May bank holiday weekend

So with 2 days up Ben Nevis, it didn’t really feel very spring like with lots of fresh snow.  On Saturday I got to the top in strong winds and poor vis with my clients but I think that less than 10% of a busy mountain got anywhere near the top, many people not prepared for the snow.  With guided parties making a conscious decision not to kit out their groups with crampons and axes and turning around at the snow line: matching the challenge with the experience level of the participants.

Today I made it to just about 800m in a full blizzard, felling more like January than May.  There is now a lot of fresh snow down to half way and the zig zag path is now completely covered.  Definitely full on conditions.

4,3,2,1 on Ben Nevis

Today I was up Ben Nevis with Justyna and her 3 clients from Poland on a long weekend to Scotland.  But through various reasons it ended up being just myself and Justyna by the top of ziz zag 3 with the others descending sooner.

It always surprises me how quickly the weather can change.  Yesterday the mountain was very alpine, with firm old snow, dry rock, and 20 degrees.  Today after the low front has passed over last night there was fresh snow down to 500m, 5 degrees and felt more like January on the tops than April.

It was a busy mountain today with many people making a summit attempt: most of them not getting there and the few pushing on through ignorance.

I felt very overdressed in my hill clothing, crampons, axe and winter boots as only one other guided party were kited out the same and only a handful of people with just axes, all walking into a blizzard.  The dress for the day was trainers, jeans/track suit bottoms and hoodies with some rucksacks.

After chatting to a few people, pointing out their mismatch clothing to the surroundings they were in, they all decided to ignore the advice and continue on anyway, just following iced up footprints and heading up.

On the walk down I tried to think of a similar life example where this sort of attitude would apply.  The one I came up with was if I was walking in a fully insulated suit, crampons, ice axe with no bag or water in the Sahara desert and bumped into a local Bedouin riding his camel going in the opposite directing.  He then says, ‘if you carry on like that you will die of dehydration in half and day’.  And I walk past him and continue, thinking I’ve come this far…..

We are in the privileged position in this country that everyone has a right to be in the mountains, we don’t have to pay a park fee, or buy permits, or have to have recreational mountain insurance.  But somehow there is a gap in the flow of education of what is safe to do in the mountains.

Rant over.

Research on Ben Nevis

Today I was up Ben Nevis with Phillip a cultural geography professor from the Royal Roads University in Canada with the aim to add to his research on the concept of ‘Munro Bagging’ after already going to Skye and the Cairngorms.

It made for a very interesting day discussing the topic and also a very real view of the type and range of people who specifically walk up Ben Nevis.  The temperature was hot in the Glen and got much colder the higher we went as we disappeared into the cloud.  The snow has melted a lot since Sunday and we didn’t need to put crampons on until the end of zig zag 6, where the snow was still slushy and melting.  A big change from the ice from half way up on Sunday.

Phillip filming along the way soon put his camera away and focused on getting to the top, and with some very tired legs made it in 4 hours, although now I think he had wished he had picked a flatter research topic.

A good day all round and back at the car in 7 hours with more interesting conversations about his next proposed topic of ‘Wilderness’, discuss! Maybe he will start in Holland!

Sometimes the reality of the summit of Ben Nevis

Sometimes the reality of the summit of Ben Nevis

Easter on Ben Nevis

What a contrast to yesterday with visibility at 10 meters for half way up the mountain today it was hundreds of kilometres.  Myself, Del my cousin and Jorge set off into the sun from Glen Nevis.  We made good progress up to half way and the Red burn where we put crampons on to get over the very icy compacted snow and kept them on all the way up and back down to the same point.

With the temperature increasing as we went up closer to the sun, there are not many times that I get to the top in just a base layer and sunglasses (and trousers).  We all reached the top in 4 hours to spectacular views all around with the western isles of Rum and Skye standing out and the Paps of Jura to the south.

We then sneaked down the full length of the Red Burn to the crossing in peace and solitude missing the masses as they made their way up the zig zags .  We then made it back to the car in a quick time for a round trip of just under 7 hours, all of it in the sun!

For photos visit the Facebook page.

Murky on Ben Nevis

I was up Ben Nevis today with Tom and Katie with the view to potentially go round the CMD arête as well so we started from the north face car park at Torlundy.  As the main goal was to get up Ben Nevis we walked to the edge of the forest and then over the rough moor to the half way lochan to join the main track where we saw our first people.

It felt good getting to half way on soft ground and not with many other people which helped the knees.  We put crampons on at corner 1 for the soft slippery snow and needed them all the way up.  We reached the summit in 4 hours along with a few others dressed for the pub.

The correct decision was made to make our way down the same way and keep it a good day, passing along the way the majority of people in jeans, hoodies and trainers with a smattering of rucksacks between them.

With a pleasant walk back down the moor we finally got a view out of the cloud and we reached the car in 7 hours.

The summit

The summit

 

Falmouth Uni on Ben Nevis

Today was a great day on the hill with Falmouth and Exeter Uni walking club.  Plan A was the 3 peaks but after their bus broke down on the way up plan B was Ben Nevis and it worked out well.

With myself, Julie and Hannah working for Scott we set off with 24 students.  And we all made it to the top, together.  With good progress all the way up and minimum kit faf with that number of people we were on the top in 4 hours, all be it in a blizzard.  With the Scottish snow blowing in our faces we made our way down off the plateaux and over the Red Burn.  In just over 7 hours we were all back at the car park.

It’s not often that you get a big group who all walk at the same pace and look out for each other along the way.  All of whom enjoyed the winter experience, dare I say better than doing the 3 peaks.

The summit

The summit

Early on Ben Nevis

Another stunning day in the sun on Ben Nevis.  I will let the photos speak for themselves about the views.  I was up early today for Dave A and his group from TK Max in Watford undertaking the 3 peaks challenge for Comic Relief.  We started with 10 and 8 made it to the summit by 11am and they were on the road by 2pm.

The snow at about 2/3 of the way up was rock solid today and winter kit was definitely needed, but there were many people looking very unsure on their feet going up without, I wondered how they would do getting down.

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Ben Nevis summit

Ben Nevis summit