Just back from another great weekend of winter climbing on Ben Nevis and in Stob Coire Nan Lochan, Glencoe. Still plenty of ice around!
I headed up to Fort William with Kasia on Friday evening. The forecast was a little mild and drizzly with a freezing level above the summits on both days and nothing of the beautiful alpine weather weather we’d enjoyed a couple of weeks ago, but I knew that the Ben would still be in cracking shape in terms of ice.
We headed up to climb Observatory Buttress on Saturday and after a damp approach…definitely a hardshell day…we started climbing behind a couple of teams already on the route. Kasia led the first pitch, a thin groove, not well protected but with nice chewy ice. I led the second and third pitches. The second gave the crux with a long section of thinner slabby climbing leading to a steepening finale to pull over onto a spindrift pounded belay! The third pitch (described as the crux in the guide) was straight forward apart from the constant spindrift pouring down the chimney! We then swung leads up nice icy steps and grooves on the direct finish, to arrive at a damp summit plateau.
Observatory Buttress is a fantastic long ice climb and although the guide calls it low in the grade, I would say that in it’s present condition it is one of the trickier grade 5s I’ve climbed on the Ben, with some pretty steep ice on pitch 2.
We saw other teams climbing Minus One and Minus Two, Orion, Zero, Point 5 as well as Hadrian’s Wall and Tower Ridge.
Sunday was a similarly damp day, so we opted for a lazy morning and then set off on the walk up to Stob Coire Nan Lochan in Glencoe. The coire was still holding plenty of snow and all the classic gully lines were complete and had teams in them. We opted for a quick romp up the classic Dorsal Arete which provided a fun outing before heading back down for dinner in the valley and the long drive back south.
Hopefully the colder temperatures forecast for the next day or 2 will help things firm up and fingers crossed for a bit more winter action to come yet!
Safe climbing folks!