Lochaber Traverse

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.

 

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.

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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Four Days Based in Lochaber

I got back last night from four days based in Fort William with Andy and Rob. On the way up on Friday we stopped off at Bridge of Orchy and headed in to Creag Coire an Dothaidh. We’d been aiming for Salamander Gully, but a team diverted on to it just before we got to the crag, so we headed up Centigrade. The ice was a bit hollow in places and required a delicate approach, but gave a good sheltered climb.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Rob and Andy high up on Centigrade.

Saturday saw us head up to Ben Nevis and climb Ledge Route in excellent conditions. We were the first team up on the day, which required a bit of trail breaking and some careful route choice in sheltered spots with pockets of unconsolidated snow. We saw lots of teams out on The Curtain, Vanishing Gully and heading up towards Harrison’s and Castle Ridge.

On Sunday we needed a shorter day with options to cut off early if required as Rob’s foot was playing up a little. This made me think of Masa and Yuki Sakano’s routes on the North-West Ridge of Binnein Shuas. It’s a short walk in and the routes are on small buttresses up the ridge. I’d climbed Location, Location, Location last year with Jim Bayliss and spotted an option for an alternative start; the cave mentioned in Masa’s description is actually a through route. This gave an hilarious squeeze/thrutch with rucksacks needing to be removed part way up. Rob described it as “like being a kid again”.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Andy about to do battle with the narrow section of the cave.

Higher up we climbed Bogle Eyed, which gives a short, but excellent quality, ice pitch and seems to form quite readily. We then aimed for what I thought was Summit North-West Buttress. We climbed what looked like the “obvious zig-zag snow line”, however, it felt somewhat nippy for a II and we popped out about 20m North of the summit rather than “80m West”; so not the same line, but a good pitch direct to the summit. If you want more information for routes on Binnein Shuas search on Scottishwinter.com.

Yesterday we climbed Dinnertime Buttress finishing via No. 2 Gully on Aonach Dubh West Face in Glen Coe. The ground was hard frozen from the glen up and the weather was glorious. There are still areas of unconsolidated snow and slab around, so route choice requires thought.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

Rob and Andy near the top of No.2 Gully.

We then drove back down and as the guys were flying out this morning we had time for a meal in Edinburgh and a couple of drams in The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which made Rob very happy. I think Andy was just happy the weather was a vast improvement on when he was up earlier in the season. I’ve added some photos to the ClimbNow Facebook page.

Ben Nevis

I’m just back from four days climbing on Ben Nevis. On Sunday Andy and I climbed Fawlty Towers up on to Tower Ridge, descended the lower section of the ridge and abseiled the East Gully of the Douglas Boulder.

Andy high on Fawlty Towers

Andy high on Fawlty Towers

On Monday I met John and a Falkirk Community Trust team of Neil, Pete, Tam and Tom for two nights in the CIC Hut. We walked up to the hut and needing a quick route for the afternoon Tam, Tom and I did the first two pitches of Fawlty Towers and abseiled off whilst John, Neil and Pete did the first two pitches of Italian Right-Hand.

On Tuesday Tam, Tom and I climbed The Curtain then headed initially up Ledge Route and then a good ice pitch and an ice groove to the right at about III to pop out back on to Ledge Route just above the large pinnacle block. We then descended over the top of Moonlight Gully Buttress. John, Neil and Pete climbed Green Gully in excellent condition, descended Number Four Gully and climbed the first couple of pitches of Central Gully Right-Hand before abbing off.

Tam approaching the second belay on The Curtain

Tam approaching the second belay on The Curtain

Today before walking out John, Neil and Pete climbed The Curtain and descended Ledge Route whilst Tam, Tom and I climbed the first two pitches of Italian Right-Hand to cap off an excellent few days.

Tom smiling on a belay

Tom smiling on a belay

On Sunday the lower level routes were thawing slowly and Fawlty Towers was dripping as we climbed. The thaw continued slowly on Monday and we met Buzz and Jess who’d decided against Nordwand, which had been reported as very good a few days before. Over Monday and Tuesday nights there was a frost, which has helped consolidate the snow and slowed the thawing of the lower level ice routes. The higher crags are still rimed, but the lower crags are now pretty black apart from gullies and ice lines. Hadrian’s Wall Direct and Point Five have both been climbed in the last few days and were reported as being very good.

Ben Nevis

I’m just back from five days away, the first two of which were spent on Ben Nevis with Scott & Tina. On Saturday the 23rd we walked up to the CIC hut and then climbed Tower Ridge starting via The East Gully of the Douglas Boulder.

Tina and Scott on Tower Ridge

Tina and Scott on Tower Ridge

We descended Ledge Route as far as the “Jenga” boulders and traversed around Number 5 Gully to reach Number 4 Gully and return to the hut. The weather was mixed, with some cloud, some sunshine and even a couple of snow showers.

Tina & Scott on Direct Route

Tina & Scott on Direct Route

On Sunday we climbed the Direct Route on the Douglas Boulder in 8 pitches, abseiled into the Douglas Boulder Gap and down the East Gully. The day was sunny with light winds. There was a fair bit of seepage on the route and we varied the line to try and make use of the drier rock.

Abseiling in to The Douglas Boulder Gap

Abseiling in to The Douglas Boulder Gap

A great weekend in excellent company and Happy Birthday to Scott for Monday.

Scott & Tna with The Douglas Boulder and Tower Ridge behind

Scott & Tna with The Douglas Boulder and Tower Ridge behind

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.