Challenging conditions

Recent days have seen loads of action on Ben Nevis, with plenty of big routes being climbed. As predicted a couple of months ago this winter is proving to be superb for ice climbing. The avalanche hazard is continually changing, so NEVER be complacent when choosing your lines to climb. Pockets of danger are EVER PRESENT. The CIC Hut has seen a steady stream of good foreign climbers, many led by mountain guides. They come back time and time again to sample what is special about Scottish climbing and in particular Ben Nevis. Check this video by Serge Bazin to confirm how masochistic all climbers are when it comes to enjoyment. Mild and wet weather last night may have effected some of the lower routes, but colder winds are again incoming. Be well:)

No smoking in bothies?

No smoking in bothies?

Fixed gear issues from Mammut

Read this interesting link.

East – West??

East or West..rain or dry? We opted for some dry weather around Speyside. History will say that Orion Face, The Curtain, The Shroud, Vanishing Gully and a host of other parties climbed good routes on the west in the ‘murk’ today. David was looking for some moving along high easy ridges roped, in readiness for a planned trip to the Berner Oberland with Rob Jarvis. Two days out west in the ‘murk’ had clearly made an impression, not only with David, but also with the other guests at Calluna. Most of us convened around the ‘Norries’ and now the drying room is not humming quite as much as normal!
Very recent wintry storms have produced a serious avalanche hazard, so we stuck to the ridges. However, the slight westerly aspect of The Mess of Pottage meant it had been scoured, leaving reasonably safe conditions for many parties. A few teams ventured further right in the corrie and the ridge we climbed became very ‘sociable’, with David likening it to the Hilary Step on Everest. Not that either of us have, or are likely to visit that lofty traffic jam. Some of those present today had aspired to it (twice). Nuff’ said, a great day out, working for Rob Jarvis

Poor weather options

As the avalanche category was High risk (4 in old money) and the weather not too great we opted to look in details at self rescue and hoists, in preparation for Dave’s visit to the alps with Rob Jarvis later this year. A progression from indoors, prussiking on the bouldering wall, then setting up hoists in the back yard, to dropping yours truly over a cliff in Glen Nevis, was backed up with plenty of coffee and MCofS video and rope types and Not for the squeamish and from ENSA
Tomorrow the forecast is better in the east, so we head for the sunny Cairngorms (?). Watch this space. By the way, good conditions were reported on Deep Cut Chimney (Stob Coire nam Beith) today.

Recent photos

This set of great photos by Glenn Watson were taken between the 3/10th February. Well done Glenn and Ken and Robin, especially Ken on Point Five Gully.

Snow plough

No snow ploughs staying on the A82. One landed up in the ditch apparently! BEAR Scotland sent out another one to drag it back on the road. We followed a well beaten trench on the Zig-Zags on the East Face of Gearr Aonach, kindly made by pupils from Tiree High School and Jamie Bankhead and Andy Spinks. Given the conditions of deep new snow and unsettled weather, it proved to be a good sheltered Scottish location for David, who is training for the alps in moving together skills and a trip with Rob Jarvis in July. Close to the road (1hr). Little objective danger from avalanche and a good  mix of simple climbing and a short abseil in descent. Grade II really. We came back down the route of ascent.

High avalanche risk

Considerable amounts of snow have fallen, driven in by gales from a westerly quarter, in the last few days since the thaw. The avalanche risk has risen accordingly, so stay clear of anything you are not sure about or has appeared on the SAIS reports for the area you intend visiting. Yesterday was a pretty good day and the Shroud had some action according to Adam Hughes. Well done guys. Above that route is a large basin of snow, so maybe not a great route to go on just now. Another team actually battled up Observatory Gully yesterday and reported Smith’s Route in very good condition. Once again don’t bother, unless you have some form of suicidal tendency in the current conditions! We have a few spare beds at Calluna this week, where we are accommodating the University of Central Lancashire on a winter skills week, run by Adele Pennington


Ben Track problem

The Forestry are getting ‘hacked off’ quite rightly, when so many vehicles, apparently without a permit are getting up to the top car park on Ben Nevis north side. I have seen cars waiting at the bottom for someone to unlock the gate and try to get through without paying. Unfortunately the folk who are letting them through might lose the benefit of using the track or be charged more in future. The deal is one permit/key can only let one vehicle through.

As a local I pay £250 for a season to use the track and never let more than one vehicle through on my permit. Over the years I have managed to recoup that cost by making a small charge, either in red wine or cash! It strikes me as weird, the number of climbers who will happily ‘shell out’ £12 for a Nevis Range Gondola or very much more to get high on uplift in the alps. Buy a key folks, or even a second one for another £100 and charge those in your vehicle to cover the cost.

Images below taken in the last week. No doubt the tax disc has been replaced online (?)


Avalanche detection

Recent useful information from Chris Ensoll  (Feb 16th) and others when using the Avatech avalanche probe a few days ago. Push it in the snow and it gives a profile of snow hardness to 150 cm. Chris dug a full pit using old school shovels and compared results. The Avatech probe found the same hard/soft layers pretty much instantly. The information can be shared online. If you want to buy one talk to your bank manager.