Archive for February, 2007

Wet Wednesday

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Things are on the mend. Even the street signs are looking good for climbers. Might be worth starting very early in the morning, or going east. I hear that Glenmore Lodge and the International Meet are heading west en masse. Maybe a barrier at Laggan and the foot of Observatory Gully might work! A few well placed land mines on the A86 just west of Creag Meagaidh would certainly allow Ben Nevis to be quiet for the rest of us.

Wet windy and dull today

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

Green Gully and Garadh Gully all climbed today by a few hardy souls. Raining on the plateau. What a difference a day makes.

Perfect on the ‘Point’ – Great on Gardyloo

Monday, February 26th, 2007
Topping out on Gardyloo GullyThanks to Walter Black for these lovely pictures of Gardyloo Gully. A fine day out with Charles Speyer and the guide Owain Jones, topping out on a fine sunny day.

Picnic on Ben NevisSummit of Ben Nevis on 26th February.

Lochaber view, just capitalSummit view across Tower Ridge, Loch Eil and Rum just visible in the distance.

Entering Gardyloo Gully

Entering the narrows of Gardyloo Gully with two teams at the base of Shot in the Dark and or Satanic Verses

Easy summit finish on Point Five Gully

Easy summit finish on the right of Point Five Gully, aiming for the crest of Observatory Buttress.

Pitch four above the hard stuff
Above the hard pitches the angle eases with a few grade II/III pitches. We headed up left to avoid the crowds, finishing well left of the main cornice. Sixty metre ropes are a bonus and we did three pitches up to grade III.IV

Point Five Gully - (3rd) Rogue Pitch

The Rogue Pitch, which is the third and last hard pitch on Point Five Gully.

Chimney 2nd Pitch
The Chimney Pitch (2nd) is often the crux in my opinion, especially when it has big holes in it. At the moment it does have one damp section with a touch of ‘mush’ and is not too fat. Yesterday we managed some protection on the right wall just above the stance with small to medium wires. A lot of fixed pro is in-situ higher up this pitch. This pitch is best climbed with one run-out to good anchors on the right wall. Fifty metre ropes are adequate, but 55m or 60m lengths do help.

Point Five knitting

Which rope are we tied on to?

Point Five 1st Pitch

Point Five Gully 1st Pitch
I joined the International Lemmings who flocked to the best western ice climbing venue yesterday. I didn’t hear a word of English spoken all day. I think there may have been a ‘Geordie’ or two up ahead in the scrum of Point Five Gully. Turning the corner into Observatory Gully it became clear that my leisurely approach and late departure at 0730 would consign us to being bombed all day from the pilgrims above. The majority of folk seemed intent on queuing higher up the gully on Smiths Route and Psychedelic Wall and Indicator Wall and Albatross. In the end the numbers in Point Five Gully only just reached double figures. One happy chappy decided to belay in the middle of the (2nd)chimney pitch, which did cause some minor congestion.

The Spaniards with whom we shared a number of stances were very impressed with the quality of the ice….”is it always like this”?…….they asked…..”Oh yes, but often much better”….So I have done my bit for Scottish climbing tourism. The trouble is, that if they go up again this week it will become obvious that conditions can be somewhat fickle.

The quality of the ice according to our Spanish cousins was like butter or cheese. Obviously a little softer than their usual Pyrenees brittle stuff.

Today we are getting snowy, stormy weather and the same tomorrow. This will put a shine back on the cliffs, which have darkened over the last week or so. The climbing is still good above 900 metres.

Cascade AreaCascade area

Number Two Gully ButtressNumber Two Gully Buttress

David Haygarth

Took these two pictures on his day out in Coire na Ciste. Teams were active all over the crags, including Tower Face of Comb and Babylon.

If anyone using the driving track from Nevis Range finds themselves with a set of keys they do not recognise, please contact Glenmore Lodge on 01479 861256.

I have an ice axe handed in to me by Remi, the French guide who was staying at the hut last week. He found it on Tower Ridge. Anyone who wishes to describe the axe accurately will be reunited with with their tool in return for postage. Thanks Remi.

Hi Alan,

Think we spoke at the top of the route but as it was getting dark we were concentrating in getting packed so apologies if we appeared a bit abrupt!

