UPDATE July 2015: Ken and Hannah are now running Scottish walking, mountaineering and climbing courses for West Coast Mountain Guides.
Over the past couple of days, I’ve been working for Hebridean Pursuits, and out with Shane and Tom, two Kiwis living in London. They wanted to get stuck into some winter mountaineering routes that would challenge them, so plan a for Friday was No.2 Gully on Ben Nevis.
However, plan a wasn’t too be, as despite the snow pack having stabilised, it was still very soft, and as we drew level with the (well buried) start of Comb Gully Buttress, it became quite clear that progress was going to be very time and energy consuming. So, one huge bumslide down into Coire na Ciste, and a quick traverse of Moonlight Gully Buttress and No.5 Gully later saw us on Ledge Route instead. The snow on Ledge Route was of far better quality, so both Shane and Tom found it quite straight forward, but really appreciated getting back to grips with moving around with crampons on again. We topped out and made our way round to the summit in quite low visibility, before descending the Red Burn.
Having had a great introduction to Scottish winter mountaineering yesterday, Shane and Tom were ready for something a bit more challenging, so we jumped on the climber’s gondola at Nevis Range (one of only two teams!), and made our way round to Golden Oldie on the West Face or Aonach Mor. The current thaw has stripped a fair bit of snow, particularly lower down, giving it an alpine character (the climbing, not the weather!)
, but with plenty of snow higher up, the route lived up to their expectations. So, a great Easter hit for Shane and Tom, and amazingly, we’ve only come across one other team climbing the same route as us over the two days.
As to winter conditions for the forthcoming week, it’s a bit tricky to say. There is a high pressure system set to move in, however, it also looks like it could be cloudy, which will limit that all important night time heat loss.