Ben Nevis, Gulvain and Braigh nan Uamhachan

The last couple of days I’ve been based in Fort William. Graham was up for a flying visit with the aim of climbing Ben Nevis on Wednesday. The forecast was less than ideal with 50mph+ south-westerly winds and fairly constant heavy rain. We decided on heading up from the North Face car park and via Coire Leis in order to be sheltered from the worst of the winds until popping out on to the end of the Carn Mor Dearg arête. This worked well and although it made for a longer day meant we didn’t have to battle the wind and rain/hail until high on the mountain. We descended via the zig-zags to the half way lochan before cutting back to the Allt a’Mhuillin.

Graham and me on top of Ben Nevis with the summit shelter just visible behind.

Graham was catching the early train today, so I took the opportunity to head up Gulvain via Gleann Fionnlighe. After summiting I returned to the low point before the south top and then descended steeply to head over to Braigh nan Uamhachan, which I traversed before returning to the glen. This made for a good horseshoe, but the descents from Gulvain and back in to the glen are steep and rough and not really to be recommended in the current very wet conditions. The hills in the area are saturated at the moment and it rained fairly constantly both days. Stream crossings that are normally ok are currently problematic and this needs to be considered when making route choices.

Curved, Castle and Ledge

For the last couple of days I have been guiding and instructing on behalf of www.highmountainguides.com. The aim of the two days was preparation for climbing the Matterhorn.

Alongside Mountain Guides Alan Kimber and Jonathon Preston, the team and I visited Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe on Friday. Here we climbed Curved Ridge before descending the route of ascent. This is great practice for the Matterhorn as the only way off the summit is to climb down the route of ascent!

Descending Curved Ridge.

Descending Curved Ridge.

Yesterday we visited Ben Nevis were we climbed up Castle Ridge and down Ledge Route. Ledge Route finishes at the bottom of Number 5 Gully and here we used an axe.

Climbing on Castle Ridge.

Climbing on Castle Ridge.

Guides Test Take Two

This week I have been assisting with the second round of the British Mountain Guides Winter Test. We ice climbed on Ben Nevis and mixed climbed in the Cairngorms.

We did have some good climbing conditions. However, it is worth noting that due to the lean conditions there are many loose blocks to contend with.

More photos and a video on the facebook page.

Ice climbing on Ben Nevis.

Ice climbing on Ben Nevis.

Ben Nevis

Over the last three days Joanne, Gregor and I have been climbing on Ben Nevis and staying in the CIC Hut. After walking in and drooping kit off at the hut on Monday we new we’d have to go high due to the rising freezing level, so we made for Creag Coire na Ciste hoping North Gully would be holding ice. There was ice in the gully, but it was broke, thawing and there was above so a quick change of plan was required and we nipped across Number Four Gully to climb Number Four Gully Buttress. This worked well with the climbing being on soggy snow, frozen turf and rock, but with some care being required with loose rocks. We descended to the hut via Number Four Gully and returned to the hut thoroughly soaked.

Gregor topping out on Number Four Gully Buttress.

Gregor topping out on Number Four Gully Buttress.

The forecast for Tuesday was for very high winds and rain, so we chose to stay low and climbed the Douglas Gap West Gully on snow and the chimney out of the gap on to Tower Ridge before abseiling Douglas Gap East Gully and returning to the hut, again thoroughly soaked even after a short day. It dried up and started to cool down later in the day, so I took a walk up in to Coire Leis to get a look at The Little Brenva Face.

Gregor climbing out of the Douglas Gap on to Tower Ridge,

Gregor climbing out of the Douglas Gap on to Tower Ridge,

Today we made use of the previous day’s recce and the cooler overnight temperatures and headed around to the Little Brenva Face where we climbed Bob Run on good snow and water ice and were out of the wind until topping out. We took in the summit, by which time it was raining at summit level. We then returned via Coire Leis to the hut, again thoroughly soaked, before walking out this afternoon.

Joanne enjoying firm snow and ice on Bob Run.

Joanne enjoying firm snow and ice on Bob Run.

Some of Tuesday’s precipitation had fallen as snow at height and overnight and a few areas of fresh wind slab had developed that required care today, however these were getting soaked this afternoon at all levels.

Well done to Joanne and Gregor for dealing with the conditions, which meant we got climbing on each day even if we did end up a little wet!

 

Ben Nevis

Today the lads and I visited Ben Nevis where we climbed up Ledge Route and down Number 4 Gully.

Ledge Route was heavily verglassed in the upper two thirds with good snow on the upper third. The snow in Number 4 was very firm and careful cramponing was required.

Today the avalanche risk was low. However, if new snow arrives the risk will increase rapidly and the approach to Ledge Route may not be feasible and climbing in Number 4 will not be advisable.

Lots more photos on the facebook page.

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Lochaber High Tops Weekend

On Saturday and Sunday Steve and I were out in Lochaber with a Falkirk Community trust high tops team of Alec, Bear, Isobel, Linda, Lorn and Sandra . On Satuday we drove up to the road end in Glen Nevis and headed up Aonach Beag. Recent rockfall has lead to the closure of the Nevis Gorge path ( more information can be found on the John Muir Trust website here:  https://www.johnmuirtrust.org/assets/000/001/867/JMT_Steall_path_closed_red_v2_original.pdf ). Therefore, we had to change our planned route slightly and climbed up to the bealach north of Meall Cumhann, dropping down to the Allt Coire Guibhsachan, which was easily crossed, and then ascending the South-West ridge of Aonach Beag.

