Monday, 17 December 2012

It's all melted

Put your tools away and get back to reading about Scotland. It's all melted with no reports of anything having come into climbable condition. Ah well. It's still early in the season. Fingers crossed for January! 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

NF Pen - y - Fan - unclimable

This just in from Matt Woodfield... 

Went up pen y fan 1st thing this morning for a look at the NE face. 
Dropped down to far right gully, water is flowing under the the ice thats formed. 
There was some frozen turf, but only in patches in the base of the gully. 
The very top 20m had good solid snow, but not the rest of the face. Was a nice day for a walk, but no chance of climbing.

Patience and protection

So, with all the excitement and talk all over the internet at the moment and speculation as to the condition of routes high up in the Beacons, there's been many a mention of people being happy to climb anything and so super keen to get out that they're not too fussed about frozen turf. 

Whilst this is great enthusiasm, I would urge you all to be patient for a number of reasons. It is true that it's been very cold up in the mountains of late: 

But for the icefalls to come into climbable nick they need a good week of sub zero temperatures. Whilst they would be climbable before this, being the most southern winter routes in the UK, they attract a lot of attention. Hoardes of enthusiastic winter warriors kicking their way up partly formed ice falls will at best, delay the forming and spoil the experience for everyone else, and at worst (particularly in areas such as Craig-y-Llyn, one of the first venues to come in) damage and destroy rare plant life and fauna and jeopardize future access.

Similar can be said of the North Face of Pen - Y - Fan. Whilst it's a choss fest no one in their right mind would go near in the summer, it also happens to a natural environment to a lot of varied biology. If it's too cold, consistently, snow won't consolidate and you run the risk of damaging the rock and turf underneath, not to mention your own legs when you inevitably stab your thigh with a crampon when you fall in to your waist. Conversely, too much snow too quickly will mean that the turf isn't frozen and the route and plants that live on it could be damaged irreparably. 

I would therefore urge you all to be patient and protective of our valuable environment and the climbs in it which we are privileged to have access to. If you haven't already, please read this:

Whilst it's specific to North Wales, much of the content is applicable down south too, and any conscientious winter climber should care about what it says. So please, wait it out. Give it chance to form, and don't just grab your axes and wage war on the routes the second they have a speckle of dust on them. 

Those looking for good conditions, you'd be well advised to check it out early Friday morning for your best bet. I'll be going up Thursday night for a recce I think. Most likely venues given current conditions would be RAC Corner, Craig - Y - Llyn and possible Torpantau. There is unlikely to be enough snow to make the North Face routes climable. 

Peace out and please email conditions reports and photos through to ryanatkins09 (at) gmail (dot) com. 


Saturday, 8 December 2012

Conditions update

The following rather unsurprising report in from Colin. It's going to need a good few days and nights of sub zero yet for the ice to form and some daytime thawing for the gullys to be anywhere near consolidated. In happier news, I'm posting this in front of a log fire in North Wales having just climbed torquing shit on clogwyn du:

Inspected NE face of Pen-Y-Fan this morning, traversing in at mid-height into Central Gully (?). Snow conditions reasonable quantity but unconsolidated; turf unfrozen in 99.73% of cases; ice, what there was, not bonding to rock. Diagnosis - needs several more cold nights and day temps not to rise too high. Might be worth a look on Thursday as the advance forecast for the next few days is favorable but go early in the morning to get the best results

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Winter is a-coming... 

That's right. It's getting colder. Nights are getting earlier. Frost is building up on my impressively-bad-at-heat-conducting windscreen. Ice is on it's way - I hope. 

There's snow atop Pen Y Fan. (Come on, a little bit at least). Kinder Downfall is rumoured to be in the best nick it's been in for centuries.... (slight fib perhaps). And there's a buzz about South Wales' winter climbers in anticipation for what will hopefully be a very cold season. With all the rainfall this summer, the ground is nicely saturated and runoff is high, which should - in theory - lead to some nice fat ice conditions if it gets cold enough. 

Watch this space.... maybe whilst sharpening your axes. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday Round Up

So, what's being done?

Reports are coming in far and wide of conditions on the North Face of Pen Y Fan. The snow is unconsolidated but seeing a lot of traffic with lines becoming compacted. Ice is thin in all gullies but fattening up with the main mixed steps in central providing some interest. The headwall is rimed up nicely and passable. Turf solidly frozen.

