Storms, snowfall and thaw-freeze cycles are all tough to endure but we need the bad weather to produce good ice. We now have some very good ice!
On Tuesday of this week the sun was shining, it was cold and calm. Many teams enjoyed climbing big classic ice climbs such as Orion Direct, Point Five Gully, Hadrian's Wall Direct, Observatory Buttress etc. I'm not sure about the Minus Gullies, but Vanishing Gully, Italian Right Hand, The Cascade, Green Gully, Comb Gully and many many more climbs are well iced and good to climb. The great ridges are also very good, icy mixed climbs are excellent, snow cover is good and there are some cornices but they are not terrifying.
This week I climbed Stringfellow with Ali on Monday. I have been wanting to climb this for many years and we picked an excellent day. Lots of ice on the rocks really helped the climbing, protection was OK, and it is a fantastic line on a great bit of Ben Nevis.
Tuesday was sunny and cold, and busy. Bob, Tony and I went to Coire Leis to stay away from trouble since we have climbed most of the big classics already. Cresta Direct gave us some lovely ice climbing in the sunshine! We had the whole coire to ourselves and the view over CMD Arete to Aonach Beag. The Little Brenva Face feels like a very different place to anyone else on Ben Nevis and is well worth visiting.
Wednesday started out sunny and frosty, but the strong SE wind barrelled down the Allt a'Mhuilinn and made it quite a cold, serious day. Tony, Bob and I went to climb a really cool route called Fatal Error on Pinnacle Buttress of The Tower, close to Stringfellow. This is an icy mixed climb that is really worth hunting down. The main pitch gives a long lead up a gully full of icy snow which is steep but you can get a foot out to a wee ledge every time to take the weight off your arms. Four long pitches of really interesting climbing lands you on Tower Ridge at the foot of The Great Tower. We chose to continue the Eastern Traverse into Observatory Gully to descend due to the strong winds.
I must admit that my enthusiasm for climbing today was much lower due to a forecast for drizzle and a thaw to summit level. However, we persevered and were rewarded with a much nicer day than expected. It didn't rain very much at all and the wind was much lighter than forecast. The freezing level was at about 1200m but because it was very cold for the last few days and the snow is quite well transformed into snow-ice, the climbing was good. We went to Nevis Range to use the gondola, and climbed on the East Face in Coire an Lochain. We were first there so we abseiled Left Twin and climbed Typhoon and Left Twin. Both were excellent and the gondola was still running so we got a ride down as well.
With so much good ice and a good forecast for the weekend, it's going to be busy on Ben Nevis. So, instead of queueing for Orion Direct try Pinnacle Buttress Direct or Raeburn's Buttress Intermediary Gully. Have a look at Nasturtium and Morton's Neuroma. Stringfellow, Tower Face of The Comb, Fatal Error. There are lots of outstanding climbs to explore. Or go to Nevis Range and climb on Aonach Mor or Aonach Beag.
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.