Since last Friday we have had a persistent thaw on Ben Nevis. The wind has been from the SE and it has been warm and humid with some rain but not much. We had a slightly cooler day on Wednesday with plenty of sunshine, dry and cloudy yesterday and rain last night.
Due to the thaw more ice has melted and fallen off the climbs. It looks like Orion Direct, Hadrian's Wall, Point Five Gully, Indicator Wall, Smith's Route and some other big routes are all still fully iced up. Much of this ice will be detached from the rock though and a refreeze will be needed to stick it back onto the rocks. The Cascade looks fat and blue still and there is lots of ice on the Upper Cascades but some cornices too.
The great ridges now have some useful bits of rock sticking out of the snow. Tower Ridge has snow in the Douglas Gap gullies but the awkward groove out of the gap and along the first few metres of the ridge are on rock. The bulk of the ridge is still on deep snow and the crux up The Great Tower is quite icy. Tower Gap is snow free. Very nice Spring conditions with useful rock and good solid snow.
Castle Ridge has no snow on it to speak of. Observatory Ridge is clear of snow in the bottom third and NE Buttress is about half and half. Ledge Route is still fairly continuous snow.
The great gullies are of course very well filled in and Number Three, Number Four and Number Five Gullies look passable.
Some large cornices still exist but generally they look much more stable. I climbed Central Gully Right Hand on Creag Coire na Ciste today which had very nice ice and a larger than expected cornice! We escaped well enough on the right. Green Gully has a big creep slot at the bottom. Thompson's Route has melted away.
Snow cover starts generally at around 700m and is extensive still. On the Pony Track there are big patches of snow from the Red Burn up the way. In fact the Red Burn is still very well banked out on the south side and it looks quite daunting when you first see it. Snow patches are crossed until 1000m where there is continuous snow cover to the summit. The trig point is still half buried and many of the cairns are under the snow.
Carn Mor Dearg Arete has some nice sections of snow crest and some sections of rock too.
Most importantly, the conditions for the bum slide down the Red Burn are excellent! 400m descent in about 30 seconds all the way to the Pony Track.