Crocus and Cornice and the big ‘White Rhino’

Had an extensive chat with the French person who went 300m when Number Four Gully cornice collapsed underneath him. He is an extremely experienced mountaineer, who comes to Nevis most winters and I have got to know over many seasons. He was around three or four metres back from the edge and had seen from the side that the cornice was not undercut. The fracture happened at least a metre behind him and blocks the size of a garage slid down. At the moment my opinion is that no climbs beneath cornices should be attempted. People on the plateau may trigger a release, if you do not! Even though there was no overhang on the cornice, it is clear that a hidden weakness existed and has been produced by the continuous wintry storms over the last three months. Plenty of action all over the Minus and Orion faces, where no serious cornice risk exists. I’d advise avoiding anything at the top of Observatory Gully, including around Hadrian’s Wall for the time being. Rubicon Wall (Observatory Buttress) area has been climbed a lot with careful planning on the exit by staying on the higher crest overlooking Point Five Gully. Better safe than sorry. The climber is okay with a broken lower leg. On the same day, Graham Moss (SAIS forecaster) felt that a number of the big cornice on Nevis released spontaneously. I don’t think Point Five has been climbed much at all (if any) due to the looming nature of the cornices. Clearly some sensible people out there who are still alive.

On a gentler note I had a great day with Smiler and Colin on Heatwave in Glen Nevis. We did the harder variant using Vampire second pitch. All climbing at around Hard Severe. Today the weather is misty and damp as a weak front moves through. It could be an inversion though (?).