UKH

/ Ben Nevis North Face conditions

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Phil Lyon - on 18 May 2018

I'm up in the highlands next week and with various possible plans.

One thing we've been eyeing up is the Long Climb on Nevis, but am I likely to encounter some remnants of winter on there still and indeed looking at some pictures from last week, still a cornice?

Other options are one of the ridges but the same question; is it a bit early to get clean and dry conditions up there?

Any local and recent observations valued.

Jim 1003 - on 19 May 2018
In reply to Phil Lyon:

> I'm up in the highlands next week and with various possible plans.

> One thing we've been eyeing up is the Long Climb on Nevis, but am I likely to encounter some remnants of winter on there still and indeed looking at some pictures from last week, still a cornice?

> Other options are one of the ridges but the same question; is it a bit early to get clean and dry conditions up there?

> Any local and recent observations valued.

The locals advise against the Long climb due to a lot of loose rock after recent winters.

4
CaelanB - on 19 May 2018
In reply to Jim 1003:

Yeah, if my memory serves me correctly, somebody was killed on it not that long ago. In my head the long climb falls into the same category as fingers ridge in t'sneachda as a route I'd rather not climb at the moment due to looseness.

As for snow conditions, I've seen pictures of castle ridge completely snow-free (on the 16th). The others looked like they had small patches on them. Check out the west coast mountain guides facebook page. Their most recent post has some pretty helpful pictures.

Rick Graham on 19 May 2018
In reply to Phil Lyon:

In addition to the looseness warnings, the Long Climb has a reputation of rarely being in condition, August if you are lucky.

The ridges dry quickly, Raeburns arete into NE Buttress is very good.

 

Phil Lyon - on 20 May 2018
In reply to Rick Graham:

thanks all. useful stuff

Alastair MacSween - on 20 May 2018
In reply to Phil Lyon:

Was on Ben Nevis for 2 nights last week. The Long Climb still has a number of large patches of snow as has Observatory Ridge. North East Buttress Ridge, Castle Ridge and Ledge Route are snow free. Tower Ridge has a number of avoidable snow patches other than at the end of the Eastern Traverse (soft snow) and a large plug in Douglas Gap East Gully.  

spenser - on 20 May 2018
In reply to CaelanB:

It was 7th October 2016 (I climbed the route the day after, hence knowing the date). Since that attempt it seems that only 5 or 6 teams have attempted it and logged it of which at least half have had somewhat of an epic.

The idea of sitting on a belay ledge on your own knowing your leader's rope has been cut is still the stuff of nightmares for me. My advice to anyone going up to do it would be to start very early, expect to walk down at least part of the way in the dark but carry a powerful enough headtorch to be able to routefind using it and to have a reasonable knowledge of the mountain and therefore know your bail out options (IIRC Slav route can be used as a bailout) as abseiling down would involve some mediocre anchors if hoping to not chop your ropes up.

1
Doug on 20 May 2018
In reply to spenser:

I wonder if the route has changed over the years. I climbed it midsummer (June or August) in the early 80s & although I remember that the route finding was a little difficult, it was never more than VS and although there was some loose rock, especially on some of the ledges & the final pitch, it was nothing exceptional for a mountain route. Timewise, I can't remember how long we took, but were back at the car with plenty of daylight left as we then waited a long while for two friends who we were sharing the car with & who had climbed something on Carn Dearg Buttress which took them longer than planned.

But its probably best treated as a 'Difficile' Alpine route rather than a British style VS

Robert Durran - on 20 May 2018
In reply to Doug:

> I wonder if the route has changed over the years.

Or maybe just general levels and types of experience and competence have changed.

7
spenser - on 20 May 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

I'll freely admit that I have only done a limited number of long mountain routes, however those which I have done (Slab Climb Right hand on Cloggy, Isengard on Dow, Eagle Front on Eagle Crag, a few routes in the Picos and some bolted stuff in Chamonix) featured far less loose rock (other than the top pitch of the route on Cloggy, but that's more of a scree slope and very easy). It certainly felt more "alpine" and was looser than anything else I have ever done (my logbook is best part of a year out of date but gives an impression of the kind of climbing I do and experience/ lack thereof). We started the walk in later than we should have and frankly didn't give the route the respect which it deserves, the idea of treating it more as an alpine Difficile (early start, need to move fast etc) certainly seems like the best idea, we were certainly slowed by the uncertainty about what had caused the previous day's accident and were I to find myself in a similar situation again I would try a lot harder to back off.

1
Fergal - on 20 May 2018
In reply to Robert Durran:

I onsight soloed it in the mid nineties, really enjoyed the experience, felt very steady to me, but i do come from  a mountaineering background.

Robert Durran - on 20 May 2018
In reply to Fergal:

> I onsight soloed it in the mid nineties, really enjoyed the experience, felt very steady to me, but i do come from  a mountaineering background.

Yes, that's what I was suggesting - that maybe rock climbers don't tend as often to have that  background of lots of unroped mileage and looking after themselves on mountain routes. I soloed it in 1983 and remember some nice climbing, a bit of route finding and the odd loose bit but nothing too bad. But then I soloed Centurion the same (or maybe it was the next) day and, although it seemed fun and reasonably routine at the time, the thought now horrifies me, so maybe I was just young and stupid!

 

2
Alastair MacSween - on 20 May 2018
In reply to Phil Lyon:

Photos of routes referred to in last post now in my gallery.

becauseitsthere - on 20 May 2018
In reply to Phil Lyon:

Did it in June '88 with relatively limited experience a set of wires, hexes and a few slings. We encountered a large snowslope at the foot of the wall. Couldn't get across it so went round the top. Closest thing to a Bergshrund I've encountered in the UK. Climbing on damp rock and squeezing between the ice was interesting. We enjoyed the route and found it more challenging than hard.  Only a couple of pitches were on clean rock and it got quite a bit looser at the top. Certainly required care. It's a long day in the shade so take plenty of clothing. It was dark by the time we got down but just made it for last orders. Deserving of its classic status and  good climb to do before heading to the alps. 

AlH - on 21 May 2018
In reply to Phil Lyon:

Looks like great conditions on the Ben for the weekend. 

Minus 1 was done a few days a go but the bottom couple of pitches were banked out by snow. Torre was done at the same time.

Pics of the Long Climb showed snow still in the basin so it will be wet and running and a chossfest compared to the ridges which are doable snow free or something on Carn Dearg (no snow on or above).

Webster - on 22 May 2018
In reply to Phil Lyon:

As a member of one of the affore mentioned epics, i can categorically say stay away from the long climb! it has at most about 30m of solid rock climbing on it, the remaining 300+m are wet choss! that face is to be avoided when not frozen together!

And as for the smug old grumps, i have a wealth of alpine and himalayan experience, and am well accustomed to soloing mountain routes, none of that makes the slightest bit of difference, its an utter bag of shite

3
spenser - on 22 May 2018
In reply to Webster:

First 4 pitches seemed pretty solid to me (albeit rather lacking in kit) it was the upper reaches where the Gary Latter guide says it gets easy which have the really poor rock!


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