Mountain Motion

Winter climbing and ice climbing courses across Scotland, Ben nevis, Glencoe and the Skye Cuillin ridge

Ben Nevis Conditions

Ben Nevis winter climbing conditions 2015 - 2016

Hi all, I will start to update this page once we have some winter on Ben nevis. Some of last years stuff is below but I will get rid of this once I start this years conditions.

Being in a unique position of living in view of the North face and also working day in and out on the Ben I will update this page with pictures and what the local weather has been doing. This is separate from my usual blog and will focus solely on Ben nevis.

I will of course post up pictures of the crags and ice conditions when I am on Ben nevis for the day.

I know the North Face of Ben nevis better than most so can give sound advice and comment on what the conditions are doing. I have been around living and working here in Fort William more than most other self publicised bloggers (Alan K and Mike P excepted), and national Centres quite often ring me up to find out what conditions are like.... so I know the mountain well.

There is also an updated graph of temperatures at around 1000m which helps work out what is going on.

Regards

Richard

Temperature graph for 1100m

This graph gives latest temperatures on Aonach Mor at around 1000m. This is a good indicator of what the temperature history has been for the bottom of the main crags around the North Face of Ben nevis.

Temp graph not available at the moment.

 

12th Feb 2015

At last.... I have found my Camera so reports can resume!

After a few days of thaw and strange temps with freezing levels above the summit. It has cooled down the past 24hrs with some wind movement alleviating the inversion temperature madness we've been having. Definitly freezing above around 1000m today.

Superb ice conditions with everything still fat including the Shroud. Compression cracks looked excellent. Gemini still there but the rock too black really for the shield. Plenty of teams on Mega route X which looks a fairly friendly V at the moment. Higher up lots of ice although some thin face routes are not quite there yet such as Rubicon wall area and Observatory buttress Original. Vade Mecum looks great and never has anyone on it!

Teams on the minus gullies and faces. -3 was probably quite thin getting out of the cave.

Indicator & right hand looked good, and Psychedelic looked fine as well. Other routes on indicator wall need some more ice.

A bizarre queue at the bottom of Tower Scoop. Insane, with all this great ice to go at??

Weather is hard to call for the next few weeks with it maybe warming up back end of Feb. Superb at the moment though so if you have the chance get up there.

Looking up to the Shroud across to Compression.

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The big faces in the morning sun.

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On mega route X.

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Hadrians and Point 5

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Looking up Observatory.

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Strange Queue at the bottom of Tower Scoop?

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26th Jan 2015

Sorry for the delay. Back from Norway now and have been Winter ML'ing for the past week.

Currently Ben nevis is in great shape with lots of ice. Most folk are climbing the lowish routes but all routes are in. Folk on Gemini and the shield today although both looked thinnish in the upper sections. High up there is lots of ice with even Upper cascade and panther rose looking ok. Hard going to get to the upper routes at the moment as the snow still needs another 24hrs to become totally weight bearing. We abed into No4 gully looking to descend it today, this is ok to access by the South edge, but I decided against it in the end as there was quite a bit of slab building up in the strong winds. the cornices have refrozen and are stable.

Conditions update 28th Dec 2014

No real change on the mountain from yesterday. The Curtain is a bit better at the bottom and now just about climbable (delicately!), Mega route X would go if you were careful with the bottom.

Otherwise, great high ice route conditions including cascades which looks fun.

Saturday 27th December 2014

A really nice day on the mountain today. The cold weather the last few days has helped ice high up, but not much growth on the lower routes. A few teams on Green Gully today and one team had a sniff at the Curtain but the bottom slab is not really there. The Curtain is doable if you get onto it it from the side on the Curtain rail.

Other high routes that look good are Glovers chimney, The white line, No2 Gully buttress, Comb should be ok, Green looked fine if a little thin in the first pitch. Some nice ice to the right on the slabs of Tramp / Diana. The Ciste crag gullies are good. Further round Hadrians and the Point looked ok, but I am not sure about the rouge pitch on the point, seemed to look a little thin from afar. Higher up, Smiths and Indicator will be fine.

The lower routes like vanishing and italian climb are too thin at the moment.

The descent back to the hut is interesting at the moment. Some monster cornices over No4 Gully although you can get in from the South side. Also have a look at the photo of the slump line over No5. Easiest way at the moment is down to Corrie Leis. Alternatively descend Ledge route which is in nice snowy condition.

Looking across to No3 Gully Buttress, Lots of folk on Green Gully!

Green gully on Ben Nevis

Glovers and the White line looking good.

Glovers chimney Ben Nevis

Slump lines at the top of No5

Mountain motion Ben Nevis winter conditions

Huge cornices hanging over No4 (Pretty stable at the moment but..?)

