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Ice to be found on Little Brenva Face, Ben Nevis

Despite the lack of recent snows, Stu Lade, who worked on one of our CIC Hut Weeks last winter, found some good ice high on Ben Nevis, on Little Brenva Face. The face can turn into rather undefined dribbles of ice, so route finding isn’t always straight forward, but he thought that they started up Bob Run, before finishing up, or very near to Moonwalk. They also climbed a couple of 30m of steep ice, one of which was Final Buttress. A number of British Mountain Guides were also enjoying the ice up there whilst on their winter induction and climbed Cresta along with the other routes. Looks like a great find given current conditions! Cheers to Stu for the photos.

Reports of other teams on The Web and Right Twin on Aonach Mor, both of which were thin but climbable.

Little Brenva Face

Little Brenva Face

Little Brenva Face

Little Brenva Face

Little Brenva Face

 

Another stunning day in the Highlands

It proved to be another stunning day in the Highlands, so long as you were prepared to head up to 800m.  Aonach Mor proved to be a great place to enjoy being above the inversion, particularly as the effort of getting above the clouds was lessened by the gondola.

Cloud inversion in the Highlands

The start of another great day in the Highlands!

Views towards Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis

Views towards Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis

Buttresses to the north of Easy Gully

Buttresses to the north of Easy Gully

Descending into Easy Gully, Aonach Mor

Descending into Easy Gully

Buttresses to the south of Easy Gully

Buttresses to the south of Easy Gully

Looking down Easy Gully

Looking down Easy Gully

Left Twin looking lean

Left Twin looking lean

The snow on the East Face had firmed up quite a bit with the clear skies overnight, giving good, stable conditions in Easy Gully. Many of the routes on the East Face (particularly those to the north of Easy Gully, that are a bit more exposed to the sun) have suffered with the lack of snow and mild temperatures, but Forgotten Twin was good enough to climb today.  Unfortunately, the thin section at about mid-height is probably no longer feasible after our ascent.

We bumped into Euan, who had soloed a couple of unnamed gullies to the south of Homo Buttress, but care definitely required in these lean conditions.

This weekend will see more of the same conditions, so overall little change.

As a side note, the current thaw has unearthed and loosened a pile of loose blocks at the top of No. 2 Gully on Ben Nevis.  The sun will be beating down on the surrounding snow this weekend, loosening the pile even further. It’s worth avoiding at the minute, as it could prove to be catastrophic.

Cloud Inversion on Ben Nevis

Fairly good conditions holding on in Number 2 Gully on Ben Nevis today. Much of the day was spent in the clouds, but the summit of Ben Nevis was just poking out above a fairly dense cloud inversion.

Quite busy in Nos. 2,3&4 Gullies today, as well as teams on Tower Ridge. Tower Gully looked like good fun too. Plenty of rime ice forming on the rocks and on the ground above 1100m.  It’s going to remain fairly cold up high for the next while.

Conditions in No. 2 Gully

Good snow in No. 2 Gully

Rime forming on the rocks

Rime forming on the rocks

Cloud inversion on Ben Nevis

Above the clouds

Gardyloo Gully and Indicator Wall

Brockenspectre above Gardyloo Gully

Cloud inversion on Ben Nevis

Looking towards Carn Dearg

Cloud inversion on Ben Nevis

View from the summit

Lost the Place, Ben Nevis & East Ridge, Stob Ban

We’ve had a few brilliant days recently, and we’ve been out making the most of it.  Yesterday, Hannah was out on a personal climbing day with Mark. They decided to head up to Coire na Ciste and climb the neglected gem that is Lost the Place, a mixed route high on Creag Coire na Ciste. The route doesn’t really see the attention it deserves, particularly as it’s probably one of the best mixed routes of it’s grade (V,5) in the region.  The final chimney wasn’t particularly iced up, but they climbed it reporting it probably a grade harder than normal.

