Archive for April, 2007

Still ice to climb on Ben Nevis

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Alan, thanks for keeping up the good work with your website. For anyone who’s interested, Indicator Wall was in great nick today (Tue 17 April), easy to protect with lots of ice screws and felt soft touch for a Grade V.

Very Hot at Old Trafford

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Hi Alan,… the site but will skip the MAN U final entry. BLAGHHHHHH

Manchester United melting Roma

Winter fodder
The weather is now very mild and the next cold snap will be after the coming weekend. Unless I get any reports in from all you good folk out there who have helped support my site this last few months, I will not be posting any more details until next winter, unless of course I am on the hill myself!

During the summer months my Mountain Diary will have periodic information, and I’m more than happy to copy or link to other mountain sites with similar interests. Just send me the stuff and when I get time it will be posted on my site.

Thanks again folks, it has been a good winter on Ben Nevis.

hi, Alan. thanks for all your weather reports and great pictures you put on the site,it gives us brill info on where to go climbing day to day in the winter.hope you have a great summer and keep the web site up dated,cheers andy bain.

Getting Warmer

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

No sign of a cold snap until around 16th April on the weather charts. This will result in routes such as Orion Face Direct, Hadrian’s Wall Direct and Sickle going down the pan! Point Five Gully may hang in a while longer and certainly Indicator Wall (usually last to go) and Smith’s Route should stay for a time. However, never try to outguess a Scottish winter. We have yet to get a last dose of the ‘Lambing’ Snows and I have climbed Orion, Zero and Point Five as late as 23rd April. Even this is not the latest date for these climbs.

Good Friday on Saturday!

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

Tower Scoop Buttress L-Hand Groove
Still plenty to go for at the head of Observatory Gully. We climbed Good Friday Climb today in perfect weather and conditions. Indicator Wall looked in great shape, but the other harder routes to the right might be slipping away in the milder weather. One or two groups out on Point Five Gully and Smith’s Route, but otherwise fairly quiet until the summit plateau.

Adam cruising the crux
John on the traverse beneath Indicator Wall
Chris with Smith's behind

Ben Nevis Paramo Trilogy

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Out playing yesterday with Greg Care from Paramo on a kit testing day and this superb spell of good weather presented a chance for a ‘special’ day. I’ve always hankered after climbing a group of the Nevis classics in one go. For some it is all the big ridges or a collection of ice classics or possibly ski-ing the big easy gullies. Our project was three ‘bench-mark’ classics, Centurion (HVS), Point Five Gully (V) and Tower Ridge (III/IV). This collection is only possible on a few days each spring and sometimes never comes into condition as the need for dry rock on The Great Buttress of Carn Dearg is very momentary and prone to wet weeps from snow patches high on the face.

Yesterday proved okay and we opted for Centurion first, followed by Point Five Gully and a final descent of Tower Ridge. A very early start on Point Five Gully would be another logical combination. We were keen to get sun on the buttress, which is the case after nine o’clock at present, although it fades by mid-day. It transpired that our wishes were granted, with a glorious inversion in the morning and a very murky, damp afternoon. Centurion was dry throughout, if a little chilly at times. Point Five Gully was dripping and some wet holes are appearing in the chimney pitch. Tower Ridge was pretty rocky in places, especially around Tower Gap and the descent towards the Eastern Traverse. Many ice routes are still complete, but starting to melt off in the milder weather.

By the way, the gear (Paramo that is) was good and the lady I spoke to at the top of Point Five Gully should buy some!

Sunshine and body warmth creeping down the Great Buttress of Carn Dearg

At the foot of Centurion and the inversion is starting to melt away as the day warms up.

Looking down the first pitch and a half of Centurion (4C awkward)

Greg bridging up into the first crux (5a) corner. Dry rock all over.

The 2nd crux (5a) succumbs to a long reach and still dry crossing Route II.

Enjoying the sunshine on the spikey arete on the last moves of the climb (4c)

Point Five Gully first pitch and the afternoon murk has descended to blanket the sky.

Now this is winter again at the top of the second pitch.

Greg at the top of the ‘Rogue Pitch’ still complete although rather soft in places.

Check out Point Five Gully for some pictures of a very thin route, unlike that which we are used to this season! It makes interesting reading and shows how the route can change.

A Blonde (?) Moment:-))

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007


Hello again, i must say i have just read your blog, after having not for a few days and read the piece about the new hut on the ben!! i got sooooo excited and decided to put a post on UKC, to be told to check the date on the blog…. HOW stupid am i?!!?!

Nice one though!!


