After a big Ben Nevis day yesterday Richie and I went for a more mellow day of fun climbing and a really cool journey. We went to Crowberry Gully on Buachaille Etive Mor which is just as classic a climb as Point Five Gully. Walking in was baking hot in the morning sunshine beaming straight onto us. It was strange to think we intedned to go ice climbing. It was jusr radiant heat straight from the sun though, the air temperature was -5C so in the shade it was very cold. Looking up we could see the rocks in the shade very well rimed up but in the sunshine the rocks were dry. It would have been a perfect day for the Buachaille Etive Mor double of Crowberry Gully and Agag's Groove.
After a long time of SE winds blowing snow down into the gully it is now very banked out. None of the initial chockstones are visible and you can walk all the way to the Junction! The pitch to the cave is on hard snow and really nice. The cave itself is really full of snow but you can still get two people inside. The cave pitch is shorter than I've seen it before but just as steep for a step or two. It's always a great journey and the view down the gully to the road is always superb.
A couple of other teams were ahead of us but it was very sociable and nice to chat with the other climbers. Some people went to Curved Ridge and Raven's Gully looks exactly the same as it did when I climbed it a month ago. However I had a dribble of ice on the rocks that really helped at the first chockstone and I doubt that it will be there now.
It was another day of very light wind, non stop sunshine and dry snow and ice. The views went on forever and it was a shame to come down again. Richie has earned these two days by spending lot of time here in pretty poor weather. Those of you who have not done so yet will have to pay the price; get ready to suffer some soggy days in the hills next time!
The next two days look pretty soggy in fact! The freezing level is forecast to go above the summits tomorrow with steady rain and for the thaw to last a day or two. By the weekend it should be a bit colder again. This thaw and refreeze will only make the ice climbing even better, especially on Ben Nevis. Meanwhile the raven resident on Stob Dearg was enjoying the warm calm conditions just as much as Richie and I did.
What an amazing day it was today. Non stop sunshine and light winds with crunchy snow, solid ice and bone dry conditions made it a perfect day for ice climbing. Richie has been coming to go ice climbing for about 18 years and finally we got to climb Point Five Gully and it was worth the wait. Some days it all comes together and today was one of those days.
There were two parties ahead of us by the time we got there but everyone was moving well and enjoying the day. Point Five Gully has of course been climbed quite a lot recently so the belay ledges are chopped out and there are steps and hooks on the pitches so there was very little debris coming down the climb. We were moving well too - Richie only manages a couple of days of ice climbing each year but he can swing and axe and was loving the steep climbing and the positions.
The first pitch is fairly short and climbed on the left with a wee step right just below the belay. The Chimney Pitch is the crux at the moment and it gives a long pitch of really fun ice climbing with pretty good ice screws and a rock runner. The Rogue Pitch is quite steady right now since it has formed a groove that can be bridged and has an easy step out of the top onto the easier angled snow.
From there it's three pitches of snow with occasional bits of ice to the cornice which is avoided on the right. If you take a high belay under the Rogue Pitch and do a 60m pitch to the big bulge of ice you can do the whole climb in six really nice pitches. On top the sun was shining very brightly and it was warm out of the breeze. You could see all of Scotland or so it seemed. You could certainly see the Paps of Jura, The Cuillin of Skye and the Outer Hebrides, Ben Wyvis and Schiehallion!
Other teams were climbing Orion Direct, Hadrian's Wall Direct, Sickle, Rubicon Wall, Observatory Buttress, Smith's Route, Tower Ridge and Ledge Route. There's lots of climbing in Coire na Ciste as well.
Well done Richie, your patience paid off! What a wonderful day. Looks like we will get another really nice day tomorrow before a quick thaw on Wednesday night with a bit more fresh snow.
Today was another day of violent winds blowing down the mountains from the south east. I don't know why it is but SE winds seems to accellerate as they descend the mountain and it is often windier half way down than on the summit. It was certaimnly quite hard work walking straight into the wind up the Allt a'Mhuilinn path towards the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis. We nearly decided to turn back but managed to keep going until we got to the CIC HGut cascades AKA The Organ Pipes.
Bob wanted to make sure his gear placements are good and his belay set-ups are good. He placed some rock anchors and some ice screws and linked points together to make belay anchors in various different ways. All this was on the first climb to the right of the Organ Pipes which would be better if it freezes properly! We got up to Avalanche Gully above and found something like a shelter in the wind scoop at its base for a welcome respite and lunch stop. We then climbed the first pitch of Waterfall Gully, placed an ice v-thread and abseiled off.
We have not lost much ice at all and the snow was starting to refreeze even down at 800m. The weekend will be very cold so everything will freeze solid again but it does look like it will remain windy. Next week looks like another great week for ice climbing!
