|Figures on Orion Direct today.|
Daffodils and primroses are flowering in the glens in the warm sunshine. The lambs are about to be born and it certainly feels like spring. Above 600m though there is a considerable cover of snow and it has been well below freezing on the tops for many days. It was warmer last Saturday with rain to the summits and we have had a couple of very rapid thaw freeze cycles since then. Thinking about this it's not surprising that ice has been forming on Ben Nevis despite what it feels like in the glen.
As you walk up the Allt a'Mhuillin, the ice formation of The Shroud looks down on you and it has been better formed this year than for a very long time. It thawed back to one skinny column on the right a couple of weeks ago but it is now fatter and has the column on the left again. There is also new ice on the North Face of Castle Ridge and many other places.
There is also a lot of fresh snow around. Since Saturday we have had steady snowfall off strong westerly (and now north westerly) winds which has drifted in to very deep areas and formed big soft cornices. The west side of Tower Ridge is OK to get to in this wind direction so Mike and I went to climb Vanishing Gully today and another team climbed Italian Right Hand. Vanishing Gully was fantastic. It has thin but good snow ice on the first pitch and the entrance to the cave is clear. The second pitch is steep and solid, everything you want on a grade V ice climb!
This was Mike's first grade V climb after many grade IV ice climbs including Crowberry Gully two weeks ago. Unfortunately the spindrift started just as Mike stepped out of the cave and carried on for the entire time it took him to climb the pitch. I have to say Mike did an amazing job because it was particularly heavy spindrift and he just kept on climbing. It must have felt like grade VI in the spindrift with your eyes closed!
There was a team climbing Orion Direct (see top picture) and making good progress but otherwise the hill was very quiet. I don't think it will be quiet at the weekend with the promise of good calm weather and lots of ice climbing to enjoy!