Ben Nevis winter climbing Mountain Motion

Looking up to the Brenva face, some nice ice around.

Winyter mountaineering courses on Ben Nevis

Looking to the bottom of Point5 / Hadrians.

Climb point5 gully with Mountain Motion

 

 

Tuesday 23rd December 2014

Well, it just shows what a resilient wee beauty Ben Nevis is. After the huge thaw on Sunday she has snapped back in nicely. I climbed Tower ridge today and it was in great condition. Check out the picture of the neve in the blog.

Smiths and Indicator wall direct got climbed today as well by Robin and Uisdean. There is plenty of good ice high on the mountain. With a big pair of cohina's you could have got up Hadrians today.

Another team headed up Observatory gully but not sure what they were on.

The routes high in the ciste were good, with the ciste crags having some ice and the central gullies looked fine. All in all good and with cold conditions and no sign of a thaw for the next few days climbing over Christmas should be good on Ben Nevis.

Looking across to Hadrians and Point 5

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A close up of the ice building on Hadrians

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Looking across to Indicator wall, with psychedelic almost there!

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Monday 15th Dec. Winter climbing conditions going the right direction

Ben Nevis is in great shape with ice routes coming in quickly. After the thaw of Sunday the cold temps and snow showers are building the routes nicely. Things like Lobby Dancer are almost there and Meg route X will be thin but there in a few days. Mixed conditions are good but we could do with another thaw and then big freeze to give some useable neve. 

It looks like we will get this Wednesday into Thursday and then a big cool down again. So conditions should be great for the weekend, with many high up routes in fine condition. Things like two-step corner and the central gullies on the ciste will be good. Access will be fine if the snow freezes up enough not to have a breakable crust. Also the cornices need to refreeze and we need to see what the avalanche boys say about condition.

However. a ridge of high pressure does run over us sometime this weekend so if you can time it right you could get some amazing early season scottish winter climbing in.

Looking up to Carn Dearg and Trident

December scottish winter climbing conditions Ben Nevis

Looking up to the Comb and No3 Gully buttress

Ben Nevis Dec scottish climbing conditions

Looking across to the Boulder and beyond

December winter climbing conditions scotland

 

Fri 12th Dec. Scottish winter conditions ..oh yes.

A couple of pictures of the Ben from today. A lot of verglas and ice choked cracks making the climbing difficult. Things are definitely in but they fairly tricky at the moment. Gear is hard to come by and there is a lot of snow around as well.

Ice is forming fast and if the cold weather continues with a couple of temp cycles then there will be some good ice to be had in a week or so.

For what I was up to today have a look at the blog. Ken and I are heading back up tomorrow to do something a bit more classic!, so will put up more piccies tomorrow.

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Below, an idea of what the crags are like at around 900m

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Fri 5th Dec Winter climbing conditions starting to shape up

A picture of the Ben below. constant dustings of snow coming in now and as can be seen from the chart above, temperatures cold for the last couple of days. More snow over the weekend forecast with a temperature cycle on Sat then cold on Sunday. Quite wild and windy though.

The day to get out looks like next Monday which should give great conditions. I'm lucky enough to be off then so I'll be out playing and will put a report in then.

Lots more snow and temperature cycles and storms next week so the routes will come in fast over the next week or so. Certainly the weather looks more concentrated on the west so I would expect the west to have the best of the early season conditions over the next couple of weeks. Watch this space!

Ben Nevis today

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Winter begins.. At last

A decent dusting on the tops today, but more importantly, the forecast looks like it should now stick around. The pictures below are probably slightly flattering concerning actual snow cover!

Even more importantly, the weather next week looks set to bring in North Westerly storm cycles which will start to build some proper snow on the hills here in Lochaber, above around 700m.

Ben Nevis snow today

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Glencoe, Bidean and SCNL

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Sgurr a Mhaim in Glen Nevis

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Wed 26th Feb (LAST YEARS CONDITIONS)

Mild on the mountain with no re-freeze yet. We are waiting for the colder temperatures to set everything up, but its not happening at the moment. There was a soggy French team that retreated from NE buttress complaining of soft, unconsolidated snow today. Several teams on the boulder. One team at the summit said it was not even freezing there.

Potentially much colder into next week, but it may come with more significant snow?

Looking across to the Boulder.

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Carn Dearg, with Gemini trying to re-form.

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Monday 24th Feb

Well, the avalanche boys got it perhaps slightly wrong today. There were several large scale natural avalanches on Ben Nevis today and the mountain has still not settled down despite the last two- three days of thaw and rain. This is probably because the freezing level needs to drop significantly to help stabilise the upper mountain. Large soft cornices were building on fresh winds this afternoon and these will continue to form through the next 24 - 48 hrs judging by the forecast. This is all hanging above soft wet slab on the upper scarp slopes of the mountain.We witnessed one very large avalanche, the biggest I have seen in that location, coming down from cascades / No2 area today.

