touring & backcountry
CairnGorm Mountain // Sunday 5th May 2013
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opening out off the bottom

landing, but not being held


back into turns

edges back in


landing jump turn

jump turn - note icicles for reference of vertical

jump turn

mandatory air to enter

entrance - no cornice issues

Loch A'an - a welcome sight

chuffed : o)

... where does my help..? http://tinyurl.com/bwnkqwf

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:: Tour Route(s) or Location Skied/Ridden
Up to top of Cairngorm, then walked down towards the top of Cas headwall as there was no snow there... Pushed with freeheel but no skins round back of Sneachda, and up to top of Hell's Lum Crag. Skied Hell's Lum gully - full write up below... Back up just to the north of there, between HL and Stag Rocks, then up to top of Central Gully, but dropped left off the top, onto the snow next to the Runnel, and into the Runnel gully about halfway down where it became wider than a ski-length. From bottom of Sneachda, the classic "valley of poos and holes" (actually pretty clean this year) is in great shape, and freeheeled along it to a 7min walk back up over into the Cas bowl. Skied Fiacaill Ridge poma up-track with a bit of heather/rock-hopping back to the level of the carpark.
:: Weather Conditions
despite sun when I arrived, it was cloudy to the top of Cairngorm and then rained a bit on my way over to HL - but that made things soft and skiable, so no complaints. On and off dull and damp until back, but not that much rain...
:: Snow Conditions and Distrubtion
Hell's Lum, which was the main event:
... well, it was in condition, but I can't think it is anymore... But it's been done. Actually, was only going to have a look, but when I got there, it was pretty obvious that it was either have a go now or forget it until next season, so what could an honest, hard-working freeride skier do? Could get in around the cornice, so never unclipped the rope and ice axe from my bag. Entrance was steep, and required jumping over about 4ft of rock, so probably 8ft of air by the time skis hit snow. A couple of jump turns in soft, agreeable snow where it was narrow but not excessively so (maybe two to three ski-lengths?), but then it got more serious. down to about a ski length and a half wide, but of that, at least a third was more like ice than snow - I guess it was the top of the ice-bulge Al Todd mentioned, in partially melted state. After a bit of side-slipping, the remaining ski-length of "good" snow got so concave that my 187's were badly bridging, so I had to slip forward onto the icy bit, *try* to get/hold an edge and basically slip until I landed on the softer snow about 10-12ft below. Edge bit, and then it widened up to about one and a half ski lengths again (positively spacious...), with sustained steepness (note icicle in picture, for vertical reference). Got in another jump turn before a crack above a short (maybe 4-5ft? Not more than 6) vertical section, which was quite easily jumped and had a nice buld-up of soft-looking spring snow below it, about two and a half widening to three ski-lengths across. The snow, however, was sitting on such a steep angle that it didn't catch a skiers weight particularly well falling from 8ft above, so there was again some rather undignified sidewards motion untli my edges bit... But they did bite, before the route narrowed between the rocks again, to about two ski lengths wide, but with nice, even cover of soft snow. A few more metres and a groove opened up in the centre of the route, where the sluff and debris from above was carving out it's own wee valley, but with a bit of pointing and a bit of jumping, the job was done... Very satisfying, at least for a good few hours afterwards, as is the way with such physical endeavours. A semi-pro rider once said to me that freeride skiing is about 90% about the conditions, and after today, I have to agree. It was super-fun, but where you can get down Aladdin's Mirror and even Central Gully on hard snow, this would have been suicide on neve. Am thankful to have come down it safely; it would have been very hard for a person to follow today, as I'd compacted the landings from the mandatory jumps, and there's just not much room in there. IF more snow falls and blows in there, who knows? For my money though, it would have been much better last weekend, when Diagonal Gully was so good, as it's a very similar aspect... I am reminded once again of Jamie's "in the mountains, as in life.." remarks from Wake, about the trails we leave behind; and I find myself thinking of a chap called David who loved wild spaces too, who said "I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from..." http://tinyurl.com/bwnkqwf - He guards you when you leave, and when you return... Let's keep on keep coming back safely, OK? P
:: Skiers/Riders
theph mack, solo
This report was posted by thephmack at 00.45hrs on Mon 6th May 13

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