A little intro. to winter (such as it is for) for Richard today. No.4 Gully was a bit of a wade but Caspar broke trail for us for some of the way. The snow was deep and wet and there was some falling ice in the Coire. Lots of avalanche debris in evidence from the Trident Gully area and No.4 and North Gully.
After the AMI AGM last night and a chance to catch up with old friends (BIG thanks to the Committee for all their hard work and Andy for making this happen) I was out with 2 more students from Heriot Watt University Mountaineering Club today and what a change from yesterday. By the time I was having breakfast word was out that it was 1 Degree C at Glenmore Lodge and 4 at the Car Park up the hill! We pressed on regardless with Steve keen to observe what I'd make out of today. we met many folk making good decisions coming out of the Northern Coires and chatted with Guy and his clients who had the same idea as us. We did a little rope work refresher sheltering from the wind and rainier the col on Fiacaill Ridge before the guys took themselves up 2 pitches of it. Then I gave them the option of continuing (it was mostly wet rock with a little soggy snow and just enough skims of ice to need crampons in places|) up the ridge or plan B.
Plan B was opted for and we dropped into Coire an t Sneachda to give the guys the opportunity to climb a little wet ice and have the opportunity to place ice screws.
At least a couple more days of this mild nonsense before it cools down again :-(
An accurate picture of climbing conditions in the Cairngorms today
A little leading
On the crest of a damp Fiacaill of Coire an t Snechda
After a quick Climbing Wall Award Training course and some Technical advice for the new Perth Collge Climbing wall today I was working with 2 students from Heriot Watt Mountaineering Club. Their aim was to build on their winter climbing experience and we headed in to Coire an T Sneachda. Despite the recent dump of snow (which made for unpleasant wading through the boulder fields) the crags still lack a build up. I'd chatted to someone about Goat Track Gully and how icey it was at present and we headed there after an extended chat on the Be Avalanche Aware process beginning at base and continuing through our journey and past our first key places.
Goat Track Gully is very lean and this end of the crag is very loose when not well bonded but today I was content to go in there given the serious cold and the large amounts of ice. Tomorrow in a thaw you would not catch me in there. We saw evidence of how loose things are when a large block came off Fingers Ridge today. The folk beneath the start of it and our icey gully need a reality check. No helmets at the base of a route is not a great piece of decision making :-(
My own stress levels raised when we realised that on of the students had a broken crampon but a split ring from my penknife, the drawstring of his glove and a combat tourniquet from Steve who was observing me today fixed that nicely.
Goat Track Gully is so empty there is a whole chimney on Pitch 1 I've never climbed! Its usually banked out. And the steps on this and the icey crux made it feel like steady Grade II today. Well done to the lads. It was cold with everything freezing a a strong breeze on the lip of the coire as we topped out. All change with a thaw tomorrow!
Lots of new and old friends at the Association of Mountaineering Instructors AGM tonight but a quiet one for me- more work tomorrow!
New mug on the move- thanks RAB for supporting the AMI
Jamie and I had a day off today and wanted top make something of what little is 'in' on Ben Nevis. The rime line was much higher today but I've been watching the ice rebuild at the base of North Gully and we headed in deciding there was enough for an ascent. It was thin but complete giving some good placements. Mike had the same idea and followed us up it with his team. It should improve with a few more days freeze but a heavy thaw or a heavy hand would damage it badly so don't set your hopes on it! The left hand finish was icey at the top so Jamie got a good pitch too. We chatted to Max as we descended No.4 on more good neve and there were many teams on No.2 (and one on Gargoyle Wall? A bit black for my tastes).
We readily need that snow now.
Climb when you're ready! (Note the wet ice even up here)
Water still flowing high on the Ben- this is going to help more ice formation
Looking up a stunningly icey pitch 3
Looking down a narrow No.2 Gully
Iain out observing me today and keeping well out of the way
After an exciting lead Simon brings Mette up Pitch 3
Crossing the bulge
Past the nippy bit
Time's pressing on so I take the lead for the last pitch
Iain exits the route
Here they come
A very dark and atmospheric final pitch
What lies beneath...
Essential protection... Size 4 beard!
Rimey all round!
Day 2 with Mette and Simon and another big day out. With limited options for them to lead we joined a cast of... at least a dozen... headed for No.2 Gully area. I was concerned we were going to have to go elsewhere but fortunately many had opted for things further right and the rope ahead of us moved well. Iain was out observing me today as part of his process working towards his MIC. With this meaning we would both be soloing around in a narrow gully whilst the guys led it needed some careful management and I was only happy as I know him well and have climbed with him a great deal. Pitches 1 and 2 were dispatched and Simon was keen for a very icey pitch 3. Knowing what its like for your first lead on front points I placed the screws which he clipped. By the time Mette had joined us time was pushing on so we opted to draw a line under the teaching and I lead the pair of them out the last pitch- another long icey one. If you go in there with a rope take at least half a dozen screws and you may have both belays and your runners all on ice at the moment.
We opted for the straightforwards but chatty path descent today. Mette and Simon have had a good 2 days and move well on their feet. I reckon they have a plan now as to how to progress towards becoming competent independent winter leaders. Winner!
Elsewhere on the hill teams were making slow but steady progress on No.2 Gully Buttress. A wide eyed pair had had an 'interesting' last pitch on Gardyloo Gully and a fast moving team reported good nick on North East Buttress.