Hero ice is that perfect consistency of ice that is solid enough to hold your weight with ease but soft enough to take a pick without shattering. It is the perfect combination of snow that is saturated and refrozen into a honeycomb structure with plenty of tiny air pockets. The honeycomb structure allows the energy from the strike from a pick to be absorbed easily without shattering the ice. The pick bites deeply but is also easy to take out. Basically, you can hit it anywhere and your pick sinks in perfectly. Hero ice makes you feel like an ice climbing hero! Today, Bob and I found a lot of hero ice in Zero Gully and we had a lot of fun!
It was clear on the walk in that there was already a breeze strong enough to blow some snow around so we were concerned about spindrift. However we saw one team in Point Five Gully and Rob and Connor high on Orion Direct already so we thought it can't be too bad. Zero Gully was free so we went for that and found very little spindrift, great ice, good belays (luckily in most of the right places) and we even had a view all the way up.
Zero Gully is a very historic route climbed by Hamish MacInnes back in 1957 by cutting steps. It was the first grade V climb on Ben Nevis and it is still a serious climb. Belays are not obvious and are often in different places each time. The ice was OK for anchors today and I was lucky enough to find rock anchors where there was no ice. It was as a result of fatal accidents in Zero Gully from broken wooden shafted ice axes that Hamish MacInnes developed a metal shafted ice axe which turned into the Terrordactyl, an ice axe which revolutionised ice climbing.
Point Five Gully and Orion Direct were climbed today. I think a team looked at Minus One Gully but decided not to have a go. Tower Ridge has a great trail on it and there are lots of climbs in really good shape right now. The weather forecast is for cold conditions for a week to ten days to come with some more fresh snow off mostly northerly winds. More hero ice to come!
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.