Windy Ben Nevis

With a poor forecast I set off with Grant from Tasmania who is on his Scotland tour including going up Ben Nevis.  With an early start we made good progress in strong wind and showers to half way lochan where we entered the snow line.  With a few droopy cornices around the Red Burn and lots of fresh snow around the crossing wasn’t as easy as previous ascents.  Grant is a keen mountain walker in the southern hemisphere and it showed as we reached the edge of the plateaux without too much effort.

The wind was still strong but we were luckily in a lull, so with visibility at zero we made our way to the summit with only a few of the marker cairns just visible.  After a bite to eat we were on our descent within 3.5 hours, in even worse visibility and with the wind picking up lots of hail stones and blowing them into our faces, very painful.

There were very few people on the mountain today, some look well equipped, some didn’t.  Not a day to be on the hill if you are not sure if you have the knowledge.

Ben Nevis Summit

Ben Nevis Summit

 

Avalanche Awareness day for Mountain festival

Today I was working with Max to deliver an avalanche awareness day on Aonach Mor for the Fort William Mountain Festival.

The day started inside going through the strategies of planning a day in the hills in winter by looking at information that is available on the weather, snow conditions and proposed terrain.

The day was based around the ‘Be Avalanche Aware’ information available on the Scottish Avalanche Information service website which is the most up to date way of thinking about avalanche safety:  think of your group, the terrain and weather/snow conditions in the planning stage, whilst on the hill and at key points in your journey.

There is a strong emphasis that 75% of decision-making for avalanche avoidance should happen when planning your day before you even step foot on the hill, including what hill is appropriate to go up with the current conditions.

With this we planned a route up the Nid ridge on Aonach Mor and around the top of the ski area looking at ways to identify potential danger areas of snow that backed up our thinking in the planning stage.  We then looked at quick ways whist walking to start to identify potential weak sliding layers by using the boot and ice axe whilst on the move.  Where we then moved on to looking at the firmness of the snow by digging a small pit to identify layers.

For more photos visit my Facebook page.

Be Avalanche Aware

Be Avalanche Aware

Ben Nevis with the Norwegians

After wading out the door today through the piles of cards I started up the Ben track with Nicolai, Andrea, Lauritz and Jennifer from Glasgow uni.  With the temperature rising as we emerged out of the cloud inversion we made steady progress to the zig zags, where I was still in just a base layer and a gilet!  With the sun starting to come round the corner we put crampons on to make our way further up the mountain where the wind increased and the temperature plummeted to its usual chill factor.

Legs were starting to hurt by the plateaux where we lost all visibility in the cloud but spirits were high whilst making our way over the last stretch to the summit in a good 4 hours.

Then started the strangest lunch I think I have seen on the summit: a tub of pre-pealed oranges (good forward thinking there), cheese sandwiches, sausage, chocolate and Turkeys’ finest ‘Hot and Spicy’ liquorice spirit, all mixed together I’m not sure what the dominant flavour would be.  You can take the student out of Glasgow…….

With a quick turn around we then descended, back into the good views out west and south down Loch Linnhe.  A great day to be on the hills.

For more photos visit my Facebook page.

Nicolai, Andrea, Lauritz, Jennifer on the summit

Nicolai, Andrea, Lauritz, Jennifer on the summit

Point 5

What a day to be on the hill.  Myself and Sam made our way towards Point 5, a classic of the mountain with only one team in front of us.  With good ice all the way and good ice screws it was fun climbing.  A good route for Sam’s first grade 5 ice climb.  We completed the first steeper pitches with 3 long rope lengths and then made good progress over the next section of the gully in another 3 pitches, still with interest with some grade 3-4 ice sections on each pitch.

We had great views till half way up where we went into the clag for the rest of the way.  Topping out by the summit shelter in the clag at the end of the day made for a bit of navigation practice from the summit.

A great day out.

For more photos visit my Facebook page.

The rouge pitch

The rouge pitch

Ben Nevis, Pony Track

Crunch! was the sound track of the day with hard ice most of the way up the track.  Myself and Virginia put crampons on half way along windy gully and kept them on all the way to the summit and back down to the wooden bridge.

We made steady progress all day taking 4 hours to get to the summit where the cloud seemed to lift at the same pace as us walking up.  We didn’t quite get a view but there was blue sky all around and we saw a glimpse of the north face.  There was bullet hard  ice from about zig zag 5 to the summit which made progress to the top very efficient and evidence of a small avalanche back down by conservation corner with debris heading towards the Red Burn below the path.

Another good day out on the hill for Lochaber Guides and a great day for Virginia’s 1st winter day out.

Ben Nevis summit

Ben Nevis summit

Harrisons Climb Direct, Ben Nevis

What a day on Ben Nevis, everyone was out and climbing, and there was a lot to climb.  With most people making their way towards the bigger ice lines around Observatory Gully area myself and Sam branched off from the path and headed to the much quieter Castle Gullies area to climb the classic of Harrisons Climb Direct.

This route is described in the guide as the best climb of its grade on the Ben, skirting round the forming icicles of The Shroud.  And it is a great climb.  With a great first pitch which takes you to a great belay beneath the icicles and a slightly steeper 2nd pitch we were at the traverse.  I linked this and the steeper ice sections to make it to the top of the steepening’s with just enough rope.

Then just a case to popping up the snow slope to the top of Ledge route where we were hit by the full view of the North Face with people pretty much everywhere, enjoying themselves.

Below the Shroud

Below the Shroud

CMD arête

With snow down to the road myself and Sergiy started up the slopes of Carn Mor Dearg wading through the heather and snow.  With good views of the North Face of Ben Nevis keeping us going we made steady progress.  The cloud then descended and we reached the top in about 4 hours.  Most of the slopes were scoured but there were some big pockets of wind slab as well.

Sergiy got stuck into the ridge with only light winds, neve, powder snow and wind slab with views to North East buttress.  We made it to the top of the Abseil posts where the cairn was completely buried by a 3 meter high wind scoop come cornice.  We then got stuck into the final slope up to the summit of Ben Nevis.  At a very steep angle and with more than a few large areas of soft snow we were glad to get to the summit.

Now just the small matter of getting down.  With the cloud base lowering to below 500m and fresh snow falling, concentration was needed to navigate all the way down to the Red Burn crossing, with most of the zig zags now completely covered.

A good day out and Sergiy certainly had to dig deep along the way.

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