Non-stop sunshine and smiles.
You might have noticed we're in the grips of a heatwave here on the west coast. This m,eans the mountains are really very dry and the climbing and scrambling on the crags is amazing. It also means that you're going to be baked if you go and do anything in the mountains! So after three years of trying, Tanya, Chris and I were delighted to see guaranteed dry weather for our Cuillin Ridge Traverse but we also knew that it was not going to be easy!
We walked in to the sound of skylarks to Coire a'Ghrunnda where we drank our fill and filled our water bottles. We carried two litres each and after starting out very well hydrated this lasted until the over night camp. I drank about 5 litres altogether during the day and felt pretty dry! It's so nice when you know the weather will be excellent because it means you can trim down your gear and not feel in quite so much rush. Also, the TD Gap is actually quite a nice place to be instead of the cold and windy hole it normally feels like! The cool draft of air coming out of the groove was very welcome! The encouragement from the other guys in the gap was also very well received.
We spent the night on the col before Sgurr a'Greadaidh where there are fabulous sleeping spots. There is also still a large enough patch of snow in Diagonal Gully on the side of Sgurr a'Greadaidh which gave us all the water we needed. I filled up with 12 litres which did us for the over night and we filled up with some more in the morning. There are many snow pathces along the way so getting water is not too difficult despite the lengthy dry spell of weather. The sunset was stunning even though we went to bed early ready for an early start
Traversing Sgurr a'Greadaidh and Sgurr a'Mhadaidh in the morning sunshine is one of the best experiences you can have in the mountains. The light picks out the ridges and the warm sunshine loosens stiff legs and joints from a hard mattress and a long day previously. We made steady progress and got to Sgurr nan Gillean at 4pm,a great effort in the heat. Chris had done the whole traverse a couple of times a few years ago but it was the first time for Tanya. It was worth waiting for the good weather but the Cuillins will never be the same again, knowing that we have traversed all of them!
Back at home on Ben Nevis there has been lots of traffic on Carn Dearg Buttress. The climbs are dry and the climbing is good. Titan's Wall, Torro, Centurion, King Kong and others have been climbed recently. There are some snow patches around on access slopes and descents down the gullies but the rock is dry. Slime Wall and the Etive Slabs are great as well. Get into the mountains and go climbing but take a sun hat!
Fundraising in the sun!
Anyone who has been up Ben Nevis will attest to the fact that it is a lucky person who gets a view from the summit. And it is an incredibly lucky person who gets a view two days in a row! But that person is Melissa Conville. "Why would someone want to walk up Ben Nevis two days in a row?" I hear you ask. Well hopefully you have recognised the surname from the Jonathon Conville Memorial Trust. Melissa is the sister of Jonathon, who sadly died on the Matterhorn in 1979, and the trust was set up by his family with the aim to assist young people to train for and pursue their love of the outdoors.
So for Melissa, who was raising money for the trust, one ascent of Ben Nevis wasn't enough of a challenge. She wanted to do it twice. Yesterday we took the regular path up from Glen Nevis and Melissa cruised her way to the summit in wonderful, sunny conditions. Today she was joined by Juliette and Tulisa, and to mix it up a bit we started from the North Face car park and walked most of the way to the CIC Hut before crossing the Allt a' Mhuilinn and joining the main path to the summit at the halfway lochan. Once again in glorious sunshine! Well done Melissa, Juliette and Tulisa, it was a fantastic effort and all for a very worthy cause.
There are just a few patches of snow left on the path between 1200m and the summit, but there is still a lot around the tops of Tower Gully and Gardyloo Gully so take care around these areas and stay well back from the edges.
What is a Mome Rath anyway?
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
— Lewis Carroll
The quote is from Jabberwocky, a poem written by Lewis Carroll in his book Through The Looking Glass. At long last I have discovered what a Mome Rath is and I've also been to the Mome Rath Face above The Hidden Valley in Glen Coe and climbed the Mome Rath Route. It's not nonsense at all, it's a very good crag and excellent climbing. Thankfully we didn't see any Mome Raths but I can't guarantee there won't be anythere when you climb the route.
It's not a long walk in to The Hidden Valley but it is slightly tricky finding a reasonable route to the terrace at the foot of the crag. Well worth walking up the opposite side of the flats in the Hidden Valley to check out the best line. We went up Rev Ted's Gully side and it worked out well. The climbing on Mome Rath Route is excellent. The rock is solid and mostly clean with great protection and ledges to belay on. The first few short pitches are a nice warm up to the chimney at the top. This is V.Diff. and was slightly wet today but this didn't effect the climbing at all. The views from the crag are immense too, especially looking down on the tiny figures at the bottom of the coire.
Mike and I have been exploring most of the V.Diff. and Severe climbs in Glen Coe and there are a couple more to go back to on this face. After such a brilliant, sunny and dry day up there today I'm pretty keen to go back and do the others. Is it too early to think aboiut winter climbing? Mome Rath Route would be awesome in winter as a mixed route - frozen turf and rimed up rock is all you need.
