Yesterday I was in Kendal with my AMI Trainee Winter workshop provider head on to discuss the process of mentoring that occurs within the association. Kendal Wall did us proud as hosts and as well as Ed and Paul from AMI there were others with various hats on including representatives from AMI, Plas Y Brenin, Glenmore Lodge, Mountain Training and Alan Kimber of West Coast Mountain Guides. It was a very productive meeting with some good ideas and information shared.
Today Steve and I were on Tower Ridge. An overnight dusting of snow didn't look to amount to much from below but previous light snow lower down had thawed and refrozen as verglas. This was covered with fresh light snow on every flat hold and I wished I'd taken a duster today to remove it all! There was a lot of thin water ice in evidence including a huge icicle in the fallen block chimney after the Eastern Traverse. From there onwards we put crampons on to take advantage of the firm snow but didn't use an axe until the last 20m to the plateau. The path to the summit was firm well trodden snow- avoidable but there were plenty of walkers doing their Bambi impressions skittering on it.
On the way to Ledge Route we chatted to Martin who has just finished the new No. 4 Gully Cairn (he is just clearing the area of loose rock except around the base where the remains of the old cairn have now become an important habitat for some rare plant life- wonder if that is down to the liquid fertiliser applied by many winter climbers!). The cap stone is huge and must weigh over half a (metric) ton. It took him days just to move it to the site from a little way along the plateau and a lot of effort to get it atop the cairn itself. There are 2 small No. 4s attached to the cairn (which will probably disappear under rime).
Steve and I headed down Ledge Route which was hard with a lot of ice to be avoided. Many of the lower ice lines on Ben Nevis (Cascades, The Curtain, Waterfall Gully, Carn Dearg Cascades even The Gulch below Coire na Ciste) were obvious smears of ice today.
It was snowing and hailing to the treeline as we walked out. Winter is a coming!
Steve with the Douglas Boulder behind
Low on Tower Ridge
On the Great Tower
Exiting the Gap
All the large snow patches in this pic were firm and hard
The RAF and the ice below Carn Dearg