Like you we had a leisurely approach from the North Face carpark (full) and arrived at that Dam carpark through the mud (the path has actually got worse since last week!) to see the crocodile from the International meet just ahead (horror!). You see the plan was according to my sources was to arrive late as the Lodge mini buses (BMC Meet) would arrive around 6:00 am at the Dam. They’d all scoot off up the routes to be back for tea and cake at 4:00pm just as we arrived at the foot of the route I’d spotted last week. Didn’t work out though as they all arrive late and left even later…

Anyway Two Step corner as one of my several guide books (various vintages) says is steeper than it looks and can have a difficult cornice finish… is as stated! We almost went up Quick Step to avoid queuing but with a blank thin section and an even bigger cornice that would have been daft?

I’ve sent you several photos but if you have to select one please choose the one of Fi as I did insist she should lead through to save time and the cornice wasn’t as bad as it looked…. it was and I was thankful I hadn’t got that pitch! Other than the queues the climb and conditions on the Ben were superb. Early start and drive from Aviemore for two days on the Ben within a week must say something about the ice conditions…

Kind regards

Ron Walker

Fi on Two-Step Corner

Thanks Ron. Very chivalrous of you letting the lady lead the cornice:-)) The walk down in the dark was fine, but by the time we reached the Red Burn a group of French climbers had tagged along for the route finding across the last bit of bog. I have it from a very reliable source that the lower muddy track will be sorted by the summer 2007.

A thinner Two-Step Corner on 26th Feb

“Fluich” in the Fort

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Pretty “Dreich” just now, but a cold snap is forecast for tomorrow. Looking ahead I still have space on the CIC Hut courses which run 4th to 9th March and 18th to 23rd March. These can be self-led, where pairs use my space in the hut and get advice, if they need it from the ‘instructor in residence’ or the full course with instruction included. Call or email for details. Certainly it looks as though the only place for good ice at the moment is on Ben Nevis and if that continues a place up at the hut would be a wise move.

The week ahead shows unsettled weather, but some charts are suggesting wintry stormy conditions on the tops, so that will be a bonus and keep the big capital hill topped up.

I have an ice axe handed in to me by Remi, the French guide who was staying at the hut last week. He found it on Tower Ridge. Anyone who wishes to describe the axe accurately will be reunited with with their tool in return for postage. Thanks Remi.

Hi Alan
An update for your conditions page.

Saturday 24th Feb
Even though it may have seemed a warm soggy day high on the Ben the conditions are still holding remarkably well with ‘toffee ice’ to die for!
Nigel and I got up early to beat the crowds and the ‘international meet’ and did Albatross. A superb route in great condition which we had all to ourselves! We were back home by 15:00 to watch the rugby – should have stayed up for another route!!
Very few parties in Observatory Gully to our surprise – we saw a team heading for Point 5 which looked quite fat through the mist, two teams on Indicator Wall and folk in Gardyloo Gully and Tower Gully. Psychedelic Wall looked doable and Smiths also looked in excellent condition .


Albatross 24th Feb

Tropical on Tower Ridge

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

Tepid on the Tower

A good day out in the murk on Tower Ridge. No wind and plenty of snow above about 1000 metres. Freezing level above the summits today. Plenty of voices drifting about the corries today, so no doubt people were enjoying the soft ice, of which there is plenty. A touch of frost will lock things up again. A team cruising up Glover’s Chimney said the conditions were okay and it looked that way from above. Certainly the chimney into Tower Gap is well iced. Another couple we spoke to had climbed Gardyloo Gully and reported it to be “okay with no trouble at the cornice”. I have an ice axe handed in to me by Remi, the French guide who was staying at the hut last week. He found it on Tower Ridge. Anyone who wishes to describe the axe accurately will be reunited with with their tool in return for postage. Thanks Remi.

Gloopy and Grey on Garadh Gully

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Central Gully Right-Hand - Creag Coire na Ciste

Thanks to Nigel Hooker (Aspire Mountaineering) for the photo of Tony on Central Gully R-Hand, Creag Coire na Ciste on Wednesday


I’m going to be in town from March 6-14th solo and was wondering if I could convince you, or a capable climber you know, to climb with me. I’m an ice climber/University student from the States and lead/solo IV 3-5, capable of following harder routes.I’m flat broke, but I’m willing to belay for anyone who can show me around or even willing to work it off while I’m in town.
Please pass this along or email me back if you could find even a half-day to show me around.

