Me on the summit of Raise
This afternoon I decided to have a quick trip out with my skis. Having not used my skins whilst is Scotland I was keen to get a little time going uphill and putting in fresh tracks.
I started from Swirls car park and walked up the zig zags toward Brown Cove Crags. I was carrying my skis and boots on my pack wearing approach shoes. Once at the second wall I turned off left and joined the stream bed. That was where I put on my skis, and skinned up below Brown Cove Crags where there were at least four teams climbing.
The snow was between two and five inches of fresh(ish) soft snow on top of the old hard base. It made skinning comfortable and I was already looking forward to the descent. I headed up to the top of White Side which was only just in the cloud and then kept the skins on for the short drop before following some tracks up to Raise’s summit. Here I took off my skins and took a compass bearing to find the Lake District Ski Club’s tow on the hill below me. It was nice to be making fresh tracks and I skied the run on skier’s left of the tow. It was hard-packed having been skied a lot over recent weeks, it was not very steep but obviously unpisted. I would call it a hard blue run (they call it a red).
The end of Helvellyn Gill - note the fresh tracks!
After a chat with the lift operators I headed up back over Raise to White Side. The tops were still in the cloud but the run down from White Side using Helvellyn Gill was excellent. The best five minutes of skiing since the Silvetta. I really recommend this run.
The stream bed was incomplete at where the path crosses. So a quick change of footwear and putting the skis and boots back on my back and I was on the path back down very happy!
Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates but Glenmore Lodge is a bit of a black hole when it comes to phone reception.
Me decending the ridge into Corie Laogh Mor
The weekend started with a very quick get-away from school straight into the Papcastle queue. After a 30 minute delay to cross the Derwent and a brief stop for fish and chips and diesel at Carlisle it was a non stop run to Aviemore.
Saturday started with a bit of faffing and a couple of briefings, the decision was made to skin directly from the Lodge since it was raining and the clouds were down to around 500m. We headed towards An Lochan Uaine and then found a small slope on Creag nan Gall to practice falling, side slipping and jump turns. This was my first introduction to jump turns and I found them a little tricky to master. Too much jumping and rotation leads to over rotation out of the turn because not enough and your skis do not release from the slope. The trick is to have an energetic first half followed by a very gentle second half, all whilst keeping your weight forward!
Me with Glen More Below
After lunch we headed down a little to a short corniced slope. Here we practiced our turning on steeper terrain as well as ‘corridor skiing’ between poles and skis. This was to practice for skiing a narrow couloir. Finally we were shown how to abseil or lower from a snow bollard and buried ski anchor. Abseiling with skis on was alright except for what to so with your poles. The best suggestion seemed to be to tuck them behind your pack, similar to how an axe can be placed ready for use. An ‘interesting’ ski down through a recently felled forest saw us back on the track to the Lodge in time for tea and cakes.
Sunday was about putting into action what we had learnt on day one. We drove to the Ciste car park which was full of skiers and then skinned into Corie Laogh Mor following the snow fence. There was masses of snow, mostly a very firm base with between 5 and 20 centimetres of soft windslab on top. After dropping off our bags we booted up the ridge on the right as you enter the corie and practiced our jump turns and corridor skiing. Eventually we went all the way to the top of the ridge and skied down, it was a good run but with such good snow there was the toss-up between skiing it normally (and having the most fun) and skiing it putting into practice steep skiing techniques (and practicing the techniques we were being taught).
Using a rope to enter Corie Laogh Mor
After lunch we booted back up the hill and this time traversed into the corie above the headwall. Ian (our instructor) set up a rope over the hard packed edge that most people used as a hand line to get to the softer snow. I skied from top and this time the descent was steep but the snow was excellent. The top half of the slope I used my new technique but for the bottom half I let it rip enjoying the fantastic conditions. After that there was time for a boot back up the hill to get one last run before the return to the bus.
Sunday was a lot more fun than Saturday and I have some techniques to work on and practice but I have a few issues about the two days as a whole. I will post a follow up discussing them later.
Corie Laogh Mor
I’m sat on duty making sure that the boys behave themselves and thinking about this weekend. Tomorrow I’m driving to Aviemore straight after work for a weekend course on “Skiing the Steeps”. The forecast is excellent, light winds and a freezing level of about 400m. My only concern is that the ski area has been closed for the last two days due to the weather and the access road having too much snow. I know that this course is designed for tourers but I would rather spend my time high on the mountain and not skinning up from Glenmore Ledge.