Four seasons on CMD Arete
While Mike and Gill are away on the Summer ML Assessment mini-break, I (Sally) was on CMD Arete and Ben Nevis with Sascha. There was fresh snow visible down to about 800m and more wintry showers due throughout the course of the morning. It turned out to be a very Scottish day with sun, rain, hail, and snow all before we reached the summit of Carn Mor Dearg, then the weather calmed down in time for the arete, giving us great views down to Steall Falls. The arete is now completely free of old snow, as is the final ascent onto Ben Nevis from the top of Coire Leis, so crampons were not needed at all today. The snow line for the old snow when coming up from the arete is right at the edge of the plateau where the ground levels out, however the thin layer of fresh snow has made all the rocks incredibly slippy so care should be taken if heading up there in the next day or two. The sun was just trying to break through the clouds as we reached the summit of Ben Nevis, then gave us a warm and sunny descent back to the car.
It was a wet day in Glen Coe today. Steady rain made for uncomfortable conditions for the steep ground route choice, group management, safeguarding and emergency rope work elements of the Summer ML syllabus. We went up underneather the West Face of Aonach Dubh into Coire nam Beith. Here we found some nice scrambling type terrain for the candidates to demonstrate their emergency rope work. This involves using just a rope (no karabiners or slings) to safeguard people in descent as well as to safeguard themselves. The streams were full and the rocks were loose and slippery so there were plenty of real hazards to manage. It felt like a very realistic day! Off on a three day mini-break now for the rest of the week in the wild west.
We started our Summer Mountain Leader Assessment today with six already very experienced candidates. This is just another little step towards becoming an inspirational mountain leader. Most of the skills and qualities of a leader are learned in their extensive bank of experience. The training course and assessment course direct and guide the candidates from recreational walkers towards professional mountain leaders.
We went up from Glen Nevis to the col next to Dun Deardall, the ancient hill fort that over looks the glen. From there we went up Bidean Bad na h'Iolaire and discussed the management of accidents and incidents, practiced improvised self-rescue and discussed signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Even on a modest hill like Bidean Bad you would need mountain rescue to come and help evacuate an incapacitated walker and it is possible to stumble and hurt yourself even with the best mountain leader.
Back down in Glen Nevis we also looked at stream crossings. We take this seriously in Scotland since there are many areas where a stream crossing is obligatory if you want to explore the wildest of areas. We looked at techniques to move through the water securely and to support group members as well. The water seems to be warming up slightly but there is still plenty of water in the streams from snow melt.
With the bank holiday weekend and the Six Days Trial starting it's been a busy weekend here in the Outdoor Capital of the UK. We've not had the best weather in the UK but it's not been bad. Yesterday and today started out wet and drizzly but the clouds cleared both days to leave a dry and sunny afternoon. We had the first of our guided group walks on Ben Nevis today and these run on every Wednesday and Sunday all the way until the end of September. It's a great way to find like minded peoiple to share the climb with and learn all about the natural environment, the geology, and history of Ben Nevis as well as be happy to know there is support and help to get you to the top and back down successfully.
Marie and Sally enjoyed the clearing of the clouds and the views this afternoon after a wet start. The snow has been melting away quite quickly. The strong easterly winds of the winter blew a lot of snow down the Red Burn though so there is a deep patch of snow at the Red Burn crossing which has a couple of wide boot trails across them. After this there are just a couple of patches of snow to corner six, more continuos patches from there to 1200m and continuous snow from there to the summit. On a warm day like today the snow is soft and easy enough to walk over. Take care if we do get another late freeze though.
Meanwhile the crags in Glen Nevis dried out very nicely. With the sunshine on th erock and shelter from the wind it was lovely climbing on dry rock. The mica schiest dries out very quickly, especially now that a lot of work has been done to remove the trees close to the crags. Scottish Natural Heritage has welcomed this work and we are also able to clean moss and grass off the climbs. Hannah, Owen, Katie and I were at After Crag where we climbed the steep and pumpy Kraut as well as the much more layed back Rubber Face, both at E1 5b.
Tomorrow we start our Summer Mountain Leader Assessment. Five days of assessment in all things to do with kleading groups in the UK mountains in summer conditions. We'll be avoiding the snow patches and the tops of the highest mountains but there are plenty of lower peaks that will test the six candidates thoroughly!
Each year Nevis Landscape Partnership takes on trainee volunteer rangers to help deliver the programme of projects and to give them skills in the job of being a ranger and conservation worker. We have been able to help with this by delivering a couple of days of training to the new recruits and today Mike ws doing just this in Glen Nevis. Edith and George are the new TVR's and Iona came along as well since she has just started a new post in the partnership and she needs to get a better idea of all the work that goes on.
So we chatted through the whole approach to working in remote and wild places and how to make it safe enough. We went up Glen Nevis to Scimitar Ridgeat Poldubh and we did some scrambling ropework on this delightful little route. We figured out how to tie together, how to use a body belay and an italian hitch on a sling. We also went round the side to a little abseil and did a few laps of abseiling to get used to this.
Some of the work these guys do is next to rivers so we looked at the characteristics of rivers, where is good to cross them and where is not as well as some techniques for crossing. Lastly we did some core navigation training. It was all good fun but mostly it is always really nice being able to show people around the place we love and care for, people with a similar passion for the outdoors and wild places.
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.