We're off to a good start.
Storm Arwen devastated the east coast, but didn't do much to the west coast. We had a little snow and some strong winds, but nothing like what was endured over east. What the storm did do for us was to cool down and freeze the ground pretty well. Strong northerly winds, little snow to insulate the ground, and very temperatures froze the ground at high levels on Ben Nevis. Monday and Tuesday brought a thaw at all levels and rain on the tops, but it cooled down again on Tuesday evening. With freezing winds blowing cloud onto the crags and a little fresh snow, the crags above 1100m facing the wind were rimed up and still frozen solid.
Yesterday, Wednesday 1st December, Ali and I went up for a look. We were not hopeful of great climbing and our first option was certainly not white. However we found that Number Three Gully Buttress and the Archangel wall were white with rime, so we climbed Hobgoblin. The rime was extensive, but superficial. It made everything white and there was snow on the ledges, but it did not get in the way at all. There is some ice in the cracks as you'd expect with a rapid freeze after a lot of rain, but the turf on the crag was well frozen and there is a bit of ice in drainage lines forming.
Hobgoblin goes straight up the cliff, passing The Gargoyle just to its right. In many ways it is a better, more direct version of Gargoyle Wall, and only slightly harder. The crux is on the first pitch, a well protected pull on thin hooks and even thinner feet, but it is short lived. Hobgoblin also straightens out the final crack which Gargoyle Wall deviates from onto easier ledges at the top.
Cold weather will stay with us through the weekend and into next week. So, there should be some good climbing to enjoy at the weekend. We will get further fresh snowfall and cloud being blown onto the crags, so they should stay rimed up. Sunday looks like a lovely day for climbing. The big ridges will be difficult and slow going with fresh snow covering the ledges and cracks, but being no use to help the climbing. There is little snow cover so the big gullies are not at all full, and there is little ice. It is all about the steep mixed climbing as it normally is this early in the winter.
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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.