A wild and windy scene lay ahead of us up the Allt a'Mhuilinn today. Philip is in Scotland to try some Scottish winter climbing with all the weather and challenging conditions it brings after learning his ice climbing in the USA. So we went up into the swirling wind and made our way to the foot of Tower Ridge. A lot of snow as being blown around by the strong easterly wind. There is something about easterly winds on Ben Nevis that create strong gusts and big down drafts. It's quite unpleasant and was not very encouraging for our attempt to climb the ridge. However the forecast said it would calm down so we stuck with the plan.
There is a little old snow in the East Gully of Douglas Gap to make it slightly easier to reach the gap and the wind was blowing up the gully so there was little fresh snow there. Where the fresh snow was collecting we found shooting cracks as the weak layer (of buried surface hoar) collapsed and the windslab broke away. We were glad to be on a ridge and not under anywhere that the snow was collecting. Once on the ridge it was a bit scratchy with a thin cover of soft snow on the rocks. Phil now knows why my crampons are so blunt!
There is a little old snow on the climb, mostly underneath the the fallen block after the Eastern Traverse. There is less snow and more rime on the top part of the ridge and the rime fell off very easily leaving dry rock underneath. The mixed climbing must be very good at the moment on climbs that require no snow-ice with no ice in the cracks. Some ice has been forming again quite quickly in drainage lines but it has a way to go yet before it will be fun to climb.
The wind did drop as forecast and the snow stopped falling. In fact we had a lovely walk down with fantastic views down to Mull and a brilliant sunset as we walked past the lochain. Over the next few days we might well get a good bit more snow collecting in the gullies and slopes in the coires. Let's keep our fingers crossed that we get a reasonable base of snow building up now before the next substantial thaw.
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.