Between Christmas and New Year we had a couple of storms that brought a bit of snow for us. It is currently lying down to around 600m and is not very deep, but it is very welcome! On Monday (New Year's Day) I went into Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis to climb Strident Edge with Ali. We had tried a couple of times previously and found it to be black. This time it was white and frozen with a light covering of rime and snow. Perfect for mixed climbing.
The rest of this week has been a bit warmer so Strident Edge and the Trident Buttresses are black. Ali and I chose the right day to go climbing.
Today I had a lovely day with Elise and Dom climbing Ledge Route. This was their first day in crampons but they have done some scrambling and hiking previously. Ledge Route was a perfect way to the summit of Ben Nevis, learning crampon skills on the way as well as moving on a rope in a team of three.
The snow was soggy today and we were glad to get above the freezing level, even if it was up at 1100m or so. Even on the summit the snow was soft and wet, and we also got a long shower of drizzly rain on the summit. The temperature seemed to have gone up by a couple of degrees as we walked across to the summit from Carn Dearg.
The warmer conditions are consolidating the snowpack ready to freeze up when the temperature drops again over the next few days. The big gullies are full but only with a thin cover of snow. There are no cornices above any of the gullies causing problems and people have climbed Number Four Gully and Number Two Gully. The scree slopes in the coires are half covered in snow with plenty of rocks still showing through.
Ice had been forming nicely in drainage lines such as Waterfall Gully and The Curtain. However, at this altitude the ice has been melting for a few days now. It is not likely to build very fast unless it gets a lot colder.
Mid-grade gullies such as Green Gully are not formed with snow-ice. They will take a couple more storms with fresh snow then thaw freeze cycles to build enough ice I think.
The big ridges such as Tower Ridge and NE Buttress look like fun, especially when the snow freezes in the next few days. Below about 1200m the rocks are black. Above 1200m there is now thick icy rime on the rocks, so they look white but will be quite tough for mixed climbing. There is lots of rime on the summit shelter and ruins.
So, there is a limited selection of climbing to do, the ground is cold and we have a nice spell of weather coming our way with high pressure building. We will get more snow later this month I'm sure and plenty more storms so the ice will build through the season. But, it's not a bad start.
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.