Ben Nevis and Kinlochleven

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.

The team below the upper section of Moonlight Gully.

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.

Linda enjoying The Ice Factor.

Mam Suim and Meall nan Eagan

Yesterday Andy, Rob and I chose to visit Creag na h-Iolare on Mam Suim in the Cairngorms. This is a rarely visited mica-schist crag about 2km north-east of the Coire na Ciste car park. It’s needs snow low down as the base of the crag is 700m. It’s quite vegetated and loose in places so could have done with a bit more consolidated snow, however it worked pretty well for the conditions on Saturday as many of the routes are on ridges or ribs. I think we climbed Central Ridge and Loose Rib, which I mistook for Picasso. Unsurprisingly Loose Rib has a significant area of loose rock near the top and we chose to move left in to the gully to avoid this. See the SMC journals since 2014 for route descriptions.

Rob and Andy topping out on Central Ridge.

Today I went for a dander up Meall nan Eagan and Carn na Ceardaich near Dalwhinnie. This kept me below the worst of the weather.

Meall nan Eagan summit selfie.

It snowed pretty much all day on Saturday with the wind starting as a south-westerly and moving round through easterly to north-westerly. Even at around 700m there was a marked increase in snow depths through the day and snow was down to Aviemore level on Saturday evening. Today there was less constant snow with periods of sunshine low down followed by squally showers. Above 800m it appeared to be in cloud most of the day. The wind was mostly north-westerly today and there has been a lot of wind movement of snow leading to scoured areas and significant drifting, wind slab and cornice development.

Golden Oldie and Ben Nevis

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.

Snow arête on Golden Oldie.

Ben Nevis

I’m just back from a two day Ben Nevis Mountaineering Trip with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Outdoors team of Billy, Brian, Devon, Jack, Kathryn and Linda. High winds meant the Nevis Range Gondola wasn’t running on Saturday, which changed our plans. After walking in to the CIC Hut we did a traverse of the Douglas Gap up the West Gully of the Douglas Gap and down the East with Devon and Kathryn leading pitches of the West Gully.

The team approaching Garadh Gully this morning with the lower section of Tower Ridge beyond.

The southerly winds were forecast higher again for Sunday, so we opted for sheltered routes with an ascent of Garadh Gully, which currently has a short section of Grade III ice. We then descended in to Coire na Ciste and climbed Moonlight Gully before descending it by abseil to level with the top of Moonlight Gully Buttress and then traversing back in to Coire na Ciste. As we walked down from the CIC Hut it was raining heavily below 600m on a wind gusting circa 50mph.

Two excellent days despite the less than ideal wind levels.

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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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.

Cairngorm Ski Expedition

The Falkirk High Tops Team and I have just completed an awesome ski expedition in the Cairngorms. We began at Coire na Ciste before crossing the plateau and making a steep descent to the Saddle. This slope receives a lot of sun and it is worth being here early in the morning in the current weather conditions. After making a kit drop we descended to Loch Avon before making an ascent of Beinn Mheadhoin. In the fading light we had an excellent descent before returning to our equipment at the Saddle.

Under a clear sky we had an excellent, comfortable bivouac before an early start the next morning. The morning was clear as was the rest of the day with a cloud inversion in the valley. After breakfast we climbed to 1082, Coire Raibert and 1141 before skiing the Coire Cas Headwall. We then climbed back to the Ptarmigan Restaurant before descending the Ciste Gully back to the van.

There is still good cover in the Cairngorms for ski touring and the snow is currently in excellent condition. Lots more photos can be seen on the facebook page.

Pamela enjoying the first rays of sun at the bivouac.

Pamela enjoying the first rays of sun at the bivouac.

Winter Mountaineering in the Cairngorms

For the past week I have been winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms. The climbnow facebook page has a large number of images from the last five days which show clearly the conditions at the moment.

During the last five days the team and I visited; Coire Laogh Mor, Coire na Ciste, Coire an t-Sneachda, the plateau area and Stag Rocks.

The buttresses of the Northern Corries remain very white. A large number of cornices persist over the butrresses. However, by Friday the quality of the snow in the corries has improved a lot due to the mid week thaw and refreeze. There is a very large thaw coming tomorrow. Hopefully, this will encourage the cornices to fall down and if we then have a refreeze conditions may be very good.

Approaching Point 1141 with a very snowy Fiacall Buttress in the background.

Approaching Point 1141 with a very snowy Fiacaill Buttress in the background.

Stag Rocks has been busy this week with teams enjoying routes such as Apex Gully and Albino.

Hells Lum is completely buried with a huge cornice covering three quarters of the face. Carn Etchachan and Shelter Stone are very white and need a thaw and refreeze.

The Cairngorms

Skiers enjoying the excellent conditions in Coire Laogh Mor.

Skiers enjoying the excellent conditions in Coire Laogh Mor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week I will be in the Cairngorms. Today I visited Coire Laogh Mor and Coire na Ciste.

The snowpack has improved over the past day. Full details of this can be seen on the SAIS website. The cover for ski touring remains excellent above 550 metres.

Ben Nevis

I was out on Ben Nevis today doing a workshop run by Rich Bentley. We travelled around a good section of the hill.

Carn Dearg Buttress

Moonlight Gully Buttress & Carn Dearg Buttress

Starting on the West side of The Douglas Boulder we headed up past the foot of Vanishing Gully and Italian Climb; up to the foot of Creag Coire na Ciste and over to the base of Number 4 Gully before traversing across under Number 4 Gully Buttress to join the ridge on it’s West side to gain the summit plateau. We then descended the top section of Ledge Route and traversed across the top of Moonlight Gully Butttress to regain Coire na Ciste.

Descending Ledge Route

Descending Ledge Route

Some rain on the walk in, falling as snow above the CIC hut. Winds seemed lighter than forecast. There’s a lot of snow high on Ben Nevis with some easier gullies that would often contain a step being completely banked out e.g. Garadh Gully. The older snow is generally firm. The recent snow is wet and should consolidate well with a frost, with the exception of very high up where there are some crusty areas that haven’t had a significant thaw.