Yesterday Bob, Will and I with Ellie as co-pilot took the long drive to Applecross. From the top of Beallach na Ba it is a fairly flat walk in to Beinn Bhan and easy descent into Coire an Fhamair where there is a particularly impressive cliff. Gully of the Gods has been very well iced up and climbed quite frequently for a few weeks now and it was our chance yesterday. It also gave us shelter from the very strong wind! It's an amazing climb that is intimidating but also quite reasonable once you get going. We were all completely buzzing from the experience and delighted to get such a good climb on a pretty challenging day.
Today the gentle thaw continued with even stronger winds but we also got some precipitation. This fell as rain initially but came down as snow to 600m or so by this afternoon. Wet snow combined with ferocious gusts of winds made it a very tough day to be climbing. We had three teams out; Will and Mason went to Number Two Gully on the West Face of Aonach Dubh and descended by Coire nan Lochan, Phil and Keith climbed Fawlty Towers on the west flank of Tower Ridge and Caspar went to the CIC Hut cascades next to The Organ Pipes for some ice climbing with Helen.
It got colder during the day and it will carry on getting colder through the weekend. The snow is wet and soft right now but it will be hard and icy by the weekend. We have not lost much ice at all in this little thaw and it looks like the snow cover and ice will be with us until the end of the month at least. Traditionally, Easter was always the best time of year to be climbing on Ben Nevis. It looks like this will be the case this year.
We had a tiny bit of fresh snow last night and a couple of light showers during the day. The dusting made the North Face of Ben Nevis look even better this morning. We had another moment when we walked out of the mist into a sunny day with bright white crags and a deep blue sky. Bob and I were up for another ice climb and had Rubicon Wall in minding thinking that nobody else would be climbing it. The snow was solid again and we followed the good steps up into the coire again to find Richard and team just starting Rubicon Wall! So we went for Point Five Gully as a reasonable consolation climb!
Other teams were enjoying Vade Mecum, Hadrian's Wall Direct, Sickle, Observatory Buttress and Orion Direct. There are many other ice climbs in great shape and this altitude is where the best climb is right now. Higher up on Gardyloo Buttress and Indicator Wall there is a lot of rime still so the ice might not be quite as good to climb. There is lots of it though and after the thaw and refreeze this week it might well be worth going up higher.
Point Five Gully was outstanding today as it always is. The first pitch is banked out and simple up the left side. The chimney provides the crux right now and is great fun. The Rogue Pitch is quite straight forward and after that it's a breeze. Luckily we had a few waves of heavy spindrift just to add the special Point Five Gully atmosphere and give us the full experience. I would hate for Bob to miss out! We also swung left after the Rogue Pitch to find various bits of great ice climbing left of the gully all the way to trhe cornice. This is really fun and helps develop the ability to follow your nose.
It was freezing on top but quite warm on the crag. The snow was a bit wet but the ice was certainly not thawing at all. In the shade the ice will last a long time yet and the thaw his week will not change the amount of ice we have I think.
There is just under 2m of snow on the summit and everything is pretty white! You can just about follow the cairns but several are buried in the snow including the one closest to the summit and the three at the corner next to Gardyloo Gully. You'll need a compass and the skills of how to use it along with pacing out distances to find your way around.
There is a long and very good slide down the Red Burn (please don't walk in the bum-sliding trail!) which you could continue for a hundrd metres or more below the path. The waterfall just above the path is completely buried and you can slide all the way to the path. There is also the old cornice on the south side of the Red Burn Gully which looks pretty dramatic but has a boot trail leading through it. I think we will be walking over snow on the summit of Ben Nevis for a few months to come.
This is the winter that keeps on giving. Today we had another day above the clouds on amazing ice climbing on Ben Nevis. Bob and I walked up in the mist and took a wee rest at the CIC Hut to see the mist fall away and reveal ice and rime clad cliffs all around, with crisp sunshine cutting over the top. The snow was just as crisp; solid snow was everywhere after a slight frost last night. There are lots of super classic ice climbs that are well formed right now but also the rime is covering many of the buttresses in the shade and the mixed climbing is pretty good. Bob and I were after ice though and that's what we got.
With several parties in Point Five Gully and on Orion Direct, we went for Sickle. From th every first axe placement I knew we were on for a brilliant climb. The ice was plastic; not at all brittle. The first three pitches gave us continuously interesting climbing in the most amazing positions with nobody else on the route. The Glenmore Lodge team climbed Hadrian's Wall Direct next to us but that is a completely independent line and there were a few teams on Observatory Buttress. I do wonder why people follow other climbers up ice climbs so readily - falling debris hurts when it hits you and there are so many amazing climbs to enjoy it seems sensible to do something less well travelled.
Higher up on our climb the ice was a little more brittle and the snow was not quite as solid but I'm certainly not complaining. The ice screws on the belays and on the pitches were fantastic, I found a few rock belays and the views over the clouds in all directions were just stunning.
