Yesterday, Hannah was out on a personal climbing day with Steve, they made the long, but worthwhile approach (2nd time for Han this week) to Church Door Buttress on Bidean nam Bian, where they climbed yet more esoterica – the brilliant part caving, part winter climbing expedition that is Crypt Route, which Han seemed to enjoy more and have less problems in than Steven (who is quite tall). They reported good conditions, and not another soul about up there.
Chris Thorne was out working for West Coast Mountain Guides. He was with Pete, and they climbed Hadrian’s Wall Direct on Ben Nevis, and reported the approach to be fine, unlike many other areas of the mountain. The strong easterly winds and cold temperatures (coupled with in places, a shallow snow pack), has led to both the accumulations of windslab and formation of facets within the snow pack, leading to a number of human triggered avalanches in multiple locations. Many teams abandoned their plans or stayed low yesterday.
I was on an Avalanche Workshop, organised by Alan Kimber, on behalf of the Chris Walker Memorial Trust. As ever, it was an informative day spent partly inside, discussing theory, and then a circuit of Nevis Range, looking at the rather interesting (and potentially hazardous) distribution of windslab and facets. Hannah attended a similar day today.
Chris was back out with Pete today, and they climbed Raeburn’s Route and Pinnacle Buttress Grooves on Stob Coire nan Lochan. Conditions look good up there.
Lena was out delivering a day of winter skills to Alex on Buachaille Etive Beag in Glencoe, they had a productive and enjoyable day.
I had a late start with Dave and Rob, who had caught the sleeper up from down south. Unfortunately, with various delays, they didn’t arrive in Fort William until midday, so with the expectation of finishing a bit late, we headed straight for Ben Nevis. On the approach, we bumped into two teams walking out, both of whom had been caught in avalanches, but were fortunately ok, if a bit shaken. One team were caught in a release whilst heading up to Point 5 Gully, another up towards No. 3 Gully Buttress. The strong overnight winds have continued to redistribute the snow, and so there are some significant instabilities now on NW-S aspects.
With a late start, we made for the SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder, which gave a safe approach and enjoyable climb, which both Dave and Rob flew up. We then abseiled and descended the East Gully, before yomping out to be back at the van for 5pm. Not bad going! The snow on the ridge is quite soft and very dry, but the turf is very well frozen at the moment.
We saw teams on Waterfall Gully, Central Gullies of Creag Coire na Ciste, The Gift, Comb Gully, Tower Ridge and NE Buttress.
If anyone knows the team who were avalanched beneath Point 5 Gully, can you let them know that I have handed an ice axe and glove in to Fort William police station.