During a thaw after a very nice spell of weather and great climbing conditions it is easy to think it's all over. However it is very often a nice surprise to see lots of ice in the classic climbs on Ben Nevis after the thaw and today was like that. Most of the big classics are still complete such as Minus Two Gully, Orion Direct, Slav Route, Zero Gully, Hadrian's Wall Direct, Sickle, Point Five Gully, Indicator Wall and Smith's Route. Many mid-grade ice climbs in Coire na Ciste are complete as well and even The Shroud still has a column in place.
It was still thaw gently today and the snow was soft and wet. Lumps of ice fell down the crags randomly and it was not a day for ice climbing. Bob, Rich and Al had not climbed NE Buttress so Donald and I took the team up there and it turned out to be a great day out. The weather was very nice and we had good views all the way up the buttress. The sun did not come out in the afternoon as forecast but it was still a very nice day.
The climb is entirely on snow and ice apart from the Mantrap, which is often bare anyway. There is a good amount of rock exposed so finding protection is easy and the snow cover is good so the climbing is steady away. The Forty Foot Corner has some ice in it to cover the protection but it feels a bit insecure and poorly protected. Looking down Astral Highway there is lots of ice on the face which would be brilliant to climb if the snow freezes.
This week we have stable high pressure and warm daytime temperatures but hopefully the snow will freeze with light frosts and dry air. If this does happen we will have a brilliant week of ice climbing to enjoy. However there is still the chance that the snow will stay soft and the ice continue to thaw slowly. We'll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. It will be best to avoid the sunshine though until you are on the summit.
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.