After Tuesday of last week we had another devastating thaw of the snow and ice cover that was building nicely. Record temperatures for December were recorded and lots of snow ended up in the Atlantic. Saturday was slightly cooler though with a light dusting of snow down to 1000m, yesterday was much the same and today the snow was sitting on the hills above 700m. The old wet snow was firming up at the top of Ben Nevis and the crags were collecting sticky fresh snow. It felt a lot more wintry today than it did at the end of last week.
Abacus Mountain Guides teams have been doing laps of Number Four Gully recently. On Saturday Louisa took her team of three up Number Four Gully to start off five days of training for their trip to Mont Blanc. They will cover all manner of movement skills and rope work for glacier travel, crevasse rescue and scrambling. Yesterday Steve took Erika and Michael up Number Four Gully for some crampon training ready for a trip to Aconcagua. So today I climbed Number Four Gully with Suhas and Sankalp as a first winter day out and in preparation for a trip to Mont Blanc. Scotland really is a great training ground for much bigger peaks. If you can manage the conditions here you'll be fine on any other mountain.
The rain was heavy and the wind battering as we walked up to the CIC Hut. We were already pretty wet by the time we got in to Coire na Ciste but we geared up for the climb and did some crampon and ice axe training and found that we were just above the freezing level. Our gear dried out and our rucksacks froze on the climb up the gully. The snow cover is a bit thin at the narrows of the gully and there is no cornice above the central part of the gully but the old snow firmed up and gave us a very atmospheric climb. Other people out today climbed Number Three Gully, Ledge Route and Observatory Gully as far as the narrows. It is complete all the way up Tower Gully and would give a fine climb to the top. Colder weather is forecast for a few days now but still with very strong winds. Perhaps the snow and ice cover will build a bit better and for longer than it has done so far this winter.
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.