Contrasty conditions

5th May 2012

(Above) More or less continuous snow cover above 900m.
The Glenmore ‘corridor’ was quite busy today with cyclists and walkers. A fair number of campers too at the main camp site enjoying mercifully bright and dry conditions, though bitterly cold at night.
(Above) Coire an Lochain from the ski road below the Coire Cas car park. White and wintry looking crags…..in May!
(Above) The Cas car park was full this morning. Quite a few ski tourers gearing up for the day.
 (Above) The Cairngorm plateau: L to R – Loch Etchachan, Carn Etchachan and the summit of Ben Macdui highest on the skyline. 
 A lot of hard, unforgiving snow on the plateau but with some softer powdery snow on a few sheltered S aspects. Best descent of the day had to be from the summit of Cairngorm down its S flank towards spot height 1082m..sublime in the cold sunshine…but was tracked out pretty quickly.
 (Above) Some of the steep S-facing gullies above the Loch Avon basin – one in the foreground is Y Gully (I think), with Diagonal Gully next along. The NW winds of most recent days have dumped all the snow here and it’s soft, cold and slabby in these and similar places. Quite noticeable today that the snow surface temperature stayed well below freezing and was little affected by solar radiation, even on these steep sun-exposed slopes. Note the small (soft) cornices in the background.
(Above) Diagonal Gully: the venue for formal snow pit. This is a steep gully (measured at 45 degrees near the top) that can be a great ski descent down to Loch Avon in the right conditions. I backed off this today but managed to get a pit done a metre of two beyond the rucsac: not at all happy about stability here. Instability and deeper softer snow is limited to the top 40-50m of these steep gullies at the moment, with some near-surface instability lower down.
(Above) Coire an-t Sneachda. L to R: Mess of Pottage, Forty Thieves, Aladdin’s Couloir, the Goat Track, Point 5 Gully and the Fiacaill Buttress.
Another wintry shot of one of the Northern Corries. Haven’t seen many climbers but there is evidence of ski tracks in Point 5 Gully (just r. of centre in photo) although I’m sure they’re from the last weeks ‘heatwave’ because skiing it at the moment would be ski chattering ice-fest of the trouser-filling variety. The top section of Aladdin’s down to the wee ‘col’  is incomplete and rocky. Best to save the steep skiing in these north-facing places for when we have a nice thin layer of forgiving spring snow.

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