If you could have only one day on Ben Nevis this could have been a good choice. We had no wind all day, a little light mist to pick out the ridges which cleared away just as we got to the top of Carn Dearg, leaving us in full sunshine above the layer of clouds in beautiful white snow. It was a stunner and a day that Alasdair and Merrith will remember for a long time.
With a few cold nights, ice has been forming in lots of places where water usually runs. The Carn Dearg Cascades near the CIC Hut are looking pretty good and Waterfall Gully, Gemini and The Shield Direct are all close to being fat enough to climb. The Curtain is probably good to climb already but it's certainly not what you'd call fat. Conversely, there is nearly no ice in Vanishing Gully which is at the same altitude but relies on the snow above to thaw and drip water down the gully. We have had no thaw at all above 1000m or so since Christmas so the snow on top is still pretty soft in the shade and where nobody has walked. Below 800m or so there was some rain last night and the frost this morning made a good crusty layer that is easy to walk on.
Up in Coire na Ciste the crags are very white with rime that formed in the strong wind yesterday Where the sun got to it today the rime melted off straight away but the shady crags, which is most of them, are very white and will not have much ice in the cracks at all. Steep mixed climbing is good at the moment. The great ridges have a pretty good cover of snow on them and the going is good, especially where people have climbed before and compressed the snow. Away from the boot tracks it is much heavier going and the big snow gullies will be hard work right now.
So Ledge Route was an excellent choice of climb for today since there was a boot trail, the rocks are covered with snow and there was nobody else there! A few teams went to Douglas Boulder to enjoy the SW and East Ridges as well as Cutlass but there was nobody else we saw on the North Face. Merrith and Alasdair did great on Ledge Route and this was the first day out on crampons for Merrith as well. We had good views on the way up and we even saw what I think was a fogbow, three concentric rainbows made by the cloud that was close to us.
Tomorrow is forecast to be just as good as today with lots of sunshine and very light winds. On Friday the wind will return and stay with us through the weekend but it looks like it will be cold still so there will be some good climbing to enjoy. Have fun!
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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.