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.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The jet stream, the high stream of air from the Atlantic, has been running to the South of the UK for a month or so when usually it is running over Scotland. As a result the temperature here has been much lower than normal and much higher in the Alps. There has been a heatwave in the Alps for many weeks making the snow melt very fast, creating rock fall and bare ice on many glaciers and climbs. Here the snow has been melting very slowly, there was a huge amount of it at the end of the winter and it snowed last at the start of June, just seven weeks ago. It's not surprising that there is a lots of snow still on Ben Nevis.

The big gullies are still mostly full of snow. Numbers Two, Three and Four Gullies are all nearly completely full of snow. Number Five Gully has snow at the base on the way to Ledge Route and patches higher up. There is snow down to the lochain in Coire na Ciste and at the foot of Observatory Gully. Since it is very nearly August my guess is that much of this snow will stay with us into next winter.

So Joel and Leigh, who live in France near the Spanish border, had a bit of a shock with summit temperatures of just a few degrees and wet rock to contend with. They do a lot of climbing in the sunshine on dry rock so this was a new experience for them and they had a great time. We went up the classic Tower Ridge and had the entire North Face to ourselves.

We made good progress and found no snow on the ridge at all. The fallen block chimney is clear as well as the exit gully. Despite the rain we had good views as the mist came and went until we got to the Great Tower. Tower Gap was in the mist as was the summit unfortunately.

So Joel and Leigh discovered there is a lot of fun to be had climbing in the rain and decided to give it a go back home in the Pyrenees. I'm not sure it will catch on there though!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

In preparation for the Ben Nevis North Face Survey this year, Roddy (from Midland Valley) and I went to Poldubh in Glen Nevis to make sure we had a good system for abseiling the big cliffs we will be working on on Ben Nevis. The survey is a Nevis Landscape Partnership project in conjunction with SNH and Heritage Lottery Fund. We did a week of surveying last year and got some great results. We were working on all sorts of areas including some 250m high crags (The Comb) with some serious abseils so Roddy wanted to make sure he is completely ready for the job.

We use rescue eights to abseil on so that we can abseil right over a knot in the rope if we need to. The back up is a shunt mounted above the rescue eight and we practiced releasing the shunt if it got stuck, abseiling over knots, releasing something stuck in the rescue eight and just getting comfortable abseiling. We went up to Pandora's Buttress for a slightly bigger abseil to put the techniques into place and it all worked very well. We are all set for another North face Survey adventure!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Giles and Jess wanted a go at some scrambling on Ben Nevis so we went for Ledge Route. Unfortunately we saw very little in the thick mist but it was a fun day and there were glimpses of the drops all around us. There is still a good depth of snow at the foot of Number Five Gully so we scraped some steps up this with an ice axe. This snow is many metres deep still so it will be around for a few weeks yet. Generally the snow is melting fast now though and about 1.5m depth has melted off the summit in the last couple of weeks.

Ledge Route itself is clear of snow and the globe flowers near the bottom are about to bloom. There is also moss campion in flower, dwarf cudweed and many other plants we will be looking for elsewhere on the North Face Survey in August.

Up on the plateau there are plenty of large areas of snow but little on the Pony Track until you turn Gardyloo Gully. The last bit of snow on the summit might melt away in another week or two I guess. Jess, Giles and I waited for a view but none came today which was a real shame. We went down by Lochain Meall an t'Suidhe and through fields of flowering Butterwort and Milkwort over the bog before the Allt a'Mhuillin. The flowers are trying to make up for lost time after a very cold May and June.