Ben Nevis and all the mountains north of the Central Highlands were spectacular today. The wind died away at last during the morning leaving us with a beautifully calm and sunny afternoon. Not many people were out on the North Face due to the huge amount of snow that got blown in to the coires and gullies over the last few days and there were only a few places you could get to safely. So David and I enjoyed a rare quiet day in the sunshine on brilliant ice climbs on Ben Nevis.
We went to climb Vanishing Gully on the west side of Tower Ridge close to Douglas Boulder. This is a brilliant short climb with the most perfect belay in a cave half way up. The ice was narrow on the first pitch and not very thick but all fine to climb. The second pitch was on really good solid ice, as steep as ever, but with the chance of some cheekybridging on the rock on the right to take the sting off the gradient. We abseiled down after being very happy to see the snow bowl above the climb was scoured clear of any soft snow.
For a second climb we went for Fawlty Towers, right next to the abseil down from Vanishing Gully. The left chimnety is iced up and garde II but the right hand option is about grade IV on good ice as well. We did this and veered left into more interesting ground all the way to the crest of Tower Ridge. We walked off the traverse ledge towards Observatory Gully and again we were happy to find solid, icy snow instead of deep windslab.
All the gullies are very full of soft snow now and the coires have very good cover down to the CIC Hut. It's looking good for the spring skiing. One team made it up Ledge Route but had to cross some deep drifts of fresh snow to do so. Up in the ridge it looked lovely. Tower Ridge was also climbed and it looked like hard work to put in a track. Quite a bit of ice has been forming from dribbles coming out of the older snow. One team was high in Zero Gully today, Hadrians Wall Direct and Point Five Gully are good to climb, Orion Direct might be about there and the Minus Gullies are shaping up. Getting to these climbs is the tricky bit without being avalanched. The snow is settling down and after a couple of rapid thaw freeze cycles over the next two days, it should all be a bit more stable.
There is ice to climb that you can get to safely. Around the base of Carn Dearg Buttress, on the First Platform (such as Green Hollow Route) and along the side of Tower Ridge as far as Italian Climb.The strong winds will be back with us tomorrow and for the next few days though.
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.