Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Starting up Observatory Gully
Goggles compulsory!
Ice axe arrest, or was it to stop flying away?
CIC Hut leaking roof
No access to the NF carpark today!
Another intense Atlantic low over the west coast of Scotland today, seems a regular phenomenon this winter. Paul was on day one of his winter skills course with me today and we headed up to the North Face of Ben Nevis. With gale force winds at sea level from a SW/W direction I thought we may get a bit of shelter there, as well as the only snow still left from the tropical Xmas storms. The fun began at the NF carpark this morning, a quite large tree had been toppled over by the gales at some point during last night/the early hours this morning I would assume. It's down right before the actual carpark and so anyone there today expecting to get their car out would be in for a surprise! It was rain from the word go but the winds not too bad until just before the river crossing at the CIC Hut where mobility was a struggle. We grabbed a quick rest beside the hut and watched the wind turbine look like it was going to take off! There are still sizable areas of snow just below the Douglas Boulder so we headed up there and into Observatory Gully, thinking once in there we may have a bit of respite from the gales but it just seemed to follow us and get behind us! The guys from the SAIS were just below the DB doing their test pit for the avalanche forecast. We then had the place to ourselves (funnily enough). Paul was coping well with the conditions as we went through various boot and ice axe techniques, including axe arrests.  Today's main theme though was just coping with staying upright and making sure we had a few points of contact with the snow! Observatory Gully is well covered in snow and we got up to around 850m today. With glimpses of NE Buttress and Observatory Ridge looking quite wintry now, even ice forming higher up and on the side of Tower Ridge. We headed back to the CIC Hut after our good tussle with the conditions and the two guys at the hut kindly let us have a bite to eat in luxury. Sad to see the leaking roof at the hut, one half of the bunk room is unusable due to the water poring in. Paul had a good taste of how bad conditions get in winter and coped well with the testing conditions today. Some folk tend to neglect that preparation, looking after yourself, keeping dry, warm, having  plenty of spare gloves, hats, warm clothing, carrying  ski goggles ( and having a sense of humour) are a major aspect of heading out into the Scottish winter mountains. Oh and maybe I should think about carrying a two way radio on days like this too!


stephen mac said...

Good post Gary, in a strange way you make it sound appealing.

Gary said...

Thanks Stephen. Rather be battling in high winds, snow, poor visability than sweating up summer terrain in lashing rain and tropical temperatures! Hope you had a good Xmas