Minus 2 Gully and North East Buttress

We're running our CIC Hut Climbing Week on Ben Nevis this week and have had three brilliant days so far. Due to the distribution of snow and associated avalanche hazards, we've been exploring the First Platform and Minus Face and racked up a far bit of mileage on the routes around there. The routes on the First Platform (Green Hollow Route, Bayonet Route and Ruddy Rocks) are all climbable, but they are a bit thin in places and quite tricky to protect.

To the right of Slingsbys Chimney, there are a number of routes that have seen a lot of action recently. Right-Hand Wall Route is an overlooked route, which is currently in great condition and well worth seeking out. The top pitch follows a series of shallow but well iced grooves and whilst poor for screws, gives excellent and steady climbing.

Today, we took our teams up Minus 2 Gully (well hooked out) and continued up a super snowy North East Buttress, which felt quite Himalayan in character. We popped over to the summit and then had a look into Coire Leis by where the abseil posts used to be, but decided against descending there due to the risk of triggering an avalanche, so instead continued route the Carn Mor Dearg Arete and dropped back into Coire Leis much further round.

Our second team round up.

As many of you will know we have had challenging conditions over the past week or so, and many teams out and about. This winter season is proving now to be an excellent one with large amounts of snow and ice in many locations, and just goes to show “Ne’er cast a cloot till May be oot!”

The West Coast team of associate guides, leaders and instructors have been working hard in the last wee while to keep people safe whilst achieving objectives or at least exceeding their expectations when their objectives are unattainable due to conditions, you hire us first and foremost to keep you safe.

Caspar has been out delivering winter climbing courses in a verity of locations from Stob Corrie nan Lochan to Ben Nevis and at a verity of grades from grade II to IV classics.

James has been out during some of the stormy days working on private winter skills and Munro guiding, this is the best way to learn, practise and develop your skills. Unlike a group of 8 or more 1:1 or 1:2 learning can be tailored to the needs of the individuals and the context of your objectives.

Mike has been leading teams up the Ben in some brilliant weather, and successfully reaching the summit. Not every day or group have been able to summit, due to the avalanche hazards around Red Burn, yes even the Tourist Path up Ben Nevis is at risk of avalanche hazards.

Will has been out on Winter mountaineering and climbing course during large amounts of snow which has taken a little out of the box thinking as to locations and times to avoid the crowds, managing an ascent of Dorsal arete and the East ridge of Beinn a’ Chaorainn.

And Dave has been out almost ever day on a mixture of Mountaineering classics and climbing days. One of his best days out was with his long-term student Keir McEwan, 2 years ago Dave taught Keir to trad lead in Northumberland and last week Keir lead 2 pitches of a winter route, in between this Keir has done several routes with Dave.


New Heights – Active Brands

School House Ridge, Ballachulish and Eastern Slant, Aonach Dubh

The snow has continued to fall and be redistributed by the winds, creating challenging conditions with regards to both avalanche hazards and just getting around. Yesterday, the guys led themselves up School House Ridge on Sgorr Bhan and along the way, we looked at using the rope effectively on mountaineering terrain. There were some sizeable accumulations of snow even on the crest of the ridge and making progress was quite tough at times. From the top of the ridge, we visited the summit of Sgorr Bhan, before descending the north ridge (and dropped into Coire Riabhach at the col before Beinn Bhan).

Today, we opted for Eastern Slant on Far East Buttress on Aonach Dubh, which required a fair bit of wading to get to the base of the crag as well as to climb the route. Despite the volume of soft snow, the snowpack was stable, just hard work to travel through! The climbing itself on Eastern Slant is brilliant, with three very varied pitches and good gear throughout. As we descended back to the valley, the weather deteriorated and turned to wet sleet. Arie and Will have had a good cross-section of Scottish winter climbing this week and have definitely started to appreciate the ever-changing challenges that Scotland can throw at you.

New Heights – Active Brands

East Ridge – Stob Ban, Fawlty Towers – Ben Nevis, Diam Buttress – Aonach Mor

Over the past three days, I've been running an Introductory Winter Climbing Course for Arie and Will, who are over from the Netherlands. They couldn't have asked for better conditions, as winter has truly taken hold of the Highlands and looks to stay with us for some time yet!

On Monday, we tackled the East Ridge of the North Top of Stob Ban, which was amazingly empty. The winds were a noticeable feature of the day, but died instantly as we topped out.

Yesterday, we joined the masses on Ben Nevis, which is proving to be the place to go this week. We climbed a line just to the right of Fawlty Towers, giving a varied route on ice and mixed ground, before descending Tower Ridge and abseiling back down the eastern flank.

Today, we made our way round to the west face of Aonach Mor, which was surprisingly quiet. There, we climbed the excellent Diam Buttress, which definitely has far more technical climbing on it than on Tower Ridge. Some fairly substantial accumulations of snow on the southern side of the buttress and the snow was piling over Aonach Mor and onto the east face today.

New Heights – Active Brands

Very snowy on Castle Ridge, Ben Nevis

Day 4 with Nick and Chris and we headed back up Ben Nevis with our sights set on Castle Ridge, which Nick has done before, but as a bare rock route. Today, conditions were at the opposite end of the spectrum with so much snow on the ridge, far more than I've ever encountered up there.

Many of the shorter rocky steps were completely buried, allowing for quick progress and the two main crux pitches were both much shorter than usual. Still, the volume of snow only added to the atmosphere and things felt almost Himalayan at times! We descended the NW flanks of Carn Dearg, which gave a quick and straight forward descent.

