Day 12: 2017/18

Glencoe Mountain Resort

I’ve taken some days off work to ride at Glencoe and I’m currently writing up this blog post in the Grog and Gruel in Fort William while nursing some milky coffees for as long as I can.

I was finding it difficult to choose which days to take off as I wanted to take advantage of recent snow, but inversions and fog seemed to be the order of the day for this Monday.

Mugs Alley and Thrombosis

Conditions on the Hill

I took my time to get ready as there was a lot of fog around. However the webcams in the Cafe were showing the top of the mountain.

Once up the Access Chair, there was actually sun streaming onto the mountain. As I travelled up the Plateau Poma, it was obvious that the snow was running slow due to the high moisture content (rain).

My board still has the factory wax and I felt maybe I should have given it a service before now.

It was 6° Celsius at the rescue hut below the summit and all that fresh snow that had fallen was consolidating but was saturated with water and the board was not running well at all. I had to seek out steeper turns but even then I felt like I was always on the brink of going over the handlebars. It was like riding in slow motion.

Visibility was much better than I expected, with only the odd wisp of cloud covering the top. Down on the moor, the low cloud built up through the day.

Looking towards the Devils Staircase
Looking towards the Devils Staircase from Happy Valley

Main Basin

Still a ton of snow in the Main Basin, but it was hard work in the shallow areas. The scalloped rain shaped surface of the snow lets you know where your board or skis will run slow. I would cross over to Ski Tow Gully and stop in behind the rescue hut, but this section was extremely slow.

I did get to chat to Conor, the lift operator who mans the top of the summit tows and produces the great time-lapse videos and photos you can see on the Glencoe Mountain Facebook Page.

Main Basin
Looking down Main Basin of Glencoe Mountain Resort

 Happy Valley & The Wall

After talking with Conor, I took his advice and aimed for the Wall via Happy Valley. The straight run from the summit provided better momentum to get me down through the glue like snow. It gets steeper in an area called the ‘Narrows’ and once through here, you are lead on to a high snowfield that links to the top of the Wall. Staying high and cutting across the top takes you to a steep fall line where I could get some more slow motion turns back to the T-bar.

Buachaille Etive Mòr
Buachaille Etive Mòr looms out of the mist like a mirage

An Avalanche warning from earlier in the week

I had heard on my last visit that ski patrol had dug someone out from a slide on the Flypaper on Friday. While waiting at a lift today one of the ski patrol went in to more detail about the rescue they performed on Scotland’s steepest marked run. I’ve linked to the CrankitupGear blog where there is an educational, well written warning on the incident. It’s well worth a read.

Rannoch Glades & Spring Run

Figuring that an increased angle would speed things up, I tried the Eastern side of the Mountain. Picking my way through the rock garden to the steeper end of Rannoch Glades. It was still slow, so I then tried Spring Run, the red run that neighbours the Flypaper. Still sticky, I did manage to make some more comfortable turns down this face, but decided to keep going down to the access chair.

I’d made up my mind to go back to the car park and ask if there was any chance the ski hire department could wax my board. Even if it had to be overnight.

Summit views
From the walk to the Spring Run you get wonderful views

Wax on, Wax off

I had a chat with the ski techs in the hire dept. After assessing my board, we decided that everyone was in the same boat. A wax job may not be the answer. And anyway, tomorrow looked like it was going to start off cold and clear. The wet snow would set up hard for the morning, and any wax I put on my board now would most likely not make any difference. It was my edges that would need attention.

I’d forgotten my edge file, so I would have to take a drive in to Fort William later to buy rub on wax and an edge tool.

At the car, I put what little liquid wax I had onto my board and allowed it to dry. Back up the hill I felt a small difference but nothing significant.

Mugs Alley then Rankin’s Return

After a couple more runs up top, I mixed it up with some runs down Mugs Alley. I thought the higher traffic, might mean faster snow, but again, not much improvement. I did have a great run under the Cliffhanger chair, with the wet snow holding me up as I went down the steeper, riders left of the lift.

At 3:00pm I took the long flat Rankin’s Return back to the Access Lift. I managed to keep some speed up, but decided not to take the marked run to the car park, but instead, take the lift.

Fort William

Once down the hill, I did leave my board with the ski techs to see what they could do for me. They are busy with ski hire, so I wasn’t expecting much. I drove into the highland town and made a bee-line for Nevisport to get an edge file and some temporary wax. Kirsty from the ski hire called to let me know they had managed to at least sharpen my edges, so hopefully it’ll chew up the slopes on Tuesday.

The forecast is looking bright, with high pressure settling in. This means no new snow, but at least there should be sunshine.