Change of plan.
Tommy and I wanted to go ice climbing today, after two days of mixed climbing. We went up Ben Nevis hoping that one of the Minus Gullies would be good or one of the classic grade V's. It was a beautiful morning with wonderful light across NE Buttress, a frost and no wind. We saw many teams ahead of us and we were grateful that they all turned right at the foot of Observatory Gully and went up Tower Ridge. It was quite a party up there today with about twelve French climbers and a good few more people enjoying the amazing weather and great conditions on the ridge.
The ice was only half formed in the Minus gullies so we thought about going for plan B which was Zero Gully. It looks fat but getting there was tricky. I expected the slope underneath the Minus Face to be scoured but it was covered in deep soft windslab. Not just this, but there was a 10cm layer of grauple about 40cm down. This was enough for me to change plan dramatically. So, since we were at the foot of Observatory Ridge, we climbed it and it was ace.
The is enough firm snow to make the climbing OK and no loose snow on the rocks to make it awkward. All the rocks on Ben Nevis are covered in thick rime but the rocks underneath are dry. There was enough ice in the right places to make a few tricky moves a bit easier too. Above the tricky section the ridge is very well covered in snow that had formed some very slender crests. So we climbed Observatory Ridge in good time and finished up the last two pitches on Zero Gully on bomber hard snow ice.
Point Five Gully is fat and it looks quite blue, Hadrian's Wall Direct looks great as well as Zero Gully. I think Orion Direct would be OK but it is certainly thin. The ridges are very well filled in but a lot of snow was blown in on the NW wind this week so Ledge Route is buried on the ledges out of Number Five Gully which will make it not only hard work but probably quite avalanche prone too. The approach to NE Buttress will be the same. Looks like a good weekend though and another cold week with lighter winds next week.
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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.