Avalanche Warning

I got this email from a friend who is a RAF pilot, he has seen some evidence of spontaneous avalanche, probably caused by a rise in temperature. There was another avalanche near Aber Falls. Just be careful as the temperature rises the risk of avalanches in places where the snow has accumulated could well be very significant, especially if they are going off spontaneously.

Hi All
Just thought I’d take this opportunity to warn you all of what would appear to be a significant avalanche risk at the mo.
I had the opportunity today to fly for an hour and a half in the hills (not checking out conditions, honest!).  What I saw was quite frightening.  There was a significant full depth avalanche on the ridge line directly above Nant on the ridge between Cwm Dudodyn and Llyn y Cwn, grid 614 584.  Debris was almost down to Nant and it had a 3′ headwall.  I saw plenty of significant fractures on the ridge line on Esgair Felen, Glyder Fawr towards Llyn y Cwn also, grid 633 583.  I think that there will be plenty of slips to come, especially so with the warmer/wetter weather forecast this weekend.  Just thought it worth a warning if anyone is planning to make the best of the weather before it craps out this weekend.  However the met office at Valley is quite confident that it will start to get very cold again next week though (probably means that we are in for a heat wave then!)
On a positive side though, the kitchen, Black Ladders and anything on the side of the Valley with the name I shan’t mention! Looks fantastic.  Great ski touring to be had in the Carneddau.
Be safe out there.

Is the Big Freeze over?

Well, the temperature has shot up today, as predicted, so I stay in bed for an extra hour. Been chumming round the village, but heading up to the wall this afternoon for a session, and then I am meant to be going out for a run this evening, before undoing all that good training by going to the pub.

Seen a few disappointed climbers walking round the village, looking a little damp, so I guess the thaw is setting in on the hills, with the met office having the freezing level of around 400 to 600 metres and only zero degrees at 900m today, and the freeze level heading above the summits tomorrow!
Guess it is time to go cragging again!

Welsh Winter Environment

Whilst at the moment conditions are as wintry as possible I was told about an article by BMC Access Officer (Wales) Elfyn Jones on the BMC website. With a thaw possible on it way this weekend as the Atlantic frontal systems wins out over the blocking high pressure system. The chances are that later on in the winter the subjects covered in Elfyn’s article will become pertinent.

As the next cold snap comes it is vital we wait for the turf to freeze, not only for our enjoyment but of course to limit any damage we can cause the flora.
Anyway, here the link to the article.

Cwm Glas

Well, I headed up into Cwm Glas with my client today. We hope that we would avoid the worst of the strong winds, which should have been blowing over our heads. We did alright and nipped up Sargent’s Gully, and headed on up to Parsley Fern, we dug a few pits on the way up, and it was more stable than the last time I was up there, and surprisingly the wind was howling up Parsley Fern.

We climbed till we were just short of the top, and then descended to avoid the full force of the wind. We avoided some fairly obvious banks of what looked like windslab, by keeping on the left side of the gully (looking up). As we descended the spindrift was whipping into our faces in the usual unpleasant way.
Whilst descending back to Cwm Glas we saw a nice little icy step, and decided to head back up before descending again. Looking across at Cascade and Central Icefall, both looked better then I have ever seen them before. 
We looked at using crampons, and ice axes on the way. From various ways to walk up a slope, to swinging the axe, and kicking steps, as well as avoiding a slip by always being in a solid position. Mal seemed to have an excellent day out, and wants to climb more ice tomorrow. So probably heading over towards Ogwen tomorrow, just need to look at the weather to decide where exactly. 
Although also meant to be heading up to the climbing wall tonight, as I can’t forget my training!

Winter Guiding

I have recently had a flurry of request for winter guiding, and at first i was a little hesitant to reply, after all on paper I have no official qualification, however I have written pieces before highlighting the fact that you don’t need a qualification to guide in the UK. Why?

Well the Health and Safety Executive recognises four ways to show competence:
1. Formal Qualification, 
2. Experience
3. In House Training
4. Equivalent Qualification
As such after thinking a little about my experience of taking out quite a lot of inexperienced friends winter climbing, combined with a Winter Mountain Leader Training and my Summer based Mountaineering Instructors Awards. I decided that if I tell my clients that i am unqualified, but experienced, I had covered myself morally. Besides, if I head out on a Mountain Rescue call out, there is no one asking whether I am qualified to get someone off a hill in winter conditions!
Ironically, in the last couple of years I have heard of several incidents of trainee Mountain Guides having fairly serious accidents, two of which proved fatal. Three Aspriant Guides have been caught in serious Avalanches along with there clients, and these are the so called experts. I have a theory that the less you consider yourself an expert in Avalanches the less likely you are to be caught in on as you will often not try and push the limits and listen to the sage advice from a variety of sources. I also heard a rumour that the French Guide Scheme has been shut down by its government after they lost 13 guides in one year!
Anyway, I am out guiding later this week, which I am rather looking forward too. As it has been a while since I taught winter skills, cramponing and winter climbing. My problem is to get these ‘official’ pieces of paper I would have to move to Scotland to get the required ‘experience’ when all I would want it for is guiding around my home of Llanberis. At least I am getting some of the experience I need to go for these pieces of paper.
Not sure where I am going to go yet, I will have to see what the weather is like!

Big Air on Cascade!!!!!

