Archive for March, 2007

Happy Hippies

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Thanks to Alan Dougherty for these two pictures taken on 31st March.

31st March on Ben Nevis
Psychedelic Wall, final pitch
A pleasant stroll up Observatory Gully today, followed by an even more pleasant ascent of Psychedelic Wall. In it’s current state it is a pretty straightforward, if exposed and not well protected grade V route. The ice on the second pitch is not great for ice screws, but takes axe picks very well. Sixty metre ropes certainly pay dividends on these climbs. Plenty of other folk out all over the Indicator Wall area, plus Smith’s Route on Gardyloo Buttress looked very fine.

Some of the ice is just beginning to delaminate from the rock beneath in the very fine dry conditions, but nothing to drastic to worry about. Plenty of ice climbs to go for in all of the grades and the weather looks set to continue fair.

Tonight there is a big fullish moon and no doubt another frost to come. Certainly nothing was dripping in the shadowy parts of Observatory Gully today, although those in the sunny sauna of Tower Ridge must have been very toasty!

Quite a lot of folk camping or bivouacking beneath the cliffs to get ahead of the crowds and not a breath of wind on the summit.

View towards Tower Ridge Eastern Traverse today

Lindsay on the first pitch of Psychedelic Wall. I hope you got home in time for the party in Edinburgh!

Davie on the second pitch of Psychedelic Wall. Thanks for the loan of the pegs guys!

Davie topping out on the last pitch of Psychedelic Wall.

Still Good

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Contact me if you want to find out about CIC Hut places as he suggests. Any SMC members reading this, I’m sure (?) the hut guardian is cool with the idea!!

Hi Alan,

Excellent site, been watching keenly to see how conditions are shaping up as have CIC booked next week.
We have 2 spaces on Tuesday and Wednesday night next week if you or any of your readers are interested. Wondered if you’d mind being the contact as I only have work mobile and don’t want my boss seeing my number on your site ; ))
Looking forward to a bumper week and will let you know what we get done in time for the Easter rush.

Best wishes


Yesterday a little bit of winter returned with actual wind and rain and snow, plus a white-out on the tops to lend some quality to the day. Orion Face was in superb condition, with only the first pitch (original) being rather ‘thin’.

A gentle breeze on the first pitch of Orion Face Direct

End of the long (60m) second pitch to the edge of the ‘Basin’

Approaching the ‘Second-Slab Rib’ pitch four of Orion Face Direct

Final Chimneys on Orion Face Direct pitches 7/8

Looks like another busy weekend on the way. Make sure your landlady offers an ‘Early’ breakfast. If you want a list of places to stay with early meals, have a look at my links page.

Continuing very Good

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

It has rained a little this afternoon, but light snow on the tops. Cold weather is set to dominate right into next week, and maybe Easter. Make sure your B&B; offers early breakfasts! Watch out for some crowded routes unless you start very early.

Don't stamp too hard!

Is there anybody out there?Hi Alan,

Now that the crowds have disappeared Adam and I decided to take a day
off. We did Tower ridge in Alpine conditions and Comb gully afterwards.
Note the photo with the guy who was looking for quick descent routes to
the bottom of Indicator wall.



Thanks Henning. Just goes to show how solid everything is on Nevis just now:-)) Please don’t try to emulate this brave (?) man.


The photograph of that guy standing on the cornice has to be an all time

You know he should copyright it before it ends up on one those ads…you
know the ones – probably an insurance ad – Company XXXXX is here for
those moments that you least expect in life…


Patrick's pictures
Patrick's pictures - Rider's in the Storm & Albatross area
Hi Alan,

Just to keep you up to date with activities on the Ben and what an
incredibly contrasting last week it’s been. Last Monday (the19th), I
battled up the complete line of an icy hard Observatory Buttress
alone in a raging blizzard with huge windchill temperatures and
practically zero visibility. Finding a way to the top from the Girdle
Traverse was pretty challenging especially on the avalanche prone

On Friday (the 23rd), I was back on the mountain early for a solo of
Orion Direct, and a fantastic hour and a half of peaceful climbing,
breaking through a cloud inversion to top out on a deserted plateau.
After soaking up the sun for a while, I dropped down for a quick solo
of Sickle (I believe you were in Point Five?), a superb route with
sustained interest for it’s full 300m length. Certainly a degree
harder than it’s neighbour, Hadrian’s Wall Direct.

