Tuesday 27 December 2011

Surveying the damage

Well after 3 days of torrential rain and mild gales I went with Adam and Anne to see what damage the weather had wreaked on winter conditions on Ben Nevis.
Much of the low lying snow patches are gone. Those left are above the CIC hut level (see SMC update here) and were firm today. We walked in under starlight and had a short lived blue sky over head as we walked past the wreckage of the hut roof and up into Coire na Ciste. The snowfield beneath No.5 Gully was firm refrozen snow and there is now only a little evidence of the avalanche debris from the 23rd is less evident after being smoothed over by the thaw.
From the lip of the Coire it was obvious that whilst the main easy gullys are complete (and the cornices were a little less than Friday) anything harder is not (Green, South, North, Glover's Garadh, Comb all have large rocky gaps). The ridges had only a small amount of old snow on them but what is there is very firm. Plenty of verglas topped with a dusting of fresh snow about too. Kenny did Tower Ridge today.
We plumped for No 2 Gully (as did another soloist) which is complete with a couple of simple steps where there the thaw has led to the formation of holes in the snowpack. There was a coating of ice on the walls but it was dripping almost all the way to the plateau. Topping out past an easily outflanked cornice we wandered past the top of No. 3 (steep at the top but no cornice today on the right as you looked up) to No. 4. The cornice is much smaller than a few days ago but still a steep exposed awkward downclimb so we abseiled again off of the frozen cairn.
Now having said all this we are due more rain and snow on strong winds so it will all change again. Gullys are expected to load with windblown snow and sudden rises in temperatures may lead to instabilities. Keep a close eye on the SAIS website (their pics of Aonach Mor today look promising but it depends on the next few days.... aah Mike was there today... news not so good).
For those who have access to a key to the track please not the culvert in the last hollow before you leave the trees has partially collapsed (during hurricane bawbag) and the last few days rain has worsened the road a little (its beginning to weaken on the opposite side to). More rain may cause things to get worse without remedial work so approach with caution... especially with a van or wide 4wd.

1 comment:

Tom@Iron River Hotels said...

Holy cow!! I'm really impressed. You are all animals and have no fear. That would scare the crap outta me.