We had a tiny bit of fresh snow last night and a couple of light showers during the day. The dusting made the North Face of Ben Nevis look even better this morning. We had another moment when we walked out of the mist into a sunny day with bright white crags and a deep blue sky. Bob and I were up for another ice climb and had Rubicon Wall in minding thinking that nobody else would be climbing it. The snow was solid again and we followed the good steps up into the coire again to find Richard and team just starting Rubicon Wall! So we went for Point Five Gully as a reasonable consolation climb!
Other teams were enjoying Vade Mecum, Hadrian's Wall Direct, Sickle, Observatory Buttress and Orion Direct. There are many other ice climbs in great shape and this altitude is where the best climb is right now. Higher up on Gardyloo Buttress and Indicator Wall there is a lot of rime still so the ice might not be quite as good to climb. There is lots of it though and after the thaw and refreeze this week it might well be worth going up higher.
Point Five Gully was outstanding today as it always is. The first pitch is banked out and simple up the left side. The chimney provides the crux right now and is great fun. The Rogue Pitch is quite straight forward and after that it's a breeze. Luckily we had a few waves of heavy spindrift just to add the special Point Five Gully atmosphere and give us the full experience. I would hate for Bob to miss out! We also swung left after the Rogue Pitch to find various bits of great ice climbing left of the gully all the way to trhe cornice. This is really fun and helps develop the ability to follow your nose.
It was freezing on top but quite warm on the crag. The snow was a bit wet but the ice was certainly not thawing at all. In the shade the ice will last a long time yet and the thaw his week will not change the amount of ice we have I think.
There is just under 2m of snow on the summit and everything is pretty white! You can just about follow the cairns but several are buried in the snow including the one closest to the summit and the three at the corner next to Gardyloo Gully. You'll need a compass and the skills of how to use it along with pacing out distances to find your way around.
There is a long and very good slide down the Red Burn (please don't walk in the bum-sliding trail!) which you could continue for a hundrd metres or more below the path. The waterfall just above the path is completely buried and you can slide all the way to the path. There is also the old cornice on the south side of the Red Burn Gully which looks pretty dramatic but has a boot trail leading through it. I think we will be walking over snow on the summit of Ben Nevis for a few months to come.
This is the winter that keeps on giving. Today we had another day above the clouds on amazing ice climbing on Ben Nevis. Bob and I walked up in the mist and took a wee rest at the CIC Hut to see the mist fall away and reveal ice and rime clad cliffs all around, with crisp sunshine cutting over the top. The snow was just as crisp; solid snow was everywhere after a slight frost last night. There are lots of super classic ice climbs that are well formed right now but also the rime is covering many of the buttresses in the shade and the mixed climbing is pretty good. Bob and I were after ice though and that's what we got.
With several parties in Point Five Gully and on Orion Direct, we went for Sickle. From th every first axe placement I knew we were on for a brilliant climb. The ice was plastic; not at all brittle. The first three pitches gave us continuously interesting climbing in the most amazing positions with nobody else on the route. The Glenmore Lodge team climbed Hadrian's Wall Direct next to us but that is a completely independent line and there were a few teams on Observatory Buttress. I do wonder why people follow other climbers up ice climbs so readily - falling debris hurts when it hits you and there are so many amazing climbs to enjoy it seems sensible to do something less well travelled.
Higher up on our climb the ice was a little more brittle and the snow was not quite as solid but I'm certainly not complaining. The ice screws on the belays and on the pitches were fantastic, I found a few rock belays and the views over the clouds in all directions were just stunning.
It looks like we will have another calm and cold day tomorrow with ust a little light snow fall before some windy weather arrives on Wednesday and stays with us for the rest of the week. We will get a short thaw before it cools down again for the weekend, making the ice even better, if that's possible.
Today was a stunner! Sally and Chris went up to Carn Mor Dearg to go round the CMD Arete onto Ben Nevis. They quickly climbed out through the cloud and were met with a calm sunny day with amazing snow cover and views stretching away in all directions. Carn Mor Dearg itself looked like an Alpine giant with a snow crest reaching up into the sky and the arete itself is super snowy and simple underfoot. Is there a better route to enjoy on a day like today? I'm not sure there is!
The CMD Arete is one of Scotland's best mountain routes and when you have a view over the cloud to the buttresses and gullies of Ben Nevis it is at its best. It was a good bit warmer today and, especially in the sunshine, all you needed was a light jumper. The snow was a bit softer in the sunshine but in the shade it is still pretty good. Old snow is still exposed where the wind has caught it and this is still quite solid under foot.
There is lots of ice climbing to enjoy in the next couple of days. By mid-week we will get a much warmer day again with rain before the temperature drops to refreeze the snow ready for next weekend. So it seems like we will get some really nice Spring ice climbing conditions. This is what Ben Nevis is famous for and when the climbing is at its best. Make sure you get out and enjoy it if you can!