The ice is forming well up there, routes such as Norwand and Boomer's Requiem aren't far off being climbable. We'll see another brief thaw tomorrow, before a return to cooler conditions and yet more snow on Sunday and into next week. The second half of this winter is certainly making up for the first half and turning out to be very snowy and icy.

I've also uploaded an amazing shot of Buachaille Etive Mor, taken last Thursday by Dynamic Scotland Photography. Incredibly, Sylvan took it whilst I was topping out of Shelf Route and was able to pick me out. Head over to his page to see more of his excellent work!

Nice ice on Salamander Gully, Beinn an Dothaidh

Nick, Chris and I had an early start this morning so that we stood a chance of beating both the crowds and the weather on Salamander Gully on Beinn an Dothaidh at the Bridge of Orchy. This tactic paid off, as we were first on the route, just. The first pitch was quite cruddy, however, the crux pitch was excellent, with thick blue ice and good for screws. In fact, the route was in much better condition than The Curtain on Ben Nevis is right now. Whilst the difficulties are short, they pack a pretty good punch and certainly got both Nick and Chris working hard! The final pitch isn't without interest either.

The clouds came on whilst we were climbing and it was clear that the temperature was starting to rise a bit by midday. Plenty of other teams also on the route today, as well as Robin and Stuart on The Sting on Beinn Dorain. Some of the other turfy routes on Beinn an Dothaidh looked reasonable today, but Fahrenheit 451 is a long way away from being complete.

The greater side of West Coast Mountain Guides.

Ken is brilliant at keeping us up to date with his Jedi guiding, instruction and climbing skills, and he is a brilliant inspiration to the rest of team, if only every Boss was such an inspiration!

West Coast is a team of associate guides and instructors going out everyday either for pleasure or helping people achieve their aims and objectives, we are here for everyone no matter what your objective is. Over the next few weeks, we will be posting a small round up of what some of our team have been doing from ascending The Ben to personal adventures.

We have groups ascending The Ben most days and weeks, Lucy Wallace Winter Mountain Leader tells us about her ascent this Monday, “ ! 900/ 3 . , .”

Dave was out in Stob Coire Nan Lochan on Monday with Tom for his third winter climb, Copy Tweet
“ , , , 5 , 5 .”

Dave was also out teaching some winter skills to some Snowboarders who are hoping to move away from the piste and into the mountains, in some brilliant learning conditions.

Many of our team have been getting out over the winter enjoying their days off, Niels can’t help himself but get out on his days off for some spindrift exfoliation on North Buttress " , "

Michael Jeffers ascended Curved ridge earlier in the season under copious amounts of powder “ , ' ”

If you want to see and hear more from the team please Like the post. Thank you.



Good fun on D Gully Buttress, Buchaille Etive Mor

After discussing a few options, Nick, Chris and I decided to go for D Gully Buttress on Buachaille Etive Mor today, which turned out to be great fun!

For some reason, it's not a route I had climbed before, so it was a real adventure for us all. For a route that is easily accessed and fairly low on the mountain, it certainly doesn't lack any character, with plenty of interesting climbing and great situations. The ground is quite slabby in places, so requires a bit of care, but there were axe placements where needed.

From the top of D Gully Buttress, we made our way over and down Curved Ridge (and Easy Gully), on which there were a number of teams making their way up.

The Curtain and Right-Hand Chimney, Ben Nevis

Back on Ben Nevis today, this time with returning clients, Nick and Chris. We made a bee-line for The Curtain, which was a wee bit thin, but very much climbable and good fun. Just don't expect much decent protection!

We carefully descended back down Ledge Route and No. 5 Gully to see a steady queue forming on The Curtain and Curtain Rail. I decided to have a quick look at Right-Hand Chimney, which from below looked well iced up and so we climbed that as our second route of the day. The guidebook states III,4 and elsewhere, IV,4. I would say more like VI,5 in current conditions (I'm not sure it's ever much easier), with quite steep, technical climbing and very little gear, but with good axe placements throughout. That said, the second, main pitch was excellent and gave Nick and Chris a great flavour of icy mixed climbing.

The winds weren't too bad, however, there was an awful lot of graupel coming down at times! We could see a couple of teams cautiously approaching Gutless and Vanishing Gully (I.e. roped up). One team also ventured up high and climbed Thompson's Route.

Icy on Scabbard Chimney and something to the right of Spectre, SCNL

For Neil's second day, we decided to seek shelter in Coire nan Lochan, where it turned out to be by and large a very pleasant day. With a few options in mind, it was clear that Scabbard Chimney was well iced and that the slab on the first pitch looked plastered, so we went for that. When I last climbed it, we took a short detour out to the left to avoid the blank and bare slab, however, today, it was a joy to climb, with excellent axe placements all the way. The crux turned out to be just off the second belay, after which the route remained very icy, with steady and bold climbing all the way. V,4/5 in these conditions.

We then abseiled back down after the difficulties (a 60m ab down a groove to the right of the first pitch of Spectre) and in doing so, noticed that the line of the abseil looked like it would be good fun to climb, so back up we went. The climbing was a bit more mixed to begin with, before joining icy grooves to a peg belay overlooking the Tempest wall. From here, a short traverse brought us back onto Spectre, which again, was plastered in ice. The line we took was perhaps VI,5, if anyone has climbed this groove (not the one immediately right of Spectre, but the next one over), please let me know.

Excellent icy conditions developing in the mountains right now, and this trend should continue throughout the forthcoming week.