Dolly Parton sang, "If you want to see the rainbow, you've gotta put up with a bit of rain." Yesterday was a bit wet and soft with no views other than the inside of the white room. Even so, lots of people were out climbing on Ben Nevis and having a nice time. Rintje, Pete and I enjoyed the Central Gullies on Ben Nevis and found really quite nice ice which even took a few ice screws. We also found a really helpful exit past the cornice, a little coridor between the rock and the very overhanging snow. Number Four Gully got us back down very easily into the gloom.
Today was a different experience altogether. The damp weather of earlier this week gave way to a clear night and a calm, sunny day full of blue skies. Despite the strong temperature inversion the snow froze and was pretty solid everywhere. The views went on forever and it was bone dry all day. It was a day well worth waiting for and made up for a lot of wet, windy and warm days we have endured so far this winter.
A lot of the mid-grade ice climbs were climbed yesterday and today. Glovers Chimney, Beam Me Up Scotty, Number Two Gully Buttress, Number Two Gully, Comb Gully Buttress, Comb Gully, Green Gully, Number Three Gully Buttress, Thompson's Route, South Gully, Creag Coire na Ciste Central Gullies among others. The ice is a bit cruddy in places still and protection is not plentiful but in general the climbing is pretty good.
Of the harder ice climbs, Smith's Route was climbed today by the icicle variation, Hadrian's Wall Direct was climbed yesterday (looks a bit thin to me!) and there was a team in Point Five Gully today (I'm not sure how they got on!). There is a thin smear of ice on Mega Route X and Boomers Requiem looks good.
The big snow gullies are very full and there is good snow cover down to 900m or so. Number Four Gully and Number Three Gully are both pretty simple to descend right now.
The big ridges are well filled in and climbing very nicely. There was rime on the rocks today but it was thick, icy rime and mixed climbing would be tricky. There was a team climbing Gargoyle Wall today and seeming to get on pretty well.
Rintje and I wanted to climb Green Gully but Guy's team got there first so we swerved into Comb Gully, which is just as good and had nobody else in it. Really nice climbing, with no cornice and a very easy exit, got us to the sunshine on the plateau in good time so we descended Number Three Gully for another lap. Just down Number Three Gully you can get into South Gully very quickly and this gave us some more very nice ice climbing up to the very large cornice. This one had no easy exit! So, with a bit of down climbing back to the last belay, I went out left and found a cornice free exit about 20m off to the side of the top of the gully.
Rintje has been coming here to climb in winter since 2010 and we have had our fair share of challenging weather. The last couple of winters have not been very good to us either so today was a rare treat. What a difference a bit of sunshine and solid snow make to the experiuence! We made the most of it by going up over the summit to soak up the views and we went down into Coire Leis which is simple to do if you drop in about 50m before the cairn. Coming back down this way means you get to see the whole of the North Face which was quite a sight to see today!
Stunning photos Mike. Looks like you had a great day.
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