Thompson's, Tower Ridge and top pitch of Indicator Wall

With a bit of a thaw in progress, picking have been a bit slim over the past couple of days, but there are still some excellent adventures to be had, particularly on Ben Nevis.

I've been out with Peter, who has come over from the Netherlands to get stuck into a bit of Scottish winter climbing, so to kick things off, we made an ascent of Thompson's Route yesterday, which was quite lean but frozen enough to give solid axe and crampon placements. We finished off by continuing up the direct finish to No. 3 Gully Buttress and descended the Red Burn, which is in excellent condition at the moment.

Today, we climbed Tower Ridge, which was in 'alpine nick', with quite a bit of bare rock. We put on crampons at the start of the Eastern Traverse, where the snow was noticeably firmer and kept them on for the rest of the ridge. We reached the summit in good time, so went over to the exit of Indicator Wall, where I lowered Peter down a pitch, so he could climb a bit of steeper ice (which we had spied earlier in the day). We then swapped over so I could also climb the ice pitch, which gave a nice 15-20m of grade IV. We then descended No. 4 Gully, which is cornice free and would give an excellent bum-slide! We were very lucky to be above the cloud inversion that Fort William was sitting in.

In terms of conditions, Point 5, Smith's Route and Green Gully will all come into condition fairly quickly once the temperatures drop, which they will this weekend. Hadrian's Wall is a bit too broken and will take a wee while. The main pitches of Indicator Wall are getting there. There is a good amount of snow about, so still everything to play for this season!

Disco Corner, Mullach nan Coirean

I had a day off today, but wanting to make the most of the current conditions and also wanting to explore something off the beaten track, James and I had a quick hit on the North Face of Mullach nan Coirean in the Mamores, where after a quick look at the crag, we decided on Disco Corner, a short route on the left-hand side of the crag.

The route starts up Captain Caveman, before peeling off left and continues up a series of short corners and ramps, offering some short, steep steps. Unfortunately, the snow, as many others have found over the weekend, was next to useless for axes, so a bit of care and thought was required along the way.

I think with a few more freeze-thaw cycles, the crag would be well worth a visit, but for the time being, I wouldn't rush up there in a hurry! Nice to explore somewhere new though and the views to the south and funky cloud formations helped make it all worthwhile.

Ken was out in South Gully on Stob Ban today teaching, and wishing he had his sk

Ken was out in South Gully on Stob Ban today teaching, and wishing he had his skis to get back down.

After posting this on British Backcountry there might be a few people dropping in and shredding the snow tomorrow.

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Calm before the storm? Dorsal Arete, Stob Coire nan Lochan

Winter climbing conditions are quite tricky at the moment, with a fairly high freezing level and thin snow cover. Today's forecast didn't help an awful lot, with high winds due to come in at about lunchtime. With all this in mind, Corey and I had an earlyish start and made our way up to Coire nan Lochan, with an ascent of Dorsal Arete (and descent of Broad Gully) as our plan A. The beauty of Coire nan Lochan is that it is fantastically sheltered from the worst of the prevailing winds, although care is required on topping out.

The approach slopes to Broad Gully/Dorsal Arete are still quite awkward, with quite a bit of rock still exposed, but Broad Gully itself is well filled in. We didn't hang around on Dorsal Arete, but made sure we took in the crux fin and a fun, steeper finish, to the left of the normal finish.

On topping out, as expected, the winds made themselves known with the odd, strong gust, so we didn't hang around and descended Broad Gully. We should see quite a bit of snow over the next 24 hours, so fingers crossed, as it's exactly what we need right now!

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That's a bit more like it! Tower Ridge, Ben Nevis

After a fairly mixed start to the year, today felt a bit more like it should, with clear skies, no wind and snow above 500m. Nicolaus and I made the most of it by climbing Tower Ridge on Ben Nevis. The East Gully of the Douglas Gap was holding just enough snow and whilst overall, the snow cover was thin, it felt wintry and there were some firm patches of older snow, particularly on the Eastern Traverse and exit gully.

