I got back last night from the Falkirk Community Trust CIC Hut trip with John, Andrew, Gary, Linda and Steven. We headed up to Ben Nevis on Wednesday and in the afternoon climbed a soggy upper North Trident Buttress section of Moonlight Gully. The lower section was broken, so we avoided it by a rising traverse line from the left. We then climbed the upper section in two long pitches to the ridge above Number 5 Gully and descended back down by abseil and down climb before traversing out to Coire na Ciste along the ramp.
On Thursday we climbed Tower Ridge, with the difficulties mostly on rock, but with sugary snow on the easier angled sections and firmer snow above Tower Gap. We didn’t put crampons on, but an axe was required. The snow will firm up again with colder temperatures over the weekend. On Friday with a windier wetter forecast we decided to head down and had a good couple of hours climbing in The Ice Factor at Kinlochleven.
I’ve spent the last four days with Alex and Doug trying to work with the weather rather than against it. We met at the Corran Ferry on Thursday and headed out to Ardnamurchan hoping this would stay under the forecast weather. We climbed the West Flanks of Creag an Airgid and Meall Sanna, both giving good scrambling/easy climbing on rough gabbro buttresses and slabs. We avoided the rain, there was some wet rock but plenty of friction even when wet.
The forecast for Friday morning was very wet and windy, so we had a deliberate late start and walked in to the CIC Hut in the afternoon before climbing and descending a soggy East Gully of the Douglas Gap as things started to cool down late afternoon. Friday night saw temperatures drop and some fresh snow. We had a great day on Saturday climbing North Gully, Creag Coire na Ciste, heading over the summit of Ben Nevis and down and along the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. Bigger gully features that had held snow had firmed up well. Ice was starting to reform above 700m, fresh wind slab was forming on westerly winds.
Today we needed a short day and headed east to the Cairngorms to get away from the worst of the weather. We scrambled a couple of the winter lines in Creag na h-Iolaire in summer conditions; I would not recommend this as there is a lot of very loose rock. There were snow/hail showers down to around 600m on a strong westerly, but these were only settling above about 850m.
This week I have been helping to deliver a Winter Mountain Leader Training course. There is large accumulations of snow in many locations. Careful studying of the avalanche forecasts and careful route choice is necessary in the current conditions.
This week I have been delivering a Winter Climbing Leader course for the Joint Services.
After visiting the Ice Factor on Monday we traversed the Douglas Boulder Gap on Tuesday. We then spent Wednesday climbing The Slant in Coire an t-Sneachda and on Thursday we went ice climbing very near to the Twin Burns in Coire an Lochain.
The conditions on the Douglas Boulder Traverse were fine. It should be noted that in other areas of Coire an Lochain from where we were that large amounts of ice were falling down.
I have been out the last two days with Falkirk Outdoor Activities. Yesterday, we traversed from the Aonach Mor Gondola to the CIC Hut via the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Mheadhonach. Although this is a good winter route, I would not recommend it in summer conditions.
Today we continued to Glen Nevis via Ledge Route on Ben Nevis.
We did not encounter snow during the two days. I looked down Number 4 Gully during our descent. There are a number of large rocks waiting to fall as the remaining snow retreats. I would not recommend this route at the moment.
On Saturday I was on Ben Nevis with a team from Breast Cancer Care helping 26 sponsored participants looking to climb Britain’s highest mountain. I’ve been involved with this event a number of times and it’s always well organised and inspirational, particularly as many of those taking part have very personal reasons for supporting the charity.
This year was no exception. Although the weather was better than it might have been given recent forecasts the groups did amazingly well dealing with persistent rain for much of the day. Many thanks to all the participants and to the staff of Rachel, Neil, Niall, Martin, Ian and Robin for making it a very enjoyable day despite the weather.
Yesterday the team and I visited the West Face of Aonach Mor where we climbed Golden Oldie. The route was in good condition with frozen turf, some excellent neve and some interesting fresh snow arête’s following the recent weather.
Today we spent some time on Ben Nevis climbing ice pitches in Coire na Ciste and the CIC Hut Cascades.
On Saturday and Sunday Andy, Rob and I were on Beinn Udlaidh and Ben Nevis. It was thawing with rain at valley level and snow at the top of the crag on Beinn Udlaidh. Cloud meant we were unable to see the top of the crag and sloughs were coming down some of the gullies, so we chose to climb Horny Ridge with a grade III variation start and cutting in to the top of West Gully once we could see the cornices.
On Sunday we walked in to Ben Nevis with Rob deciding to turn around at the CIC Hut and Andy and I continuing on to climb Tower Ridge. It had been snowing on Saturday and overnight on a mostly south-easterly wind, this made the approach up The East Gully of The Douglas Gap easy on soft older snow. However, it meant many of the normally easy angled sections had fresh knife edge snow aretes, which had to be negotiated with care as we were the first team up and breaking trail. Once higher than the Douglas Boulder we were above the cloud and had stunning views with a cloud inversion all day. After the Douglas Gap we took the variation icy groove rather than the right traverse, which was hard (Tech 4/5) but good. Beyond we followed the normal route to the summit and a long standing ambition fulfilled for Andy.
Yesterday I was out on Beinn Dorain with a team from Ballachulish looking at skills required for guiding on grade I/II ground. There was a good covering of firm snow on many aspects above 500 metres and ice still present on the crags.
Today we have been on Ben Nevis climbing routes in the CIC Hut cascades area and an ice flow below the Curtain. The ice was in good condition today. However, things will be different tomorrow if the forecast is correct but should improve again towards the weekend.
For the past week I have been assisting on the British Mountain Guides Winter Test. Teams visited Ben Nevis, Torridon and the Cairngorms throughout the week. Congratulations to all the candidates for their efforts during what is a very physically and mentally tough assessment.
More photos can be seen on the facebook page.