Heading up to Lost the Place, Ben Nevis

Heading up to Coire na Ciste

Han on Lost the Place, Ben Nevis

Han enjoying herself

Final Chimney, Lost the Place

Mark on the final chimney

Meanwhile, Steve, Rich and I had a bit of an exploratory day in Glencoe. We spent a bit of time looking at options on Far East Buttress, before making our way up to Stob Coire nan Lochan. By the time we had reached the crags, geared up and I had led the first pitch of East Face Route, time was slipping away, and coupled with not quite perfectly frozen turf, we decided to ab off.  Nice to get a steep pitch of mixed climbing in though.

Pitch 1, East Face, Stob Coire nan Lochan

Me heading off up pitch 1 of East Face

First pitch of East Face Route, Glencoe

Steve looking up at Rich climbing the first pitch

Today was another fine day, and I was back to work, this time with Colin and his son Alistair, working for my good friend Kirkhope Mountaineering. They had attempted the East Ridge of the North Buttress of Stob Ban last year, but were defeated when Alistair developed blisters on the walk-in. This time, armed with new boots, there was nothing to hold us back.  Having climbed the route a couple of days ago, little had changed, although there was a little less snow on the rocks higher up. Both Colin and Alistair rose up the the numerous challenges along the ridge, and we topped out in sunshine, with expansive views across the West Highlands.  A great day to be out!

East Ridge of the North Buttress of Stob Ban catching the sun

The East Ridge catching the morning sun

Great situations on the East Ridge

Great situations on the route

Crux of the East Ridge of the North Top of Stob Ban

Alistair and Colin on the crux

Brilliant day in the Scottish Highlands

Brilliant views to the north west

Alpine conditions on the East Ridge of the North Top of Stob Ban

Alpine conditions on the East Ridge

Final fin of the East Ridge of Stob Ban

The final fin of rock on the East Ridge

Descending the North Ridge of Stob Ban

Father and son

Bit of a thaw: Number 2 Gully, Ben Nevis

Overnight, the freezing levels sneaked up to about 1150m, a bit higher than some of the forecasts were suggesting, causing the snowpack to start to thaw at most levels.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it may refreeze before the next dump of snow, giving the well needed consolidated base for new snow to lie on.

Ben Nevis conditions

I was out today with Joe and Kirsty. For Kirsty, it was her first time winter climbing, and for Joe an opportunity for some coached leading, so we headed up to No. 2 Gully, as having been up there yesterday, I was sure that it would be fine for today.  There was quite a bit of fresh snow in Coire na Ciste and on the approach to Number 2 Gully, so we went up cautiously, but the gently thawing snowpack was fine throughout, with no tail-tale signs of insatiabilities, even if it was hard going at times!

Number 2 Gully, Ben Nevis

Despite the slightly damp conditions, both Joe and Kirsty remained enthusiastic throughout, and did a good job at leading themselves up the route. Whilst at the foot of the route, we were passed by three Swiss mountaineers, who all soloed the gully sans crampons. Unfortunately for them, I don’t think that they have as yet sampled the best that Ben Nevis has to offer.

Wild day in the hills tomorrow, time to batten down the hatches!

 

Winter’s back! No. 2 Gully, Ben Nevis

It was pleasing to see that sometime this morning, winter had made a return to the Highlands, a theme which continued throughout the day and will do for the rest of the week.

Winter conditions Ben Nevis

I was out with Ceri and Richard who both had climbed in winter before. They were after a refresher and a kick-start to their winter season, so we ventured up to Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis, one of the few winter climbing venues that has managed to hold on to the snow over the past week, and made our way up to No. 2 Gully. Throughout the approach, fresh snow was falling and settling on the rocks, as far down as the CIC Hut, making for a welcome wintry sight. Something we’ve not had for what feels like a wee while.

First pitch No. 2 Gully, Ben Nevis

Travel up to the foot of No. 2 Gully was fairly straight forward, as the snow apron had softened quite a bit over the past few days. There was also a thin layer of soft fresh snow on the surface, allowing a quick but safe approach up to the mouth of the gully. From here, Ceri and Rich led themselves up the route, with me alongside offering coaching.

Belay, No. 2 Gully

The route has suffered a bit from the recent thaw, but despite a bit of soft ice, and a couple of avoidable holes, was in reasonable condition throughout.  The pair did a fine job in all the technical and physical aspects of safely getting themselves up the route, and today proved to be more of an MOT for them, with a few minor pointers and areas for refinement thrown in. I was working for Peak Mountaineering today.

