Ben Nevis and Glencoe Winter Climbing Conditions – Blog

Just back from an awesome week climbing on Ben Nevis, Buachaille Etive Mor and Ben Udlaidh in perfect, alpine conditions.

Conditions on the West are nothing short of fantastic at the moment with fat, solid ice, alpine weather, great views and an abundance of classic routes to climb.

Great sunset North of Bridge of Orchy on Monday Night

Great sunset North of Bridge of Orchy on Monday Night

Last Sunday (17th) I climbed Point Five Gully on Ben Nevis with Kasia. This gave a superb day out in great weather. The ice was a little soft and had a layer of unconsolidated crud over it, particularly on the second pitch, meaning it was good for climbing but not great for protection from ice screws. The week of cold weather we’ve had since then however, will mean that things have now improved on that front. I led the first couple of pitches and Kasia smoothly led the Rogue (3rd) pitch. We then moved together up the top section to be greeted by a calm and sunny summit plateau. The descent down Number 4 Gully is pretty safe at the moment. An awesome day out!!

Kasia leading the Rogue 3rd pitch on Point 5 Gully, Ben Nevis

Kasia leading the Rogue 3rd pitch on Point 5 Gully, Ben Nevis

On Monday 18th Kasia and I enjoyed a fun day on and around Curved ridge on the Buachaille, Glencoe. We soloed the whole thing on ice and neve runnels, and were greeted by great views from the summit. A simple descent and then a superlative sunset that seemed to last for ever, topped off a fantastic weekend 🙂

Kasia enjoying alpine weather, good neve and great views on Curved Ridge on the Buachaille, Glencoe

Kasia enjoying alpine weather, good neve and great views on Curved Ridge on the Buachaille, Glencoe

With the promise of settled weather and the conditions lasting throughout the week I made a return North on Tuesday with Richard Allen. We headed up to Ben Nevis on Wednesday morning (20th). The weather was much colder than it had been at the weekend and a cold breeze was whistling down the Alt a Mhuillin. Extensive cloud cover obscured most of the routes for the day so we opted on avoiding a cold, windy and viewless summit and went for a short day climbing Vanishing Gully. This gave 2 long pitches of excellent ice with good belays and screw runners and an abseil descent. The first ab station is located on the left (skier’s right) at the top of the second pitch and the second is located on the skier’s left at the bottom of the gully. Take care to stop ropes jamming on this one.

Kev enjoying great ice on the crux second pitch of Vanishing Gully, Ben Nevis.

Kev enjoying great ice on the crux second pitch of Vanishing Gully, Ben Nevis.

The next day (Thursday 21st) we headed back up to the Ben for a look. Our plan was to check out Minus One Gully but after the first pitch, lack of ice meant we abseiled back down to scratch our heads and wonder what to do next! Minus One needs a bit of freeze thaw but after that I think it should be fine. At 1.30pm we set off on Orion Direct, a route I’ve done before about 8 years ago. Superb ice and good screws where it mattered saw us top out before 6pm and some lovely clear skies guided us down to Fort Bill for curry and beers! Another outstanding day on the hill!

Richard Allen on Orion Direct, Ben Nevis, just after the Basin.

Richard Allen on Orion Direct, Ben Nevis, just after the Basin.

Rich wasn’t keen for a slog up the Ben 3 days on the trot and as conditions for mixed climbing in Glencoe were not looking that good I was struggling to think of a suitable venue. Last minute however, I got wind that Crowberry Gully on the Buachaille was in good nick, so after a lie in we sauntered up to Crowberry basin and then soloed the first 200 or so metres of the route before sticking a rope on for the last ice walls to the top. A quick ascent saw us on the summit for lunch and in the pub for chips and beers for mid afternoon.
Crowberry Gully is by far the best grade 4 gully I have climbed in Scotland and not to be missed in these conditions.

Kev enjoying great conditions on Crowberry Gully.

Kev enjoying great conditions on Crowberry Gully.

Unfortunately Saturday had to see us head South once but an early start and a bit of a punt saw us head up Glen Orchy where we walked up to Ben Udlaidh and climbed the excellent Organ Pipe Wall which was in good but fragile condition. Pete and Ewan climbed Quartzvein Scoop, commenting that the bottom was a little rotten but very good after that. Many of the other routes, Peter Pan etc, are there and complete but could do with a few days more cold weather to build up.

No it's not Cogne! Richard Allen leading the steep pitch on Organ Pipe Wall, Ben Udlaidh, Southern Highlands.

No it’s not Cogne! Richard Allen leading the steep pitch on Organ Pipe Wall, Ben Udlaidh, Southern Highlands.

So, all in all a fantastic week in Scotland showing that when it’s good up there, it really is the best! I’m already looking forward to next weekend’s trip 🙂

Be sure to check out the mountain weather forecasts and avalanche reports before any trip out into the hills.

Safe climbing folks!

Kev Avery

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