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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After climbing with Euan, Tina, Scott and Steve on Saturday and Sunday I stayed up in Lochaber and met up with John and a Falkirk Community Trust Winter Climbing Team of Joanne, Linda and Tony on Monday to head up to The CIC hut.
Over the last three days we’ve climbed in various combinations ascending Tower Ridge, North-East Buttress, Hadrian’s Wall Direct and Tower Scoop. The weather has been warm with temperature inversions meaning the climbs at height haven’t been significantly refreezing overnight, so care is required with route choice, timing and choice of approach as there is considerable ice stripping from the rocks and still some significant cornices above parts of The North Face. The ridges are currently quite alpine with sections of snow, ice (some of it detached) and also bare rock in places.
The views have been magnificent with wall to wall sunshine, beautiful sunsets and cloud inversions in the early morning. I’ll put some more photos on the ClimbNow Facebook page.
A belated report from last week on Ben Nevis. On Monday 31st John & I headed up to the CIC Hut with a Falkirk Community Trust team of Bob, Joanne and Linda. After dropping kit we climbed Tower Ridge before dropping back around to the hut via Coire Leis.
On Tuesday we climbed North-East Buttress in some cloud, mist and drizzle, but managed to get back to the hut via the half way lochan ahead of the forecast heavier rain.
Wednesday we climbed Observatory Ridge. This was greasy in places after the rain and required some care. We then dropped back to the hut via Coire Leis again and headed home. Three days on Ben Nevis and three classic ridges.
I’ve been on Ben Nevis for the last three days with Linda, Tony and Robin from Falkirk Community Trust outdoors. On Monday we walked in to the CIC hut and Linda, Tony and I climbed a right hand variation to Fawlty Towers up an icy corner just right of the normal chimney start. This joined the normal route after a pitch and a half and had good moves up the initial corner. We then descended down Tower Ridge to the Douglas Boulder gap and the East Gully of the Douglas Boulder. Robin climbed Ledge Route in excellent condition and descended Number Four Gully.
On Tuesday Linda, Tony and I had a great day climbing Harrison’s Climb Direct on very good ice. Once in the upper bowl we headed up to the top section of Raeburn’s Buttress and finished up this taking in a short steep ice fall direct just below the top as a bonus. The ice on Harrison’s is holding on very well, but beware of the icicles of The Shroud on warmer days as they threaten the initial pitch. Robin went along the Carn Mor Dearg Arête, before heading out to Aonoch Mor and then returning via Carn Dearg Mheadhonach.
Today Linda, Tony and I climbed Green Gully finishing direct. The route was in good condition with the initial ice pitch being pretty banked out and easier than normal. We topped out in to glorious sunshine, no wind and great views. Robin spent the morning practicing Winter Mountain Leader Skills in Coire Leis.
The higher areas of Ben Nevis are holding ice well with routes on the Orion Face and Indicator Wall seeing plenty of ascents. Buttresses that are catching the sun are stripping fast in current conditions. There are still some large cornices about and these need to be considered on warm and sunny days.
I am just back from an excellent three days on the West Coast with John and Harvey.
On Thursday we traversed the Aonach Eagach looking at skills that allow us to move quickly on this type of terrain. We still needed crampons for the whole route.
After staying in Glen Nevis on Thursday night we climbed on Ben Nevis on Friday. We had a good long day first climbing Fawlty Towers before descending Tower Ridge and East Gully to our lunch stop. After a quick bite to eat we climbed the Waterfall Gully icefall which was in great condition before making an abseil descent. The Ben was busy with lots of teams having a great time.
Yesterday we climbed on the West Face of Aonach Mor. We climbed Western Rib starting direct via an icefall at about IV 4. The route was in excellent condition. Lots of teams were enjoying Golden Oldie.
On Thursday evening I was working with Davy Virdee delivering lectures on Scottish Winter and Avalanche Awareness and Avoidance. It was a good excuse to relive a few winter adventures and to get your mind back in to a more wintery mode. Thanks to everyone who attended, Davy for organising it and Alan for all his help on the evening.
Yesterday I was up at St Andrews with the Falkirk Community Trust Team doing some staff training on Blo-Karts and X-Sails with Tom from X-sail. These things aren’t my normal medium, but it was a fun and informative day.