Yesterday (the 27th), I returned to the Ben with thin ice on the
agenda for onsight ropeless ascents (as all my solos are) of three
hard Grade VI routes, Riders on the Storm, The Great Glen and
Satanic Verses. A definite non-alpine start (0930am departure from
the car park) had me walk up to the hut in blazing sunshine but by
mid-afternoon, I was finished and on my way back. The benefits of
climbing quickly! All three routes were super-thin but had enough ice
where it mattered. The first pitch of Riders was engaging and
technical, the main pitch of The Great Glen very delicate, and the
final vertical pitch of Satanic awkward and glassy, with all of them
in wonderfully exposed situations.

I used Tower Gully as my descent each time which has an interesting
drop through the cornice into an icy cave as the photo shows, but a
very useful and quick option in helping to link routes.

Let it all continue!

Patrick Roman

Orion Face Direct

Point Five Gully

Hello Alan

More confirmation, if more were needed on just how good the conditions still are on the Ben Monday 26th Point Five, Tuesday 27th Orion FD

Tony Halliwell

Capital Outdoor Ice Climbing UK

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

direct start (climbed the previous day by Ian Parnell) into Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
Hi Alan

Not managed to catch up since I saw you on Tower Ridge. Have had to head south albeit to the alps this week, so Scotland over for another year (just as it gets going!!) Awesome conditions up on Indicator Wall day before yesterday. Stormy Petrel had to be overlooked for a direct start (climbed the previous day by Ian Parnell) into Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Gobsmacking!! See attached pics – Andy Benson wondering…

Enjoy the alpine conditions up north in the meantime!

Dave Hollinger (Thanks Dave A.K.)

PS Let the masses kick themselves for not booking the CIC hut week!!!!

Over Bidean 26th March
Great days mountaineering yesterday (Monday). Climbed Dorsal Arête in misty though mild weather topping out on Stob Corie nan Lochain at about 12:15. The snow though sparse on the little buttress was firm and in places had formed thin ice in the back of the small grooves and short chimneys leading to final arête. Word of caution though the rise in temperature has loosened a lot of unstable rock. Once on the summit the weather cleared and we had a fantastic traverse over to Bidean as shown in the photo. We finished our day by dropping off into the Lost Valley. The current conditions lend themselves to this type of trip with perhaps a less ambitious easier mixed climb giving access to a high ridge walks producing a very enjoyable day.

Ross Nicol

Who needs the Ice Factor when we have the real thing on our doorstep? The perfect weather is continuing, with overnight frosts and clear days adding to the best quality ice we have seen in years. The weather will cool down again towards the back end of the week and the weekend. I would recommend camping out at the foot of your chosen route if you want to avoid the crowds this coming weekend. It could be worth hiking up to the summit and leaving a ‘rap-rope’ in place down the side of Indicator Wall to facilitate quick and easy access to the climbs in Observatory Gully.

What price a cup of coffee and flapjack in the summit shelter, followed by a simple slide down to the foot of your chosen perfect ice climb? Many of the routes are still in great ‘nick’. Some teams returning from Aonach Mor, did say they had found reasonable ice on the shady climbs.

Hello Alan,

Well as everyone knows by now, it was just about perfect on Ben Nevis last Saturday – solid neve, chewy ice, blue skies, light winds and sunshine on top. We came up Garadh Gully to gain the higher routes, then up Glover’s Chimney and the last bit of Tower Ridge to the summit. We were able to sit in the sun and have a leisurely late lunch by the summit shelter. First time I’ve ever done that, even in summer!

The sunset up there was stunning; my pics don’t do it justice but have a look anyway. Feel free to use or link to them.


Keith Waddell

Thanks Keith for the link to your set of photos.

Cornice Tunnel on Central Gully R-Hand,Creag Coire na Ciste, Ben Nevis

Cornice Tunnel on Central Gully R-Hand,Creag Coire na Ciste, Ben Nevis

Hi Alan, here are a couple of pictures of Martin from Saturday showing Mark’s fabulous cornice mining on Central Gully Right-Hand on Creag coire na Ciste. Thanks again for a brilliant weekend. Mark’s a great guide.

