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

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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

alasdair19 on 27 Mar 2014
In reply to Mike Pescod:

cheers Mike, could you further up into observatory gully are there still monster cornices threatening indicator wall etc?
aldo56 - on 28 Mar 2014
In reply to Mike Pescod:

Cheers Mike, excellent update.
Colin Dyer - on 28 Mar 2014
In reply to Mike Pescod:

Great update Mike thanks. Point Five has finally appeared then. Very pleasing.
Mike Pescod - on 28 Mar 2014
In reply to alasdair19:

Yes, big cornices all along Indicator Wall unfortunately. Go and dig through the cornice before you climb the route!

bowls - on 28 Mar 2014
In reply to Mike Pescod:

surely that would count as artificial aid!
Withnail - on 28 Mar 2014
In reply to Mike Pescod:


Many thanks for this update. Can you confirm that astral highway and Orion area are cornice free/small ones? I'm not sure if I'm reading that correctly or if they have big cornices above like hadrians. Heading up this weekend and hoping to get something done in the area.


AlH - on 28 Mar 2014
In reply to Withnail:

Orion Direct was climbed successfully today. Hadrians Wall has had ascents in the last couple of days. Some pics on the blog from the last 3 days http://alanhalewood.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/cracking-3-days-at-cic-hut-well-2-out.html
Withnail - on 28 Mar 2014
In reply to AlH:


Many thanks for the info. Looking forward to getting out Sunday now. Have done Orion and Zero before so quite keen to get on one of the routes in that area that's quieter on the day. Reassuring to know people have found a way through the top in these areas. We'll crane our necks and hopefully find something that suits on the day thanks again

AlH - on 28 Mar 2014
In reply to Withnail:

No worries. Do take care if it gets milder than expected. There is still stuff to come down (there is a crack behind the cornice overhanging the top of Green Gully for example) and the climbing has been good because we had a hard freeze. Lots of snow ice but maybe less water ice than at some times making screws harder to find placements for.
Withnail - on 29 Mar 2014
In reply to AlH:

Will do. We were up on Cruachan last week hoping to descend into Coire chat for some climbing but mahoosive cornices above all the routes stopped us even thinking about descending the gully. Nice place for a workout wading through waste deep snow to the summit though
Ken Applegate - on 29 Mar 2014

I was out on Thompon's Route today, which was in great condition. Amazingly Coire Na Ciste was empty, as everyone else seemed to be piling into Observatory Gully.

Post edited at 18:38

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