Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These Conditions Reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

We've had a great spell of weather in the Outdoor Capital of the UK. Easterly winds have brought dry and sunny conditions. The rock has been dry and the trails sweet on the bike. I've been getting back on the bike and coaching coaching skills with degree students at West Highland College over the last few days as well as running TCL Assessment Courses. Today was dry to start but the first rain for a while came in just after lunch time. Ian, Kev, Carl and I managed to get up Curved Ridge on dry rock before the rain came in.

There is no snow left on the route but there is plenty in Easy Gully and on the slope at the top of the ridge. This avoidable though and you can get in behind Crowberry Tower without touching the snow. We used a rope to get down the steep snow at the top of Coire na Tulloch before enjoying the glissade into the coire. We did not carry on down the gully though thinking the snow will be undercut by the stream. We walked out on the path and looked at the remains of the avalanche debris at the foot of the coire. Most of this has melted away, much quicker than I thought it would. Cold, sunny and dry weather coming up at the weekend.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Mike and I went pinnacle climbing today. With SE winds and some showers forecast we went for B Buttress on the west face of Aonach Dubh in Glen Coe. Pinnacle Face (V.Diff) gave us some great fun climbing with steep chimneys at the bottom and a wacky move to get out of the chimney. Some more open climbing then got us to a couple of pinnacles, the second of which is actually an enormous block sat across a gap with a through route underneath (Cyclops IV,5).

You can climb this buttress further right to make it about grade Difficult but still going past the pinnacles. As always this face never fails to impress with its steep walls, deep gullies and great atmosphere. There are lots of routes to explore. There is also a lot of snow left in the gullies and we were glad to have ice axes with us. Number Two Gully has 5m deep patches of snow where the usual descent route goes. It will take a while for these to melt away although the streams are quite full with snow melt.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Yesterday, Andy took Liam and Rob up Tower Ridge which was in superb spring condition. Well frozen snow and dry rock with blue sky and warm sunshine on the summit. Tower Ridge was a popular choice with several teams enjoying the great conditions. Comb Gully is still in reasonable shape as is Green Gully but both have cornices above them as well. Point Five Gully has a big line across it below the chimney.

Today, Andy was out again for us this time with Sharlin. They were doing some coaching on Ledge Route on their way to the summit of Ben Nevis. It was another stunning spring day but with less frost than yesterday. Even though it is clear over night at the moment it is not cooling down so much and the snow is softening and melting away in the sunshine. The slide down the Red Burn is still great though!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Ben Nevis glistened in the sunshine today after the rain cleared this morning. The snow is bright white, the sun is shining and the rock is dry. The great ridges on Ben Nevis are fantastic fun at the moment with plenty of useful snow and clean dry rock just where you want it. Tower Ridge, NE Buttress, Observatory Ridge and Ledge Route are all a mix of snow and rock and sunshine just now! There are a few nice mid-grade ice lines to enjoy as well. With frosty nights and dry air the snow is quite firm but the ice is not well attached to the rocks underneath so you need to be a bit careful. Zero Gully, Hadrian's Wall Direct and Point Five Gully look complete but they were broken last week. I'm not sure that they will be nice to climb at the moment - I think the ice is cruddy and soft but I could be wrong. Indicator Wall and Smith's Route are complete but both have cornices above them that are quite frightening.

General snow cover starts above 700m or so and there are very many creep lines and sag cracks in the snow slopes and behind cornice lines. These are very deep in some places and a few have streams running underneath. Take care not to fall in!

The trails are dry too for mountain biking which is what I was doing today. I was coaching the coaches of the first year students on the Adventure Tourism Management degree. We were at Nevis Range and we got hooked up in the official opening of the new Green and Blue trails. The Witches Trails are now family friendly - the Blue trail is particularly good for any rider of intermediate standard to advanced. It's a very well built trail.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Yesterday was another nice day with slightly lower temperatures and a bit of fresh snow to make it feel a bit more wintry. The snow was down to 600m or so and with a gusty westerly wind there were some heavy falls of spindrift for Dan, Neil and me. We climbed The White Line having checked out the exit the day before from Tower Ridge. The cornices sit a bit further right over The Upper Cascades so the lines of The Gutter, The White Line and HaleBopp Groove are all free from cornice problems.

The White Line gives six long pitches of great climbing in an impressive situation for grade III climbing. Of course some of the ice is not well attached to the cliff and some care is required but over all it was a great climb. It warmed up during the day and the mist cleared a little to reveal a few of the crags. Comb Gully Buttress is mostly cornice free and iced up and Comb Gully itself was climbed recently. The Comb Left Flank looks good too.

