Guy on Pitch 1
Kenny on Pitch 3
Climbers topping out on Tower Ridge
Kenny having a look down Smiths
A rimed up Guy waiting to abseil into No.3
Awesome day in Lochaber today. Kenny, Guy and I headed up Ben Nevis for my first day's recreational climbing in what feels like ages. There were crowds ahead of us streaming into Coire Na Ciste and Observatory Gully but we had it in mind to take a peak at the Little Brenva face as none of us had climbed there before and we were expecting a good build up of ice on it... and we weren't wrong. We mixed and matched pitches to give us a steep ice climb of 5 long pitches and a little moving together at top end IV (at least that's what it felt like to my early season out of shape calves and forearms). The ice was fat and often bullet hard, the neve firm and the views stunning. Guy and Kenny each took two pitches and a little moving together saw us beneath what I think is the last pitch of Cresta Direct which gave me a 60m pitch on rope stretch to a belay on the crest of the ridge.
In a strong breeze we headed over the summit and down to No. 3 Gully seeing teams topping out on Smiths, Tower Ridge and something on No. 2 Gully Buttress. There were also parties on Comb and Green and Indicator Wall and The Cascade both still look icey. We gave a little assistance to some mountaineers tackling the cornice at the top of No.3 before abseiling down. As we descended we could see ice on South, Thompsons (thin), Central L and R, North, The White Line and Green. I know 2 Step has seen plenty of attention but it looked quite thin above the half way point.
Overall there was a lot of very firm (quite unforgiving in the event of a slip) snow around in the easy gullys and the usual mid grde suspects are holding ice. However none of them are fat yet and where screws normally provide gear those pushing their grade might not find a 'comforting' amount yet. The harder mixed routes were all very black.
Great day out climbing with mates... that's what its all about!
The video shows plenty of coire views to show the build up on routes.