More snow, a change of wind direction and slowly rising temperatures made yesterday (Friday) even more hazardous in the mountains. Our team of guides and instructors chatted through all sorts of ideas, scratched our heads a lot and chose to go to low level venues or places with no threat of avalanche from above, with a safe approach. For Will, Jonathan and me, this was a climb called Green Hollow Route on Ben Nevis. Alan Kimber recommended my this climb many years ago for when you can't go high on the mountain. It was a great recommendation and it gave us a little bit of climbing on a very serious day.
The wind was in our faces walking up to the CIC Hut, whereas it had been behind us for the few days previously. It was obvious that snow was being transported to the "other" aspects. It was also more dense, moist and heavy snow. Much more serious if it did avalanche. There was a team climbing Gemini which looked really cool and is in a safe spot. Getting back down involves descending Ledge Route and Number Five Gully or ascending Ledge Route. There were also teams climbing Vanishing Gully and Douglas Boulder. The area of snow above Vanishing Gully looks small in comparison to the scale of that flank of Tower Ridge, but when you get there you see it is a very big area of snow if you think about it avalanching down the gully.
Jonathan, Will and I walked up to the foot of NE Buttress with lots of space between us and Observatory Gully. We were next to the Allt a'Mhuilinn until we were level with the crags before we turned to head across to the crags. There is no snow slope on the approach and nothing above the climb. We did a very nice pitch of climbing on ice grooves weaving through the rocks and there was more fun looking climbing above but with the gusts of wind, the heavy spindrift and the noise of the avalanche down Observatory Gully as we were climbing, we decided one pitch was enough. We abseiled off and went home, carefully! Walking down from the CIC Hut was pretty full on white out with no sign of the path and deep soft snow everywhere.
Today the avalanche hazard is even higher. I am not sure I have ever seen a high hazard forecast on 180 degrees of slope aspects, all the way down to 800m above sea level. As well as this, it is a considerable hazard on other aspects. We had planned on leading a walking group up the Pony Track on Ben Nevis but we decided not to do this due to the avalanche hazard close to the Red Burn. We have another group out on a 600m hill above Glen Nevis and a third group out on a buttress in Glencoe having decided there was no chance of getting on to Tower Ridge. This cold and snowy weather will continue all next week by the look of it. It's going to be another very challenging week.
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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.