The team in sunshine on top of Aonach Mor.

The team in sunshine on top of Aonach Mor.

We walked on from Aonach Beag to Aonach Mor before retracing our steps a short way and then descending steeply west to the bealach at the head of Coire Guibhsachan. From there we descended the coire and returned over the Bealach Cumhann. The weather was glorious on Saturday with only light winds, sunshine and a little high cloud.

In cloud on the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

In cloud on the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

After a good night at the very well appointed Glen Nevis Campsite we returned over the Bealach Cumhann again to the head of Coire Guibhsachan, where we were treated to a view of a Golden Eagle. From here we climbed the fine East Ridge of Carn Mor Dearg. Unfortunately the cloud rolled in at this point and the views disappeared for most of the rest of the day. We then descended to the Carn Mor Dearg Arête and followed this to Ben Nevis. A descent of the normal route with the rain arriving for the last hour or so brought us down to the Youth Hostel where Steve picked us up.

Two excellent days in Lochaber walking up four of the ten highest Munros by interesting routes.

Ben Nevis and Kingussie

The last three days I’ve been away with Iona and Linda on what was billed as a Ben Nevis rock climbing trip based at the CIC hut. On Monday we were travelling up and the forecast was for very high winds and rain for Ben Nevis, so we decided on driving up via the A9 and trying to find dry rock further east. It was still drizzling at Newtonmore, so we went a little bit further east and found dry rock at Kingussie Crag. After a good day climbing there we drove across and walked up to the CIC hut in the evening.

Linda and Iona on Tower Ridge, before entering the cloud.

Linda and Iona on Tower Ridge, before entering the cloud.

It was wet and windy early on Tuesday, but with an improving forecast we made a late start and climbed Tower Ridge descending via Coire Leis. The rock was generally wet and we were in cloud from above The Douglas Boulder, but we had an excellent day.

Iona and Linda climbing Central Wall, Kingussie Crag.

Iona and Linda climbing Central Wall, Kingussie Crag.

With more rain overnight and early today we decided on walking out and heading east again to find dry rock. It was still wet as we past Creag Dubh, so we ended up back at Kingussie. The rock was a little damp on the Upper Tier when we arrived, but dried quickly and we had another good day cragging. Over the two days Iona and Linda climbed all but three of the routes on the Upper Tier.

An unusual, but enjoyable three days climbing.

Ben Nevis

Stephen and I had a very good day on Ben Nevis yesterday. We climbed Tower Ridge and pretty much had the whole route to ourselves. We then went over the summit and around via the Carn Mor Dearg Arete and over Carn Mor Dearg and Car Dearg Meadhonach before descending.

Stephen climbing The Little Tower.

Stephen climbing The Little Tower.

The rock was mostly dry, the forecast showers held off and the cloud was above the summit all day. Tower Ridge had been on Stephen’s to do list for a while and it was great to climb it with him in such good conditions.

Ben Nevis

I was back out on Ben Nevis again today with John and Chris. Chris hadn’t worn crampons before and there was a good bit fresh snow, so we headed up in to the back of Coire Leis where we used easy angled old snow to get used to crampons and axe. We then put the rope on and made our way up to the North end of the horizontal section of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete linking scoured snow and rocky sections. After traversing the CMD Arete we made our way up to the summit before descending the Zig Zags and then back to the Allt a’Mhuillinn.

Chris and John approaching the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

Chris and John approaching the Carn Mor Dearg Arete.

There’s been a fair bit of fresh snow over the last couple of days and the more recent snow was forming soft wind slab in sheltered locations on lots of aspects above 650m; some of this is sitting on a graupel layer from earlier in the week, which is on top of old neve. If you’re out and about in the snow over the weekend choose your route and approach wisely. It’s worth noting the Scottish Avalanche Information Service is providing forecasts for Lochaber and the Northern Cairngorms for this weekend.

Ben Nevis

With a pleasant forecast for this morning and good late season ice climbing conditions being reported on Ben Nevis I took the opportunity to get up early and head up for a look.

Looking in to Coire na Ciste this morning.

Looking in to Coire na Ciste this morning.

Conditions didn’t disappoint and I soloed Comb Gully, descended Number Four Gully and was down for lunch. There’s been a fair bit of fresh snow, particularly graupel, over the last few days and this was sitting in pockets in sheltered locations. Some care was required on approach and with route choice. However, the snow ice and neve was in excellent condition with mostly first time placements in Comb Gully. There was a thinner section, which was fine today, but wouldn’t be much fun if things soften up. I descended in to Number 4 Gully on the right hand side looking up, this avoided the steep section in the middle, but I did have to negotiate some awkward mixed steps. I also saw teams out on Italian and starting Green Gully.

Looking up the top section of Comb Gully.

Looking up the top section of Comb Gully.

I’ll put some more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page for those who want to check today’s conditions, but bear in mind there was more snow forecast for this afternoon, overnight and through tomorrow.