Today is warmer and wet with strong winds. Cornices will be falling off again and the thaw continuing to melt away the snow and ice. The forecast is for windy but slightly cooler conditions over the next few days so there will be more winter climbing days on offer for the keen mid-grade climber (such as me!).

Monday, 7 April 2014

Very nice, dry Spring conditions on Tower Ridge today for Neil, Dan and me. It was just a little colder and there was a slight dusting of snow on the tops last night. The snow was still a bit soft though up to 1300m. Dan, Neil and I had a great day on Ledge Route in January with snow down to low levels. Today it felt very different but just as much fun.

Rain at the weekend melted a good bit more ice and made a few big sections of cornice fall off. Orion Direct and Hadrian's Wall are no longer complete. In fact the only complete big classics are Point Five Gully, Indicator Wall and Smith's Route. Each of these has a big cornice at the top though which means you really don't want to climb them even if there is a cold snap. There were people out climbing Central Gully Right Hand and Glover's Chimney which both looked good.

Friday, 4 April 2014

It was nice to be able to see to the top of the crags on Ben Nevis today to see what ice is left on the climbs. There is still quite a lot to climb but in the continuing thaw you need to be quite careful with your route choice. There is random and unpredictable rock and ice fall caused by the snow melt. David and I chose Central Gully Right Hand and it worked out OK. The ice on the route gave us some very nice climbing. The pitches below the gully were a bit mixed (hollow ice, mushy snow, moss on slopy rocks) and the cornice was bigger than it looked from the coire floor! Me managed to escape on the right though.

It looks like Orion Direct, Hadrian's Wall, Point Five Gully, Indicator Wall, Smith's Route and some other big routes are all still fully iced up. Much of this ice will be detached from the rock though and a refreeze will be needed to stick it back onto the rocks. The Cascade looks fat and blue still and there is lots of ice on the Upper Cascades but some cornices too.

The great ridges now have some useful bits of rock sticking out of the snow. Tower Ridge has snow in the Douglas Gap gullies but the awkward groove out of the gap and along the first few metres of the ridge are on rock. The bulk of the ridge is still on deep snow and the crux up The Great Tower is quite icy. Tower Gap is snow free. Very nice Spring conditions with useful rock and good solid snow.

Castle Ridge has no snow on it to speak of. Observatory Ridge is clear of snow in the bottom third and NE Buttress is about half and half. Ledge Route is still fairly continuous snow.

The great gullies are of course very well filled in and Number Three, Number Four and Number Five Gullies look passable. Some large cornices still exist but generally they look much more stable.

Snow cover starts generally at around 700m and is extensive still. On the Pony Track there are big patches of snow from the Red Burn up the way. In fact the Red Burn is still very well banked out on the south side and it looks quite daunting when you first see it. Snow patches are crossed until 1000m where there is continuous snow cover to the summit. The trig point is still half buried and many of the cairns are under the snow.

Carn Mor Dearg Arete has some nice sections of snow crest and some sections of rock too.

Most importantly, the conditions for the bum slide down the Red Burn are excellent! 400m descent in about 30 seconds all the way to the Pony Track.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Tower Ridge still has a great cover of snow on it right down to the foot of Douglas Gap East Gully. Much of it is nice and firm despite the warm conditions and there is quite a bit of ice on the steeper sections. The chimney out of Douglas Gap is snow free as well as the first few metres of ridge. There is rock showing where you want it for anchors and belays and Tower Gap is snow free too. Basically it's in very nice spring condition and gives Alpine style climbing but without the sunshine today!

David and I had a nice climb on Tower Ridge today. With a trip to South Georgia later this year David is keen to do as much as possible himself and make sure he is on top of his game. He led us up the Little Tower and across the Eastern Traverse. We talked about the best way to use the rope on the different sections of the ridge and made good progress all the way up. There were a couple of teams climbing Ledge Route but nobody else on the North Face by the look of it. Some sunshine would have been nice but it was dry and the wind was not strong so it was a good day. Great slide down the Red Burn again too!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Cloud on the summit of Ben Nevis broke up as Allan and I walked up from Achintee. There are snow patches on the Pony Track up to 1000m where it is continuous snow cover to the top. With it being slightly colder last night the snow was quite firm but softening in the sunshine. The warm summit temperatures over the last few days have been melting the snow but only very slowly. There is still 3m depth on the summit and for once standing in the trig point is easy!

There is still a very good amount of ice on the crags too. Many cornices look quite stable now but there are a few hanging lumps of snow still to drop off, most notably above Indicator Wall. The slide down the Red Burn is in great condition too! Allan did great on his first taste of winter walking. It was good to have the crampons and ice axe with us but low down on the way back it felt more like summer than winter.