Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Winter returns

Up to a week ago i was enjoying a well earned rest as the freezing level was way way above the tops and the rain was beating the window... however the vagaries of the North Atlantic weather systems have given us a bit of an Indian Winter (if that isn't a tautology!).
Iv'e been ice climbing on Ben Nevis this past few days re visiting some of the classics. Interestingly the upper sections of many routes such as those on the Orion face as more featured than normal, giving more interesting climbing rather than the usual bank out to the top. This is probably because of the sustained period of cold earlier in the season has resulted in the snow sluffing off these features and not sticking and filling them in.
There have been many teams on Smiths, Point 5, Zero, Slav, Orion Direct, Tower ridge, Comb gully, etc. Basically all the classics. There are reports of ascents on the Indicator wall area but as i haven't seen this bit of the mountain i can't confirm anything. The climbing is very good for axe and crampons but not great for ice screws i.e. it is difficult to fall off and that is defiantly best avoided. Stating the bleeding obvious? Probably.
I left the CIC hut yesterday and as we got back to the car in the evening the weather was just beginning to deteriorate. Here in Conon Bridge (North of Inverness) it is snowing/sleeting heavily and has been all day on a very strong wind. No doubt this will give us an extension to the mixed climbing possibilities. Indeed, the Cairngorms whilst chocked with snow have had black buttresses for a while now.
I noted windslab on several different aspects on the Ben, including the crag aprons. This was often localised depositions due to regional winds but some of it slid and cracked very easily. This will most probably be something to be very aware of during and after the current weather event that is happening now.

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