I will post updates over the weekend.
Yesterday was great but I was still keen to get out again and since Penny was not so keen it seemed like a good opportunity to get out on skis.
I drove as far as I could and then set off up the tourist track. I skinned up the road which was hard packed and icy. There was an interesting moment using a stile with skis on but apart from that the only real interest was the very strong easterly wind. It was forecast to be strong and it was. I wore my balaclava from the end of the road and didn’t take it off all day.
I had planned to get to the summit and to ski one of the well covered west-facing side of the gullies. However, people were being blown sideways wearing crampons and with my skis on I was finding the going difficult. So I stopped at about 500m and played in the snow, using my snow-saw for first time to build a shelter. It was a difficult task because the blocks of snow would blow away if they were too small. The snow saw was excellent, it cut very neat bricks, very easily.
After eating my lunch (at about 10:30) in my newly constructed shelter I headed down. I stayed close to the path, mostly skiing the drainage ditch which was full of soft snow. Where the path crosses to the east side of the fence I stayed on the west and gad a great run all the way down to road. I had to take my skis off to climb a gate but then put them back on to ski down the road to the car.
There looks to be great conditions higher up or in west-facing bowls but my keenness to climb Skiddaw (which I have never done) dominated my reasoning. Next time I’ll think about the snow first. Only two weeks until Skiing the Steeps in Scotland!
Bassenthwaite Lake completely frozen with Skiddaw behind
Penny in Shelter
So back from the south and keen to get out onto the fells we decided that today was a day for skiing. Last night I read this which made me think that the north facing slopes facing Blencathra would be a good bet for low-level skiing options.
The original plan (this is necessary having one pair of boots and skis between two) was to find somewhere for Penny to practice skiing and then for me to head for a very quick tour.
After struggling to escape from the mining museum we headed on to the fells via Newsham until we came across a slope at about 300m with fewer boulders and decided that this would be Penny’s slope. She quickly improved, especially by leaning forward. However wearing my touring boots was unlikely to be a great help. There was a big grin at the end of each run and only one wipeout!
Whilst Penny was skiing I was building a shelter (see photo above). The snow was about 20-30cm deep so very good blocks could be cut with the shovel. The shelter worked well at blocking out the biting easterly wind.
Me on the way down
My turn came and I skinned up a further 220m mostly between two gullies on the steep north facing slopes of Clough Head. The wind was strong from the east and the climber’s left (east) side of the gully was filling up with fresh windslab whereas the west side was consolidated from last week’s snow. It was this snow that I chose for my ski down. It was excellent snow and the gradient was between 25 and 30 degrees at the steepest section. I must say I was very happy with my first turns of the season. This would lake another very good half day tour.
After being trapped by heavy snow over the weekend and then the car was being serviced yesterday we were finally able to get out and enjoy the exceptional conditions on the fells this morning. For a while we have been eyeing up the huge hill beyond Sellafield and since it is very close to a main road (minor roads are still snowy or icy) it was a perfect target for the day.
Our route started up White Combe from the Fox and Goose cottages and headed up the delightful rising traverse under White Hall Knot. There was snow on the ground from the car and the air temperature was just above freezing in the valley. Once the initial climb was over we entered the clouds and followed the ridge to the summit shelter on White Combe, it was full of snow so we headed on to the summit of Whitecombe Moss. This required pacing and bearings and even using the fence as a collecting feature and the bend in the fence as an attack point since the visibility was about 50m and the summit was rather featureless.
Once we decided that we were at the top we settled down to lunch. Using the section of sleeping mat and our group shelter we had a comfortable lunch, the snow helped make the tea a safe temperature but I did not like the minestrone soup as much as the tomato. We decided to cut the route short and descend Whitecombe Beck since there were no views and the going was hard work with deep drifts of fresh snow.
Me with Whitecombe Beck behind
As soon as we entered the valley the weather cleared and we had a good view of our descent. The snow made it a very pleasant and quick journey back to the car (1 hr 10 min from the summit). On way down we saw a raven (or crow?) harassing a buzzard, despite the size difference the buzzard ended up leaving the valley.
Throughout the walk I kept thinking what a good route this would be for ski touring. The snow was deep enough and the terrain mostly grassy. It is one to keep in mind since the proximity of the road makes it accessable and the modest hight means that the whole tour over Black and White Combe would probably take under 4 hours.