Friday, 18 December 2009
Excellent conditions on Ben Nevis
Today Steve and I headed to the Ben, with the intention of finding ice gullies grade II - IV. We'd heard reports of good conditions, despite the relatively lean amount of snow on the mountain. There were plenty of teams out and about: Al Halewood and partner climbed Green Gully, there were teams on Central Left-Hand, North, Comb, Tower Ridge, and Ledge Route.
We decided to climb the South Gully of Creag Coire na Ciste, a Grade III ice climb. We climbed unroped up the easy initial pitch and I established a belay on the rock wall that was the first obstacle of the climb. I then led the second pitch, 50m of the most delightful snow-ice I have ever climbed! The average angle was not great, but three or four significant steep sections meant that I was very keen to locate good gear. The ice was not quite thick enough for ice screws, and rock gear was a little problematic to arrange, due to all of the cracks being filled with ice. Still, the ice was so good that the climb felt very secure, even on the steep sections.
After topping out, it was still early in the day so we descended No.4 Gully and soloed up North Gully, a Grade II route with a pitch of ice, then easy snow.
All in all, a great day on the hill on great routes! It started snowing on the way down and is still doing so, at glen level, so be aware that the avalanche risk is going to be creeping up, particularly if it gets windy again. Take care over the weekend.
Photos from today