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Topic - UKC/UKH Winter Conditions Report - Ben Nevis 27th March 2014

Mike Pescod - on 27 Mar 2014
The thaw of last week finally ended on Friday. It then started snowing again and dumped another huge pile of snow on the hills. The snow fall reached sea level at one point which was just about the first time all winter we've had snow in Fort William.

It was very windy on Monday under a deep blue sky and lots of the fresh snow was blasted away. Tuesday was warmer with drizzle and light rain to the summit. A good frost on Wednesday morning and a calm dry, sunny day gave us a brilliant day for climbing and today was pretty good too with some gusty winds but staying cold.

We currently have no avalanche hazard. The snow is very hard above 800m and crust but stable below that. General snow cover starts at 650m or so and is extensive. There are some very big cornices around still but these are looking quite stable now. They would be very difficult to climb past however.

The great ridges are very snow and good to climb. Ledge Route is still continuous snow too. Castle Ridge (as always) is less snowy but good fun even so.

There are many classic ice climbs in great shape. Orion Direct and Astral Highway are very well formed as are many routes on Hadrian's Wall, Point Five Gully and Observatory Buttress. These all have cornices above though.

Italian Climb Right Hand has re-formed and has been climbed. Vanishing Gully has also iced up again but I don't know if it has been climbed. Most of the ice gullies in Coire na Ciste have big cornices at the top. I climbed Thompson's Route yesterday and Gremlins today though, both of which are excellent.

Number Three Gully and Number Four Gully now look passable. I don't think Number Two Gully will be climbable for a while due to the cornice.

So, there are several great ice climbs in good shape at the moment with no threat from cornices and very few people climbing them. There are very many more climbs with cornices at their tops.

Easterly winds seem set to stay with us through the weekend so it should be reasonable dry and cold.

Happy climbing.

Mike Pescod
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