Thursday 10 December 2015

Decisions, decisions on Ben Nevis

Today I was out with 6 students from West Highland College's School of Adventure Studies courses. The focus on the day was improving their decision making in the winter mountain environment and after a planning session we walked in to Ben Nevis using the SAIS Be Avalanche Aware process as the basis for their decision making today. As well as the avalanche hazard we also looked at issues with loose rock, experience vs terrain and river crossing through the framework of: planning, the journey and key places. The group took the message on well and despite me throwing them a curve ball trying to persuade them to follow me blindly into NO.5 Gully they stepped out from under my expert halo and made it clear that they wanted to be part of the decision making process. Hopefully they'll be able to use the reflection on the experience in tandem with knowledge they are always gaining on their courses to make good decisions this season.
It wasn't especially cold today but there was fresh snow down to below 500m (and it was falling lower as we walked out). There are still old snow patches in the coires and major easy gullies and there was a great deal of snow being blown into those areas again today. Lots of graupel in evidence flowing like water over the crags and things are still wet certainly as high as the top of Moonlight Gully Buttress. I could see clearly that there was no rime at all today in Coire na Ciste and a pair of climbers had been up high in Observatory Gully reporting nothing there either. There is a very little wet ice forming as snow has been plastered to faces in places like Hadrians Wall but its a long way from climbable yet. Continued cooler temperatures might begin to freeze and rime things a little by the weekend but it will be interesting to see what the temperatures do after that.
Ben Nevis this morning
Lots of snow blowing
Coire na Ciste
Snow gathering behind micro features...
...but what does it mean when its on both sides?
Our third 'key place' today
This was filling in calf deep footprints in an hour today
 Debris below No. 5 Gully, probably from yesterday
 Definitely winter!
It was also great to bump into Rog and Cath at the CIC Hut today. I last saw them when we did Curved Ridge and Ledge Route together in the winter 5 or 6 years ago! Rog kindly sent me this picture of us heading up today.
And finally a quick vid from today:

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