West and East

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 summit of Creag an Airgid.

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.

Doug and Alex on North Gully.

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.

Beinn Udlaidh and Tower Ridge

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.

Andy above the clouds on Tower Ridge on Sunday.

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.

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.