Hard frozen snow, dry cold air and great company made for a very nice climb of Ledge Route today on Ben Nevis. Brooke and Sean are over from Seattle in the US for a few days in Scotland. Being strong mountaineers they wanted to experience Ben Nevis by the North Face. With worstening weather forecast we went for Ledge Route so that we would be off the summit in good time. After the cold weekend the snow was frozen solid and we made very good progress, reaching the summit before 1pm and back down by Coire Leis before the rain came in this afternoon.
We put crampons on at the foot of the snow in the run-out of Number Five Gully. The snow was hard frozen and the steps made in the thaw last week made it easy and secure to walk up the snow. We thought about taking the crampoins off at the start of the narrow rocky ridge. However, we kept them on and were glad to have them on most of the wy. There are just a few rocky sections, most of the route is on snow, including the slab low down on the route. We had a few light snow showers but the air and the rock were really dry so we stayed warm and comfortable all day.
On the summit there is about 1m depth of snow and the slope down towards the CMD Arete is also very well covered. The slope down into Coire Leis is quite serious so we took it very steadily. Hard frozen snow on a steep angle leads to rocks at the bottom of the slope. We followed good snow all the way to the Allt a'Mhuilinn underneath NE Buttress and took off the crampons there. The cold spell will stay with us for a few days more. It might officially be spring but it is very wintry on top - winter equipment and skills are absolutely required, no April fool!
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.