If the rest of the winter carries on like this I'll be made up! I've had two days out now, both in amazing weather, cold, clear and calm. If anything, today was even better than Wednesday last week, made better again by climbing with Cathy. We went for NE Buttress on Ben Nevis, a total classic and the route that dominates the skyline as you walk up the Allt a'Mhuilinn. There's no problem finding this route, it's the really obvious ridge reaching up into the sky right in front of you!
It has stayed really cold but there has been no fresh snow fall. Where there is some watwr dripping down the cliffs it has been freezing into cascade ice. In fact there is a lot of it on the path just below the CIC Hut from the water pipe splashes. Waterfall Gully would just about go I think and there is a significant amount of ice on the higher pitches of Gemini. The Lower Carn Dearg Cascades could be good for some low level ice climbing action as well.
With no thaw freeze to transform the snow into snow-ice, it is soft and useless for climbing on. NE Buttress was quite tricky as a result with some very tenuous sections. It is better (easier anyway) with some snow-ice in the grooves and corners but Cathy is a mixed master climber and we made very good progress moving together for long sections and throwing in a few pitches at the hard sections. There is a hard pitch below the Man Trap, a very tenuous wall with slopy ledges, very poor hooks and no protection. A bit of solid snow-ice transforms it into a wee pull over but today it was quite challenging. The Man Trap was fine though since the cracks are free of ice, and the Forty Foot Corner was quite hard.
All day long we were treated to the most stunning vista of mountains from Schiehallion to Skye, Ben Wyvis to Ben Cruachan. The Cairngorms obviously have a lot more snow than we do on the west coast and Glen Coe does not have that much at all. The mixed climbing on Ben Nevis is very good though with a nice coating of rime that makes everything white but it easy to clear away. Take care though, with no snow-ice some of the blocks are not held in place at all. We might get a bit of consolidation later this week as the temperature rises slightly. It's not looking like a mega thaw by any means though, the trend is still pretty cold.
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.