Well, I was surprised not to get a call out with the rescue team yesterday, however I might comment I why we weren’t called out later in the week, after I have managed to chat to the Team chairman. I did however have a call to the house after midnight, as a friend was worried that his mate hadn’t returned from the black ladders after attempting the Somme.

Alarm bells ringing, as in the 1980’s two climbers were avalanche off the top snow slopes, so I advised him to dial three nines. Half an hour later I was woken a second time as the guy had turn up, just as my friend was dialling the second nine.
Today we had an early call out, in fact as some of the team were going to do some avalanche training, when the call came in of a climber falling 50 metres in Cwm Glas Mawr. It would appear a climber had fallen off the top pitch of Cascade, and falling to within 4 metres of the ground. Although serious the injuries were not life threatening, the RAF, a small number of Llanberis mountain rescue team and a handy insitu doctor, got him away to Ysybty Gwynedd in a reasonable time. A pretty lucky guy after falling that far, to within that distance of the ground!
I’d imagine that everyone at the crag was very shaken, as a 50 metre fall is massive, they guy was extremely luck to get away with the injuries he sustained. I don’t know if the route suffered any collapse or if the gear failed. Reports that although it is climbable the route was extremely thin on Friday and any gear was simply aesthetic, so I would imagine that some of the gear ripped, resulting in such a major fall.
I sat in base during the rescue, making brews for those waiting just in case the Helicopter couldn’t get on scene, whilst more of the team waited by the road ready to assist if needed. At present it is trying to snow, but not doing a very good job, although the mountains are getting more and more clagged in!

Avoiding the Crowds No. 1: Tremadog

Spent today at Tremadog, we left the village at 11am and got back at 3.30pm having climb 6 pitches. Including One Step in the Clouds, Grim Wall, and Meshach. The weather was so warm we had to ditch our big jackets. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Bunney on Grim Wall

Meshach Pinnacle

llion on Grim Wall

The Bunney

Llion on Grim Wall

Abseiling off Grim Wall

One Step in the Clouds

One Step in the Clouds

A Winter Traverse of Crib Coch

Today was another amazing alpine day, rather than spend it queuing in Cwm Idwal, I headed up Crib Coch with a friends from down the coast. The conditions were as good as I have ever had across the ridge. A brisk wind almost put us off the traverse to start with, but we kept our head and went for it, and were rewarded as the wind abated and the great conditions underfoot meant the knife-edge ridge was amazing to cross.

There was a lot of snow about, and the trinity face did look very loaded, as the N/NE wind was blowing across the face, looking like it was letting the snow accumulate in them. I might be wrong, but I would avoid them for the time being, although I didn’t dig a pit myself, another climber who had on a similar aspect and altitude slope to the trinity’s wasn’t too happy about the result.

Weekend on Snowdon?

Well, I thought I would put a post up for anyone thinking of coming to Snowdonia this weekend to enjoy the snow and ice conditions. I have to say that it has been very alpine recently and the conditions are fantastic. However you really can’t leave the car park without an Ice Axe and Crampons, as well as an idea of how to use them.

If you want to climb a route that is any good an alpine start will be essential as there were hundreds of people out today in Cwm Idwal, and I expect even more all over Snowdonia this weekend. I spent most of today queuing, which is very British, with teams who arrived late being about 8th or 9th in line for a route.
My advice is to have a few i back up ideas up your sleeves, and worst case scenario just go for a walk. On Snowdon there has been an awful lot of snow, to the extent that you might need your wits about you with regards avalanches, I heard reports of someone setting off a small windslab avalanche this week, so be careful on the (S to SW) lee slopes (wind seems to have been N to NE this week) and shelter gullies.
We don’t have a dedicated avalanche information service, so I would be cautious, as whilst you might have driven all the way up from London or further to do that classic gully. You won’t half feel a twat dead at the bottom of it!
Above all, get out there and have a great time, the Winter conditions are great at the moment.

Winter Wonderland: Get your Tickets here.

Well went out into Cwm Idwal today, thinking that as a mid-week day the crag would be reasonably quiet. So we had a Welsh Alpine start of walking in at 10 am, only to see the crag literally swarming with climbers. I think every route in the Cwm was climbed other than the Appendix, although I think there have been a few attempt over the past few days.

We headed up to climb South Gully, a III, 3/4. which was really hacked out but still great fun. Despite there being a queue reminiscent of a theme park on the route. It was very social. In the group behind us was none other than Johnny Dawes and his climbing partner, behind them another chap I know who was with a guy called Rufus, who went to school with my little brother, and there was me thinking that no one from my school really climbed.
Later on Jo and Gruff’s Missus joined us, along with a father and son team (the father was 71 and the son 52!). A few students from where I did my Masters, as well as a few other instructors including the legendary Baggy (I blame him for making Wales this popular!) and Tim Jepson – who runs the Outdoor Ed PGCE at Bangor.
I also ran into a few friends from around Wales, including Moony who had my axes who had waited for 2 hours to climb a route. Arghhhhhhh!!!!
Anyway, I got down, and blagged a lift back from Plas y Brenin, with another friend. Not before i stayed and helped myself to tea and cake. Thank you.
Anyway, had a great day out with Helena, who pulled it out the bag on the lead, and thanks to everyone on the ledge who despite the wait were in great spirits. Another great alpine day.