/ UKC/UKH Winter Conditions Report - Ben Nevis 27th February 2014
The temperature has fluctuated and slowly gone down over the last four days with more snowfall on Tuesday night. Today the old snow was starting to freeze into icy neve and the fresher stuff was quite firm as well.
This weekend is forecast colder and dryer so there is a chance that there will be some good climbing on the ice routes. However, there are some very large cornices above many routes so careful route selection is still required.
At the moment The Curtain is the only ice climb that has seen many ascents. All the great ridges have been climbed and are excellent. The big easy snow gullies all have major cornices at their tops.
Possibly the best climbing will be on icy mixed climbs such as Thompson's Route and Pinnacle Buttress. However, it will all be a bit exploratory! As far as I'm aware, nobody has been up high in Observatory Gully and even Coire na Ciste has had few visits this year.
Have fun at the weekend and be prepared for it to be a bit busy.
Did anyone get out climbing today? How was it?
I was skiing - brilliant snow in the back coires.
In your vast experience, how unusual is it that in March the upper reaches of Observatory Gully or Coire na Ciste have not been reached in the calendar year, esp the easy gullies such as number 2, 3, 4 and Gardyloo along with some harder routsomething ntuch as Smith's. Would also be interested in how burried the actual summit is?
How do you know theyve not been reached?
I don't but judging by log books and reports and from what I have seen it is unlikely or very few people have been up and around those areas.
We went into Coire na ciste on sat. Had a look at tower face of the comb as there was no cornice and it could be approached without too much exposure to the gullies.
I was not happy with the 2nd pitch, which is where it was banked out to, but later think we were looking at something else. Everything looks so different.
We traversed the base of the comb and went up mercury, which was banked out to the top of the chimney. Above this it was pretty good snow ice all the way to the top, which was useful as there was no gear. Managed to dig out a couple of belays and got a couple of worthless ice screws in.
Great day out. The trail breaking up to the comb was not as bad as I was expecting. We thought about doing thompsons but we would not have gone accross there or up no.3 gully. The cornice was huge!
Tower Ridge in amazing condition today, and resembles something from the Alps at the moment!
Hi ken. In your experience would you say that the current conditions on tower ridge make it easier or harder than it usually is?
There are certainly some sections which are slightly easier in these current conditions, The Chimney out of The Douglas Gap, The Little Tower and the section after the Eastern Traverse and onto The Great Tower, but on the other hand, the two pitches just beyond the flat section, (which overlooks Fawlty Towers), was slightly harder, partly due to cruddy ice, but it is a bit steeper than the slabby pitch round to the right (above Vanishing Gully/1931 Route). In leaner times, it can be mostly a one axe climb, but at the moment, you'll appreciate two axes for much of the ridge.
Timings wise, it took me a similar time to any other time I've climbed it, summer or winter, and overall, I'd say it's not really harder or easier, it's just that where the difficulties are can shift depending on condition.
Thanks for the great info ken. Very interesting especially the part about it taking a similar time to a summer ascent. I climbed it for the first time in winter this saturday and it took me almost 8 hours. The first time i climbed it in summer it took me just over 2 hours. And i was definately glad of a second axe on saturday
I guess much of it depends on how much you pitch and how happy you are moving quickly on snow/ice of variable quality (although much better higher up), and it does help knowing where most of the belays or potential belays are. Still, that all said, well done on ticking one of the best winter routes in the country!
Fantastic day on The Ben.
Some pictures here of the faces. So much snow!
Cheers ken. Definately the best climb i've ever done
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