Over the last decade, Ben Nevis has become known as a venue for very good steep mixed climbing as well as an ice climbing venue. Simon Richardson led the way with climbs such as Darth Vader and Cornucopia. Number Three Gully Buttress and Creag Coire na Ciste are now home to some of Scotland's finest mixed climbs and they are at their best early in the winter before the cracks get full of ice. Today, Willis and I, with Connor and Brodie, made an early start under a full moon and starlit sky with mist down in the glen to have a go at Babylon. It was a lot of fun.
Walking up towards Number Three Gully is now a case of making steps in the snow, rather than scrabbling over scree. It was all wind slab of various densities but it seemed stable enough for us to get to the start of the climb next to Winter Chimney. The first pitch goes straight to the nice ledge below the Gargoyle Cracks. Some interesting moves up a flake crack got us there nicely and the Gargoyle Cracks are always superb with immense exposure. A delicate traverse right then gets to the main event, an overhang leading into an off-width crack and a chimney above. Willis led this really well and quickly, to get to the top in good time. It's a very good fun climb and it's nice to get to know another Jottnar Pro Team member.
As we slid down Number Three Gully (first bum slide of the winter) we saw a team on Gargoyle Wall, and Matt and Pete climbing what might have been Tomahawk Crack. It was very cold today, the rime was pretty thick so the crags were very white, as they should be, but there are a few loose blocks to be wary of. It looks slightly warmer over the next couple of days which will settle the soft snow but then back to cold over the weekend and generally for the next couple of week.
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.