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I was out with friends Kris & Piers today, on Ben Nevis. We walked in with more wind and rain than forecasted, and so thought better than to try Castle Ridge, particularly as the fresh winds were swirling in from the north at times. The recent thaw has taken it’s toll on mid height routes, with The Curtain now completely gone.
With soft, wet snow across the mountain, we opted for Ledge Route, which gave a nice snow covered ridge, which improved with height, but it was still just above freezing as we approached the summit of Carn Dearg. We topped out in the clouds, which cleared rather dramatically as we descended, giving views to the summits. Still plenty of snow (and cornices) up high!
Whilst Ken was working with team mates from Lochaber Mountain Rescue I (Hannah) have busy been working for Peak Mountaineering running a 3 day winter skills course. We hit jackpot with the weather and were treated to some stunning views which left the participants breathless and absolutely inspired!
On day one we made the most of the Aonach Mor up lift and spent the day around the Nid Ridge area covering winter skills such as; using the boot as a tool, step cutting with an axe, walking in crampons and avalanche awareness. Day 2 saw us head up to Buachaille Etive Beag where we practiced ice axe arrest and also dug a selection of awesome shelters and discussed the benefits and disadvantages of each of them. For our final day we went on a great journey putting new found skills into practice and explored the ridge leading West from the Devils Staircase in Glencoe.
It’s been a great 3 days and many jokes have been shared, some of which should never be repeated! Thanks for the company Jenny, Mark, Steve, Angie and Andy.
I was back on Ben Nevis today, with Matt, this time working for West Coast Mountain Guides. There had been a good 2 or so inches of fresh snow overnight, covering up any tracks from yesterday, but fortunately for us, a team from the CIC Hut, heading for Tower Ridge had kindly started early. When I last climbed Tower Ridge, back on New Year’s Day, I thought that there was a lot of snow then, but actually, it was a mere dusting in comparison to now, the ridge now resembles The Kuffner Ridge on Mont Maudit!
The initial chimney pitch, out of the Douglas Gap is in great condition at the moment, with plenty of useful ice, but is about 2/3 of it’s normal height! Matt shot up the ridge, and with the (mostly) useful consolidating snow, we made good time up to the Eastern Traverse, which needless to say was quite banked out. We caught up with the team in front, which meant we could finally see a pristine, untouched crest of snow stretching out towards Tower Gap, and up to the final exit gully.
The summit of Ben Nevis was in the cloud as we topped out, so we had to navigate to find the Red Burn, down which we were able to bum-slide all the way to the mountain path, which needless to say was great fun! The final photo is of Ben Nevis in all it’s glory, as I was driving back home this afternoon.
Few more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/AppleMountaineering/posts/829984803683236
Today was the final day of three days with some of the team members from Lochaber Mountain Rescue, working for Alpha Mountaineering. I was out with Tom, who had not climbed on the Douglas boulder before, and so along with further fresh snow making travel higher on the mountain very tough going, it made sense to head back there again. I was in two minds, as to whether to try the East Ridge, which looks ok, or to climb the South West Ridge, which I know is a good climb, and with Nick climbing with Colin and Matt up there, we opted for a social day on the SW Ridge.
The snow had consolidated a bit since my last visit, particular higher up the ridge, giving better placements for tools. Tom seemed to enjoy himself, and flew up the three pitches. On topping out, we abseiled down the East Gully.
It was a relatively quiet day on the mountain, with teams on Slingsby’s Chimney and NE Buttress, Observatory Ridge, a few other teams behind us, two teams on the Curtain, and one team on Route 1. Things seem to be settling down, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Minus 3 Gully was now climbable, and the ice seems to be forming on the higher face routes, although getting to them could still be the crux.
It’s been a great three days with the team, and I’ve found being out with such dedicated folk hugely inspirational, and I’ve certainly benefited from their company, thanks to Jon and Emma for organising the days.
For day 2 with Lochaber MRT (working for Alpha Mountianeering), I was out with Jon and Ninian, and we ventured round to the West Face of Aonach Mor. Quite a few other people had similar plans, so I thought it might be worth going for something a little less obvious: Solitaire, with Combination Start. The true combination start was a combination of soft snow and useless ice, so I climbed a pitch of about IV,4 between it and the normal start, giving a delicate yet enjoyable pitch, before rejoining the route proper.
As with most of the routes on the West Face, there’s plenty of scope for variation, and so overall, we took in ground at about grade III with a couple of harder moves thrown in, but there’s always a need to move efficiently in order to be back at the gondola station in time. Conditions improved with height, and we topped out in good time, with the sun beating down on us.
March 9th, 2014
March 4th, 2014
March 3rd, 2014
March 2nd, 2014
March 1st, 2014