This is the winter that keeps on giving. Today we had another day above the clouds on amazing ice climbing on Ben Nevis. Bob and I walked up in the mist and took a wee rest at the CIC Hut to see the mist fall away and reveal ice and rime clad cliffs all around, with crisp sunshine cutting over the top. The snow was just as crisp; solid snow was everywhere after a slight frost last night. There are lots of super classic ice climbs that are well formed right now but also the rime is covering many of the buttresses in the shade and the mixed climbing is pretty good. Bob and I were after ice though and that's what we got.
With several parties in Point Five Gully and on Orion Direct, we went for Sickle. From th every first axe placement I knew we were on for a brilliant climb. The ice was plastic; not at all brittle. The first three pitches gave us continuously interesting climbing in the most amazing positions with nobody else on the route. The Glenmore Lodge team climbed Hadrian's Wall Direct next to us but that is a completely independent line and there were a few teams on Observatory Buttress. I do wonder why people follow other climbers up ice climbs so readily - falling debris hurts when it hits you and there are so many amazing climbs to enjoy it seems sensible to do something less well travelled.
Higher up on our climb the ice was a little more brittle and the snow was not quite as solid but I'm certainly not complaining. The ice screws on the belays and on the pitches were fantastic, I found a few rock belays and the views over the clouds in all directions were just stunning.
It looks like we will have another calm and cold day tomorrow with ust a little light snow fall before some windy weather arrives on Wednesday and stays with us for the rest of the week. We will get a short thaw before it cools down again for the weekend, making the ice even better, if that's possible.
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.