Bob and I went back up to Coire na Ciste again today after a frost in the glen. Clouds had already built up though and it snowed on the walk in, down to around 500m or so. We went to climb Pinnacle Arete on South Trident Buttress, a really good fun route. It starts at the right end of the terrace cutting across the buttress from the slopes under Number Four Gully so you are already very high up. Tricky grooves and corners in two short pitches get you up to a big terrace. The best pitch is up the groove in the buttress above the terrace; tremendously exposed, great fun and well protected IV,5 climbing. Another pitch over the pinnacles, looking down the big corner of The Clanger, followed by one of the nices and quietest ridges on Ben Nevis got us to the top.
Snow was falling during the day and we are starting to see some reasonable snow cover coming back. Slight thaws and refreezes are helping stabilise this fresh snow and we are forecast more over the next week or so. It looks like the end of the winter might turn out to be the best bit of a very "on offy" winter.
The big easy snow gullies are full of snow but not with much depth. Number Four Gully still has some rocks poking through but there are no problems with cornices at the moment.
The big ridges are very good. Ledge Route, Castle Ridge, Tower Ridge and NE Buttress are all seeing ascents and the snow cover is generally pretty good for these climbs. Observatory Ridge is harder under powder snow and could be a bit more taxing!
The middle grade ice climbs such as South Gully, Central Gullies, Green Gully are OK but much thinner than we might normally expect at this time of year. Think of them as a grade harder than normal and you miht be about right.
None of the classic harder ice climbs such as Point Five Gully, Orion Direct and Hadrians Wall are formed. We need a few good thaw freeze cycles to form the snow ice on these before they will be good to climb. This might happen over the next week or two, there is enough time still in this winter.
Right now, the crags above 1000m are very nicely rimed and the mixed climbing is good. There's a little ice in the cracks but not too much. There is also a bit of useful snow ice on the ledges which helps many of the climbs.
Take care with the fresh snow building up and a few loose blocks still not well frozen in. But, while the snow is here, go climbing!
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.