It has been a tricky week demanding lots of careful planning, route choice and studying of the forecasts. Three nights in a row gave us thaws with a refreeze at dawn or during the day. Lots more snow fell, plenty of wind and general storminess kept us battered and embraced. It's mentally exhausting, as well as physically demanding, and I love it. But I am looking forward to a more settled period of weather.
On Monday, Mike and I were climbing Tower Ridge in improving weather until Mike became unwell and we had to go down. It was a real shame because it turned into a lovely afternoon, but these things happen sometimes and being ill on the traverse of Tower Gap is not ideal. Descending is a skills in itself and we got a good bit of practice. On climbs like an t'Aonach Eagach in Glen Coe there are many sections that are downclimbed, and we don't often get much practice. Climbing down is very often faster than abseiling, especially if there are several of you.
Tuesday was windy and not very cold. Wednesday was extremely windy, not very cold and very wet. Will and Jonathan had a nasty reminder of the challenges of gearing up in the wind and rain at just above freezing before we climbed Twisting Gully/Grooves in Coire nan Lochan. It was all a bit soggy, cold and wet. The crux of the day was getting out of the van in the morning but we were glad that we did. It was type 2 fun, but it was very well worth doing.
Today was very cold and very windy at times. We woke to snow at sea level and it didn't warm up much at all. Nobody ventured high on Ben Nevis due to the winds and fresh snow building up, so the west flank of Tower Ridge was popular. Vanishing Gully was fat and busy so we went over to 1931 Route. This is great fun and well worth looking up. You go underneath the first chockstone on some lovely icy steps, then under or over the second one depending on the build up of snow. There was not so much snow, so we went underneath but there is only just enough room to squeeze through if you exhale and push/pull at the same time. We were glad of some caving experience!
Tomorrow looks like it will be the day of the week. There is a lot of snow that has built up above 1000m now so it will be hard to get onto any of the big classic ice climbs. Point Five Gully is now fat, Hadrian's Wall Direct looks mega and I'm pretty sure that Orion Direct is good to climb as well. However, there is a significant avalanche hazard getting to any of these and I will certainly give it some time to settle before I go near them. The great ridges now all have some brilliant snow cover and usable snow-ice. Steep mixed climbs are pretty icy and will be hard work to clear. The big snow gullies are very full and general snow cover is pretty 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.