Scottish Winter conditions report 22/02/15

I’m up in Scotland at the minute getting ready for my BMG Winter Induction next weekend, so here’s a quick conditions write-up of what I’ve found the last few days. Tuesday 17th February- This was my first day out on the tools in Scotland this winter and unfortunately coincided with the end of the recent spell of very good conditions and the beginning of a big thaw. I joined John Crook and Bruno Yates and went and climbed ‘Italian Right-Hand’ route (IV,4) on Ben Nevis and after an abseil descent from the end of the difficulties (in-situ rap point), a very damp ‘The Curtain’ (IV,5) before running away to begin a big drying mission back in Fort William. Both routes were in really good condition if a little on the soft side by the time we were lower down the mountain on The Curtain. By the time we left it was raining at all but the highest levels. Friday 20th February- On Friday I teamed up with John Crook again with Iain Gallagher and headed up to climb ‘Tower Face of the Comb’ (VI,6). The bad weather of the previous two days had resulted in a lot of fresh snow and it took a fair wade to reach the base of the route. The route was in great nick with ice and well frozen turf in all the right places and with the forecasted heavy snow showers and a bit of wind it made for a classic ‘Ben’ day out. We topped out just as it was getting dark and got a chance to practice some nav in our descent down the side of the Red Burn and back around to the North side of the mountain. The ice up high all looked to still be in good condition from what we could see and appears to have survived the thaw of a couple of days ago well.

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Team keen walking in with the CIC hut in the background

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Approaching the Comb

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DEEP snow!

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Myself setting off on the crux pitch

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Spindrift

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John and Iain following the crux pitch

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John setting off on the second to last pitch

Saturday 21st February- After such a great day out on the Friday we were keen to get out again and see what else we could get done. Me and John headed back up this time with John Orr and jumped on ‘Route 1’ (VI,6) on Carn Dearg Buttress with the variation start. Like all the other routes we had done this was another 3 star line, why bother doing anything less when conditions are good on Ben Nevis? There are more than enough to choose from! Even more snow had dropped down to around 250m in the night and this made for a very snowy approach. The route itself was again in good condition however there was a very definite thaw towards the end of the day. As forecasted the winds dropped off in the afternoon and we were treated to a very calm walkout with amazing views of the North Face. Another great day out. What a mountain!

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John Crook on the third pitch. This is the first of the chimney pitches

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A very alpine looking Ben Nevis North Face

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John Orr on the first variation pitch

IMG_0284 So a good last couple of days out. With more fresh snow on strong West to South West winds today and a High Avalanche forecast for North – North East aspects around higher locations in Lochaber / Glencoe, careful route selection will be essential over the next couple of days. Have fun out there and stay safe! Dave.

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