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
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 (?)
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.
That’s the rain on for a little, for the first time in quite a while. A team on the Shroud today, who benefited from a lift up the track! Plenty of action all over the mountain (Nevis). Crowberry Gully in Glen Coe is also in good shape I hear. Cold weather until Wednesday. Just my luck as I have offered to do some work on that day. A thaw for Wednesday and Thursday will hopefully not effect the higher routes very much. In fact some moisture might help if the forecast return to cold weather kicks in.
Thanks to Fergal O’Connor for these two photos of the ‘hitch-hikers’ on The Shroud. Fergal climbed Compression Crack for a pitch or two as Harrison’s Climb had a queue at the start. Fergal would appreciate a bottle of wine off of the team that climbed The Shroud! He’s around for another week or so.
Yesterday (7.2.15) Spike Sellers and I visited Glen Orchy and had a great day. Plenty of people were doing more than one route but we visited friends for a coffee at Glen Orchy Farm before a leisurely stroll in to the cliffs. Most climbs are complete and we took in a line ten metres to the right of Peter Pan Direct. It straightens out Land of Make Believe, which at the moment is a bit harder than it’s given grade. I’m sure our climb has been done before and if anyone knows a name I’d be interested. Croc and Peter Pan Direct both looked good and the ice on our line was impeccable. Take eight or nine ice screws and no rock gear at all. The little ‘porkers’ are very lovely, but also rather inquisitive. The Collie dog which had been out for a walk, was totally spooked by the threat of nine snorting pigs. The Apple & Pork sausages made from the farm are wonderful.
One team arriving home today at the accommodation climbed Deep Cut Chimney on Stob Coire nam Beith. They talked approvingly about it. No 6 Gully on West Face of Aonach Dubh had an ascent recently as well. Might be worth a visit, but take the binos along for a quick squint before committing.
Great weather and conditions over the last few days. ‘Probes’ have been out on Hadrian’s Wall – Point Five – Zero – Minus Two Gully(?). The first three routes look very complete. Orion Face is looking good in places, but thin around the Second Slab Rib, from a distance. No action in Coire na Ciste, as climbers avoid the awful approach conditions underfoot. Deep unconsolidated snow with a nasty surface crust forming. We noticed an avalanche which slid off of the approach to Douglas Gap, East Gully, two days ago. We were roping down after ascending S.W.Ridge of Douglas Boulder. That ridge is a very ‘sporting’ mixed grade III and probably worth a few more stars I think. A number of pretty awkward moves with reasonable protection. Take a large sling for rapping-off the top of the Boulder into Douglas Gap. Plenty of action on Vanishing Gully and all of the routes between it and Douglas Boulder. Short approaches and fairly easy descents on rappel.
Yesterday Shield Direct was climbed again. Don’t be fooled by the photo on the cover of SMC-Scottish Winter Climbs guidebook. It’s nothing like that at the moment! We noticed climbers sniffing around the foot of The Shroud and Harrison’s Climb. Also, Mega Route X looks as if it might repay inspection. Also teams out on the North Face of Castle Ridge. Lots to look at folks.
Yesterday I had a very calm and sociable day on The Curtain, where five people managed to use the first belay at the cave for security. Don’t get too close behind the person in front and make sure no leaders are above you before climbing! The day out on S.W Ridge of The Douglas Boulder on Tuesday was much more rugged, with strong, cold winds forcing us to shelter for a long time with friends in the hut drinking tea, before our conscience and improving weather encouraged us out. It was a fine afternoon, but the winds continued to freeze our ‘butts’!
Today we have milder weather, which should not damage the ice much, in fact some dripping ice will build better conditions if the cold returns.
It’s still very fine and cold. An avalanche beneath the Curtain is rumoured to have injured two climbers, so watch out on approaches. Two hardy (?) folk who were advised not to bother going anywhere near Point Five Gully, took two hours from the CIC Hut, but decided they had too little time to finish the route, when common sense finally sparked into life!! The current conditions are set to continue, but serious trail-blazing is the order of the day in many places. A report from Glen Orchy suggested that the routes towards the left side of the Beinn Udlaidh (Coire Daimh) were coming in better than the right side. The exit slopes may carry potential avalanche hazard also.
Have fun and be careful of avalanches.
A team arriving home from Tower Ridge, after an early start, looked tired and reported heavy going on the ridge in deep snow. Well done folks.
Head north and west, NOT South!! Conditions are very good on the low and mid level routes on Ben Nevis. Not sure about higher up, but certainly plentiful ice for training and playing. Ski touring must be good as well just now
Working recently in the Cairngorms we met some of the Reindeer population. Getting out our map cases produced interest, as they wrongly thought they were harbouring packed lunches! On 26th I was working with Mountain Magic and Paul Boggis One fairly ‘rugged’ day on Ben Nevis and a quieter session up on Aonach Mor yesterday, prior to the incoming Arctic blast. The recent good conditions have been overtaken by more wintry storms, which can only add to the ice conditions on Ben Nevis. Be careful of the cornice and avalanche potential. The migrant mountain workers are arriving with their wonderful transport and mobile homes, including log burning stoves. The one shown is a long wheel based Ford Transit with a high roof. Nothing special from the outside, but the interior is very comfortable. Coming to a lay-by near you:)