RAC corner is on its way in with lines being climbed yesterday up the line of least resistance at around scottish 2. The exciting pillar at the base is yet to form and the top step should probably be avoided in its current state, however there are apparently interesting mixed options on either side.

Crag-Y-Llyn is rumored to be coming in slowly, with views from afar.

I will be out tomorrow exploring the torpantau situation followed by a jaunt up the north face and a trundle over to RAC corner for some ice bouldering. Will report back with photos.

Please keep conditions reports coming in people! It looks to be warming up again by saturday evening so if you want out; out now!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ice Ice Baby

So isn't this exciting. The first bucket test of the year is a success....

The bucket test being - when I leave a bucket outside my back door overnight, full of water, and find it in the morning full of ice - chances are it's a bit on the chilly side up in the mountains.

Talk abounds all over the forums and facebook at the moment of people hoping gullies will be in condition and wondering what knarl they can go at towards the later stages of these week. So perhaps time for a few pointers...

There is snow on Pen-y-Fan, there is snow in the gullies, it is powdery.

Simple snow facts, lesson one...

Snow falls as unconsolidated powder, this of course means that all gullies are slosh fests, and although on occasion fun, they're not really 'in' condition. Unfortunately, the Gods do not bless us enough to allow Neve to fall from the heavens. Not that we ever really have true Neve in South Wales. But really, for gullies such as those on the North Face of Pen-y-Fan to come into condition, we need a bit of freeze thaw, to allow the snow crystals to melt and then rebond as a more compact and solid snowpack. Unfortunately, this freeze thaw rarely happens in South Wales, and the snow is unlikely to stay there long enough for it to compress and establish itself through gravity alone. Whilst it is true that the daytime sub zero's and the overnight drops on the high ground do lead to a nice crunchy solid crust, this is highly unlikely to be stable enough to climb on so much as fall through. Gop.

The gullies of South Wales and Frozen Turf...

So, the gullies and ridge routes of South Wales (such as central gully and central rib on PyF) are still regularly climbable in winter conditions. From snow lesson number one you'll appreciate that the snow is not often in condition however the advantage comes from the fact that these routes are primarily frozen turf choss fests. Which is in fact a lot more fun than it sounds. Problem at the moment is likely to be that the turf underneath the snow may not be frozen. Because the snow came quite suddenly, after a period of mild weather, it is possible that it will have insulated the ground before it had chance to thoroughly freeze, leading to only partially frozen turf. That said, much of the steeper sections in the gullies struggle to cling on to snow, especially on the few mixed steps in central gully, meaning exposed turf will by this point almost certainly be frozen. Thumbs Up! Watch out for those delicate patches of vegetation and un-bonded rock, however. Although specific to North Wales, tootle over to the BMC website and check out there new white is right guide, for some tips and pointers about how to protect the winter environment.

Rime! on the headwall

For the more seasoned amongst us who fancy a bit of excitement on the headwall of Pen-Y-Fan, the good news is that when it's cold and there is snow and moisture blowing about in the air, the headwall very very quickly comes into climbable condition. Thanks to the prevailing north easterlies over the park the headwall gets blasted with all manner of sticky icy frozen water stuff which builds up a nice layer of axe attracting rime. So go out and have some fun kids!

Ice - the real good news!

Water ice, in South Wales?! Yes thats right. There are a number of waterfalls in south wales that come into condition after a good cold snap - usually around 5-7 days of sub zero temperatures. If you follow the temperature of Merthyr, and chop off a few degrees, that's usually a good indicator as to what it's been like up at the storey arms. Most notable of these falls are RAC Corner or Craig-y-Fro, just past the Storey Arms and up on the hillside, Roadside easy ice cragging that is very popular and usually takes around 5 days to form into a climbable condition. Previous winters have seen it offer some interesting variations including a short but sweet WI3 pillar at the bottom and a short vertical section to top out with some fun little steps in between. Best of all is Torpantau, the jewel in South Wales water ice crown, 2-3 pitches of steep, steppy, mushroomed scottish 3, pure ice. After a week of sub zero it's usually fat enough to take long screws and give a fantastic outing. Take plenty of screws though and a couple of bulldogs, as rock protection is scarce and there have been a number of accidents or near misses.

PLEASE REMEMBER - Water Ice is delicate. Don't hack it up and smash it up, taking out large chunks and pillars, and leave it in as best condition as you can for the next ascent. Due to them being the most southerly of winter climbs in the UK, they get a lot of traffic from Wales and abroad.

Have fun out there kids! And stay safe!