Tip of the Month
As part of our avalanche awareness and planning, it’s crucial that we know where the wind has been blowing from, in order that we can identify the dangerous lee slopes. (If you are not sure about what I’ve said already, then book a course now!).
There are many resources available to help us do this including the SAIS Avalanche Forecast and weather forecasts. But the mountains have their own influence on wind direction, especially on complex cliffs where identifying the local lee slope can be more tricky. One bit of knowledge that can help us is understanding rime ice.
Rime ice (or rime, or ‘riming’), forms when supercooled water droplets (in the air) make contact with a freezing cold surface (in the UK mountains, this usually means rocks). As the wind blows, each successive set of water droplets freezes onto the surface thereby creating increasingly large ice structures. Because of their nature, these grow into the prevailing wind and therefore indicate quite clearly the recent prevailing wind direction at that exact spot.
Fact of the Month
Crampons haven’t always been around as tool for mountaineering. In fact, to start with they were considered to be ‘cheating’. In 1936, on the first successful ascent of the North Face of the Eiger, two of the climbers had “the twelve-pointer crampons which had just become fashionable”; one had ten-pointers; and Heinrich Harrer had no crampons at all.
Route of the Month
A great (non-technical) ridge walk to do in Snowdonia is the Nantlle Ridge. In winter conditions it takes on an even more exciting form and provides a great location to push your winter skills on a bit. It’s still only a ‘walk’ rather than a graded climb, but the steeper sections require sound skills with axe and crampons and good navigation is needed throughout. But what can beat being on a snowy mountain ridge with views of the sea in front of you?
Photo of the Month
In relation to this month’s tip, here is a photo that I took last year of some amazing rime ice growth on the top of Cairngorm, which clearly gives an indication of the direction of the wind that created it.
These are some of the scheduled events coming up in the near future:
- January 2020. Scottish winter skills courses – Limited availability.
- 25 January – 23 February 2020. Fully booked.
- 24 February until mid-March 2020. Scottish winter skills courses available.
- 4 April – 1 May 2020. Leading Khumbu Climber expedition in Nepal (tbc).
- May-June 2020. Skye season – various courses available.
- June-September 2020. UK rock climbing and scrambling courses available.
- Late June 2020. Alta Via 1 – High Level Walk, Dolomites, Itlay. Register interest now.
- Late August 2020. Walker’s Haute Route – Chamonix to Zermatt. Register interest now.
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