Three days of winter mountaineering with students and staff of St. Paul's School in London changed into a Great Ridges of Lochaber trip and was a lot of fun. We started on Saturday with a climb up Ledge Route on Ben Nevis. There was a little snow on the top half of the ridge which was very nice but just cosmetic. It stayed mostly dry for us until we topped out into the wind which drove the drizzle onto us a bit more. For a first day out in Scotland the team did very well and got used to the rope skills and the navigation needed to get back down again.
Yesterday we went for Curved Ridge to make a step up in difficulty. The guys moved together for most of the ridge placing slings and using natural anchors to run the rope around as they went. We went to the top of Crowberry Tower so that we could abseil down again which proved pretty tricky. The rocks were super slippy anywhere they were not trodden regularly. It's the lichen that makes them slippery and this gets worn off by the passage of boots. If you stray off the beaten path you need to be ready for some slippery rocks.
Today we went for Castle Ridge on Ben Nevis. It was slightly warmer yesterday and today and there wass certainly no snow on the ridge. It was a bit wet too so the going was slow. For a Moderate climb it's pretty tricky, especially in the wet when the temperature is low. It's a great route though with two fine corners making up the crux sections and a brilliant narrow ridge above that takes you to the top of the route. We got glimpse of a view here, the first for threee days, which was nice!
At last the clouds cleared as we walked down the NW flank of Carn Dearg and we got a brilliant view out to the west. In fact we got to see a super bright rainbow as well. I think I quoted Dolly Parton not long ago - "If you want to see the rainbow you've got to put up with a bit of rain"! Well done to everyone from St. Paul's School, that's three classic routes in challenging conditions and you all did really well. From tomorrow the weather will change again. This time the high pressure is moving away completely allowing returning polar maritime air to batter the west coast on strong winds. We're in for a stormy and cold few days and snow will build up quickly in the hills. You might like to hibernate over the Christmas holidays and come out again to white mountains and icy gullies. That would be a nice Christmas present!
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.