We were trying to find some safe ice to play on, Rien na pas plus was ok but drippy and there was some ice around the area of Mega route X. The thaw has stripped the Shroud, Gemini looks to have disappeared at the slab and the curtain first pitch looks very thin / wet snow.

Best stick to ridges and buttresses routes for the next few days until the temperatures drop and avoid any large slopes above you on approaches.

We still really need a thaw and then, crucially, a good re-freeze. Its the re-freeze that has not happened yet.

Looking up to the minus faces, still plastered.

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Very colourful at the hut. Bright is the new black. Everyone having big discussions about what to do!

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The big slide that came down left of the Comb.

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Looking up to Carn Dearg.

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Thursday 20th Feb

No pictures today and have not been up on the hill today, but here are some thoughts.

It has been thawing with heavy rain to the summit today. Colder tomorrow but then another thaw and rain to the summits Sat into Sun. For the big picture, this is all good and as things cool down, hopefully early next week the upper mountain will come in very quickly. It remains to be seen what is left on the lower routes, but I would guess, there will be a lot more climbs to go at by Tues next week.

There will be some large snow instabilities over the weekend however with these temperatures and the rain.

Am working on ski's this weekend, weather permitting, but will be heading onto Ben Nevis on Monday to see if anything on the Orion face is in. Possibly up to the Basin and then Epsilon / Zybernaught may be a good option providing the approach is safe.

Tuesday 18th Feb

Very soft snow all the way to the tops, and higher temperatures today. Probably just what is needed, and with a further thaw tomorrow things are settling down. We still need perhaps some rain and then a good re-freeze. The temps are set to fall Thurs / Fri so it could be quite good later in the week.

All the ridges were climbed today, lots of folk on the Curtain (first pitch steep snow), and the Curtain rail. The upper corrie in the Ciste is accessible now and the cornices are not too huge, so the Ciste crags are good to go at the moment.

Gemini fat and the Shroud too.

Mega route X is climbable, and Rien ne va plus route on South Trident is looking good. Also Simon Yearsleys new route on North Trident buttress looks nice, as does Jubilee climb next to it.

Carn Dearg to Castle

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Looking over to Orion and Tower.

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Plenty of action on the Curtain.

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Rien ne va plus on South Trident.

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Mega route X across to North Trident.

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A rare view in the Sun.

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Looking down the upper section of Pinnacle arete.

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Thursday 13th Feb

A lot more snow and in particular windblown slab has made the mountain pretty dangerous at the moment. We saw a big avalanche come out of the castle gullies today (with a skills group practicing on the slopes about 200m away!). Also stories of some folk being avalanched from No5 yesterday. Cornices will be building and large.

Low routes the only real option. Gemini and shroud nice a fat now. Also some interesting looking thin ice lines on the first platform to the left of Raeburns route.

The curtain first pitch is buried and also the approach apron looks loaded.

Sunday looks a nice day, but if you are reading this and are going to head up Ben Nevis on Sunday be very careful. Strong North westerlies forecast on Saturday will load up No5 and the Castle gullies. Also there will be a lot of slab and large cornices remaining from this period of stormy weather. Low options will probably still be best.

Nice ice on the left of the first platform.

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Some interesting thin lines up the steep front face of the Platfrom.

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The first pitch of the curtain.

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Tuesday 11th Feb

Sorry for the lack of reports. Weather has been fairly crazy and have been working in the Cairngorms on the weekend. Was on Ben nevis today. I know we keep saying it but… so much snow!! Its getting a tad silly now, more snow than I can remember for the past 15 years. However, there is signs of ice forming on the main faces, if you could get to it. There were signs of a huge avalanche that had come from a crown wall running under No2 Gully. After a brutal walk in the mountain cleared and gave us some stunning views before clogging in and storming out again mid afternoon.

For the moment its still best to stick to ridges and easy access routes. With the winds switching to Easterlies on a regular basis they are scouring the cornices that face south east and No5 was not loaded today, although it probably will be tomorrow!! We went up a snowy ledge route which is fine and banked out at the moment. There were teams on the Boulder and Raeburns route on the first platform. The main ridges looked good if a little hard work.

I took some close ups of Point 5 gully and the lower half of Orion / Slav area. You can see the ice forming on Orion. 

We really need 12hrs of plus 8c at the summits and rain and then a freeze.. We can wish. At least its going to be a long season by the look of it.

Spot the Hut

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Orion face round to Tower

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A close up of the lower half of Orion / Slav route.

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A close up of Point 5 starting half way up the first pitch. (Which isn't really there at the moment probably!

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The Ciste crags and their cornices

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Trident round to Carn Dearg

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Dearg to Castle.

