What a fabulous day for climbing and skiing in Scotland it was today. Warm sunshine, light wind, great snow cover and very nice ice made it a day to remember. I was back up on Ben Nevis again with Ronny and Bob for their first day of mountaineering and they could not have chosen a better day.
With lots of soft snow on East facing slopes and gullies we decided not to go up Ledge Route because it starts up Number Five Gully which faces just about East. Instead we went all the way up into Coire Leis and climbed the slope onto the last section of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. This is a great way to see the North Face of Ben Nevis and also enjoy the last and narrowest section of the CMD Arete.
Several teams of climbers were on the big ice climbs of Orion Direct (including Ali and Kevin who found good ice all the way up), Hadrian's Wall Direct, Point Five Gully, Italian Climb Right Hand and some others. There is quite a lot of snow in Coire na Ciste so getting to the climbs will be quite hard work at the moment and the top of Observatory Gully might well be about the same.
In some ways, the CMD Arete gives bigger and more open views than Ledge Route. It was certainly very snowy today and you don't need to touch rock very much at all. Most of it is just a nice narrow snow crest!
In the very bright sunshine the Little Brenva Face had lots of snow and ice falling down it today and the slope up the back of Ben Nevis was a long slow plod. Good training for Ronnie who plans to go up Mont Blanc soon. For a first day out in winter Bob and Ronnie did very well today ... the first of many hopefully.
As always on top in good weather there were several people with no crampons, ice axes or appropriate clothing for a day in the winter hills. With such good weather you can get away with it and most people do but there are also a good number of accidents every year which are avoidable. If you want to walk up Ben Nevis over the Easter break please make sure you have winter boots, crampons and an ice axe as a minimum. You will also need a map and compass as well as the ability to use all these things. The next few days will be cloudy and you will not be able to see for a hundred miles like we could today!