The warm daytime temperatures continue, however, this morning, in the shade, things still felt cool, particularly with a gentle breeze blowing. The snow in Observatory Gully is firming up overnight, but not as hard as it was earlier this week.
I was working for Abacus Mountain Guides today, and out with Vic, who I last guided back in 2012, where we climbed Feathered Friend on Creag Meagaidh, a first winter ascent of a variation to Crow Road on Bellevue Buttress and Finger’s Ridge in The Cairngorms. It was great to see Vic again, who is very enthusiastic when it comes to mountain adventures, both home and abroad, and so we decided that an early start to seek some ice on Ben Nevis would fit the bill today.
We did spot two teams, from a distance, heading into Observatory Gully, but they were all headed to Tower Scoop, and with only one other team already above the main ice fall on Hadrian’s Wall Direct, things were looking promising. At the very last minute someone traversed in from below Observatory Buttress, which at first was disappointing, until we realised that he was soloing, and was up and away before we had reached the base of the route.
The main icefall on Hadrian’s Wall Direct was in fairly good shape, with nice chewy ice all the way, and only a thin layer of softer ice on the surface. The chimney on the second pitch was a bit soft, but after that, it was good conditions all the way, with the final ice fall being in great nick. There was a bit of debris coming down occasionally, but nothing to cause concern. The same can’t be said for Point 5 Gully, which a team backed off from, having been bombarded with falling ice. The ice in the gully looks good though!
A team were climbing Sickle alongside us, and reported reasonable conditions too. They traversed in from a few meters up Hadrian’s Wall Direct, and had to make a few mixed moves to gain Sickle, but remained on the route thereafter. Indicator Right Hand was climbed and reported to be a bit pokey due to poor ice in places. Smith’s Route looked good, but I didn’t see anyone on it. Plenty of teams enjoying Tower Ridge in alpine conditions.