One of the 19 projects being delivered by Nevis Landscape Partnership is about training volunteers. I got to work with the current Trainee Volunteer Rangers for the last two days and we had a great time exploring Ben Nevis. The four TVR's are on a ten week programme during which they get to learn about and get involved all aspects of being a ranger including counting moths and mink, surveying visitors to Ben Nevis to write an economic impact study and learning some mountain skills while thinking about managing people on Ben Nevis.
Yesterday we went up Ledge Route and round to Number Four Gully and today we went up Coire Leis and all along the top of the cliffs to Number Four Gully from the opposite direction. We were thinking about scrambling skills, safeguarding each other on steep ground and learning the topography of the complex North Face cliffs.
Much of this is to get them ready to help out on the North Face Survey, another of the Nevis Landscape Partnership projects, in August. We'll be looking at the remaining cliffs and gullies we have not yet surveyed for rare species of flowers and plants. We already know that their condition on Ben Nevis is favourable aftyer the previous two years but we need to check all of the North Face to record what is there and, potentially, find some new things. These incredible little flowers are used to being covered by snow for much of the year. Now that the snow patches are receding quickly they are getting ready for their short season for growing and reproducing before the next snow arrives.
My Summer seasons in the Alps are pretty short but John and I have had great success in the past. We've enjoyed brilliant routes and explored lovely new places and in our couple of weeks this year we did the same.
In a mixed forecast to start off with we went to Wiwanni to get into the swing of it. From Baltschiedertal there is a long and entertaining via ferrata going straight to the hut that was perfect for the damp first day. It must have taken an enormous amount of work to build this and it takes you to some wacky places. Over night it snowed down to 2000m or so and we woke to a nice but cold and crisp morning, not quite perfect for the long rock climbs here! We went for the standard route to Wiwannihorn which is bolted and has moves of IV at the start but is mostly quite steady away and fine in the snow. The descent gave us an unusually delicate scramble down what is more commonly a dry rocky ridge.
The food and the welcome were so good at the hut that we stayed another night and went to climb the Steinadler Route next day once all the snow had melted off. The rock here is brilliant to climb on and with easy access to the hut and a really nice guardian it's very well worth a visit.
To get a bit more altitude and to make the most of the cold and snowy conditions we went to the newly refurbished Torino Hut on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Range and climbed the North Face of Tour Ronde. This is a delightful mini-North Face on a peak that sits in the middle of the most impressive 4000m peaks. Looking over to Aiguille Noir de Peutery, Grandes Jorasses, Innominata Ridge, Kuffner Ridge and Rochefort Arete it was nice to remember we've climbed all of these on previous trips.
The route was in really good shape but there was some fresh snow around and the radiant heat from the sun made a slide easily triggered. The team ahead of us did cause a slide that went over the team behind us but we had chosen to keep off to the side where we were clear. The snow made it easy to climb but was easy enough to dig through to anchor into ice underneath making it simple and secure to climb. On top it was clear just how much snow fell over the previous weeks. There is often a section of rock to climb at the top but this time is was snow all the way.
So with the ridges covered in snow, the faces avalanching in the now warmer conditions and a desire to keep working on the acclimatisation for when the snow and weather came good we went to climb Gran Cornier above Val d'Herens.
It's a long way to the Col de la Dent Blanche especially in soft snow. We turned back due to the rain on the first day but made it on the second day with a promise of a freeze over night and good weather. Thankfully the bivi hut at the col is a wonderful place to hang out and dry off boots. It's worth going just for the long drop with the best view in the Alps!
There was a lot of snow on the ridge and big cornices but it would have been alright if the snow froze well. Unfortunately it didn't and after we got to the first top we decided it was not good enough to carry on to the summit. So we followed ski tracks from here down a side spur back to valley in deep crusty snow that was a real test. We were not quite as elegant as the skiers had been! Unfortunately our bad luck got worse and all we managed in the following week was a nice bit of rock climbing above La Berarde before heading home. It's still snowy in the Alps with great cover on the glaciers and lots of snow on the ridges. However most of the rock climbs are clear now and the climbing is good.
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.