After a week or two hanging around Glen Coe and Beinn Udlaidh it was really nice to get up Ben Nevis again today. I've spent a lot less time here this winter so far but I hope to make up for that in the next month or two. Today Sandy and I were hoping to climb some classic ice and we certainly did that. We had some rain last night falling as snow above 500m or so and more fell on us as we walked up teh Allt a'Mhuilinn path. So by the time we got to the CIC Hut it was clear that we were not going to climb Aorion Direct or Hadrian's Wall Direct. So instead we went for some lower level climbing that is much more accessible.
First up we climbed The Curtain. This is lovely but a little thin at the bottom of the slab and some of the ice is a bit mushy on the surface. I guess some water has been dripping down the climb and making the surface ice and snow a bit wet. Despite this the climbing was good fun and, as always, pretty tough for a grade IV. We did it in two pitches with an ice screw belay at the tope of the slab. After an easy walk down we went across to Vanishing Gully. We also climbed this in two pitches with the very good cave as a belay half way up. The entrance to the cave is open and the ice just above is steep but full of hero hooks so it feels really cool.
We made a quick abseil down 1938 route and went back down in good time. There is certainly quite a bit of fresh snow around and windslab. Nobody went up to the Orion Face or near Point Five Gully. When we can get there safely the climbing looks really good. I'm not sure the Minus Gullies are complete but lots of other climbs are full of great ice.
It looks like we will have a warmer weekend and more mixed weather next week. The easterly air stream has come to an end and we have more normal weather coming. However, the ice will hang around for a good while yet I think.
This winter I have been to Beinn Udlaidh more times than I have ever been there before. It says something about how cold the winter has been that there has been consistently good ice climbing there for long periods of the winter. This time we went for Green Eyes and Quartzvein Scoop. There were a few other people in the coire and it was slightly warmer today with a gentle and mild thaw. The ice was slightly softer than last week but not really very wet yet. There was a bit of fresh snow at the top of the east side but it was generally fairly well stuck in place.
Green Eyes has a bit of a move which is fairly obvious from the bottom. It looks like there was an umbrella that fell off and left behind a slightly awkward steep step. Above this it all eases back and there is now a very nice v-thread close to the cornice. Quartzvein Scoop was great with hero hooks all the way up and fat ice. Tomorrow looks like a very similar day to today then it looks quite nice for the rest of the week.
Around on the Glen Etive side, Buachaille Etive Mor is much more quiet than the area around Curved Ridge and North Buttress. As soon as you turn onto the wee side road, the snow on the road and the lack of tyre marks in the snow tell you that you're much more on your own and you're going to have an adventure. Chasm to Crowberry Traverse is a proper adventure which I have enjoyed in the summer and spring but today was a proper winter ascent and it was great fun even if we didn't see a thing all day!
Once you have found the start at a right trending ramp you just keep going up and right for about 1000m of gentle climbing. It's easy enough to find this by going up next to The Chasm until you get to a buttress and look for the ramp going up right from there. It is never hard and grade II is for the seriousness of it rather than the difficulty. That's how it was today anyway but we did have brilliant snow all the way. In less useful snow or just less snow it could be different.
Just keep going until you find Crowberry Tower! Since we couldn't see anything we didn't even see Crowberry Tower but we did come across a set of boot prints where we joined the trail from Curved Ridge. It was like coming back into civilisation after a while spent in the wilderness! Tricky navigation on top and a quick and easy descent from the col down into Glen Etive on great snow. It's a great route, one that will not have queues on but don't hang around. There's lots of it!
It seems strange that the rest of the country is having real problems with too much snow and we have had virtually none in Lochaber. Unfortunately a few people have not been able to make it to Fort William for their adventures with us and we are trying very hard to reschedule the trips. It has been very cold of course and the ice has been growing very quickly. In Glen Coe there is ice everywhere you look and you don't have to walk far from the road to go ice climbing. The West Face of Aonach Dubh was popular today, offering lots of ice climbing just half an hour walk from the road and relatively sheltered from the wind.
Elved, Tony and I went to climb the classic Number Six Gully along with John, Jon and Caspar. The climb was surprisingly wet and our ropes got quite icy as a result. The water coming down the climb is freezing fast though and building on the already fat ice that is in place. There is also a lot of snow on the route the climbing is steady away.
The wind has been blowing around and up the gully forming some really nice umbrellas. We also climbed the direct exit, a short fun and slightly steeper pitch of ice that gave us a great way to end the week of climbing.
There is lots of ice on Stob Coire nam Beith and several climbs are in good condition by the look of it. The rocks are not rimed up but a little snow was blowing around and making things look a bit more white above 800m or so.
On the way back down we stopped to climb some of the excellent ice in the streams underneath the face. Lots of people have been enjoying the climbing here and with good reason. It's really good fun!
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.