Castle Ridge in a gentle thaw.
Ruth and I had a very nice, dry day on Buachaille Etive Mor yesterday. We climbed North Buttress with some useful firm snow and found the top section, and the top of Coire na Tullach, scoured clear of soft snow. It warmed up gently during the day and carried on doing so last night so this morning was a bit soggy from the start and we knew we would not get the same firm snow.
We went to climb Castle Ridge to keep clear of any falling ice or cornices. In a thaw there is always something falling down so it's best not to spoend too much time in a gully. Castle Ridge was very nice although the snow was very soft and wet. Every other step sank in, and upwards progress was quite challenging at some points. There is a lot of snow though and the rocks are very well covered over making some of the route easier. The first tricky corner is much shorter than it can be. The main crux pitch, up the flake chimney hanging over the north face, is quite rattly. It seemed like some of the flakes are more hollow sounding than I remember them being previously. It might just be that they are more loose after the thaw and they will bed in again. Or it might be that they are actually getting looser.
The ridge above all the steep sections was lovely with some snow on it. This is a great section of very narrow ridge in a very impressive position. We made it to the top in very quick time and walked past the Castle Gullies. Both are just about full but the bottom chockstone of South Castle Gully is not properly covered over. This is an amazing run on skis but, right now, make sure you stop before the bottom chockstone to check it out first!
Ruth and I went up to Carn Dearg and down Ledge Route. After the snowfall at the weekend nobody had been up or down Ledge Route and we had to wade down thigh deep snow all the way! At least it will be easier if you go up the way now - it would have been a mission without any trail at all. All of Ledge Route is very well covered over with snow and we found it very easy to walk down. We did not hang around in the bottom of Number Five Gully where there was yet more fresh avalanche debris. The snow cover goes all the way down to the CIC Hut and the current thaw is not very vigorous so I think we will not lose too much snow before it freezes again at the weekend.
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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.