Work seems really busy just now. The new MT Coaching Courses are taking a lot of my time to ensure delivering good sessions from the word go, FUNdamentals as a lead Instructor need Co-ordinating with an Assistant, writing up moderation reports from NICAS etc… But what about CLIMBING!
So by working till after midnight (NICAS… that one's for you) I could at least see my desk under the outstanding work and with the post thaw temperatures looking like dipping below freezing I decided to take the bike and the axes and go to Ben Nevis.
On the sweaty cycle up from Nevis Range things didn't look promising. Most of the snow from last week had receded… but you never know until you can see into the Coires and sure enough looking into Coire na Ciste there was plenty of snow still about. The ridges looked very black except high up but there are plenty of dribbles of ice to be built on and a solid base of snow in the gullies. Now the next question was what was that snow like?
Firm and icey for the most part on the approach. Right, that settled it. I knew No.2 had been complete and often gives an icey step or 2 after a thaw so I started up in that direction. There was the odd 20-30m patch of softer stuff but once in the Gully I was soon marvelling at the remains of the ice on the walls and up on my front points. The water from the thaw had coated the snow and formed more than 60m of hard ice over the softer stuff as it twisted through the upper reaches. At this point I was reminded that I need to get a new pair of mountaineering crampons as the points on G12s are a little stubby to say the least! There were a couple of hollow sections (1 foot of snow and almost the same gap behind and a little running water) higher but the line was complete. The cornice was easily manageable on the left if a little softer than what I'd been climbing below.
On top an American on the Pony Track exclaimed "Jesus! That guys just come up over a cliff!" But I was too busy soaking up the view. Within the Gully confines I'd been aware there was an inversion going on but now I had red skies to the southwest, brocken spectres on the cloud to the north and amazing light everywhere. I finally tore myself away from it to head down a firm No.4 Gully in time to spend the late afternoon with the kids back from school.
All change again tomorrow with fresh snow on gales loading into those gullies a bit!
Not looking promising but...
… give the hill a chance and you will be rewarded!
The most reliable icicle on Ben Nevis
Climbed quite a lot of ice now!
There's an inversion out there
Topping out to surprised Amaericans
Sweaty Al and brocken spectre
Not bad eh?
No digital enhancement required!
2 mountaineers approaching the top of Ledge Route
Partially stripped but a good base in the Coires and Gullies...
…Like No. 4, my way down!