Archive for February, 2008

Plenty Snow

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

This last week has been extremely mixed with awful wind, rain and blizzards at times. However, it has been very wintry and cold on the climbing areas. Today one team came back from Number Three Gully Buttress and said it was very good. Beware of avalanche hazard though. The fine collection below is from a group of French Guides. Merci.

Thanks Remi

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Hello Alan, hello Robin,

Just to say thank you to both of you, for the accommodation in Fort Williams, the ride to the head of the trail, and of course for CIC Hut.

Our trip was OK, with very good weather at the beginning and awful conditions at the end with rain up to the top of Ben Nevis.

Everybody was happy and enjoyed the hut. When we left the hut there was nobody inside. We took down rubbish that precedent groups had hidden behind some stuff in the entrance. When we arrived on the Sunday at noon, we left our packs inside the hut and went climbing except on client. He reported us that someone from a precedent group was very mad at us because we were not supposed to get inside the hut before 16 PM. I apologize if we did wrong.

Once again I loved Ben Nevis and would be happy to come back again next year.

With my clients, we could climb the following routes :

Sunday : up to the hut, Indicator Wall.
Monday : Green Gully, down No 4, The White Line, down No 2, Comb Gully Buttress
Tuesday : Observatory Ridge, down Tower Gully, Satanic Verses
Wednesday : The Cascade Expert Choice, down No 4, Creag Coire na Ciste Central Gully, down No 2, Comb Gully
Thursday : Very bad weather, heavy rains and strong wind
Friday : same weather, not so easy to cross the river to come down !

Remi Laborde and Christian Ravier climbed with their groups Garyloo, Point Five, Smith’s Route, Tower Ridge, two routes on Little Brenva, Green gully.

I particularly loved Observatory Ridge, such a nice route, very complete, always different, with great ambiance. Satanic Verses was poor on ice on top, we had a difficult passage for the arms and spirit on the upper part !

I send you some pictures if you wish for the blog.

Many pictures of the Pyrenees and the conditions in the mountains on my blog

Thanks, wish you to have a good time on the mountains.


Monday 18th. Climbers going down

Tuesday 19th. Climbers on Point Five, from Observatory Ridge

Monday 18th. Guillaume Le Pape, Green Gully

Sunday 17th. Laurent Richard, Indicator Wall

Wednesday 20th. Guillaume Le Pape. Comb Gully

Monday 18th. On top of Green Gully

Tuesday 19th. Happy Laurent Richard, Observatory Ridge right end

Alain Raymond and Guillaume Le Pape, Observatory Ridge right end

Tuesday 19th. Laurent Richard, Observatory Ridge right end

Wednesday 20th. Laurent Richard and Guillaume Le Pape. The Cascade, Expert Choice

Tuesday 19th. Guillaume Le Pape. Satanic Verses

Tuesday 19th. Remi Thivel. Satanic Verses

Wednesday 20th. Guillaume Le Pape. Creag Coire na Ciste. Central Gully

Thursday 21st. Wet and windy !

Thursday 21st. Big river from the hut

Gales – Rain – Blizzards – Great Stuff!

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Thanks to Andy Ravenhill of Alba Mountaineering again for for this collection below taken on Ben Nevis yesterday. The team managed to stagger up into Coire na Ciste before having to retreat in the teeth of increasingly serious gales.

Now that the high pressure has moved away, some very wintry and unsettled storms are cruising through from the west and north-west. Whilst this is pretty unpleasant, it is depositing large amounts of wet ice and snow on the Scottish hills. This in turn will hopefully add to good conditions when the storms die down.

Many teams have been coming back with tales of avalanches and almost unbearable winds, so route selection is key. Unfortunately the ridges are no fine place to be in strong winds just now. The Ice Factor is doing a roaring trade.

Wintry and unsettled on the way

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Today, Summit Gully on Stob Coire nam Beith – Glen Coe was in good shape. Also The Little Brenva Face from Danny Goodwin

Yesterday was a great day out. I climbed Gardyloo Gully with Jonny. The snow all the way up Observatory Gully was brick-hard. Some hopeful teams were fighting their way up a very sparse-looking Point Five Gully. The large French team staying in the CIC Hut were out early on Observatory Ridge, then traversing over to the upper ice falls above Hadrian’s Direct. The first pitch of Hadrian’s is certainly a very mixed (impossible?) proposition.

Thanks to Bren Whelan for this picture of ..’Yours Truly’.. topping out on Gardyloo Gully yesterday!

Alan Kimber on Gardyloo Gully

Tower Scoop needed a toll-booth at the start with crowds of people. Good Friday was busy and some blocks the size of large microwaves were being jettisoned from Psychedelic Wall. Fortunately they were poor ‘shots’ and nobody was in Observatory Gully at the time.

