Monday, 22 February 2016

Sense and Sensibility

Craig and Mark saw a scrappy forecast and pretty rough avalanche predictions for the snow pack so a local day seemed more amenable than a long drive to waste.

They headed for the Cobbler thinking of a route, any route, which might be climbable. The weather was poor at the carpark but the rain turned to wet snow around 350-400m with deep pockets developing on approaches.

Slow progress going up
We plumped for Maclay's Crack but in the mist it proved more difficult to find than we anticipated. We soloed up some increasingly steep ground then topped out on a plateau adjacent to Great Gully. 

Snowy approaches
We were on the cusp of predicted avalanche ground so our radar was on - there is no SAIS for Arrochar per se but the West Highlands forecast is good enough to adapt to local interpretation and gave us sufficient info to be aware of the predicted Considerable warning - human triggered avalanches likely!. We zig zagged cautiously, with care and sensible heads on, up towards the route belay, digging a couple of hasty pits enroute, which showed two weak layers at 8" and just short of full depth. 

Thinking about it...
As we were about to start the climb, a fairly significant sluff of snow came down GG and then down Maclay's Crack. We discussed things and decided conditions just didn't justify the risks, so we ran away down the safest exit path - seeking islands of safety, away from terrain traps and the line of fire. 

There was more snow on the mountain than we had anticipated from the drive up & walk in; significant wind slab, with cross loading, was developing on N to SE aspects and sink-pockets were up to 5' in depth! It was a place demanding respect and we were thankfully in a 'safe' place to make good our escape.

Wind scoops, wind slab and plenty blowing snow too
It was a day framed by sensible decisions...not least of which was trying out the new Jottnar Alfar jacket. A cracking warm jacket worn as a mid layer (love the hood!) over the equally excellent and comfortable Uller base layer.  Even in the wind with a pretty significant windchill factor, we found this combo (and the Bergelmir hard shell) to be more than sufficient to keep us toasty, even on belay.  Thanks to Tommy at Jottnar for turning around a quick order for our weekend fun...check out their apparel - top notch quality kit from a quality British company, focused on the winter mountaineer and skier.

Scary loaded slopes

1 comment:

  1. wow, i can feel the wind-chill factor even here at home looking at these photos!amazing.