Monday, 14 December 2009

I fought the thaw, and the thaw won

The plan for today was to climb one of the Grade II gullies on Ben Nevis, to give Isi an easy introduction to winter climbing on the North Face. However, when she arrived at the Clachaig at 7:30 she told me she was far too tired to go climbing, due to an exhausting previous day and little sleep! In the end, we decided that she and James would go walking somewhere, while I would be dropped off at the North Face car park to proceed to Ben Nevis alone.

Initially the walk up through the forest was heavily frosted, but within perhaps 60m the frost vanished and the temperature shot up. Clearly a pronounced bank of freezing fog overnight had produced this extraordinary ground frost in the glens. Above the inversion, things were warm, even muggy, and it started to spit with rain.

By the time I reached the CIC hut it was raining steadily, the air felt humid, and the cloud base was sitting in the bottom of Coire na Ciste. The ice all around me was melting very rapidly in the warm conditions. I couldn't see a speck of snow from the hut and what cliffs I could see were all black and dripping. Despite the knowledge that the high-up routes were probably in good condition, I decided I wasn't feeling lucky or enthusiastic enough after two very good days on the hill to progress any further.

The forecast is for very cold weather to return quickly, and with it more snow, which we desperately need at this point to bring a greater selection of routes back into condition.

I'm hopefully next out on the hill on Thursday.

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