Final pitch, No. 2 Gully

topping out of No. 2 Gully

Very quiet today on the mountain, one pair soloed past us, and we bumped into a couple of Swiss climbers on the summit plateau, who were out enjoying the weather. That was all we saw, but then again, visibility was quite poor.  Further snow fall on the cards for tonight, tomorrow night and Wednesday, which will all be very welcome.

Winter conditions, Ben Nevis

Winter returns to Ben Nevis

Icy in No. 2 Gully, Ben Nevis

I was back out with Gareth, Mike and Matt, and for day two, we thought that we should make the most of the great weather and go high on Ben Nevis. Unfortunately, with the current conditions, this didn’t give us many options, so on arriving into Coire na Ciste, we decided to go for No. 2 Gully.  The snow on the approach had morphed into firm névé, giving the lads a great opportunity to really put their footwork to the test up to the gully.

With a number of teams in the area, I guided the lads up the gully, but en-route, we were able to look at a variety of belays, made somewhat slightly limited with the amount of ice in the cracks. The trio enjoyed the climbing, which in current conditions was more involved than normal, but found the continual front-pointing hard work on their calves.  So a great intro to ice climbing then!

No. 2 Gully, Ben Nevis

Icy in No. 2 Gully

 

Ben Nevis plateau

Clear on the plateau

 

Walking over towards No. 4 Gully

Walking over towards No. 4 Gully

We topped out into the sunshine, before making our way over to No. 4 Gully and descending that, which again, is a lot less forgiving then it was a couple of days ago.  Other teams making the most of the weather by making ascents of Gargoyle Wall, which looked a bit black lower down, North Gully (delicate first pitch), No. 3 Gully and I bumped into Jamie and Mo as we were walking out, who had climbed NE Buttress, and reported ok conditions throughout, so good going on their part to stick their noses in it and succeed. Sometimes, that’s exactly what it takes!

The north face of Ben Nevis

The north face of Ben Nevis

The mid-range synoptic charts are showing a bunching of the isobars over the UK and cool conditions as the middle of the month approaches, which will hopefully give us the stormy weather and heavy snow that we’re needing right now… Fingers crossed!

NC (Not Complete) Gully, Stob Coire Nan Lochan

First things first, Happy New Year to you all! I hope that you all enjoyed yourselves whatever you did. Fortunately not working on the 1st meant a nice night out with friends to see the New Year in.

No. 3 Gully Buttress, Ben Nevis

No. 3 Gully Buttress was climbed by a few teams.

I was back to work yesterday, and out with Darren and Jackie, who were looking to develop their winter mountaineering skills with a trip up Mont Blanc on the cards for later in the year. With a favourable forecast, we decided to head up to Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis, where we focused on movement skills, before making an ascent of No. 3 Gully, which was in very friendly condition, with no cornice at the top. We then made our way over the plateau and down No. 4 Gully, which again lacked a cornice.

In No. 3 Gully, Ben Nevis

In No. 3 Gully

Good conditions in No. 3 Gully

Good conditions in No. 3 Gully

No. 3 Gully, Ben Nevis

At the top of No. 3 Gully

Steve was also out working for West Coast Mountain Guides. He was out with Kieran and Richard, they had a productive day on the other side of Tower Ridge, in Tower Gully.

Many folk out yesterday, but unfortunately it’s rather slim pickings at the moment with the lack of snow and ice. Teams on Tower Gully, Tower Ridge, Gardyloo Gully (reported to be about grade IV and requires ice screws at the moment), No. 2 Gully, No. 3 Gully Buttress, one team backed off a very lean Thompson’s Route, Hobgoblin and multiple teams in No 3 Gully.

