Sunday, 28 December 2008

Ben Nevis conditions

Merry Christmas, I hope Santa was good to you and that you have lots of new climbing toys to play with!
Superb weather in Lochaber just now. Cloud inversions and a hard frost around Fort William and blue sky cloudless conditions above. I've spent Christmas moving from Kinlochleven to Fort William and to take a break from the chaos I went for a walk up Ben Nevis yesterday.
The rock and ridges are bare and dry with just the odd snowpatch. The easy gullies are all very much complete and the snow in them and Coire na Ciste and Observatory Gully is perfect styrofoam condition for climbing. This does of course mean that a small slip can lead to a very quick and rapid descent as at least one person found out yesterday, crampons, axe and good footwork essesntial!
I went into Coire na Ciste and soloed South Gully (III) descended No.3 Gully (I - no cornice at top as there often is) then carried on up Raeburn's Easy Route (II) and came down No. 4 Gully. Throughout I found good ice and perfect snow for climbing. Other routes seeing attention were Central Gully Right hand with a nice start possible up the lower tier, North Gully and No. 2 Gully Buttress (but the first pitch was rock climbing). The Lower Cascade was complete if not fat, Green and Comb Gullys were both complete and Glover's looked great (even snow left visible in the last - mixed - pitch to the Gap). I hear that Point 5 and Good Friday Climb both also saw ascents yesterday too.
There is an amazing twenty foot high free standing ice column at the base of Comb Gully Buttress (visible in 2 of the pictures above) it was dripping water yesterday and wouldnt be pleasant to be close to when it collapses.
Its the same weather today and it looks set to last a few more days - enjoy!