Gardyloo Buttress (Smith’s) was busy and looked good and steep. Satanic Verses and other variations on the side wall of Gardyloo Gully were also occupied. Many teams were ‘topping out’ of Corrie na Ciste routes.

Gardyloo Gully has a wonderful tube cut up under the chockstone, which is actually quite awkward, especially with a rucsac on. The route is probably only grade II ish at the moment. The high pressure which has been supplying settled conditions is set to move over and allow more unsettled weather move in, so that should bring some more snow to the high hills hopefully.

I’m reminded of the winter 1989, when by mid-February the only snow of any note was halfway up Observatory Gully and very few routes were in good shape. On 23rd April that year I climbed Point Five Gully, Zero Gully and Orion Face all in one day, so don’t be too disconsolate with the current thin conditions!

Corrie na Ciste - Ben Nevis
Red Deer browsing at the Half-way-Lochan

Popping out of the tunnel on Gardyloo Gully – Grade II

Thin climbing on Psychedelic Wall

Hanging out on Satanic Verses

Approaching the chockstone on Gardyloo Gully.

Ben Nevis summit area
Fine on top of Ben Nevis.

Satanic Verses
Satanic Verses


Here are a couple of pictures which I hope may be of interest – being sent during my annual trip up North from Bournemouth, rather than the week after for once. Oh the wonders of technology.

The view of Creagh Meaghaidh was taken yesterday and gives an indication of cover and the one on the Ben was taken during the spectacular conditions today(19th Feb). Why can’t every day be like this?

Thanks for the Blog.


Dear Alan- Just a brief note to thank you for arranging our recent climbing in FW. Julie and I had a great time and no doubt will be back! Adam Hughes was a great guy and we felt very well looked after under his guidance. Would you kindly pass on our thanks to him. The trip up Ledge route on that wonderful fine day was spectacular.

Hope all goes well.

Best wishes

Mike & Julie

Loose Rocks are a Danger – Unlike Arsenal FC

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Now the wind has gone around to the west, we are experiencing damp and cloudy conditions, but not too much wind and rain thankfully. Many parties are reporting problems with rockfall, which is unusual for this time of the year. In the main it is being caused by climbers not showing enough care and because of the limited amounts of routes available, crowds have been forming on some of the routes which remain with snow and ice.

Take care and avoid the crowds if you can. Teams are still reporting some ice on the routes at the top of Observatory Gully and in the Cascade area. The ridges are much safer, but some have been stripped of snow, especially low down.

Apologies to all (?) you Arsenal fans out there, but I could not avoid just popping this one in. I agree that Manutd were awful the previous weekend, so easy come easy go. No offense meant really!

Thanks to Mark Hockey
Hi mate – I told Anny that Arsenal were wasting their time with ‘the walk in’ and have since been proved correct. Business (photography/climbing) is also progressing nicely – just seen your website photos of Smiths and Psycy wall- looking as good as Nani’s 11 Keepy up’ys – in the 2nd half when Arsenal went from tatters to erm you know. Hope you like this image taken on the Point on 8/3/99 of a leader on Hadrian’s. Do you Know a guy/climber called Paul Thorburn who I met briefly that same day on the summit. I have a photography exhibition soon 26/2 and hope to be on the road north shortly after – I’ll know exactly what the conditions/weather will be like thanks to your excellent site. I enjoyed the Gardyloo report – you mentioned something about crampons and a ski pole or two/lack of map and probably an Arsenal scarf!! regards Mark and Ann

Mark Hockey

It was baking on Ilkley Moor last Saturday – thank god for indicator Wall area and that Gritstone don’t melt (unlike Arsenal)

Thanks to Andy Ravenhill of Alba Mountaineering again for for the first three images below taken on Ben Nevis today.

Today on the ice streaks to the left of Cascade in the area of the start to Raeburn’s Easy Route.

Cascade looking good with frosting and blue skies higher up the hill.

The thin and broken start to Glover’s Chimney below.

Knackered on the ‘night-shift’ last night after climbing Smith’s Route on Gardyloo Buttress (Photo Jonny Allen). All other images below on this date are taken by Jonny Allen. Thanks Jonny.

Thin conditions looking into Point Five Gully. It was climbed today by all accounts. Brave souls!

Thank goodness for headtorches on Smith’s Route last night.

More detail of Point Five Gully yesterday. Looking rotten!

First pitch on Smith’s Route yesterday.

Tower Scoop yesterday. Thanks to Jonny Allen for this selection of shots from yesterday.

A French Bonanza

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Just in case all you ice climbers are considering what is possible at the moment, this little series of shots provided by Julien Desecures should give food for thought! Julien is staying with us this week with his friend Arnaud Guillaume and they seem attracted to the top of Observatory Gully.

