Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These Conditions Reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.
17th May 2013
Today was a beautiful sunny day and it was cold enough for the snow to be quite crispy when Terry and I walked in to Ben Nevis with an early start. The ice looked amazing on several big classics and we went for Orion Direct. I set off up the first pitch and found thin, soft but quite good ice. The second pitch looked great but turned out to be cruddy. There was not enough old ice underneath and the more recent snow ice was certainly on the snowier end of the spectrum. So, with no protection and not much hope of more solid ice higher, up I retreated and we abseiled off to enjoy the sunshine and second breakfast.
We were not the only team up ice climbing and there was plenty of opportunity climbing. The big ridges are still quite snowy and you'll need ice axes and crampons for a while yet. The big gullies are all still full and the skiing would be very good when the snow is nice. Warm weather in the next week will start the long process of melting all this snow.
16th May 2013
We've quite a bit of snow over the last week. On the Aonach Eagach today there was some on the first half of the ridge but it did not cause a problem as it was quite soft and easily cleared away. It was useful knowing the best route though as the snow covered up the signs of the passage of feet on the rocks. There was less and less snow as John and I went on but the views were great across the glens to snow capped peaks.
The sky is clear tonight and we are forecast a slight frost so I'm off to try a bit of ice climbing tomorrow. There seems to be plenty left on Ben Nevis and I don't suppose the queues will be long for the routes!
9th May 2013
Beth, Mark and I made the long drive to Ardnamurchan today to climb at Meall an Fir Eoin Beag. This is such a great spot with perfect clean rock that it is always worth the effort to get there. We climbed a few routes including Yir (VS 4c) and Volcane (E1 5b) and it stayed dry all day. There's all sorts of climbs here including blank slabs, steep cracks and grooves. All of it is on great rock with outstanding friction. Beth and Mark enjoyed the wild feel of the place and we had the crags to ourselves.
8th May 2013
The Ben Nevis Pony Track still has snow on it from about 1050m up the way. Today, with warm temperatures on the summit, the snow was soft and Chris, Keith and I did not need crampons. We did not quite make it to the summit as the SE wind was very strong and stopped us just about 200m away from the top. The guys did great to make it so high and they kept on smiling despite the unpleasant conditions on the top.
5th May 2013
My first hill day in summer boots turned out to be quite soggy after a very promising start. Walking up The Cobbler in the sunshine this morning our hopes were high for dry warm rock on the traverse of the South and Centre Peaks. However the rain and wind came in as we walked up the ridge and the rocks were amazingly slippy when we got there. Despite this Richard, John and I enjoyed the climbing up SE Ridge of South Peak and The Arete on Centre Peak. These routes don't seem to get much traffic in the summer and the lichen is still making the friction less than ideal. Sub-optimal conditions but fun even so.
30th April 2013
The last of the eleven challenges being tackled by the One Man Challenge was to be climbing the Old Man of Stoer. Unfortunately we changed plan due to the high swell and big waves on the west coast caused by strong winds over the last week. Instead we went to the east coast north of Inverness, to Ramscraig Stack. This is just about as big and is the same grade of climbing is much easier access and did not have any swell to deal with. I don't think it's been climbed very often and certainly not for quite a long time. It was great fun though with all the adventure that epitomises sea stack climbing - some loose and friable rock, sea gulls flying round your head, the tide coming in and that unique sense of exposure on a stack surrounded by the sea. Great fun in a scary kind of way!
27th April 2013
Great weather today as a ridge of high pressure crossed over Scotland. I was on Skye with Di Gilbert, Bill Strachan and Simon Verspeak doing some CPD. We went up the Thuilm ridge of Sgurr a Mhadaidh before traversing its four tops and Bidean Druim Nam Ramh. There's quite a good cover of snow on the ridge still but we did not need crampons. It was just above freezing and the snow came off the ledges quite easily to find the holds. It will take a while to clear all the snow ready for the ridge traverse season. It's still very wintry on Ben Nevis as well and several grade V classics were climbed in what sounds like great conditions. There's a few more cold days to come this week too.
24th April 2013
There's been snow falling on Ben Nevis on and off for the last few days and very few people out climbing so Ledge Route had clean snow and no trail to follow. There was a big area of avalanche debris at the foot of Number Five Gully which might have come down on Sunday night or Monday along with other areas of debris in Coire na Ciste. The snow low down was wet and soft and the snow underneath the new stuff was not frozen. In fact the freezing level was on the summit by the time we got there with some warmth coming through from the sunshine. We saw one other team climbing The Gutter leading out right of Glover's Chimney. The big classic grade V climbs are still complete but with this covering of fresh snow it might not be very good to climb. Colder weather is coming though so it's worth a look at the weekend.
