Friday, May 03, 2013

Ski Touring Round Up

I have been holding off writing this post until the end of winter but with snow on the ground in Aviemore this morning it looks like there might be at least another week of skiing to come.

The best conditions came after the big storm in March which effected most of the UK. High winds stripped a lot of snow from the plateaus and formed amazing (and occasionally lethal), snow structures down to 500M.

Cárn Dearg Mor 20/03

An afternoon trip with Rob Edmond out the back of Aviemore. We cycled from High Burnside up to the commercial forest gate then walked up through the Caledonian Pines to break out on the Mor at about 550M. Lack of time prevented us from reaching the summit but we had a great run down through the trees on snow covered heather.

Rob Edmond, Aviemore behind

Sgor Gaoith 25/03

This was the first skiable day after the storm. The ascent was icy and scoured back to grit in some places but the up side was that the burn lines were packed with snow. This enabled a long descent down the Alt Ruadh to a point where it become too steep and narrow to ski. A short hike back up through the trees regained the path.

An arctic Braeriach from Sgor Gaoith

Bynack Moor 28/03

I wasn’t sure what to expect heading down Ciste Mhearad to The Saddle, but conditions were fantastic with a light covering of powder on a firm base, and even better, there were no tracks. Allt a’ Choire Dhubh wasn’t in as good a condition but still skiable for most of its length down to Strath Nethy.

Loch Avon and fresh tracks

Coire Gorm 30/03

Another trip with Rob Endmond to the shallow burn line in the NW slope of Sròn na Lairge. Rob had permission to drive up to Rothiemurchus Lodge from where we were able to ski right from the car park. Huge amounts of snow had been dumped in The Ghru, transforming it into a 50M wide piste. Conditions in the Coire were slightly disappointing with lots of sastrugi and variable cover.

The Lairig Ghru transformed into a 50M wide piste

Ben Avon 31/03

I finally worked out a stable method of attaching skis to a bike. The key was to attach the boots to the bindings and mount the whole lot as far back on the frame as possible to stop your legs catching on the bindings. Fortunately the estate road from Tomintoul to Inchrory had been cleared allowing an easy 10k cycle to within a short walk of the hill. I returned via Caol Ghleann.

The SkiBike at Inchrory

Beinn Mheadhoin 05/04

I had been wanting to do this tour for a couple of years. The descent from Cairngorm and down Coire Raibert was awkward but not difficult. Loch Avon was frozen and there were tracks straight across the middle. I whimped out on the direct route and cut across the ice closer to the head of the loch.

The plateau of Beinn Mheadhoin was scoured bare but the descent down the NW slope was in good condition with a final high speed schuss across the frozen loch towards The Saddle.

Loch Avon

Coire Gorm Revisted 19/04

A very early start (3am) with aspirations for a long tour over to Deeside. Unfortunately I was a bit too early for the weather and bailed out between Sròn na Lairge and Braeriach in strong winds and a white out. The descent back down Coire Gorm was in much better condition than in March.

Coire Gorm at 7am

March Burn (not)

I had a speculative trip across the plateau to see if I could get down the March Burn with my relatively lightweight gear. A gentle approach led to an icy funnel. I couldn't see over the edge so I removed skis and tried to kick steps to where I could get an idea of what I would be committing myself to. Not having an ice axe or crampons I gave up that idea fairly quickly.

Having admitted defeat I headed back towards Lurchers and also hoped to get a better view of the March Burn from further along the rim. I definitely made the right decision! The strong winds of previous weeks looked to have built a steep icy headwall with no easy entry to the lower slopes.

The top of the March Burn, Cairn Toul behind

The Escalator 03/05

The weather was not quite as advertised in the morning but I cycled up Glen Einich anyway. It took an hour to reach the point on the track opposite The Escalator. From there it was a short walk to reach the snow. Too steep for skinning, I booted it up to around the 1000M contour before the weather got to ferocious to continue.

A brilliant descent! The snow was soft and smooth, quite steep in a couple of places, probably a similar angle to The West Wall on Cairngorm or an average alpine back run. I was back in Aviemore for 12.30pm

The Escalator from Glen Einich

Ciste Gully 04/05

Possibly the last run of the season. An evening trip with Ole from Norway; astounded that he was skiing in Scotland, in May!

Mud and rain on the walk out from the Ciste at 8pm

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