For the last few days we have had cold northerly winds blowing straight onto the crags of Ben Nevis. We had a bit of snow down to 700m on Friday but not as much as has fallen in The Cairngorms. This is good news for us and here's why.
After the summer months the ground needs to cool down properly before we get too much snow. If we get snow before the ground is cold it will melt away much faster and ice will not form very well. At Nevis Range ski area they know this very well. In years when the grass under the snow has not frozen before the first major snow fall they know that the snow insulates the ground and the snow will melt away much faster than if the ground freezes first.
It was like this for the climbing in 2013 when we had mega snow fall and monster cornices above many of the climbs. I remember climbing Observatory Ridge and digging down to the rock near the top to find rubble and loose stones in late February. The ground never really froze and all the snow melted away quickly in the spring.
This year is different. We have had a cool spell for a while and it looks like it will stay cold enough on the tops next week to carry on cooling the ground before we get too much snow. We already have ice forming at 700m and above - there are dribbles of ice under the springs of Garadh Gully, The Curtain, The Organ Pipes, Waterfall Gully and Compression Cracks. The wind helps when it is blowing from the north too. Wind chill not only affects you when you are exposed to it; the ground is chilled down in just the same way.
So right now, the ground is cooling down nicely. It is not yet frozen and if you go climbing you should expect turf to by soggy and blocks to be wobbly. We're off to a great start though!
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.