For about two weeks now it has been cold or very cold in the hills. Snow has built up on all aspects from variable wind directions and the depth of soft snow has made upward progress hard work. What we really needed was a thaw to consolidate the snow and we got a proper thaw last night. Heavy rain at all levels saturated the snow pack, washed away a lot of snow low down and melted rime off the rocks. So what was left on Ben Nevis today? There was only one way to find out.
Today I spent the day with two more trainee mountaineering instructors, Mo and Ian. These guys are close to finishing the highest UK qualification in mountaineering and they are after all the top tips they can get of working in winter. After fifteen years of guiding full time it's great to be able to tell them some of the mistakes I've made so that, hopefully, they do not do the same! We could not cross the Allt a'Mhuilinn, even high above the CIC Hut, so we spent the day in Coire Leis. It was quite bright in the afternoon with just a few heavy showers.
There is a good amount of ice on the big classic routes on Ben Nevis. Zero Gully, Hadrian's Wall Direct and Point Five Gully look well iced up and there is some ice on Orion Direct, the Minus Gullies and Smith's Route. On mid grade routes such as Green Gully, Comb Gully, Number Three Gully Buttress, Tower Scoop and others there is great looking ice to climb.
Ledge Route is complete with snow, Castle Ridge has a few snow patches on ledges still, Tower Ridge is quite snowy still, NE Buttress and Observatory Ridge also have some snow on them.
There is some rime on rocks above 1250m but the main mixed climbing buttresses are black.
The big easy gullies are complete, cornices are generally small and general snow cover reaches down to 650m or so.
If we were to get a hard freeze tonight the ice climbing would be brilliant tomorrow. Unfortunately this is not on the forecast! We might get a colder night but the temperature will rise during Saturday morning and it will thaw at all levels until Monday. Hopefully there will still be some of this ice left by then.
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.