The ice on Ben Nevis and most other mountains of Scotland needs stormy weather to build. Recently, we have had a lot of very stormy wether with rapid changes in temperature and lots of precipitation. This is all perfect for turning snow into snow-ice and we are starting to get a lot of it on Ben Nevis. I met Dylan and Tom at the CIC Hut with the idea of climbing Tower Ridge. It was too windy for that but plan B turned out to be a real winner.
We went into Coire na Ciste and saw huge avalanche debris from a slide out of Number Five Gully last night. The temperature rose during the night and triggered a few big avalanches. It was already cooling down by the time we were there though and there was eroded snow on the slope beneath Number Three Gully Buttress. This gave me the confidence to carry on up to the start of Thompsons Route, kepping off to the side of the runout zone of Number Three Gully.
Thompsons Route is full of nice soft snow-ice. The climbing is lovely but not overly protected without a lot of digging to find cracks in the rock. I did place a few ice screws though. Intense showers of hail made it very uncomfortable at time sand the spindrift was pretty full-on at times. In between the showers, it was quite calm and very pleasant. The climbing was certainly very good fun indeed and gave us just the right mix of challenge, fear and fun!
Mega Route X is just about fat enough to climb, although you would want a much colder day to climb it. We were wet on the climb today despite the freezing level being down at the CIC Hut. On top, it was very white, windy and stingy. Goggles were essential! More of the same tomorrow. It's turning into a proper winter.
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.