With a blocking high pressure now sitting firmly over the UK, we’re into a pattern of warm days and cool nights, which means that the snow and ice that remains, of which there is still lots on Ben Nevis, will firm up overnight, and give great snow and ice climbing, particularly earlier in the day. East facing slopes that catch the early morning sun are probably worth avoiding this week.
Kevin and John have bags of winter walking experience, and are looking to expand their comfort zones, and gain the skills required to tackle more adventurous mountaineering routes in winter, so today we headed up high on Ben Nevis, to No. 2 Gully, to get them on the sharp end and for me to coach them en route.
The snow was still slightly soft lower down, but fortunately, a set of tracks from yesterday took us right up to the foot of Comb Gully Buttress, from where Kevin and John took it in turn to lead pitches. We were able to look at a variety of belays, including equalised ice screws, nut belays, abalakov threads and a bucket seat backed up with a reinforced axe belay on the plateau. The cornice was easily outflanked on the left, and involved climbing into a funky trench formed by a crack between the cornice, which was now quite stable, and the plateau.
A great first winter climb on Ben Nevis for the two, and hopefully the first of many!
Conditions, all things considering, were far from bad. There’s still plenty to go at up high in Coire na Ciste, including Italian Right Hand, Garadh Gully, Glover’s Chimney, The Gutter, The White Line, The Cascade, No. 2 Gully Buttress, Comb Gully Buttress, Comb Gully, Green Gully and Two Step Corner looked complete from a distance. Some of the ice lines on Raeburn’s Wall still look good too.
Other teams on Orion Face Direct, Hadrian’s and Tower Ridge.