Brian Aitken

Garadh Gully 22 February

Yesterday I did Garadh Gully, which is complete with plenty of good ice and a rather large Bergschrund for the unwary lurking beneath the first pitch. It has been the scene of some interesting crevasse rescues recently! Conditions are good but damp high on Ben Nevis and the weather is mild. The ice is hanging in very well and there is plenty to go for above about 1000 metres.

Number Four Gully area - 22nd February

Hi Alan,

Since you’ve so kindly included some photos of the Cairngorms we thought we’d send you a few photos taken on Ben Nevis 21st Feb for your conditions report.

Anyway the promise of blue skies and lowering temperatures had us driving over from Aviemore to Ben Nevis at 4:00 am on Thursday!

On the walk up through the mud (BTW the path has deteriorated badly since our last visit in 2006) from the North Face carpark it started to drizzle and by the time we had passed the CIC hut it was snowing. The lower half of Observatory gully was thin but frozen solid. Zero gully, Orion and Hadrian’s were all non existent however Point Five was there and looked almost banked out and fat at the chimney pitch. Tower Scoop was ok though Tower Ridge it’s self was bare on it’s lower half. We couldn’t see Smith’s or Gardyloo but from the voices it appeared to be busy on the upper gully with English, French, Spanish, Italians and Eastern European voices bellowing out from the gloom! Loads of folk on Good Friday but after the first pair of polite young lads on Indicator Wall moved off and decided to do Good Friday we had the climb to ourselves….!! We had a great day on Fi’s variation of Indicator Wall (left-hand to right-hand variation after she asked for directions and I told her to follow the good thick ice. It was good thick ice but it was also the steepest….!) Anyway great climbing on more or less bomber 1st time placements and ice screw protection wherever you wanted it. The blue skies and sunshine did in fact arrive at the summit cornice. On descent we took a few photos of Coire na Ciste which had good hard snow down to the little lochan. Green Gully and Two-Step corner looked good too.

A great day on the Ben…..

Kind regards

Ron Walker and Fi Chappell

Thanks to Talisman

Indicator Wall last Sunday

The comment above concerning the poor state of the lower path is a constant one. Fortunately, I have been reliably (?) informed by the new (?) landowners, Forestry Commission Scotland, that a new path will be built this year and certainly in time for next winter. On a similar note, I would gladly support upgrading the forestry track which some of us can drive up in order for it to be made a public climbers track (Toll). A big car park at the end would overcome the crowding which can occur at this time of the year. A well landscaped climbers lodge would also be a wise and needed addition at this location in my view.

Car Park Congestion

Hi Alan,

I trust this finds you well. Thought I’d send you a report from the Ben today. A very early approach in what felt like incredibly mild weather saw me heading up Observatory Gully for a fairly leisurely 42 minute ropeless solo of Psychedelic Wall. Due to near-zero visibility, I couldn’t see past the first pitch from below which made starting up pretty committing, although the lower slabs were well-coated with ice. As it turned out, the route was in good condition overall and extremely enjoyable with continual interest throughout. A chink of blue sky on the top convinced me to go down to the Little Brenva Face but the visibility deteriorated rapidly and made route-finding impossible. So I moved back round to Observatory Gully for another slog up to Gardyloo Buttress where I soloed Right Edge. Again this was in fine condition with no cornice worries. Dropping down into Coire na Ciste, I found the route I had in mind to be discontinuous, so I headed back to Coire Leis as the clouds had lifted temporarily, and I was able to locate the line of Cresta Direct. A lovely ice pitch to start and the rest of the route simply unfolded as height was gained. A 14 hour day from car to car with 9000 feet of ascent – sometimes you’ve got to work hard for your climbing!

Hope your slideshow at the Lime Tree was a success, I would have been there but had to dash back to drop off the hire car!

All the best, Patrick Roman

alt="A little company for a soloist!" title="A little company for a soloist!" border="0" />

Better than expected today

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Scotland or Denali?

Great climbing conditions on the Ben still – Sunday was unbelievably good providing you had the nouse to avoid the crowds. Everyone and their dog seemed to be out making for a very sociable day and some good banter and amusement in the form of some dodgy practice from a notable high altitude mountain guide!. Did Diana which has attracted me for years. An outstanding and varied route with good ice and mixed pitches – what more could you ask for?! We gave a lift down to the North Face car park for some of your clients (hefty invoice coming your way!! :-) who all had big smiles on their faces. All in all as you would say “a Capital Day on the best mountain in Britain”.



