Heads up…observations on mountain conditions this weekend

Published on Friday 24th February 2017

The Cairngorms cGlenmore Lodge

Marginal conditions in the mountains this winter have led to uncertainty and difficult decision-making when planning journeys – whether heading for the Munros or for climbing trips.

Because of this Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, has issued advice to all mountaineers on how to get the best out of their mountain journeys.

Shaun Roberts, Principal of Glenmore Lodge, and a mountaineer of 30 years’ experience, said:

“This is a very different winter to those we have become used to in Scotland. If you are planning to travel to high ground this weekend for Munro tops, or maybe to climb one of the few complete snowy gullies, mixed or rock routes, then prepare for everything from winter to potentially spring conditions!

Storm Doris has delivered a welcome flurry of snow but, falling on unfrozen ground, rapidly rising temperatures and forecasted winds on Saturday aren’t just dampening optimism for a return to proper winter, but are also likely to dampen quality winter conditions for mountains and crags.

We just can’t know what will be left after Storm Doris and when the warm temperatures depart on Sunday, hopefully bringing a forecasted return to cooler conditions. But there are adventures to be had and we hope the following information will help the decision making.”

Munros

Don’t be fooled. Fleeting warm conditions and thawing snow cover may make a light-weight, minimal kit dash for the tops enticing. Equally those with limited winter experience and/or kit may be considering a cunning plan to step around limited snow cover. But despite appearances, full winter kit is still required and returning sub-zero temperatures will ensure very firm snow cover with poor run-outs.

Snow gullies

Storm Doris and subsequent snow flurries may only offer a thin veil of cover over loose terrain following Saturday’s thaw. Options are limited here, with only a few gullies remaining complete before the storm arrived, and there is concern about raised ‘third party’ hazards as potentially high numbers of people are pushed into limited space. With temperatures rising there will be additional concerns about rock/ice fall from flanking cliffs and side walls. Please talk and communicate with people around you and ensure a high level of awareness regarding other parties plans.

Classic ridges

These probably offer the most reliable option at the moment, being less susceptible to fluctuating temperatures, but reference ‘lean condition’ difficulty in the guidebook. As always, be mindful that lean conditions increase the risk of dislodging loose rocks, so step carefully and be mindful of those below.

Mixed routes

Good route information is going to be essential and it’s very unlikely that you will experience guide book conditions. If possible get local information and question if a route/area is loose if lean. If the route needs frozen turf then look at past temperatures for several days/nights of sub-zero. Moderate terrain with normally mixed snowy runnels, turf and boulders is likely to be very lean with raised objective dangers for you and parties below.

Let us get the most out of this lean and unusable winter and at the same time look out for each other. Safe adventures.