Yesterday started out very well. We had a cool night, not quite a frost, and a bright dawn to greet Beccy, Sally and me as we walked up the very icy track through the forest and the path along the Allt a'Mhuilinn to Ben Nevis. It was one of those mornings when you start to question why you didn't pack more ice screws and go ice climbing. We planned on climbing Tower Ridge so it would have been difficult to climb any of the copious ice falls with one ice axe each, some hexes and nuts, and 40m of rope. So e stuck with the original plan and it was a very thing that we did.
There was lots of ice on Compression Cracks, Boomers Requiem, The Shroud, Gemini, The Shield Direct, The Curtain, the Trident Buttress ice climbs such as Joyful Chimneys, Garadh Gully, Point Five Gully and many others. The snow had got wet from the brief thaw on Sunday and it had firmed up well enough. There is patchy but good snow cover in the coires and well down below, snow on ledges on the buttresses and ridges and big gullies are complete. At least, this is how it was in the morning.
Beccy, Sally and I climbed Tower Ridge which had soft snow and plenty of ice on the rocks. This is a combination that makes it quite a slow going but we made good progress even so. Another team was making it more tricky by finding various dead ends and awkward grooves to follow rather than the usual line. This is very easily done when there is no track in place in the snow. The route on Tower Ridge is not obvious and unless you know it intimately it will take a lot of time to work it out. We left the ridge at the Eastern Traverse by continuing the traverse underneath Tower Gully and Gardyloo Buttress before descending Observatory Gully. By this time the ice was streaming with water and the snow was gopping (to use a technical phrase).
Later in the evening we got a call to Lochaber MRT from a pair of climbers who had gone off-route and were stuck so I had the opportunity to climb Tower Ridge for a second ime in one day. We were grateful for the track in the snow and we found the guys easily and got back on route before climbing up to the Eastern Traverse and descending exactly as I had done earlier in the day. It was amazing how much ice had m,elted off the rocks on the ridge. Today we have had a thaw and it will not be very cold until after Christmas. However we do have cold ground, ice in place and a good enough covering of snow for the time of year. When it re-freezes we will get an extra Christmas present in the form of some lovely snow ice to climb!
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.