Calm and cold conditions are forecast to stay with us for a week or more so I went up to Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis with a group from the Nevis Hillwalking Club to see what it's like. We were not disappointed. We found interesting snow for our winter skills training and we were surrounded by ice and rimed up crags with a few climbers out enjoying the routes.
We talked about avoiding avalanches by planning in advance and spotting signs of wind slab and avalanche hazard. We got the crampons on and practised using them on hard snow, ice and rock on all sorts of angles. We also did some self-arrest with an ice axe and climbed a small grade I snow gully. Not bad for the first day on crampons for one of the team! There are many deep accumulations of wind slab which is slowly settling down but still poses a considerable avalanche hazard.
Ice is now oozing out of every crack and chimney at the mid-level on Ben Nevis. The Shroud has touched down in two places, Gemini and The Shield Direct both look complete. Mega Route X looks good too and The Curtain is a bit snowy but not far from being formed. A couple of teams climbed Vanishing Gully and one team climbed Orion Direct. Point Five Gully and Hadrian's Wall Direct are fat along with Smith's Route but it is a long way up big areas of windslab to get to these routes.
The great ridges are all very well covered with snow. Ledge Route has a trail up it and a few people climbed Tower Ridge today. The buttresses are very well rimed up but there is lots of ice in the cracks making protection tricky to find.
It would be worth being patient for the snow to settle down and the avalanche hazard to reduce before tackling some of the bigger approach slopes. Cold, calm weather will stay with us for the rest of this week at least.
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.