Of interest is that the ice has become more brittle as the last week has progressed, no doubt due to the really low temperatures. Julien felt the ice was more friendly at the start of the week!

Satanic VersesSatanic Verses

Satanic Verses

Psychedelic WallPsychedelic Wall

Today, one walker decided on a direct route to the summit, only to find themselves beneath the chockstone in Gardyloo Gully with only a ski pole and crampons for security. Thank you to the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team

Thin on Psychedelic Wall, but still enough for plenty of action.

Psychedelic WallPsychedelic Wall

Julien and Arnaud on a day away from the top of the ‘Ben’ at Castle Tioram.

Albatross looking thin and mixed
Albatross a little different from last winter when we all felt brave enough to venture onto it with ‘thick’ ice.

Top pitches of AlbatrossAlbatross finishing pitches.

Smith's Route on Gardyloo ButtressSmith’s Route on Gardyloo Buttress without the icicle pitch.

Happy summit

Happy Arnaud.

Alpine Conditions on Ben Nevis

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

One team came back to the bunkhouse tonight reporting ideal alpine conditions on Observatory Buttress. Good dry and warm(?) rock low down and bomb-proof neve on the top sections, where they moved together the whole way. Quick enough to descend and climb some grade IV ice in the Raeburn’s Easy Route area, maybe to the right of Upper Cascade. Cascade was getting a lot of attention also. A fine day on the hill.

Still Cloudless and Frosty

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Same as yesterday really. I have a couple of French Guides staying with me and they are keen to go east. Any ideas on Meagaidh and Cairngorms and Lochnagar conditions??

They seem to be doing okay over on the west coast and came back today after climbing Indicator Wall and Satanic Verses, thin by all accounts. The same was reported by a team succeeding on Green Gully, which turned out to be ‘mixed’ in places. Plenty of ropes out on Tower Ridge having a high time rock climbing with little need for axes.

Fine weather all week – BUT

Monday, February 11th, 2008

The recent wet and mild weather has played havoc with the substantial amounts of snow which fell in late January and early February. Currently the conditions are similar to April with all the big easy gullies and some thin ice routes complete on Ben Nevis.

Smith’s Route, Shot in the Dark, Cascade, Number Three Gully Buttress, Tower Scoop and Number Two Gully amongst others were all climbed today.

Thanks to David Haygarth for these first three shots taken on Number Three Gully Buttress yesterday. They actually placed some ice screws, so it can’t all be bad!

Hi Alan,
Another brilliant weekend in the winter climbing capital of the UK. Saturday David Haygarth took Gavin and I up Dorsal Arete having first located it in the low cloud. It seemed a popular choice for the day as several other ropes were on the route. Conditions were slightly different to when I last climbed it two years ago in sun and frost but it was good to have variety of weather. Just one scarey moment when a large block detached from just behind our belay stance and skidded off into Broad Gully fortunately missing parties below. The Fin was just as exciting as last time and after topping out this was followed by an interesting descent of Broad Gully.
On Sunday David took us to No.3 Gully Buttress on Ben Nevis which again took some finding in the low cloud. We shared the route with one of David’s colleagues Theo and her two clients. An excellent route with some ice still on it and an exciting short rock traverse crux towards the top of the route followed by a top out up a snow ramp into sunshine on the plateau and an amazing view down onto a sea of cloud and the surrounding hills.
Pass on our thanks to David for us who we can thoroughly recommend to anyone wanting instruction.

Jon and Gavin.

The series if shots below show Ben Nevis early this morning, with clear skies and a hard frost to sea-level last night.

North Face looking a little black just now.

A distant shot with the 500mm lens shows lots of ice ‘weeps’ in all the usual places such as Cascade and Gardyloo Buttress. I cannot vouch for the quality of the ice, and the mild daytime temperatures may reduce it’s stability a little. I have teams out on Number Three Gully Buttress and Number Two Gully today. So maybe some good reports back this evening.

An early start to make the most of the night time frosts is recommended.

Cairngorm plays a Trump Card

Thursday, February 7th, 2008


Another blustery and wet week in the Highlands, but I thought you might like this pic’ of “plateau navigation action” yesterday! Proof, if we needed it that when Scotland is good, there’s nothing quite like it.

Be good,


Thanks Colin,

Seems as though a lot of this snow has gone just for a while.

One of our groups decided to head to the leisurely flesh-pots of the Northern Corries today. On arrival all the ‘locals’ were drinking coffee in the cafeteria at the car-park, due to the very strong wind and a lack of MF.

However, not to be deterred and on the principle that it is always worth a ‘wee look’ they struggled up the short approach and into Sneachda to be greeted by solitude, blue sky, no wind and The Runnell with brick-hard snow, and no cornice due to the scouring which has taken place recently. Once on the windless plateau they strolled off over the grassy hummocks and back down. A great day, but not a lot of pictures to go with it.