The weather has been changeable this week. Tuesday gave us a big thaw with rain on the summits for a few hours. Lots of the fresh snow was washed away but by no means all of it. Above 700m there is still lots of snow, especially in the coires and gullies that face north through to east. Even at much lower levels there are patches of snow that were deep banks of soft snow built up by the wind.
On Tuesday the BMG training team climbed Dinner Time Buttress on the West Face of Aonach Dubh to stay well clear of any avalanches. With the big thaw on lots of soft snow there was a chance of some quite large avalanches. The buttress had no snow on it but there was plenty in the bowl at the top of Number Two Gully to look at snow anchors and short roping on snow.
Yesterday was very windy but colder with fresh snow falling down to 700m or so. The BMG training team climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor which has a good bit of wet snow in it still. The wind had dropped a bit by the time they reached the summit so they went down Coire na Tullach which was also full of snow. It was a bit colder but the old snow had not frozen properly and it was a bit cruddy on top.
Today is colder again, just +1C at sea level this morning. It snowed quite a lot last night and the fresh snow came down to 400m or so. The sun just came out and tomorrow looks like a nice cold day with light winds.
The big gullies are full of snow and if the snow freezes properly today and tomorrow they will be nice to climb apart from the fresh snow that came down last night. The great ridges such as Tower Ridge, Castle Ridge, NE Buttress, Observatory Ridge and Ledge Route are all well filled in and nice to climb. Steep mixed climbs are quite snowy now and generally white up high on Ben Nevis but there is likely to be some ice in the cracks now. There is some ice around, on The Curtain for example, and if the snow gets a good freeze the gullies might be worth thinking about if the fresh snow does not cause too much avalanche hazard.
Unfortunately the weekend does look quite windy and we have another couple of thaw and refreeze cycles coming our way. In the long term this is really good news. The snow and ice are shaping up really quite nicely but it does mean we will get a couple of burly days at the weekend to enjoy!
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.