Ice forming fast on Ben Nevis.
At Abacus Mountain Guides we sometimes use trainee instructors and guides to take people climbing or to run coaching courses. It's great to be able to offer these guys the chance to get invaluable experience and help them through their qualifications in the same way that other guides and providers helped me. To do this we need to spend some time climbing with trainees to see what their strengths and weaknesses are and make sure they will do a good job. Today Sally and I climbed most of Tower Ridge with John and Mike doing just this and we had a great time.
It was not much colder than on Monday when I climbed Number Four Gully but today the crags were riming up, ice was forming fast and there was frozen snow on the ledges on Tower Ridge. The difference was in the humidity I think; today was a lot less humid than Monday and the snow and ice are drier and colder as a result. There was a good dusting of powdery snow on the rocks of the first half of the ridge and higher up the old snow was frozen hard and there were icy bits of new snow on the ledges. Our clothing stayed dry and it was a very nice day to be out climbing.
We climbed as far as the Eastern Traverse which we extended to the foot of Tower Gully before descending Observatory Gully. This is a very handy escape from the ridge but it does involve some sketchy traversing of steep snow slopes above Tower Cleft, a terrifying hole in the mountain.The bottom of Observatory Ridge was knee deep in grauple! Ice has been forming fast; Smiths Route is half way formed including the icicle variation. Psychedelic Wall has a healthy smear on it and Point Five Gully is white from top to bottom. However, I imagine all of this ice is of poor quality and would be very scary to climb. It will take time and further thaw freeze cycles to firm up into good climbing ice. There was a team of two climbing Comb Gully and they got a good way up before abseiling down, probably due to the quality of the ice (or the spindrift coming down).
We have colder snowy weather forecast until the weekend when another warm spell is likely to be with us for a few days. Make the most of it while you can over Christmas and hopefully the thaw will not be as deep as the last few.
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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.