It looks like we will have another calm and cold day tomorrow with ust a little light snow fall before some windy weather arrives on Wednesday and stays with us for the rest of the week. We will get a short thaw before it cools down again for the weekend, making the ice even better, if that's possible.
Today was a stunner! Sally and Chris went up to Carn Mor Dearg to go round the CMD Arete onto Ben Nevis. They quickly climbed out through the cloud and were met with a calm sunny day with amazing snow cover and views stretching away in all directions. Carn Mor Dearg itself looked like an Alpine giant with a snow crest reaching up into the sky and the arete itself is super snowy and simple underfoot. Is there a better route to enjoy on a day like today? I'm not sure there is!
The CMD Arete is one of Scotland's best mountain routes and when you have a view over the cloud to the buttresses and gullies of Ben Nevis it is at its best. It was a good bit warmer today and, especially in the sunshine, all you needed was a light jumper. The snow was a bit softer in the sunshine but in the shade it is still pretty good. Old snow is still exposed where the wind has caught it and this is still quite solid under foot.
There is lots of ice climbing to enjoy in the next couple of days. By mid-week we will get a much warmer day again with rain before the temperature drops to refreeze the snow ready for next weekend. So it seems like we will get some really nice Spring ice climbing conditions. This is what Ben Nevis is famous for and when the climbing is at its best. Make sure you get out and enjoy it if you can!
After a week or two hanging around Glen Coe and Beinn Udlaidh it was really nice to get up Ben Nevis again today. I've spent a lot less time here this winter so far but I hope to make up for that in the next month or two. Today Sandy and I were hoping to climb some classic ice and we certainly did that. We had some rain last night falling as snow above 500m or so and more fell on us as we walked up teh Allt a'Mhuilinn path. So by the time we got to the CIC Hut it was clear that we were not going to climb Aorion Direct or Hadrian's Wall Direct. So instead we went for some lower level climbing that is much more accessible.
First up we climbed The Curtain. This is lovely but a little thin at the bottom of the slab and some of the ice is a bit mushy on the surface. I guess some water has been dripping down the climb and making the surface ice and snow a bit wet. Despite this the climbing was good fun and, as always, pretty tough for a grade IV. We did it in two pitches with an ice screw belay at the tope of the slab. After an easy walk down we went across to Vanishing Gully. We also climbed this in two pitches with the very good cave as a belay half way up. The entrance to the cave is open and the ice just above is steep but full of hero hooks so it feels really cool.
We made a quick abseil down 1938 route and went back down in good time. There is certainly quite a bit of fresh snow around and windslab. Nobody went up to the Orion Face or near Point Five Gully. When we can get there safely the climbing looks really good. I'm not sure the Minus Gullies are complete but lots of other climbs are full of great ice.
It looks like we will have a warmer weekend and more mixed weather next week. The easterly air stream has come to an end and we have more normal weather coming. However, the ice will hang around for a good while yet I think.
This winter I have been to Beinn Udlaidh more times than I have ever been there before. It says something about how cold the winter has been that there has been consistently good ice climbing there for long periods of the winter. This time we went for Green Eyes and Quartzvein Scoop. There were a few other people in the coire and it was slightly warmer today with a gentle and mild thaw. The ice was slightly softer than last week but not really very wet yet. There was a bit of fresh snow at the top of the east side but it was generally fairly well stuck in place.
Green Eyes has a bit of a move which is fairly obvious from the bottom. It looks like there was an umbrella that fell off and left behind a slightly awkward steep step. Above this it all eases back and there is now a very nice v-thread close to the cornice. Quartzvein Scoop was great with hero hooks all the way up and fat ice. Tomorrow looks like a very similar day to today then it looks quite nice for the rest of the week.
Around on the Glen Etive side, Buachaille Etive Mor is much more quiet than the area around Curved Ridge and North Buttress. As soon as you turn onto the wee side road, the snow on the road and the lack of tyre marks in the snow tell you that you're much more on your own and you're going to have an adventure. Chasm to Crowberry Traverse is a proper adventure which I have enjoyed in the summer and spring but today was a proper winter ascent and it was great fun even if we didn't see a thing all day!
Once you have found the start at a right trending ramp you just keep going up and right for about 1000m of gentle climbing. It's easy enough to find this by going up next to The Chasm until you get to a buttress and look for the ramp going up right from there. It is never hard and grade II is for the seriousness of it rather than the difficulty. That's how it was today anyway but we did have brilliant snow all the way. In less useful snow or just less snow it could be different.
Just keep going until you find Crowberry Tower! Since we couldn't see anything we didn't even see Crowberry Tower but we did come across a set of boot prints where we joined the trail from Curved Ridge. It was like coming back into civilisation after a while spent in the wilderness! Tricky navigation on top and a quick and easy descent from the col down into Glen Etive on great snow. It's a great route, one that will not have queues on but don't hang around. There's lots of it!
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.