Church Door Buttress on Bidean nam Bian in Glen Coe was surprisingly busy today. With a reasonable walk in (actually not as bad as you might think) you don't normally see many people there but it was the place to be today. Tommy, Stuart and I went for West Chimney Route, a fantastic climb that I have never climbed before. At long last I got to climb it today and it was great fun.
We followed Steve and Dot who have been having a busy week as well. It was great to see Ken and Hannah climbing Flake Route as well. The crux pitch climbs steeply over a collection of chock stones with good protection and very positive hooks. A bit of cunning bridging takes a lot of weight off the arms which is useful. The route used to go underground here but the blocks moved and you need to climb the outside these days. The grade is probably the same though at technical 6. It's steep for a move but very secure. V,6 seems about right to me for the whole route.
As always, crossing the arch was very impressive. The exit pitch from the arch was OK and the descent slopes were nice and easy. On the way down we saw Ian and Murdo had made the first ascent of the very steep ice line on the crag, a route that has been eyed up by many people for a long time. It was also good to see Greg back in action - looking forward to seeing him at the Fort William Mountain Festival
Another calm and cool day took Tommy and me to Ben Nevis. It was not quite as cold as I hoped for and the ice climbs are forming but not yet fat in general. So we went to climb Lost the Place on Creag Coire na Ciste. This is a fantastic climb up a natural winter line with lots of very good climbing on it. There is a long left trending groove which has reasonable protection but it was hard to find and hard to place. The next pitch has a brilliant 3D move and the last pitch, up an intimidating overhanging chimney, was icy and solid. This climb deserves to be climbed much more often than it is currently, it's brilliant.
There are a few French climbers enjoying good climbing on Ben Nevis at the moment and a few other teams. Green Gully, Tower Ridge, NE Buttress, Thomson's Route and several other routes were done. There is good ice in the Trident Buttresses and Mega Route X is not far off being fat enough to climb.
The snow appears to be settling down slowly but there are some soft cornices in a few places. We descended Number Four Gully through some droopy cornices. There is a good notch cut through the cornice and steps in the snow beneath. The forecast for the end of the week is looking good. Make sure you get out climbing if you can.
What a pleasure to have a calm day with some blue skies and a little sunshine. Tommy, co-founder of Jottnar, and I went up to Coire nan Lochan. I thought doing some mixed/buttress climbing today would be a good idea since we had a lot of fresh snow over the weekend. There was deep soft snow with a few layers and a slight crust near the top on the slopes and in the gullies. Progress was hard work if you were out in front but we made it to Scabbard Chimney easily enough thanks to a trail going to Summit Buttress Ordinary Route.
The climb was covered in soft snow as well, most of which was not very helpful! However the climbing was excellent. Scabbard Chimney has just three pitches but it has a lot of climbing and each pitch is tricky. The third is possibly the hardest but they are quite similar and the climb is quite sustained. At the top there are abseil anchors in place to go down The Tempest to make an easy descent. This was a brilliant warm up to a week of climbing with Tommy.
Several teams climbed Dorsal Arete, and Summit Buttress Ordinary Route and Raeburn's Buttress were both climbed today. It looks like this week will be cold and relatively calm with just a little fresh snow. Should be a good week for climbing.
Walking in to Ben Nevis this morning was a real test of determination. Heavy rain, strong wind and lots of water flowing down the Allt a'Mhuilinn made a few teams turn back. Those more used to ice climbing in the rain went up to Coire na Ciste and were rewarded with soggy but fun climbing. The forecast was spot on - the wind and temperature dropped sharply. Rain on the summit turned to snow falling down to 500m in a couple of hours and the thaw last night did not take away much of the ice that was there on Wednesday.
Rintje and I climbed a variation on Number Three Gully Buttress with some really nice ice and an exposed exit at the top. Lou and Jo climbed Green Gully, Dave and Mark climbed Comb Gully and Richard and Stuart climbed Wendigo and Central Gully on Creag Coire na Ciste. There is lots of ice on Two Step Corner and The Cascade, Point Five Gully, Hadrian's Wall Direct, Smith's Route and Italian Right Hand. Mega Route X has a good coating of ice and The Shroud is forming nicely. There is a lot of water flowing through the snow and down the crags so in the colder weather forecast over the weekend and into next week the ice climbing could be good.
