Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing day on the Ben

I went for a quick route on Ben Nevis today to take advantage of the fine weather and with a late start to burn off some of yesterday's turkey. It was quiet in Coire na Ciste with just a pair heading into No.5 Gully- probably heading for Ledge Route.
The upper hill was clad in a ghostly white sheet where the torrential rain of the last few days had finally turned to snow higher up yesterday. Most of the low lying ice that had been building is gone (Carn Dearg Cascades are gone, first pitch of Waterfall Gully is broken and the first pitch of the Curtain isn't there, there is some grey and white stuff on the ice pitches of Compression Cracks though) and there was just a tiny skim of ice on the puddles as I walked in today. The snow on the walk in to Coire Na Ciste was crusty and quite moist beneath. I was soon bored of ankle to calf deep mystery plunges and above the Ciste Lochan opted to head to Central Gully on the Trident Butresses because it: 1. Had some nice ice bulges visible in it, 2. I'd never done it and 3. It was close meaning less deep steps to get to the climbing.
The snow was mostly quite soft but the ice on the bulges and walls gave occasional good placements though. I took the original left hand variation (a few inches of rotten snow on slabby rock- steps cut with a gloved hand and thumped down hard to convince me they would hold my weight, axes useless gloved fingers between the snow and the rock- a few 'interesting' metres).
It was warm. I was in a thin thermal and a soft shell with no hat all day. The snow pack was still quite moist seeming until 100m below the plateau rim where the rocks became thickly rimed and the snow a bit colder. The only sign of fresh snow was the row of drooping soft cornices around the rim of the final bowl.
I headed down the Red Burn which was mostly quite firm on the left side (looking down) and took me quickly back down.
 Castle area
 Tower Ridge plastered
 Debris from recent avalanches below No.5
 Looking up Central Gully
 Droopy cornices at the top
 Walkers on the Pony Track
 Heading down
I can see my house from here
Plenty snow around and the temps look set to yo-yo some more over the weekend. Shame about the gales forecast!

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