After the warm rain of Christmas there is still a little snow left in the Highlands. Most of it is in the big gullies and high corries of the highest peaks and most of it was very nicely frozen today. A ridge of high pressure brought clear calm weather last night allowing the humidity and temperature to drop, and the snow to freeze. It's worth noting that the grass was well frozen at the CIC Hut this morning, even after only one cold night, showing us the ground is cold and ready to hold snow and form ice for us. All we need is a few falls of snow without the big thaws in between so that the snow cover can build up a bit.
Even so, we have more snow than we had at this time last year. Number Two Gully is complete as well as the major grade I gullies on Ben Nevis. Gardyloo Gully is quite well filled in as well. I climbed this in January last winter and found a really nice steep ice pitch underneath the chockstone. I think this ice pitch is covered with snow already and the grade might be more like a II at the moment. You could possibly get up Number Three Gully Buttress and a team went round the first pitch of Glover's Chimney to climb the rest of this route to Tower Gap today.
James, Skye and I went to climb Tower Ridge which turned out to be an excellent choice and popular! Other teams were climbing Ledge Route and Number Three and Four Gyllies, but there were also at least six other teams on Tower Ridge as well as us. It is not in easy condition - there is verglas on the rocks all the way to the top of the Little Tower and not much snow. What snow there is on the climb was very nicely frozen today and very helpful for us. We put on the crampons at the bottom of the Little Tower but other peopl put on theirs before us, and another team put theirs on much later! It's a bit wkward to know what is best.
Despite the number of people climbing we all got on very well, there was little hold up, and it was a lovely day. Light winds and expansive views helped! Unfortunately we might be back to low cloud, drizzle and a gentle thaw tomorrow. It's not all thaw on the forecast but there is not very much new snow forecast either. The long term forecast for January indicates general temperatures above average or the time of year so it could be a bit like last winter when we take what we get when we can get it. Days like today are a blessing and to be made the most of.
So the decade that started with the legendary winter of 2010, with super cold easterly winds and great volumes of snowfall, might go out with a winter notable for it's warmth and low snow cover if it turnes out like last winter again. It could be that global climate change is showing its face through the great variability of Scottish winter weather. Just about all the snow patches melted away in Scotland in the summer of 2019 and they all went in the summer of 2017. Then again, the winter of 2018 was the coldest for 25 years. It's so hard to say if there is any trend and one thing is for sure, the Scottish winters will always keep us on our toes! Happy adventures in 2020; make them deep and meaningful.
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.