Tuesday 29 December 2015

Climbing water- soft, wet and even frozen!

I was lazy today so instead of getting up at 6am to go out with friends I was chaining my bike up at the top car park on Ben Nevis at 0940.
I chatted to various folk on the walk in and it was nice to see Andy and Rocio and Owen who were all walking out because of conditions. It wasn't mild it was hot. And wet. And there was even less snow around than 2 days ago. But hey, what are you going to do?
I skipped the CIC Hut and made my way up into Coire na Ciste watching demoralised climbers talking themselves out of going any further down below me in the shelter of the building.
I'd been thinking of No. 2 Gully but was a bit discouraged by the amount of debris that had come down in an avalanche probably yesterday. The snow was also very soft and hard work. I had spotted a pair starting up Raeburns Easy Route though and finally made my way into their tracks which made life a lot easier.
I always seem to do this route in a thaw. Often because the mild weather reveals ice on the bulges heading up to the traverse making it look inviting. By now I have realised that it can also be hollow and cruddy when there is a waterfall behind the ice (and there was water flowing everywhere today) so I took a delicate approach zig zagging across the trail of the couple in front finding what water was still climbabley solid.
The traverse was a wade with water trickling off the icicles above and as I came around the last corner I found my trail breakers in the form of a friend, Johannes and his partner for the day Penny. Eschewing the easy snowy finish J was keen on one of the several ice lines that climb more steeply to the plateau on the left. As they had no camera I took pictures as he led and was very happy to accept an invitation to tie on with Penny to follow him up a nice pitch of, only slightly cruddy' Grade III ice (he had placed a screw and everything, and it might even have held a fall!).
Breezier on the top but with flashes of sun I said my farewells and headed to No. 4. I could see where the cornice had collapsed at the top of No.2 and where there were some big glide cracks at the top of No. 3 which saw ascents today. Coming down he top of No.4 it was soft and at the bend it was broken and bouldery- it too has avalanched recently and there was plenty of debris below amongst the boulder fields. North Gully had had a cornice triggered avalanche too and was a waterfall today, completely broken.
Other than our route and No.s 3 and 4 I saw people on Tower Ridge and a very green Ledge Route.
The weather is being trumpeted as something awful tomorrow and it will be windy and rainy but what's new? The worst of it will pass us by out to sea and latterly tomorrow we'll have snow. Then colder temperatures forecast and more snow for a while.
Winter settling in at last? We'll see.
More pics at: https://www.facebook.com/climbwhenyoureready.mountaineering/media_set?set=a.1001224936587290.1073741988.100000993792059&type=3
The green, green grass of the Ben
Snowier up there though
Comb Gully complete on the right, Raeburns Easy on the left
Looking up the line
Johannes keeping it interesting
Ice is ALWAYS harder to climb than it looks ;-)
 Gusty top out
 Penny on the steep bit
'That was fun!'
A bare plateau
 Breezey on top
 Home time

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