Saturday 11 December 2010

What a difference a day makes

I went onto Ben Nevis for a look around to see what effect the thaw had had. We've lost a large amount of snow in Lochaber and today the snowline was just above the CIC hut. The remaining snow was deep, wet and soft. People breaking trail today into Coire na Ciste experienced ankle, to knee, to thigh deep wet snow at times. There is still a good deal of ice in the drainage lines and the rock lower down was black, higher there was a lot of wet verglas or troublesome thin ice on steeper rock. There was a litle riming high up, above about 1200m but at 1100m I experienced running water and looking through a hole in the ice could see soggy moss behind (at about 1pm). Colder cponditions are due to return and should firm things up nicely though.
I saw 3 teams head for Ledge Route and the route of choice in Coire na Ciste today was No.3 Gully Buttress- 7 people in 3 teams on it.
I went to have a look at No. 2 Gully Buttress and after a deep flog up through the snow decided against it as the first rocky steps held only unhelpfully thin ice and rotten snow. So I headed over to Raeburns Easy Route which gave pleasant climbing at Grade II until near the end of the traverse where I was able to cut up to a pleasant 20m icefall at about III. This deposited me on steep snow below the cornice- easily outflakable. I wandered across to descend No.4 as the mist lifted. As I went past at about 2pm there was a climber leaving the second belay on No. 3 Gully Buttress. Hope they had head torches!
As well as No.3 GB I reckon the North, Central, South, Garadh, Green, Comb and Garadh Gullys could all be worth a look- but we really need an overnight freeze. The snow is soft but seems largely stable and this should only improve as it gets colder.

Raeburns Easy Route from Alan Halewood on Vimeo.

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