Winter Back With Thigh Deep Fresh Snow
Posted by Max Hunter on 04th February, 2017
Working for West Coast mountain Guides.
I met up with Stephen and Jardine early this morning, ready to get on the 8am Gondola – the plan was to go and do Golden Oldy. However, the kit check revealed that one of them had forgotten his crampons – so we had to wave goodbye to the early doors Gondola and go back to town for a set of spikes. We didn’t want to wait for the next Gondola which was 9.30am, so we headed up onto Ben Nevis with the plan to do Ledge Route. It was immediately apparent how much snow had fallen since sunset yesterday – wow. I decided that it was safe to nip through the Number 5 Gully approach and get onto Ledge Route. The photos show how this slab has changed over the last 24hrs. The ice on the slab from Wednesday has gone, and the slab is now covered in unhelpful snow – which makes you feel like you’re climbing blind!
The guys are prepping for a winter ascent of Tower Ridge, and this was their first winter climb. We covered ropework, belaying, belay deconstruction, communication and how to be a competent second in the winter. At the top the wind had picked up, and it was time to get off. When we got to Number 4 Gully, it was tempting to nip into the gully to escape the wind, but upon self-belayed inspection it became blatantly obvious that it was a gully to be treated with respect and left alone – there were now overhanging cornices made of delicate unconsolidated snow and the scarp slopes were heavily loaded. Yesterday at the top of Number 4 we took crampons off and went over to the path – today we had crampons on and waded though sometimes thigh deep snow into the Red Burn. When the snow became too shallow, we ducked over to the path at corner 4. We left crampons on all the way to the waterfall. Even the path alongside the half way lochan had knee deep drifts!
I think we dodged a bullet by avoiding the wade fest that would have been Golden Oldy today, and the Gondola closed early anyway.
My plans for tomorrow mostly consist of avoiding avalanche prone gullies, slopes, terrain traps or delicate cornices!