Over the past five days, Stu and I have been running our second CIC Hut Week of the season. Being based in this alpine hut allows us unparalleled access to some of the finest winter climbs in the UK, and we certainly made the most of what turned out to be quite reasonable conditions and weather, even if visibility wasn’t great at times. We were joined by Tom, Tim, Andy and Danny for the week.
On Monday, and to kick the week off, we all made an ascent of Tower Scoop, before Andy, Danny and myself climbed Indicator Wall, topping out on the very summit of Ben Nevis and using the summit cairn as the final belay. The ice was in very good shape, if a little thin in a couple of patches on the first pitch, the second and third pitch were brilliant. Stu, Tim and Tom climbed Good Friday Climb that afternoon, and also reported good conditions.
On Tuesday, we decided to go for a team ascent of Hadrian’s Wall Direct, which felt like a reasonable progression from the day before. Tim had to disappear down to Edinburgh for the day, leaving Tom and I to climb the route as a pair, whilst Stu guided Andy and Danny. The first couple of pitches were a bit damp, but conditions improved quickly with height. Getting a sharp start ensured that we were ahead of the crowds, and found ourselves topping out in the sunshine, above thick cloud, before midday. With plenty of time left, Tom and I abseiled into Tower Gully, and back into the murk, before finding our way to the base of Smith’s Route, which we then climbed. Again, from about halfway up the second (main) pitch, we popped out above the clouds again. The Icicle Variation was looking a little soft, however, the Original Route sported great ice throughout. The summit was busy with plenty of climbers enjoying perhaps the only place in the Western Highlands to be in the sunshine.
Wednesday brought with it low lying cloud, so Tim, Tom and I headed into Coire na Ciste and up to a grade III lick of ice below and left of Raeburn’s Easy Route. We climbed this, before making our way to the foot of the impressive icefall of The Cascade. The ice on The Cascade was generally good, with a couple of more brittle patches low down, and some thinner patches towards the top. Not sure why it gets the grade of IV,5 as it’s probably more sustained than the main pitch of Smith’s Route. We then continued up the icy grooves of Expert’s Choice, of which the final pitch was particularly good. We then descended back into Coire na Ciste via an abseil into No. 3 Gully. Stu, Danny and Andy meanwhile, also enjoyed Smith’s Route and Good Friday Climb.
With a stormy start to Thursday, and with forecasts hinting at an improvement later in the morning, we opted for a 10.30am start, and made a team ascent of Green Gully. Our late start paid off, with a marked decrease in both wind speed and precipitation. The stormy weather had deposited a fair bit of fresh snow in the the corries, and particularly in the gullies, and so to avoid any avalanche hazards, we descended the Red Burn, and walked back via halfway Lochan and beneath the north wall of The Castle. Nice to stretch the legs as well as the arms!
For our final day, with the wind speeds due to increase at midday, we started early, and again, stuck together, and made a swift team ascent of Tower Ridge, which was in great condition, with good snow cover throughout. The winds started to increase as we topped out, and by the time we were enjoying lunch in Whetherspoons in Fort William, the weather had deteriorated quite a bit.
That’s it for our CIC Hut Week Courses this season, they’ve both been great fun, with good conditions and very enjoyable company. Between the four teams over the two weeks, we’ve been able to climb plenty of brilliant routes, including: Cresta Direct/Moonwalk, Minus Two Gully, North East Buttress, The Curtain, Tower Ridge, Observatory Buttress, Orion Face Direct, Hadrian’s Wall Direct, Smith’s Route, Tower Scoop, Good Friday Climb, Indicator Wall, The Cascade, Expert’s Choice, Green Gully and Vanishing Gully.
Provisional dates for our CIC Hut Week long courses for next year are:
5-10 March 2017
19-24 March 2017
Don’t forget that we can also arrange private guided days based out of the CIC Hut too. Please get in touch for further information.