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.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ben Nevis Winter Conditions Overview

A lot of snow fell over the last week with strong winds to blow it around and form cornices. The avalanche hazard was High on 180 degrees of aspects and above 700m. Basically all the climbing on Ben Nevis was very avalanche prone and the poor visibility and high wind speeds made it difficult to get anywhere safely.

Yesterday the fresh snow had settled enough for a few people to climb Vanishing Gully and The Curtain, Boomers Requiem and Harrison's Climb Direct.

Last night a rapid thaw and heavy rain on the summit was followed by an equally rapid refreeze. This resulted in much more stable snow but still with heavy conditions for travelling around. There is an icy crust over deep soft snow and now with some fresh snow on top from showers today.

The mid-level ice climbs which have been so good this winter are starting to suffer from these thaws. Vanishing Gully has a section before the cave which is now probably too thin to climb, The Curtain is hollow and thin at the base and at the top, and Boomer's Requiem is thin at the top of the main pitch. The direct start to Gemini is too thin but the rest of the climb looks good.

The good news is that the big face routes are looking better. There is snow and ice forming at the top of Orion Face now where we have had very little so far this winter. Point Five Gully, Zero Gully and Hadrian's Wall Direct are all fat along with several other grade V ice climbs.

The great ridges are all snowy and with solid neve in good places. The major gullies are very full and now have big cornices over many of them.

Mixed climbing has been good on Douglas Boulder but cracks could well be choked with ice higher up.

Looks like it will remain cold, windy and showery for several days to come. Full on winter conditions with lots of planning and decision making required!

Have fun.

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