At long last we were walking on top of the snow instead of trenching through it. For the last few weeks we have been waist deep at times in soft snow. Yesterday it was wet soft snow but a good frost last night with a clear sky and much drier atmosphere made the snow go solid at all levels. The avalanche hazard is low everywhere and the climbing is amazing!
The snow pack was pretty soft before the thaw on Monday so it sagged a lot in the warm and wet weather. At the top of the slope beneath the Orion Face there is something like a bergschrund with some very large blocks of snow that fell off while the snow slope sagged underneath. It felt like the start of a climb in the Alps, not Scotland. It also provides a very handy ledge for getting ready for the climb but don't drop anything down the gap at the back; you won't get it back for a long time.
There were a few drips of water on the second pitch of Orion Direct but the snow and ice were amazing to climb on. Very little debris was dislodged all day apart from me kicking out substantial ledges at all the best belay spots (for 60m ropes!). The snow is solid but not brittle and there is lots of ice for excellent protection and belays. We had fabulous views all day and we were first onto the route. There was a team going up Zero Gully but it felt like we had the whole face to ourselves. Orion Direct is always a brilliant climb and I will never get tired of it.
Of the other ice climbs, Zero Gully, Point Five Gully, Observatory Buttress and The Curtain were climbed today. I'm sure there were others climbed as well. It looked like Astral Highway was fat, Slav Route looked cool, Hadrian's Wall Direct, Tower Scoop, Smith's Route, The White Line, all the grade IV gullies in Coire na Ciste, Waterfall Gully and Compression Crack and many climbs on the Little Brenva Face all looked really good. NE Buttress was climbed today with a snowy and easy looking traverse to the First Platform, Tower Ridge, Ledge Route and Castle Ridge were all climbed. The snow is solid everywhere which makes travel really easy but take care on the steep slopes such as descending into Coire Leis or if you come down Number Four Gully. If you slip and slide you'll go a very long way. Looks like it will stay cold all through the weekend and next week. Whoop, whoop!
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.