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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
John, Harvey and I have spent the last two days in Glen Coe and on Ben Nevis. On Friday we climbed North Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor and descended Curved Ridge.
Today we climbed Tower Ridge, which was suprisingly quiet for a sunny Saturday, on Ben Nevis. We then headed around over the Carn Mor Dearg Arete to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg to add to John and Harvey’s already high Munro tally for the month.
The weather was glorious for both days with sunshine and light winds. The rock was dry, which made these classic Scottish climbs and scrambles a joy to climb. Both days included a dip in the river on the walk out, which shows just how warm it is. With the high pressure set to continue for a little while at least it’s worth taking plenty of fluids and suncream, sunhats etc. if you’re heading for the hills at the moment.