A cool night last night and a sunny forecast today tempted me away from the risk assessments and safety policies I'm reviewing for a quick half day on Ben Nevis. I started at the North Face car park and 20 minutes later had a good sweat on when I bumped in to Chris Walker and team at the upper car park. They were on their way to No. 4 Gully and the summit - as Chris said 'It would be a crime not to summit on a day like today'.
I put my IPod on, my head down and pressed on to the CIC hut noticing the marked improvement to the surrounding area- the SMC have obviously been listening to criticism and have cleaned up the approach and hut environs of much of the building waste that was there.
I went into Observatory Gully and popped out on Tower ridge just ahead of 2 teams that had been in the chimney as I was coming up underneth them. The front team was Andy Nisbet, hard at work with client. After a brief chat, popping on gloves, helmet and getting an axe out I carried on up. At the base of the little tower I detected some ice ahead and stuck my crampons on. This proved to be a good idea as from here up if the sun hadn't been on it the old footprints were frozen quite firmly and there was even a little ice about. I claimed an old moac that was jammed in a crack and headed to the great tower. The eastern traverse was catching the sun and the meltwater from above was like a curtain of rain making the snow quite a bit softer. Glad to be past that Tower Gap seemed quite straightforward and I was on top less than 3 hours from the car park.
Summer must be here because I passed a couple of dozen different people wearing jeans, trainers etc with no winter kit. Today they will probably all get away with it. I skidded down the Red Burn and back to Corpach for lunch.
Looking into the Coire na Ciste and across Observatory Gully I was pleasantly surprisd at how much snow and ice was still around. The cold night had obviously stabilised things as I heard no ice on move this morning (afternoon sun mght have changed that). Whilst things aren't as fat as the last couple of Aprils I saw lots that would probably be climbable with a cold day and/or an early start: as well as all of the easy gullys, North, Central LH and RH, South, No.2 Gully Buttress, Cascade, Raeburns Easy and Glovers (ice coating the inside of the chimney looking down Tower Gap) all looked complete in Coire na Ciste. Over in Observatory Gully Zero looked there but patchy, Hadrians was complete (but how fat?), Point 5 had 3 teams on it, Tower Scoop, Good Friday and Indicator Wall were all there as is Smiths Route.
Of course just because it looked white from Tower Ridge doesnt mean it isn't hollow and dripping! But there is more there than I'd expected. Have fun- I have a wedding in Cheltenham to go to, then a CWA training in Glasgow. We'll see what's left by the end of next week when I'm next out.