When Steve asked me whether I fancied joining him and Duncan for a day on Ben Nevis, I knew that conditions weren’t going to be optimum for climbing anything steep, but that we’d have a fun day out none-the-less as it would be a day out with two good friends, regardless of the weather, conditions or route. As we walked in, in the rain and wind, other teams were heading back out, clearly not overly inspired by the blackness of the crags visible from the CIC Hut, but despite a couple of moments of doubt, we pressed on and up into Coire na Ciste, with our fall back plan being an ascent of No. 2 Gully, which neither Steve or Duncan had climbed before.
The thaw that had arrived yesterday afternoon had clearly left a bit of a mark, as the ice, of which there is still plenty, was quite soft, wet and in need of a good freeze, but the snow slopes beneath No. 2 Gully were already starting to firm up, so we continued up to the mouth of the gully. The climbing in the gully itself is quite straight forward and having heard that the cornice was next to non-existent, we soloed up. As a teaching/introductory route, No. 2 Gully is great, it’s hugely atmospheric, being in a deep cleft, sheltered from the worst of the wind, but just as importantly, has a number of good belays and opportunities to place a variety of gear, which Steve was keen to investigate.
It didn’t take too long for us to top-out, and we nipped round and descended No. 3 Gully, which again, had no cornice. On our way down, the crags were starting to rime up again as the freezing levels started to drop. It turns out that I was right, and as expected, we did have a good day, more for the company than the climbing, which is fine by me!
Climbing conditions will continue to improve over the next few days, and it looks like we may receive a welcome dump of snow mid week. Steeper mixed routes will come in very quickly, but may be quite icy. There is quite a bit of ice around Goodeve’s Buttress, Raeburn’s Wall, No. 2 Gully Buttress, Comb Gully Buttress and The Comb, so we should also see some mid-grade ice routes come into condition quite soon.