The forecast for today on Ben Nevis was heavy rain and 60 mph winds on the summit with temperatures at -1 degree, again. I wonder what time of year it will be when I can see more than 2 meters on the summit? Alison and Jerome have been all over the world climbing high peaks but were right in their thinking that winter conditions on Ben Nevis requires solid navigational experience to move around safely.
We quickly made our way to the Red Burn at half way where there is now only a small snow slope over the summer path. Above that we were in the cloud and managed to get half way along zig zag 4 before hitting the snow line. Crampons were needed from then on with an icy crust that had formed from the rain and cold wind. A lot of people were making their way up but wisely turned around lower down the mountain as the majority were not properly kited out, mostly with ponchos.
From 1000m it was a case of following the map and compass bearing 102 degrees to the plateaux, with at times only a few meters of visibility. We were soon at the 3 cairns above Gardaloo gully (the only markers showing at the moment) and reached the summit in 4 hours.
With a quick turn around we followed the course of the Red Burn almost back to the crossing point in 1 hour and then back to the Ben Nevis Inn in another hour. A great time up and down and maybe only one of a very small handful of groups summiting.
It is worth noting that about half way down the Red Burn there is a massive section of snow that is slowly slumping away from the mountain with multiple cracks about 1 meter wide and 5 meters deep, it would be prudent to not descend or ascend in the Red Burn.