By Max Streeton
Monday – Sneachda
A group of us optimistically set off for the closest climbing area. The crag came into view through the cloud as we got into the coire. We carefully selected a windy hump to gear up on. Tom, and myself selected ‘Western Rib’ II/III as a route that may not be too deep in snow, and did not have cornices above, Brad on his first winter route made up a group of 3. We climbed the steep approach slopes to the base of the climb, followed by the rest of the Wessex who formed a queue behind.
I started up the first pitch finding only softish snow and with no chance to find rock gear placements under the snow, after 20m escaped into the neighbouring gully, and continued up this searching for gear. Just as the rope ran out I found something that would have to do. Luckily Tom and Brad managed to join me without falling off. Tom retuned to the rib and reached the top. Luckily he did find a good belay as Brad came off on loose snow on a steep step.
Glad to reach the top we met up with others who had opted for gullies having seen our difficulties (or got bored waiting) and we walked of following compasses in near whiteout conditions to avoid the cornices on the edge.
Wednesday – Hells Lumm
Max, Alan, Tom, Lawrence, Dusan, Alinka
On the advice of Ian who ran the avalanche training we headed over to Hells Lumm in search of better ice. This is over the back (S side) of Cairn Gorm, which we all thought of as remote for a day trip. However with good walking conditions, sun and light winds we were over in only 2 hours. It was however also plastered in snow with overhanging cornices and the strong sun was warming it all up quickly.
Whilst traversing on soft snow slopes both Lawrence and myself went for a slide, which was not encouraging. After looking at all the routes from below we came up with a plan, run away!!!
We got out of range of stuff falling of the crag, stopped for a snack and came up with a new plan. We would walk along the edge of the frozen Loch Avon past Shelter Stone and find a way back up over the plateau to the ski car park.
We traversed round looking at routes on the other crags in the area. Passing the ‘cascades’ (some ice but very thin), and Stag rocks to Fharaidh . We ascended ‘Narrow Gully’ back to the top. Given II/III but with only a couple of shot steps providing any difficulties so the ropes never came out our sacks.
The cloud had come down as we continued up to the summit of Cairn Gorm to the Ice covered weather station. Walking back down on a bearing we found the cairn at the top of Fiscalli ridge taking us down to the car park.
Little climbing was done, but we explored an area which proved more accessible than we expected, and to which we will return.
Friday – Walk
With a forecast of rain and winds gusting 70mph a low level walk was the best option. We came up with a route from the near Loch Laggan on the A86 out around a small peak over a low col and back round, and a large group soon formed.
The weather started better than expected. We walked up stopping to look at the impressive Pattedack waterfall. Sheltered in the last of the woods for a snack break, then headed to open ground. The leg over the col was not too exposed even with snow and sleet, and we followed the winding stream valley back down. We picked up a new gravel track not on our maps and headed back west now into the full force of the wind. Gaining the woods provided a welcome relief and we headed back to the cars 5 hours after we started and rather wet.