23rd April 2013
Over the last week or so I've had a few days out on the mountain bike. The weather has not been great for ice climbing and although I want to do a few more climbs yet it's been nice to be on the bike again. I worked on another Trail Cycle Leader course at the weekend and I'm on course to run these qualification courses myself in a few more months. Today was a biking day as well over the Devil's Staircase from Glen Coe to Kinlochleven to help the One Man Challenge. We're off up Ben Nevis tomorrow where there is still very good snow cover and lots of ice. The ice is a bit cruddy and has melted away a bit of course but with cold weather forecast for the next week and northerly winds I might get some more ice climbing after all.
15th April 2013
Dave Macleod talking about his involvement with Ben Nevis and introducing the Nevis Landscape Partnership that looks after the area around Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis. The Nevis Landscape Partnership needs your input if you run a business that uses the Nevis area, be it guests of your B&B, walking or climbing clients, outdoor activities, outdoor education or any other use of the area. Please take a moment to complete this quick survey.
12th April 2013
This week I took a wee holiday with my family so I've not been out climbing. We went to Skye for the last couple of days and had brilliant views of the Cuillin. The ridge is very well covered in snow still as are all the hills. At this time of year most hills are usually clear of snow and Ben Nevis is the last to leave hold of its snow and ice. Right now though Ben Nevis is thick with snow and ice which has not thawed out for the last several weeks. This weekend will see a big change though as warm and wetter weather arrives. It doesn't look like it will be a turbo thaw that strips the hills in a few days so expect the hills to have snow on them for many weeks to come and don't plan on the Cuillin Ridge being clear of snow for a while yet.
5th April 2013
This week I've climbed two routes on Rubicon Wall, Point Blank on Tuesday and today I climbed Left Edge Route with Nick. We were hoping to climb Rubicon Wall itself but there were some quite obvious thin sections and the ice was quite brittle. But Left Edge Route was no second rate option, it is brilliant! The first pitch is absorbing and the second pitch amazing up a steep open wall of ice in an incredible position. I'm very keen to get back up there to climb Match Point and Rubicon Wall now. Thanks to Ken Applegate for the picture since I forgot my camera today.
4th April 2013
After an afternoon on the rock in Glen Nevis yesterday (bone dry and warm in the sunshine) I was back on the ice today. Nick and I climbed the ultra-classic Orion Direct. The team ahead of us branched off into Astral Highway so we had the top half of the route to ourselves. The crux traverse is not chopped out at all with all the traffic the route has seen in the last month or two. In fact the ice is great all the way up and we had sunshine, nearly no wind and brilliant views from the summit.
Little has changed in the ice climbing conditions and just about all the big classics are iced up. Today Minus Three Gully, Astral Highway, Orion Direct, Slav Route, Zero Gully, Point Five Gully and Indicator Wall were all climbed amongst others.One team was starting Zero Gully at 3pm still with five hours of daylight to get up the route!
2nd April 2013
Some climbs build a certain aura. Point Blank is one of these routes. It was first climbed in 1988 after some determined attempts in the couple of years previously. It then went for 22 years before being repeated in the amazing winter of 2010. Over the last three weeks the route has had two ascents in one day then two other ascents including one yesterday by Rich and John. Today it was my turn with Kenny so we made the seventh ascent which went very smoothly. It's a brilliant route and conditions today could not have been better I think. Kenny led the crux second pitch (VII,7 is probably fair but it was steady away today in the great conditions) and I got the traverse left on the third pitch. All very good, absorbing climbing. I think the aura has been broken! Meanwhile we were chatting with Rich and John who were climbing Galactic Hitchhiker just across the way. The first pitch of this is more scary than anything on Point Blank at the moment by the sounds of it but the rest of the climb is great. It seems like it might warm up a little next week and we might get some rain. Just now though we have several more days of perfect climbing!
1st April 2013
The cold conditions keep on coming. Today I climbed Tower Ridge with Martin and Chris. The snow and ice on the ridge are excellent and the route is in great condition. We also had stunning views in the cold, clear air. It was surprisingly quiet though. Point Five Gully and Hadrian's Wall Direct were empty and Orion Direct only had one team climbing it.
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