates on the snow and tows are available on the ski club website at http://www.ldscsnowski.co.uk/ and there is a webcam on there too.

Looks like tomorrow will be worth getting out and then its just a matter of seeing what happens on Thursday with the weather that is forecast.  Might be worth noting that there was evidence of a couple of full depth avalanches today and a lot of wind slab about, despite the thin feel to the pack there is some areas of deep accumulation…

Great to see the Lakes looking the part with a full on winter feel even if the climbs aren’t all there yet.

 Skins on at the sheep fold
 Brown Cove Crags looking well snowed up
 Some evidence of avalanche, full depth probably due to wet ground below wind packed snow
 First tracks of the season
 Natures signal as to where the wind as been coming from
 Scoured tops with lots of accumulation on East facing aspects
 Top of Raise
 Alpine Piste conditions on Raise tow! Get there…
The Raise Resort – now with members toilet!

Lakes Winter Conditions 05-12-11

The Lakes has had snow falling yesterday and today, at times down to valley level.  Today we went up to Bowfell and experienced some very wintery conditions.  Whilst things were looking snowy not many routes were in great condition due to the turf having not had a chance to freeze and now having an insulating layer of snow on top, up well above the knees where there has been some accumulation.  That said, where the wind was catching routes with exposed turf that wasn’t too buried it was frozen.  Its hard to say what tomorrow will be like from a climbing point of view, it is forecast to warm up at some point which will be good on the long run but may not help the turf situation.  No doubt though the ridges will give a great winter day and a walk on the tops will be well worth it anyway, so worth getting out for a look!

Today our chosen route hadn’t caught the wind and was looking a bit bare so we went over to Bowfell Buttress which was very snowy with the turf feeling better, though the harder climbing is all on snowed up rock which helps also.  It gave a great day as always and a great first blast of winter in the Lakes.

 Bowfell Buttress
 North Buttress

 Mark goes for the move across the wall avoiding the footless corner, lots of snow was getting channelled down this section of the route from the groove above.
 South Gully giving a cornice
Kirkstone Pass tonight on the way home, 4×4 was useful…
First blast of Lakes winter…

Woody also climbed a route on Hen Crag today and reported it to be ‘Cracking!’  

See photo – http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=187502

Baruntse Expedition 2011 (7129m)

I’ve just returned from climbing Mera Peak (6476m) and Baruntse (7129m) in Nepal where I have been leading for www.adventurepeaks.com.

The 35 day expedition treks in via the Hinku Valley, a remote area in comparison to the near by Khumbu Valley.  The route chosen takes in some remote villages whilst steadily climbing towards the Mera La Pass at the head of the valley and where Mera Peak can be climbed from.

 Remote village we spent a night at on the trek to Mera.

Some local kids.

Mera Peak is a technically straight forward peak and a classic of the Himalayas.  We experienced some very cold but clear weather on Mera, the summit, once gained by a short steep ice cliff, rewards you with spectacular views of the range, peaks such as Everest, Makalu, Ama Dablam, Chamalang and Kanchenjunga are all in clear view.  Following descent we made are way towards Baruntse Base Camp, about 2 days trek.

 Mera High Camp.
 Summit views to Everest and Lhotse.
Irish patriotism on the summit!

Baruntse is a larger peak than Mera at 7129m and is a classified ‘Expedition Peak’.  Having acclimatised on Mera we were able to make the most of the stable weather on arrival at Baruntse and start up the mountain after 1 rest day.  We moved to camp 1 from Base, rested, then camp 2, and then with a 2:30am start we went for the summit.  6 of us summitted on this attempt, 6 dropped down to Base and made a 2nd attempt some days later, 2 more summitting on the 2nd attempt.  Again we had clear, but very cold weather for Baruntse, it was about -15 in the Base Camp tents on average so much colder high up.  Again we were rewarded with spectacular summit views of the range with Lhotse seeming a stones throw away!

 Approach to the West Col and Camp 1.
 Arriving at Camp 2.
Baruntse Summit.

After this the trek out took us over the reasonably technical Amphu Labtsa Pass and then a few days down the Khumbu Valley, which is comparatively developed and a shock to the system giving a night in a bed after almost 30 in the tent.

 Ascent of the Amphu Labtsa Pass.
 Descent of the Amphu Labtsa Pass.
 Walking back into the Khumbu Valley.
Evening sun on the Lhotse Face.

This was another really great trip to lead and in a great part of the Himalayas.  Thanks to everyone involved for their input and well done.  Also to the out standing Sherpa team we had, an inspiration to all!

A quote I read whilst in Nepal said, ‘come back alive – come back as friends – and come back having summitted – but in that order!’

Warm weather scrambling on Dow

Alex and I had a great day out with Tish, Jane, Nick and Nat on Dow.  The unusually warm weather made it a perfect day for Dow Crag.  We climbed a link up of Easy Terrace and Giants Crawl.  Following getting to the top of Dow, we also took in Brim Fell and the Old Man.

Thanks for another great day out and Happy Birthday to Nick!

Some photos of the day below.

 Climbing from Goats Water
 Dow Crag
 Jane and Nat
 Jane- pleased to have mounted the Donkey!
 Alex belaying Jane
 Nick enjoys his birthday bash

 The last steep pitch of Diff.
 Tish and Nick top out
 Jane, Nat and Alex top out.

 Coniston Old Man
Hazy heat of late afternoon