NE Buttress dominates the view as you walk in to Ben Nevis. It is a steep and imposing buttress that is tremendously exposed so it's best to climb it on a clear day for the full experience. Today dawned frosty and calm with just a few clouds so it was a great choice for Rintje and me. We did think about going for an ice route and we were very surprised at how much ice has been forming in the last 24 hours. Things are looking much better than they were last week.
Many areas of snow are scoured and frozen hard. The approach to the First Platform is very icy and quite serious. Once on NE Buttress the climbing is secure and great fun all the way up to The Man Trap. Solid snow and bits of ice make progress quite simple. The Man Trap however was very hard today. The cracks are full of ice so instead of your pick falling into a perfect hook the picks bounce off while you lock off with much of your weight on one arm! The Forty Foot Corner is more straightforward but protection is hard to find with not enough ice for screws and the cracks full of ice. The view from the top was brilliant!
Point Five Gully looks fat and was climbed today. Zero Gully is also iced up but is not as fat, and it's about the same for Hadrian's Wall Direct. Smith's Route looks good and Minus Two Gully was climbed today (solo) as well. The Cascade looks well iced up as well as Boomers Requiem. There is some ice on Mega Route X and The Curtain, and even The Shroud has a good amount of ice on it. Tower Scoop, routes on the Little Brenva Face, Glover's Chimney, Garadh Gully, Green Gully, Central Gully Creag Coire na Ciste and several other climbs of this standard are also looking good.
The great ridges are all good to climb now. Ledge Route has plenty of snow and no ice on it, Castle Ridge and Tower Ridge have nice firm snow on them, NE Buttress is great but The Man Trap is hard and Observatory Ridge looks good with firm snow where you need it and little soft snow to cover up the holds.
The rocks are well rimed up on the steep mixed routes but there is likely to be ice in the cracks. Snowier mixed routes such as Tower Face of the Comb are more likely to be fun to climb.
The big snow gullies are all very full of snow and we have hard snow down to about 800 and soft snow down to 300m. Another slight thaw and refreeze will go through on Thursday and Friday before a colder weekend so there could be so good ice climbing to enjoy.
It was still windy enough for the A82 to be closed to high sided vehicles this morning but fresh snow down to 600m showed it had at least got colder. Rintje and I went to Buachaille Etive Mor along with BMG trainees Dave and John. We climbed D Gully Buttress which turned out to be a popular choice. There was a team of three on the route and another considering their options at the foot of the route. The climb was being well sheltered from the wind and, as forecast, the wind dropped slowly during the day.
There are two tricky pitches on the route. The first is soon found, a steep wall with very good cracks for picks and ledges for crampons. The second is, by contrast, tenuous and sloping. I've always climbed this by a rising diagonal rightwards to a tricky little groove overlooking D Gully. Today though I found out you can climb it on the left after a little step leftwards with good protection. Every day is a learning day and I'm very happy to know about this line - it feels far more like the grade IV,4 it's supposed to be!
We went up Curved Ridge which was quite verglased but also had some usable neve. The wind on top was not so bad but it was clear that it had been extremely windy previously. There were very few areas of fresh snow building because the wind had just blasted it all away. Coire na Tullach was scoured as well and the old, firm snow went all the way down the gorge so the walk out was quick and easy. With sunshine and great views it was a very nice and surprising end to the day.
The storms are rattling through Lochaber and the temperature is still bouncing up and down like a rubber ball.
On Friday of last week we had a very windy day with thaw conditions in the morning and a slight cooling during the day. Saturday was colder and we had snow down to low levels again but still with very strong winds. Donald, Aidan and Niall forced their way into Coire nan Lochan in Glen Coe and managed to find occasional shelter in Scabbard Chimney. There were a couple of moments of clinging-on while a squall passed but they managed to climb the route and abseil off down The Tempest. Donald said it felt like VI,6 on the day and it was a hard won ascent I think.
Yesterday was relatively calm but the temperature was on the rise. Donald, Aidan and Niall went to climb D Gully Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor and enjoyed being out of the wind. They did not enjoy the soggy snow though and the delicate and insecure crux moves proved to be unjustifiable with poor protection a good distance away. Even the retreat was quite exciting by abseil down D Gully with bottomless soggy snow. So it was an eventful weekend of climbing which is what it's all about really. We don't go climbing because it's easy!
Today, Henry the Eighth storm is battering the west coast. With 130mph gusts and thaw to the tops, it would be a bit too challenging to go climbing today! Let's hope it clears away by tomorrow.
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.