Best wishes

Adrian Casey

Hi Alan

Cornice Callum

Alpine conditions on Ledge Route

Your website is a great source of information and inspiration. Inspired by talk of “magnetic ice”, we came up on Sunday and did Ledge Route, which was in good condition at that time of the day (finished at 11). It all felt very Alpine! I’ve attached a few pictures, the last one showing someone taking a picture over the edge of the plateau protected by his friend.


Callum MacLellan

Thanks Callum. Check out his site folks. More good pictures.

More good weather

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Some teams arriving home from Glen Coe report that snow is still present at Stob Coire nan Lochan. although rather warm. Aonach Mor East Face is suffering from the early morning sun. Ben Nevis is still in good shape. The settled spell will fade a little on Wednesday, but return for later in the week and into the weekend.

What a weekend! Of the last ten years spent mostly winter mountain walking rather than climbing this had to be the best. Last year was good on Dorsal Arete and Curved Ridge but this was just brilliant.
Friday we headed for Aonach Mor to have a look at Right Twin area but being fairly new to this game got a bit phased by the steepness at the top of Easy Gully. So the three of us took it in turns to lower off an ice axe belay (good practice) into the gully and climb out again. Still good fun even though it was not quite what we came for. We followed this with the summit of Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag before returning via the Aonach Mor Gondola. Fantastic views across to the NE face of Ben Nevis on a glorious sunny afternoon.
Saturday saw us at a very busy North Face car park for an 8am start and after 2hrs we were at the CIC Hut for our first view of the NE face close up. We opted not to do Garadh Gully and went for Ledge Route instead with a few others too and what a good choice it was. A fantastic route with incredible views after which we just had to make the final ascent to the summit. The best day I think I have ever had on the Ben!
Thanks for all your recent advice and let’s hope it’s the start of many more trips.

Jon, Rob and Gavin.


Thank you. No doubt you have been out yourself, but the Ben was stunning yesterday. We did NE Buttress, but there were teams on just about every route in the book! Met a Basque and a Hong Kong Chinese bloke doing Astral Highway….international mountaineering!

Photo below.

By-passing the Mantrap

Thanks Duncan. By-passing the Mantrap on the right is a neat way of avoiding the struggle at the nose. Robin Campbell will call it dis-honest no doubt, so what! In some conditions it is possible to just pull hard over right onto the rimed slab very close to the nose. I did it last week and had to descend a few metres before climbing back up again. The ‘forty-foot corner’ was stowed out with ice as shown in my picture here.

Forty-Foot Corner - N.E. Buttress

We approached by Slingsby’s Chimney, which was a hard Grade IV mixed at the top pitch. This is often the case and does catch people out. Slingsby’s is only easy with a load of snow, otherwise it’s a sand-bag pitch!

Linking the First and Second Platform on N.E. Buttress
Linking ground between the first and Second Platform on N.E. Buttress

Slingsby's Chimney above the chockstone pitchSlingsby’s Chimney above the chockstone pitch.

Slingsby's Chimney, tricky mixed ground
Exiting the tricky mixed ground at the top of Slingsby’s Chimney

Hi Alan, just a quick note to thank you for sorting us out with space in the hut last week, even if the first night was spent uncomfortably on damp boards in the kitchen!

We followed your suggestion and headed for Moonlight Gully Buttress on our 1st day, set off up Neptune but found the way barred by rotten ice. We moved up right on to North Trident Buttress and after a lot of faffing on tricky mixed ground again found our way barred – just not enough ice. After a hairy little down climb we ended up abbing off into Moonlight Gully and going down feeling truly spanked.

Next day in the face of bad weather in the afternoon and with our confidence battered we went up Ledge Route.

Our final day was on Tower Scoop where we found some very good ice.

All in all a good trip, many lessons learned. That’s it for me this year, I’ll be keeping an eye on your site next season in case any beds (or floor space!) come up.



