Sunday, 8 November 2009

Stunning conditions on the Ben

Today Isi and I went for a scramble over the Arete between Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg (commonly known as the CMD Arete). This fine long mountaineering route, exposed but technically easy, is a favourite of mine due to its unrivalled views of the North Face of Ben Nevis.

We chose the right day for it, and other than a few wisps of cloud and flurries of snow on the ridge itself, the weather conditions were superb.

Snow conditions were also surprisingly good. Near Carn Mor Dearg's summit we encountered hard-packed neve requiring crampons, and since the snow on the arete itself was partially consolidated we decided to leave crampons on for the scramble over the ridge. The snow was slowly thawing in the sun by mid-day and it felt fairly mild at 1200m, but overall I was surprised at how consolidated the snow had become.

Upon reaching the summit of Ben Nevis the temperature dropped markedly, to below freezing, and the slushy normal route down (well trodden by many boots today) quickly froze to become a skating rink. Equipped with crampons unlike most of the others we met on the hill, we breezed down the at times steep and slippery snow track. There was quite a lot of snow in evidence and the plateau was a very wintry place, with accumulations of between one and two feet of snow. Minor cornices were starting to form over some of the gullies, especially Gardlyloo's deep slot. I also observed a cornice near the East Ridge of Carn Dearg Meadhonach which had already formed a tubular structure, so it has obviously been there for several days.

Teams were out on North-East Buttress enjoying the early season conditions today, and I suspect Tower Ridge and Ledge Route may also have seen ascents. I did not get a chance to closely inspect conditions on the North Face but I observed ice forming up high and, since these climbs largely lie in the shade all day, I doubt much thawing has been going on.

We were treated to a beautiful sunset from the summit. Today counts as one of the best days I have ever spent on Ben Nevis.

Long may these superb conditions remain.

"Later, while we walked slowly across the plateau, it became very clear to me that only the true self, which transcends the personal, lays claim to immortality. On mountains it is that spiritual part that we unconcsiously develop. When we fail in that all other success is empty; for we take our pleasures without joy, and the ache of boredom warns of a rusting faculty. At last we turned toward Achintee and went down like fallen angels, with an ever-mounting reluctance, from a spiritual paradise to the black pit of Glen Nevis."

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