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A fabulous ski descent down the Red Burn. (Damn, forgot my ski's!)

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Wednesday 5th Feb

And still it snows!!!. More snow today and quite wild. No one has been into the Upper Corries for quite some time now. The low and mid height ice continues to grow and with the cold temps in the next day or so and more snow, not much change.

The Hut.. soon to be buried!

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Tuesday 4th Feb

Well. at last we saw the whole of Ben Nevis today. A nice day for a change but it just revealed how buried things are. Spent the day meandering up the Brenva face on variable ice. Originally we were going to have a go at Gemini but the bottom direct start looked poor and Waterfall gully looked a real wade fest. Still, high up the route looked good.

There were teams on NE buttress, Trident area. The ridges are probably ok at the moment. We finished up NE Buttress and it was fine. There is a huge variation in snow and ice quality at the moment though, across the whole mountain. It is making routes awkward to judge. Sometimes its a cruise, and other times, simple pull over's are quite thought provoking.

Pictures below.

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Sun 2nd Feb

Not much change on Ben Nevis. The ice on the shroud is a little fatter, the shield and gemini are almost there / probably are there if a little thin. Lots of routes still buried and plenty of avalanche activity today. far too dangerous to approach high routes at the moment. Some activity on the Boulder, with the East ridge becoming popular. 

We saw a big avalanche out of the castle gullies today that covered the track. Some folk then walked through there ten minutes later! Be careful out there!

The shield and Gemini area, coming up nicely.

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The top of D-Boulder gullies

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Wed 29th Jan

Snow.snow.snow.. The hill is still very buried with little ice (except for one exception!!) showing. Also much wading and clearing needed on the routes. Best bet is still mid height routes such as those on theTrident buttresses and the ridges are a struggle but not too bad. Another good option at the moment, with these easterlies will be the Brenva face.

The routes on the East side of the Boulder are fairly good and not too covered.

Also..stop press.. The Shroud has touched down so anyone wanting a big tick, who has a big pair of Cohinas..(prob wrong spelling!), get on it. The pillar is thin but definitely climbable.

There were a couple of spectacular crown walls, one running under Garadh gully and the other under Vanishing Gully, which one team even decided to wade up, after braving!! climbing over the 1.5m high crown wall and across the remaining slab at the bottom!! Eeek.

Heading down from the Douglas Boulder

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Looking across to Trident buttresses and Carn Dearg

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The east side of the Boulder

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Dearg across to Castle

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The Shroud, form an orderly queue !!

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Mon 20th Jan

Freezing level slowly dropped today and we eventually got some good views. Was round in Corrie Leis for part of the day and there is some good looking ice down the face above the traverse to NE Buttress. These are the ice smears of Route Major start, but that whole part of the face looked like it had some great ice runnels and smears at around grade IV / V  to explore. Not as buried as the rest of the hill. 

Coming down ledge route it was obvious that a lot of the hill still remains blanketed in Snow. The Curtain is re-forming the broken section at the bottom and would probably be ok now.

Interesting that the Cairn at the top of No4 now just resembles a random rock! Oh bring back the flag? There was more fresh snow in the top of the easy gullies than SAIS had predicted with huge cornices and they are a bit of a no go area at the moment.

The ice smears on the Brenva face around the line of Route Major. (Slightly to the right.

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The cairn at No4

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Looking accross from Ledge Route in Descent

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The Curtain and Carn dearg

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Sat 4th Jan

A better day on the hill today with some amazing avalanche debris around. One of the biggest slides I have ever seen came out of No5 last night all the way to the lower reaches of the corrie. The snow still needs a freeze thaw cycle and higher up the snow is not much use being unconsolidated. There are also several weak layers high on the mountain. We climbed No3 Gully Buttress which needs to consolidate more to be in better nick. Ken climbed Green which looked ok and there is ice forming. A couple of teams on Tower ride seemed to cope fine. No gullies really available to get back to the Hut so it would need to be Ledge route at the moment for descent. Corrie Leis may be ok as well.

Getting to the routes is not too bad but there is trail breaking to be done and a fair amount of breakable crust around until you get higher up. There is also some spooky snow right at the scarps on the aprons so a careful approach is needed.

No4 has a huge cornice and is probably slabbed out. Check out the rime ice on the marker cairn below.

All change again tomorrow as another big low comes in and takes the freezing level to the summit briefly. What we really need is a really warm 12hrs to soak the pack and then a re-freeze.

Avalanche debris down into the lower corrie from No5

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Looking up No5 debris

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Looking accross to Glovers Chimney and the Pinnacle face of the Tower.

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Looking up Corrie na Ciste

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Big rime ice on No4 Cairn. The gully is too the right so a good indicator of where all the snow is!!!

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Part way up No3 Gully

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