Quieter today on Ben Nevis

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Chimney pitch Point Five Gully
Rocking on the Point
N.E. Buttress 25th March
Observatory Gully 25th March
Little Brenva Face cornices 25th March
The good conditions and weather are still with us and Point Five Gully was much quieter today. The chimney pitch is getting hacked up a wee bit, but still good climbing at a very reasonable grade on good ice. Hadrian’s Direct, Sickle, Zero Gully and Orion Face Direct were busy and the shower of gear dropped today was much less! Plenty of happy folk out using the extra hours sunshine and climbing into the evening. Very alpine indeed,

The plateau was very windy, as was Coire Leis in descent. This south-east wind was not at all noticable on the routes.

Hi Alan,

Your phrase ‘magnetic ice’ pulled the crowds to the Ben; the North Face car park was probably never as busy as yesterday and Sheffield must have been half empty.

Tim and I had a good day on Smiths route yesterday plus I had the chance to take plenty of photos of other routes. Only the second pitch is hard on Smiths but I had fitted new picks on my Taakoons and twanged them in hard in order to pull myself over from the icicle to the ramp. After trying for a while I got pumped and had to rest a bit… It makes a lot of sense to file the teeth at the bottom down a bit.

Lots of people out on the Ben, more than I have ever seen. The most notable thing was that Blair Fyffe and Ian Parnell tried and I suppose managed a new route on Indicator wall. It looked very hard.


Thanks for the photos (AK) . Smith’s looks like a ‘breeze’

Smith's Second pitch 24th March

Spot the new route!

Spring is in the Air

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

Well done Duncan and thanks for these wonderful pictures. Avoiding the crowds and getting a truly special and inspirational few days in the hills is not too difficult. Fantastic!

Sgurr nan Gillean

Am Basteir


Finally managed a big tick, or at least most of it, on Tue-Wed. Soloed the Skye Main Ridge from North to South. Deep powder, lots of verglas, many hoar crystals, plenty of bad ice. Unfortunately, the cloud thickend rapidly on Wednesday, and I couldn’t find the abseil point off Sgurr Mhic Choinnich, so had to reverse the peak and drop down into Coire Lagan. Completely alone for two days; a lonely and committing experience. With the return of the good weather, the powder should now be good neve…….

Duncan Francis

Hi Alan, was up on curved ridge yesterday in a heatwave.
The ridge is stripped bare and I ended up with a summer scramble and
then took the gully on the left for a 150ft snow plod to the summit.

The top 6 inches of snow although consolidated is still poorly bonded to
the old snow beneath.

There was still a lot of ice higher up on both north and south facing
cliffs but the sun will have stripped the south facing cliffs by now.

Looks like it’s definitely cooler tomorrow so I’m hopeful of good
conditions higher up on the Ben.


Today the weather is very special, as it has been for a for days now. Ben Nevis is very crowded with hundreds of climbers out enjoying the conditions. Yesterday on Point Five Gully it was raining gear and anyone ‘hoovering’ around the bottom of the route will be rewarded with quite a lot of ‘loot’. Don’t all rush, my ‘troops’ are up the hill as I speak collecting ‘stuff’!

The star prize must go to the climber who had his helmet cracked open by a flying ice-screw. He retrieved the shiny, wayward & expensive piece of kit, only to drop it himself later on the route, along with his glove and a fair bit of other bounty. Thanks to my team for acting as ‘Long-Stop’ for the falling second on the Rogue Pitch. We were not sure if his partner even registered his slip.

The North Face car park is crammed full, almost back to the main road. The Outdoor Capital is certainly living up to its name just now. Such a shame the car park is not a lot bigger with toilets and a camp site in the woods. anywhere else in the world and ‘Starbucks’ would be moving in.

Yesterday the team on Sickle, cruising alone had the right idea. I suppose the famous named routes will always suffer from overcrowding. They muttered a few words of truth about ..”Why do climbers always queue up on some routes, when their are loads of other good empty climbs around”..My excuse is that’s what my client, Mark, wanted to climb! And clients like Mark usually get what they want! Another solo climber followed on Sickle, later on in the morning. Also a rumour about a group getting lost on Zero Gully (?).

Conditions beneath some of the cornices are not great, with lots of crusty dry snow hindering secure movement on the final moves. I have one group out camping and another snow-holing on Ben Nevis tonight, so hopefully a clutch of sunset pictures to come.

