Monday, March 08, 2010

Carnferg to Aboyne 7 km ski run 1200ft vertical

Saturday morning was damp with light rain. The weather forecast earlier in the week said blue sky and heavy frost but I got myself ready for a hike up Carnferg with my skis. By 10.30 things were brighter, the snow was real wet and spring like on the valley floor. I was hoping a freeze thaw cycle during the week had built a bit of a base but as I got half way up the fungle I realized this was not going to be the case. The snow was still real deep and hadn't really started consolidating into spring snow. It was tough going to reach Rest and Be Thankful, lots of walkers foot steps to follow meant progress was good. It was a t-shirt and ski jacket day, trying to keep cool is warmer temps is hard. At the top of the fungle the foot steps disappeared at the point where the track leads to Carnferg, it was a bit of a blow as that meant slogging through deep wet snow for miles, cutting the first tracks. After you cross the fungle burn there is a marshy meadow, the snow depth there was up to 70cm and required great energy not just to walk forward but to prevent yourself from getting stuck, one of my ski poles disappeared right in and I had to dig it out. But to my surprise in the trees some foot prints appeared again. I was longing to get into the trees as the snow is usually a lot less deep, but not today, there was mass of it. A masses of tree branches littering the snow. Following the tracks allowed for better progress until a small burn crossing where I caught up with a couple of walkers. I don't think they knew the path that well as they made their way East, whereas I know this area like the back of my hand but even for me on Saturday, the woodland was like a new place. The snow makes everything look the same, but I knew where the edge of the wood was and how far South had to be walked and the snow just kept on getting deeper and deeper. Two hours in I reach the open moorland and the base of Carnferg. The landrover track a smooth blanket of snow. In short, the most solid cover of snow I have ever seen on Carnferg. The powder snow was deeper earlier in the year but this snow cover was solid and vast. I did not have the energy to make it to the summit on that last occasion and while I knew it was going to be another 40mins of sheer effort I was motivated to make it to the summit. Lunch was had and even the sky was looking optimistically brighter, with that I started the climb. The snow gave some encouragement as it was firming up but it was unreliable the whole way up, sometimes, 6 inches of sink in, the next I was up to my thighs. Photos stops were used as rests, Lochnagar was in the sun and it was heading my way. The tip of the Carnferg pyramid Monument appeared and with a couple more minutes I was there. A bit of a wind but the day was brightening up for me just at the right time. Photos were taken, hiking boots taken off, socks rung out and warm ski boots put on. The snow cover was wind swept at the summit. However, I wanted to check out the snow cover on the back slope, its the steepest on the hill and I didn't fancy the ski back down where I had just walked up, skiing on porridge equals a broken leg to me! The back bowls were loaded and seemed firmer, probably been baking in the sun earlier in the week. Back I walked to get the skis on. The wind drifts were skied over, bump, bump, bump, then some porridge, then as the sloped steepened, the snow firmed up some descent turns could be made and all that effort to reach the summit was forgotten. A quick stop before a clump of heather and then a keen look up the hill so see the ski tracks in the snow. Not bad. A buzz. But then the skis need to be taken off and the tiny matter of hiking back up a much steeper slopes in the ski boots this time. While heavier they have a larger surface areas so I found them beneficial in the climb out. The back bowl stretched the whole width of the hills. I tried further west for the second run but hit a soft patch and a nose plant in to the hill was the result. The snow still so soft that my skis went straight in, obviously crossed over so it was a bit awkward to get untangled. Not deterred I skied out the slope finding firmer snow. A longer climb out and while I'd have liked another few runs, time was getting on, plus I was knackered and had 3 hours ski/walk back to Aboyne!

Now, how to tackle skiing the front of Carnferg, not very steep and deep wet snow on no base? Simple answer: long traversing turns and I mean across the whole hill. Turned out to be great fun, it would take you hours to skip across that hill as I did, a view of Aboyne-Westhills, a view of Lochnager etc. Gradually loosing height each turn. Now, some where on the way up I had lost my ski goggles from my pocket so I wanted to trace my tracks back. I kept my skis on and headed into the trees. A lot more pleasant riding on top of the snow than sinking in to it. It was a bit rock and roll at times (but not actual rocks, they were buried), burns skied over and even jumped the fungle ski burn with my ski boots on, risky. With one short hike up I was back at the top of the fungle. As a kid, I've always wanted to ski the Fungle so I had to go for it. The snow was real wet and the slope was just steep enough to keep forward momentum with a light push from the poles. The first steep descent approached through the trees, well trodden snow meant my speed accelerated, now the tack is 3 to 4 metres wide and my skis are 2 metres long, how to stop, a choppy snow plough ski style. The snow was less deep and even solid ice as the last steep approached, snow plough, ski straight into a tree, a turn, straight down the ice track and a turn to stop. A run I'd not recommend. Then a fun skim across an ice blistered track running with water, the odd bare patch of cover and then the valley floor was reached. 7 km of downhill skiing and 7 1/2 hours of ski adventure.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Glenshee ski report 1 March 2010

With a calm blue sky day forecast the only place to head was Glenshee yesterday. The road was reported as closed between Breamar and Glenshee due to drifting first thing but that must have been precautionary as the road was black all that way. After the storm on last week the snow blower and snow plough had cut through the snow all the way to the ski resort. Even the remains of an avalanche remained. The worst road conditions were between Ballater and Breamar on the way up but even that had disappeared in the strong sun light.

Approaching Glenshee the hills became increasing wind swept. The narrow valley must channel the wind big time as it reaches the summit. In lower deeside the hill cover appears more uniform. The place looks great, mountains of snow around the car park and cafe, a ticket was purchased and up sunny side chair I went. The Clunny slopes was hard packed, OK, bullet proof snow. Up Meal Odhar poma and down Corrrie Fionn, two width groomed snow, soft snow but the rest was bullet proof hard snow. The wind had scoured and polished the snow hard on all none west facing slopes, did a couple of runs there before Glas Maol opened. The black run was closed due to avalanche risk so it was a tuck position across the top, but a head wind meant a bit of shushing was in order all day but it was worth it all day. The snow on west facing side of the gully was soft, ranged from wind blown powder (very little) to Sastrugi (like sand dune markings in a dessert) and the best of it all wind packed powdery snow with the odd major lip of powder. That required the furthest traveling to but worth it all day.

Skid back for a late morning refreshment. Meall Odhar has a great Mogul run near the poma track and sunny side is in magic form, fast soft silky snow. While having a drink I watched a few skiers have a go on the Tiger and that is where I headed. Did two runs, god it was hard, hard and steep but a challenge to get to the bottom in one piece. There was some grip in the snow but if you happened on scrapped smooth part on a steep section then, even the sharpest of edges could not get grip. Up the chairlift again but to head across to Cairnwell, the top section smooth and icy, any soft snow near the fence, the rest of the piste was fast loose snow most of the way, especially near the fence. Lastly for the morning up Cairn Aosda, baking in the sun all morning. Nice silky fast snow and deep at that, making the top steep part a mogul field. A ski through the fully plastered gully to the back of the cafe to stop for lunch.

The afternoon I headed back to Glas Maol via the Meall Odhar T-bar, Ok now a poma, took me into the Corrie Fionn gully, great snow and lots of lips, jumps if you are into that. Skied until the legs, well the knees had had enough and spent the last half hour on Sunnyside Chair, if only every piste has a chair lift, it does bode for a good rest. All sunny side chair slopes were in great form, just the old worn icy patched. Blue sky to the last.

Photo from the day