touring & backcountry
CairnGorm Mountain // Wednesday 23rd April 2008
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Skinning at 2am on upper Cas ridge. - Sure way to beat poma queues.!

Traverse out of Lurcher's Gully. - Ironically the best skiable surfaces of the day.

Good touring cover. - Even at 7am surfaces not frozen hard.

Checking out of hotel early. - Great views from our room, but AirCon system was a bit noisy!

Skis off at Sneachda burn. - Patch linking up to this point, was no problem, and good sport.

Macdui seen from Cairn Lochan top.

Stuart enjoys a look at the Sneachda & Fiacail Buttress lines. - 7am, nobody else around.

Picking lines from Lurchers across to Sneachda path.

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:: Tour Route(s) or Location Skied/Ridden
Skin up FRP & Cas Ridge. - Bivouc at Point-1141m - Traverse uper Coire Raibert to GoatTrack/Domhain Col - Over Cairn Lochan, descending to Lurcher's Gully - Traverse out to Sneachda Burn, and walk last 1km out on climbers path.
:: Weather Conditions
Plan-A was to traverse Plateau to Macdui, overnight with a well-illuminated night sky. - But high winds forced Plan-B, a bivvy after reaching plateau, and wait for less wind....but winds remained high, and forced reduction of the tour route once daylight arrived.

Skinned Cas ridge about 1am-2am by headtorch, wth broken cloud and good moon/star light. But the wind on approach to Point-1141m was severe. - Forecast was for benign conditions, suitable for night traverse...but the nearby Gorm AWS recorded 50-60mph Mean, gusting 70+mph. - Totaly wrong windspeed forecast!

Decided not to proceed across Plateau against 50-60mph winds. (wisely) Too stubborn to retreat from 500m height gained, wee opted to bivvy in lee of cairn at Point-1141m. - Hoping for wind to ease, but remained wild rets of night and most of morning.

Visibility was good mostly, and views into Sneachda from the bivvy as day dawned. - Temperature probably remained above freezing across most of mountain overnight.

At least it didn't rain. - But the severe wind was a reminder that we can rely too heavily on forecast...Always worth taking some bivvy kit as it made the overnight comfortable in a moderately exposed situation.
:: Snow Conditions and Distrubtion
Skinning conditions were generally excellent, with good wide snow cover. - Some breakable crust, with deep soft for walkers, but skis moved fairly well.

Lovely snow for ascent of Cairn Lochan from GoatTrack Col, and traverse of Cairn Lochan summit area heading to Lurchers.

About 450m of descent from Cairn Lochan into Lurchers, before traverse out to join path at Sneachda burn. - Snow not great condition. Observed 3 distinct snow conditions, from summit to Lurchers Gully.

Upper slopes: (Creme Brulee) Crust with deep soft/heavy underneath. Skiing on crust was ok, but constantly breaking crust and sinking in heavy soft, making control hard & unpredictable.

Mid slopes: (Creme Caramel) softer wet surface, deep heavy snow below. Bit easier to ski, but still hard work.

Lower slopes: (Gelato) more consistent, and by time we left Lurchers Gully it was the best surface for skiing.

This better snow type continued on exit of Lurchers, which made the linking of patches enjoyable sport. - Stayed on skis till Sneachda burn, and walked last 1km on path back to carpark.

Back in Cas Cafe by noon. - Plenty snow left for more tours, and days with less perverse winds.
:: Skiers/Riders
HTH and Craggie
This report was posted by Winterhighland Member at 09.19hrs on Thu 24th Apr 08

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