Tower Ridge from the foot of Point Five Gully
Getting bombed in the chimney pitch of Point Five Gully
Fourth pitch-Point Five Gully

Thanks to Fred and the French Guides for the four pictures below. They had a real ‘Scottish’ experience and climbed every day during a very marginal week.

Hello Alan,

I would like to thank you for you considerate. We have past a very good trip in a wonderful plac
e. Climb in Ben Nevis is disorentate and rich in teaching (manage the bad weather, orientation with GPS…). We had taken a lot of pleasure to climb in this mountain. I’m sure I will go back in some years.
we climbed:
- friday 16th: Zero Gully, Point Five. (rain and wind)
- saturday 17th: Point Five, Zero Gully. (rain and wind)
- sunday 18th: Tower Ridge. (good freezing conditions, snow and lot of wind)
- monday 19th: North East Butress, Hadrian’s Wall, Number 2 Gully. ( like the day before but worse !)
- tuesday 20th: we just go to the top by Abseil Post to see the view but when we arrive there is not visibily like the other days before. Too bad for us, we will must go back…!

I enclose 4 pictures with this mail.

best wishes, see you later…


Magnetic Ice on Ben Nevis

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Walking the Dog
A group that I am involved with have just cancelled three beds in the CIC Hut this weekend (Fri/Sat nights). Any takers, please contact me on 01397 700451.

Thanks to Mark Hockey for these three lovely pictures and his story about an early start to beat the bad weather coming through yesterday. He also has the right idea about the football:-))

Hi Alan – Looking 4ward to The Lads completing the treble after the next fortnights Euro Cup. More importantly thanks for your advice during your winter safety lectures1996-98 whilst I worked at the Clachaig and your agreement on the phone Tue eve that an early morning start would beat the poor weather moving in from the west – so we drove thru the night and walked up from Glen Nevis under the stars which dimmed ominously as I cut steps up to the plateau above No4 Gully. Sunlit morn/shepherds warn?! I’d intended to leave Anny sunbathing on the summit whilst I descended in the vicinity for a quick solo, though omnidirectional clouds and a leaded sky to the SW and N prompted map, compass and GPS to come out of their Yorkshire hibernation. It was windy and still sleeting down shortly after midday when I began the drive home after a pint with Ian (Thompson). Hope the guys in Jeans etc, met ascending below the lochan had a memorable afternoon/made the summit – I doubt they had much of a view above 2000ft, that’s if they made it that far – The vibram boots and in-situ map case round the neck spoke volumes, the Chelsea scarf said it all!!

Nevis sunrise
Nevis sunrise
Nevis sunrise
A group that I am involved with have just cancelled three beds in the CIC Hut this weekend (Fri/Sat nights). Any takers, please contact me on 01397 700451.

The ice conditions on Ben Nevis just now are spectacular. One party I met topping out from Astral Highway onto N.E. Buttress yesterday reported that……”It was as if the ice just attracted our picks like a magnet, sucked them in and refused to let go. We just wanted to keep climbing without stopping”… It was the same elsewhere on Two-Step Corner with …”truly awesome”…conditions. Orion Face Direct, Astral Highway, Point Five Gully, Zero Gully, Slav Route, Observatory Buttress climbs. All look in good nick.

Getting Good on Ben Nevis

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Ben Nevis 20th March
Loch Lochy hills 20th March
The strong northerly airflow over the last few days appears to have scoured a lot of the new snow off of the north side of Ben Nevis, producing some decent climbing conditions. Teams out on Point Five Gully and Orion Face Direct today. Tower Ridge was in very good condition today according to Rob Jarvis

Steep & Deep – Bottomless in Fact!

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Beinn a' Chaorainn approach
Plenty of new snow on the approach to Beinn a’ Chaorainn today. Thanks to Andy Ravenhill of Alba Mountaineering for the shot above

Stob Coire nan Lochan 19th March
Now we’re cookin! Plenty of snow, too much in fact! Thanks to Nick Carter for these pictures of Stob Coire nan Lochan today. Buried beneath monumental amounts of new snow all the way up from the road. As with many freelance instructors, Nick has some good stuff on his website for those searching for winter conditions.

David on Dorsal Arete