Another great day (Tuesday) out west and the forecast was much better than expected. The ice is thick, fat and hero-like! That is, it is similar to climbing in the Ice-Factor with all the added bonus of awesome surroundings.


More pictures from my slide show in the Mountain Festival. on 21st February at Lime Tree. The prize draw on this evening will be some free lifts up the Ben Nevis track. All proceeds going to the Mountain Festival. Check it out folks.

Dull Day out West

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Happy Hooker

Coire an-t Sneachda

Hi Alan,

Adam and I had a good day on Honey pot IV,6 in Coire ant’Sneachta yesterday. Route choice is important in Sneachta at the moment because some buttresses are bare and some easier gullies have big cornices.

On Honeypot the rock was shining through a bit at the beginning but higher up it was all white. The snow was mostly sugary and unhelpful so you have to go through and find the essential torques and hooks for the more strenuous moves. The crux is a square cut chimney with some very well protected tech 6 moves.

Photos attached.

Best wishes, Henning

Dorsal Arete

Garadh Gully was in good nick today on Ben Nevis. Some noises from stuff falling down in the misty corrie! Morwind and Left Twin were in good shape on Aonach Mor. The forecast for tomorrow has improved slightly. Another team just in from Stob Coire nan Lochan says that it is …”more winter than summer up there”…So that is a good sign! They climbed Dorsal Arete as can be seen in the photo. Thanks to Nigel Hooker for the picture.

Another group went onto Stob Ban for some easy gully climbing and came back smiling.

Happy Andean Folk

More pictures from my slide show in the Mountain Festival. on 21st February at Lime Tree. The prize draw on this evening will be some free lifts up the Ben Nevis track. All proceeds going to the Mountain Festival. Check it out folks.

Aonach Mor below Easy Gully

Hi Alan

Just returned to Bournemouth from my annual foray north of the Border. Rather a dull week after an exciting trip up. The blizzards across the land seem a long time ago now, and the snow cleared off the hills quickly. Still, we managed to get some things done and had a good week as usual.

Surprised to find Aonach Mor almost deserted last Friday apart from numerous mountain school parties. Attached is a photo of John Cooke and Roz Kendall just below Easy Gully, taken with a Konica Minolta Dimage A200. Snow was rather soft and sugary then but no doubt has improved since.
Philip Santo

A very good Weekend

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Aonach Mor - 18th February

What a stonking weekend! Aonach Mor fantastic on both Saturday and Sunday; remarkably empty today – was everyone on the Ben? Unfortunately, a bloke called Al from Edinburgh took a massive peel off the cornice above Maneater last night and both dislocated his shoulder and broke his right arm. However, we got him down and he was able to walk off by the Climbers’ Col, so not too bad! Pictures of Aquafresh and White Shark attached. Taken on an Olympus Mu 600.


Ben Nevis was ‘hoochin’ with cars backed up to the traffic lights at the North Face Car Park. It’s about time we started an effort to open up the access track for vehicles to the Allt a’ Mhuilinn! Have any of you got the timne and enthusiasm for such a project?

Unfortunately the week ahead looks mild at the moment, so it will be high ridges in the rain maybe. Certainly a mild spell will strip the crags rather more than we want. Never mind, still a lot of winter left yet.

Mt Cook - NZ

More pictures from my slide show in the Mountain Festival. on 21st February at Lime Tree. The prize draw on this evening will be some free lifts up the Ben Nevis track. All proceeds going to the Mountain Festival. Check it out folks.

Sunny Day – Frosty Night

Saturday, February 17th, 2007

Back Corries Aonach Mor - 17th February

A great day in Fort William and the snow was nice and firm up the hill, Tonight we have a good clear frosty night, so tomorrow looks very promising. The snow level is high up the hill, but as can be seen from the picture in the back corries of Aonach Mor, large expanses are still hanging in.

Denali from Wonder Lake

More pictures from my slide show in the Mountain Festival. on 21st February at Lime Tree. The prize draw on this evening will be some free lifts up the Ben Nevis track. All proceeds going to the Mountain Festival. Check it out folks.