‘Interesting Conditions’

Joe on Waterfall Gully, approached without crossing the widespread building windslab in most other locations.

Joe on Waterfall Gully, approached without crossing the widespread building windslab in most other locations.

I was back out on Ben Nevis with Joe on Friday. He had not yet climbed Green Gully so that was Plan A but the amount of snow transport we could see on the walk in did concern me. Shooting cracks in a small bank of snow not far from the CIC hut added further concern. Before we got to the Ciste Lochan Green Gully was off my plan and then we met others who had set off small slides in a number of locations in the corrie, which confirmed my plan to turn around and see if we could get to Waterfall Gully, which we were able to do completely safely. Joe led this and entertained me as copious quantities of sprindrift poured over him.

However not free from significant spindrift off the buttress above

However not free from significant spindrift off the buttress above

The ice was good to climb, not much good for Ice Screws and apart from the snow down your neck, fun to climb.

On Saturday I was teaming up with Paul of Mountain Magic prior to working with him next week. We met up at Nevis Range but were both a bit concerned that pockets of instability would still be remaining in the snow pack despite strong E & SE winds blowing snow out of the East face climbing area.

East Ridge of N buttress of Stob Ban, Mamores

East Ridge of N buttress of Stob Ban, Mamores

We decided to go for what I knew would work and headed round to Glen Nevis. Paul had never climbed the East Ridge of the North Buttress of Stob Ban so I suggested it was well worth a trip up this very useful climb when you want to avoid weather or snow pack nastiness in higher locations. It is also a very pleasant climb of grade 2/3 in its own right with great views over the Devil’s Ridge, Ben Nevis and yesterday well into the Northern Highlands. Even with our leisurely start (Bacon Butties!) I was surprised to see anyone else there but at least 3 teams were already on the ridge as we crossed the base of the corrie. Later 2 MIC trainees out on an assessment preparation workshop with Al Halewood came up behind us, confirming my assessment of the snow on the other ridge & buttress lines in the corrie – unconsolidated and unhelpful, confirmed by their very close up inspections. Our route was perfect – combination of scouring (plenty of that in the gusty E wind), traffic compacting snow and having plenty of rock & frozen turf moves. Very enjoyable in its own right, sunshine & of course ‘time in reconnaissance is never wasted’ according to my old history teacher at school.

The narrow arête near the top of the East Ridge

The narrow arête near the top of the East Ridge

Also we avoided the inevitable weekend shenanigans on the Ben as keen folks arrived to find all was not as they had hoped for. Fortunately those avalanched were all okay & walked away as far as I am aware. It appears One team were the third party to approach Green Gully which goes to practically demonstrate the point about just because it held for others ahead doesn’t mean it is necessarily safe! Take care and be prudent, as always!