Ice is forming on the major drainage lines and Point 5 Gully is just about complete, but wouldn't be much fun at the moment! That said, we are due a brief thaw this weekend, before what looks to be a wintry week, so things are moving in the right direction!

Quite a few other teams out enjoying the nice weather. Teams in the major gullies as well as Burrito's Groove (reportedly not great), Gardyloo Gully (lean, take screws) and a team giving Minus One Buttress a shot.

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Winter Mountaineering on Ben Nevis & Aonach Mor

For the past couple of days, I've been out winter mountaineering with Will and Amanda. There's no hiding the fact that things have been rather lean recently, but there is snow in the highest corries and summits.

Yesterday, we made our way up into Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis to find quite a bit of well-frozen snow (and far more than this time last year I should add). This meant putting on crampons fairly low down and making our way up to No. 3 Gully, from where the pair led themselves up. We then popped over to No. 4 Gully, which we then descended. A few other teams making the most of the colder conditions.

As yesterday drew to a close, there was quite a bit of fresh snow coming down and despite a slight rise in temperatures this morning, there was still a good bit of snow hanging on to Golden Oldie on Aonach Mor today. We looked at moving together and keeping the ropework simple yet safe. It was a pretty wet day, so not one for hanging about! We didn't need crampons today, but an axe was useful.

It looks like we should see wintry conditions from the middle of next week onwards, keep those fingers crossed!

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Plenty of snow on Western Rib, Aonach Mor

Sarah and I enjoyed a brilliant day on Western Rib on Aonach Mor today! The approach was fairly tough going and a fair bit of spindrift was pouring both down and back up the route at various times and along with full white-out conditions on the summit plateau, made for an atmospheric day.

We still have spaces on our Introductory Winter Climbing Course, running 13-17 January 2020, so if you fancy getting stuck into Scottish winter climbing, get in touch!…/winter-climbi…/

West Coast Ridges

It's been a busy old week, as we kicked off our winter courses this week. I was out with our Winter Mountaineering Course and on Wednesday, we made an ascent of the East Ridge of Beinn a'Chaorainn, which after the dump of snow on Monday night, was in good condition.

On Thursday, the team led themselves up School House Ridge on Sgurr Bhan, above Ballachulish, yesterday, we made an ascent of Ben Nevis via Ledge route and after the obligatory visit to the summit, we descended No. 4 Gully, just as the clouds cleared, giving us some impressive views of the greatest mountain in the world.

Today, I was out with Ezra and we tackled the East Ridge of the North Buttress on Stob Ban. The route was fantastically snowy for this early in the season and gave an atmospheric outing. As the winds picked up, we descended the North Ridge.

It's been a brilliant week and the wintry weather looks to stay with us for a while yet. Keep those fingers crossed!


Shades and softshells on the Forcan Ridge, Glenshiel

Winter has returned to the Highlands and with such a good forecast for the day, Sarah and I made the most of it with an ascent of the excellent Forcan Ridge in Glenshiel.

The day started off rather windy but soon eased up, leaving behind a stunning and settled winters day, with plenty of sunshine and amazing vistas. Conditions on the route were better than expected, with a good covering of snow on the entire ridge. More days like this, please!

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Wintry up high on Ben Nevis

Steven and I were out on Ledge Route on Ben Nevis today and despite the warmer temperatures of yesterday, there was still a fair bit of water ice on the upper reaches of Ledge Route and once on the plateau, there was plenty of ice and rime ice above 1200m. Indicator Wall is icing up well!

Although we took crampons, we didn't need to use them, although the snow on the mountain path did have an icy crust to it, which will require crampons if the temperatures drop at all.

It was remarkably still on the summit, but the winds did pick up as we were descending the mountain path. The clouds also cleared, giving us some excellent views out west.

Looks like we're due some stormy weather tomorrow…

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