Gardylook Gully, Ben Nevis

Gardyloo Gully looking sporting, and certainly NOT grade II (thanks to Andy Wyatt for the photo)

Today, I was out with Gareth, Mike and Matt for the start of their Winter Mountaineering Course. With a slightly less than ideal forecast, but with another thaw due for later in the week, we decided to go for something in Glencoe, as nothing there (apart from Board Gully) is likely to survive another thaw.  It turns out that we may already have been one or two days late, but after recapping on movement skills, and bringing some these movement drills and skills to their conscientiousness, rather than doing things without realising, we made for NC Gully, where the effects of the thaw are making themselves known. The lads led where suitable, but I took over for the more exposed rocky steps.  We finished off by descending Broad Gully, which is complete. Some more unsettled weather next week, which fingers crossed, brings with it some well needed snow.

Glencoe Conditions

A rather black Stob Coire nan Lochan

Ptarmigan

White ptarmigan looking rather out of place.

NC Gully, Glencoe

Matt nearer the top of NC Gully

NC Gully, Glencoe

Mike and Gareth near the top of NC Gully

Scott was out with Darren and Jackie, they enjoyed a productive day covering further winter mountaineering skills around the Nid area of Aonach Mor. Good luck with Mont Blanc you two!

Where the snow gone? Ledge Route, Ben Nevis

On walking up to the north face of Ben Nevis this cold, crisp morning, I was quite amazed at how much snow had disappeared over the past few days, but then again, we’ve had a stable high pressure system, which has meant clear nights and frosty conditions in the glens, but quite warm temperatures on the summits (above freezing continuously since Thursday night) .  This has led to much of the unconsolidated snow being lost through sublimation.

Coire na Ciste, Ben Nevis

Coire na Ciste, Ben Nevis

Black on the North Face of Ben Nevis

Black, black, black

The Curtain, Ben Nevis

At least The Curtain is forming!

I went up there with Tony and Kristy, to climb Ben Nevis via the brilliant Ledge Route.  For Kristy, it was her first time in crampons, which were needed certainly to get up the first few meters of No. 5 Gully, and were useful in gaining the ledge above the Curtain and for ascending the leftward trending gully above.  Once on Ledge Route proper though, it was mostly dry, bare rock all the way, so we ditched our crampons, and scrambled our way up.  They both did very well, but in particular Kristy, from whom this was the first taste of mountaineering.  We topped out in glorious sunshine, but to a very dry plateau, almost devoid of all snow.

Guide Ledge Route

Tony and Kristy just about to start Ledge Route

Happy couple top of Ledge Route

Happy couple on Carn Dearg

The temperature on the summits has just dropped below freezing, which is good news, as we are due some snow later in the week as we enter a slightly less settled week, with some gentle thaw/freeze cycles and a picking up on the winds.  It’s early days yet, and if Netweather.TV is anything to go by, early to mid December sounds quite promising, with another high pressure system in the pipeline for the middle chunk of the month. Fingers crossed!

Stunning day in the Highlands

Clear day over Loch Eil

More snow covered rock: SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder

Chris and I decided to continue the theme of climbing snow covered rock by making an ascent of the SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder on Ben Nevis today.  After yesterday’s ploughing up to No. 3 Gully Buttress, our legs appreciated the shorter approach and the tracks of the team in front of us.  We gained the route at the entrance to West Gully, by traversing across an awkward ledge which is easier later in the season when the floor of West Gully is a bit higher.

The route was as expected, snow covered rocks, some of which were frozen in place, some of which weren’t, but overall, the climb was in great early season condition, which in this case means covered in lots of soft snow.  Chris took well to the steeper and slightly more  sustained climbing found on the ridge compared with No. 3 Gully Buttress yesterday.

 

From the summit of the Douglas Boulder, we abseiled into a soft snow filled East Gully, and waded our way down it.  It’s all very safe in the gully at the moment, and where deep enough, enjoyable and easy on the knees.

Despite a favourable forecast, the north face was relatively quiet, with a couple of teams up by No. 3 Gully Buttress area, one team on Route I and a team ahead of us.  Interestingly, the freezing level did rise quite a bit this afternoon, and was accompanied by moderate precipitation, which I don’t think many forecasts had predicted, however, I doubt that it will change anything above 600m.  It’s still looking very promising for this coming week, with a continuation of cold and calm conditions.

Hannah was also out today with Emily, Chris’ partner.  They enjoyed a winter hill day on Buachaille Etive Beag in Glencoe and even managed to find a patch of firmer snow on which to practise using crampons.