And just to get us in the mood for the coming holiday folks, here are some nice fluffy pictures!

Chicks Unleashed!! Spot the fourth one.

Peace folks

Easter Bunny and the photos below will help those of you looking for something simple over Easter. The sun will soften the snow on most of these faces quickly, so an early start is needed. Pictures taken yesterday on a trip to the ‘smoke’.

Stob Ghabhar snowfields

Stob Coire nan Lochan snowfields

Lost Valley snowfields

Rocky Buachaille Etive Mor. Great for rock climbing so pack your chalk as well as the axes.

Ben Lui looking good.

Went up Zero Gully early this morning and enjoyed the sunrise enroute.
I’ve attached some photos for your conditions page.


Thanks Nick. It looks great, and good to see people still making the most of the good conditions. With a full moon around it should be possible to climb through the night and no doubt some teams are gearing up for a 24 hour marathon (?). How many Nevis routes can YOU climb in this time?

Sunrise from Zero Gully

Hi Alan,

Just to confirm like everyone else that the conditions on the Ben are still excellent. Andy and I went up to do the Orion face yesterday but there was a slow team on it and we decided to do Zero gully instead which was empty. We topped out at 11 am, descended Tower gully and started on Psychedelic wall. There was a team in front of us but the second just left the belay when we arrived. However, the team ahead moved slowly and I ended up waiting for probably one hour on the icy slabs in order to step onto the nice belay stance at the top of the first pitch. Andy suggested to do the link pitch to Satanic verses which we did and he also led that amazing corner finish. The corner was in the sun and thawing but the placements were still excellent.

We both noted again someone standing on the cornice overlooking Gardyloo gully taking photos of us. The cornice is even worse now than last week and it is very tempting to stand on it to have a look at the climbers on Indicator wall.

Best wishes,


Zero Gully
Tower Gully Cornice

Link pitch ?

Sunset 3rd April

Super on Smith’s Route

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

Another very good day at the head of Observatory Gully climbing on Gardyloo Buttress (Smith’s Route). The climb is in really easy Grade V condition at the moment, in so much that it has a line of steps and hooks which could almost be climbed blinfolded! Sorry guys, but that is the case. However, that does not take away from the situation and quality of the ice. Just consider the first ascentionists who cut steps all the way. If you want a bit of a buzz, try it with one axe, cutting pigeon-hole steps and use a pair of woolly Dachsteins!

Plenty of action on Rider’s on the Storm and Albatross, plus a flying axe on Indicator Wall which just goes to show that one axe is possible on some routes just now. The weather forecast appears a little mild after tomorrow. A good ploy for Easter would be a day on Ben Nevis, followed by Etive Slabs and a trip out to the Ardnamurchan climbs. Easter Sunday looks a little ‘dreich’, so you could go for a distillery trip at Lochy Bridge, followed by mountain biking at Nevis Range on that day!
We have it all in the Outdoor Capital:-)

Smith's Route on Gardyloo Buttress
Completed South Central Gully on Ben Lui yesterday in Alpine weather conditions, still a reasonable amount of snow left in all the gullies but none left on the ridges. Best climbed early to avoid the afternoon heat as the snow melts pretty rapidly, in the South gully there is still a lot of hard neve and even some ice higher up. There is nothing much of a cornice at the top. The gullies should be good for another week, weather depending.


Hey Alan

Hope the guy who dropped his rucksack from high on Slav Route last Saturday (31March) found it at the bottom. He was very lucky not to have found me and my mate as well, since it nearly took me off ‘Zero’, on one of the more ‘flimsy’ sections. It actually hit my trailing lead rope and would have hit me a minute or so earlier. Fortunately, there was nobody below us. Would have taken them for certain. The lesson should be that if you have to take off your rucksack in this situation, make sure you have something to clip it to rightaway.

Otherwise, a very good day on ‘Zero’, with magnetic ice, as has been said. I attach picture of first pitch (climber – Pete Sterling (

Terry Kenny

Agree with your comments about soloing well away from other parties – that was partly what got other climbers so pissed off. I got up at 3.30 yesterday to solo Orion and felt justified doing that – I knocked some ice onto parties below but that hazard is the same – or less than with a roped party. I came back down to do Zero but there was a party gearing up to do it so I left them to it – Imagine a soloist falling high on Point Five with lots of teams below – Carnage!

So when should we expect the refuge Nevis?


