Cold, dry weather has arrived in The Outdoor Capital of the UK and we have fresh snow down to low levels. Yesterday we had a stunning, sunny, crisp, cold day which was a real treat. Today was a bit breezy with SE winds but this means we get cold dry weather here on the West Coast. Steve, Malcolm, Sally and I went up Ben Nevis to climb Tower Ridge and we had a lovely time.
Steve and Malcolm are trainee MIC holders. We work with these trainee instructors a bit to help them through their last assessment to achieve the highest UK based mountaineering qualification. They are already very capable mountaineers and this assessment will test all their winter skills of instruction and guiding. The best experience for them is to work alongside an experienced instructor and/or guide, and to work with people who want to learn some new skills or climb a classic route.
Tower Ridge was not very easy today. The fresh snow is about 20 to 30cm deep and is covers up all the nice ledges and handholds. It is also very soft so it is no use for kicking steps in. It just gets in the way, but it does look very pretty. So it was tricky and slow going up the ridge but we hadn't planned on going to the top anyway. We got as far as the Eastern Traverse and decided to extend this to the bottom of Tower Gully and across to descend Observatory Gully. There was some deeper fresh snow on this traverse and some of it was a bit wind blown and slabby. However it was not too much and we got across fine.
Ice is forming quickly in the drainage lines. Cascade style ice falls are building already since we had lots of rain just before the freeze so there is plenty of water to turn into ice. The snow-ice gullies are not looking good though because we have not had any thaw freeze with this recent snowfall; it just went cold and stayed cold. The ridges are covered but slow and tricky to climb - Castle Ridge and SW Ridge of Douglas Boulder were both climbed today as well. The steep mixed climbs are mostly rimed up and looking very good to climb. It should stay cold over the weekend and into next week at least.
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.