Hi Alan,

I expect you are inundated with good photos just now in these Scottish alpine conditions. But here are some photos from green gulley on Saturday which we found to be in perfect condition from top to bottom. From well frozen neve and ice we arrived for lunch on the summit plateau in 16 degrees of sunshine. It really is a magnificent route. Hats off to Harold Raeburn.

Donald Thomson

Thanks Donald.

New Climbers Facilities on Ben Nevis

Sunday, April 1st, 2007

Check out last Wednesdays report to match up with this photo. Thanks to Sylvi Cragrat for for her (?) skillful Photoshop rendering of the original. I wasn’t considering putting the new Ben Nevis Hut so close to the summit:-))

Climbers, frustrated by the lack of facilities on Ben Nevis will be heartened by the news that national and local ‘quangos’ and self-interest groups have finally cut with the entrenched and minority view of no huts on Ben Nevis and will be visiting Switzerland to take note of best practice, with a view to applying for planning permission at the halfway lochan on Ben Nevis for a long overdue mountain lodge at that location. Many local climbers and walkers fully support this move and see it as a refreshing change in attitude and that their views actually count.

Only one detractor, Avril Wunerbee, the famous lone ‘Tree Hugger’ has threatened to strap herself to the contractors digger, which now stands ready at the climbers North Face car park.

Local Nevis ‘Tree Huggers’ have a plan to avoid congestion and erosion on Ben Nevis.

Artists impression of the new state of the art climbers ‘Bogs’ on Ben Nevis coming shortly!

Hello again,

I was back on the Ben yesterday (29th March) for a return to Scottish conditions -
grey, windy and thick mist although there were the odd spells of blue
skies (usually once I’d finished climbing!). Due to the fresh
snowfall and it’s consistency, I was having occasional problems with
ice being wedged between my front points, something which anti-
balling plates won’t prevent, and which could easily cause the points

I soloed Astral Highway, using the slightly steeper and fatter groove
to the right of the Orion Direct original start. Astral is in really
good condition with solid green ice involving a few steep pulls over
bulges as you exit the top left-hand corner of the Basin. It’s a very
atmospheric route and easily as good as it’s famous neighbour.

I then dropped down Tower Gully and soloed Kellett’s Route, which
felt every inch it’s VI,6 grade. I had spotted a team on Tuesday
tackling it by going up the easier-angled central part of the lower
face but I opted for the original line which takes the right-facing
corner and then breaks out right up an icicle fringe. This is
incomplete just now (or not as complete as I’d like!) so felt very
steep and technical. Continuing straight up, I then moved left and
kept to steep ground rather than enter the funnel, and this in turn
linked onto the Augean Alley finish. This last pitch is not difficult
as such but is on really hollow snow-ice so serious, and meant the
route was sustained throughout.

Well that’s me finished for the winter this year. I’m looking forward
to less psychologically-demanding activities and a long summer!
Thanks Alan for posting my comments and photos, I hope they’ve been
of use to folk, and I wish everyone safe passage in the mountains.

All the best,


Thanks for your contributions Patrick. I hope you keep getting up these climbs early, that way you are not soloing above other climbers. It’s unusual to have people soloing in winter, but when it does happen close to me, I’m not too happy. I was on Orion Face Direct on that murky day, but most certainly not out of bed early enough to see you, even if the mist had cleared!

Gardyloo Buttress from Patrick Roman

This very fine early morning shot by Patrick Roman shows the final pitch on N.E. Buttress above the ‘Forty-Foot’ corner and highlights why getting up really early can give climbers some special trips. The only problem with climbing solo is that you have no partner to supply scale, colour or foreground interest to your shots. However, if as in this shot you use the curve of the crest edge and snow texture to lead the viewer into the shot, it works very well.

Thanks again Patrick for taking the time to supply reports and pictures. I’m sure we are all inspired to get out ourselves.

Hi Alan.

Just like to say a big thank you for the 2 beds at the hut last Thursday night.
Anyway we had a truly superb day on point V. Left the hut at 5am and were first on the route, but only just! Must have been 4 or 5 teams gearing up as we set off up the second pitch. All in all a 5* day, shame we had to leg it back to the car and drive 290 miles home, but with big grins on our faces!!
Fantastic site, helps make the long drive North worth the effort with up to the minute reports.



Yes Psychedelic does look superb just now. Teams on just about everything up there this morning including Simon Richardson and Iain Small on a new route between Riders and Albatross – looked good.

Although things are great up there I think they have peaked! I did Orion this morning which was generally awesome but a tad aerated on the slab rib rising traverse. Also did JP is back right of Burritos – Superb, one of the best IV’s on the Ben – you want to get it in your guide!

Thanks Rob