/ Glencoe and Ben Nevis likely conditions - Christmas/NY

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.
mcawle - on 02 Nov 2017
Hi all,

I'm spending Christmas in the Glencoe/Ben Nevis area with my girlfriend. Looking for some advice from the more experienced.

We're looking to get out walking or climbing (grade I or II) whilst we're up there, so I've been looking into possible routes.

My only experience of Scottish Winter was in March of this year.

My understanding is that "proper" winter conditions tend to arrive (if at all...) a bit later in the winter, e.g. Jan/Feb, once there's been sufficient snowfall and consolidation. Looking back at the UKC logbooks for some of the routes around December time, the pattern seems to be that there may well be snow - but unconsolidated/soft/slushy. Or all melted off after rain(!). So I'm not really expecting e.g. the gullies to be in. (Although I guess there's always a chance of a lucky cold snap.)

However it looks like some of the ridges can in principle be tackled more or less at any time of the year, i.e. not so reliant on consolidated snowpack/frozen conditions. So I am thinking of routes like:
- Ben Nevis: CMD arete
- Ring of Steall (more of a big walk with some Grade I bits)
- Ben Nevis: Ledge route
- Stob Coire Sgreamhach: Sron na Lairig ridge
- Dorsal Arete (done it before but could potentially do again)
- Aonach Eagach ridge (if we get a few of the others done and are feeling good).

So I have a few questions:
1. Is it right to assume that good winter conditions are not very likely at the end of December?

2. Is it right to think that the above routes are feasible in most conditions, i.e. even if there hasn't been heaps of snowfall or a proper freeze? (I am aware that a big dump of snow or wet rock would still be problematic and obviously would always review avalanche risk for both climb and approach.)

3. Any other suggestions for easy climbs or scrambles around Glencoe or Ben Nevis that could be worth looking at for that time of year? We are still cutting our teeth really, so the main focus is on just getting out there where possible.
gavmac on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

1- No and yes, good winter conditions are less likely than later in the season but it's perfectly possible for it to be 'full on' winter. You are right about gullies though - early season is better for steeper mixed routes and ridges - so your list is a good, realistic selection of routes at your grade.

2- Yep, those routes are great options year round. It's then a question of whether they will be in winter or summer (or a mix of the both) conditions.

3- Will have a think and drop in later I'm sure others will be along with some suggestions.

Here's to a wintery winter!
Tricadam on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

I'd echo what Gav's said. A couple of other thoughts:

- I've not done Ledge Route in either summer or winter, but from what I've seen and heard, I wouldn't want to be on the traversey bit if it were anything other than fully dry or fully frozen. Others please do jump in!

- In terms of routes to add to your list, if you're going well and the powder isn't deep, Curved Ridge on the Buachaille is a lovely one. Also on the Buachaille, I've not done Broad Buttress in winter - just in summer, when it's a great scramble - but I'd be surprised if it didn't provide a good winter route at a similar grade to Curved Ridge, with substantially fewer people and a shorter approach.

- Beinn a'Bheithir is a great hillwalk in winter.

- The Grey Corries is a cracking day out, though you'd want to start pretty early if you were doing it in December. And doing it in poor weather would be a waste.

- Cruachan's a wee bit of a jaunt from Glencoe, but also a lovely winter round.
Doug on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to Tricadam:

I was about to add Curved Ridge but then remembered the last time I climbed it. It was mid winter (can't remember which month, possibly December or January) with very little snow. Low down the rock was just a bit wet but soon became verglassed & quite tricky in places - much harder than when in 'real' winter conditions.
mcawle - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to gavmac:

Excellent. Thank you very much!
mcawle - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to Tricadam:

Thanks. I'll look into Ledge Route a bit more; I do remember reading it's not fun when greasy/wet.

Thanks for the other suggestions - hadn't heard of any of them!

It sounds like getting started early on any of them is probably a good idea, judging by the sunrise/sunset times...
mcawle - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to Doug:

That's good to know. Sounds like it's also not easy in soft snow.

So sounds like it'd be best to consider it after some snow and a freeze, by the sound of things?
Webster - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:




> 1. Is it right to assume that good winter conditions are not very likely at the end of December?

rule 1 of Scottish winter: Never assume anything! late December can be anything from the biggest freeze in 30 years to a mild wet summers day...

> 2. Is it right to think that the above routes are feasible in most conditions, i.e. even if there hasn't been heaps of snowfall or a proper freeze? (I am aware that a big dump of snow or wet rock would still be problematic and obviously would always review avalanche risk for both climb and approach.)

in short, yes.

> 3. Any other suggestions for easy climbs or scrambles around Glencoe or Ben Nevis that could be worth looking at for that time of year? We are still cutting our teeth really, so the main focus is on just getting out there where possible.

if conditions are favourable and your going well on the likes of ledge route then you could get on castle ridge, but it does have a pitch of proper climbing so probably best avoided unless you are also competent trad climbers...

the very first ramp of ledge route has a slimey wet slab which slopes away above a drop... that being said its not too much of an issue going up as it is very featured. other than that ledge route is very straight forward under any conditions, although powder covering unfrozen scree would be tiresome.

iv not done them but the west face of aonach mor has some good grade I/II mountaineering routes which are doable in most wintery conditions. finding them can be problematic and good nav skills are essential in poor vis once on the summit as you could very easily walk off the east face...

Mark Bull - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

Those routes are all potentially good options, though be aware that some (CMD Arete, Ring of Steall, Aonach Eagach) are quite long and could be very time/energy consuming, especially in deep fresh snow cover. December daylight is very short - start early!

Ledge Route is superb, but arguably safest and best enjoyed with some consolidated cover on the lower half, when it is low in Grade II.

Some other options:

North Ridge (I) of Stob Ban (short section of Grade 1). Can be combined with Devil's ridge for a shorter and more readily escapable day than Ring of Steall.

Beinn a'Bheithir was mentioned above: the ENE Ridge (II) is good fun with short-lived difficulties.

On Aonach Mor, Golden Oldy (II) is the low-grade classic, access not too bad if the climber's gondola is running. Quite long and sustained for Grade II.

Directly opposite, easier, shorter and using the same approach is East Ridge (I/II) of Carn Dearg Meadhonach.

East Ridge (II) of Beinn a' Chaorainn is a good day out, not sustained at the grade.

Dinnertime Buttress (I/II) can be useful after a low-level dump of fresh snow.







mcawle - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to Webster:

Cheers. Good to know that there's always a chance!

Castle Ridge sounds cool. Might be a bit much for us at this stage. We've done a little bit with trad but I wouldn't say competent. Wishlist.

Been into Aonach Mor once via Golden Oldy with a guide, so I can see what you mean about finding the route being difficult there.
mcawle - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to Mark Bull:

Thanks Mark. Agree about the snow and the early starts!

Cheers for the route suggestions. Been up Golden Oldy before with a guide (albeit with very low visibility), but the others are new to me. I like the option of the Stob Ban North Ridge / Devil's Ridge combo, that's a good one.
Mark Bull - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

You are very welcome - hope you have a good trip!
Cheese Monkey - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:

I went late last December and had a few excellent summer scrambling days, one day in particular was stunning full sun T-shirt weather! Pointy things had no hope
Steve Woollard on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to mcawle:
Ledge Route - You can miss out the lower difficult slab if it's out of condition by traversing in higher up where Gully No 5 broadens. It still makes a great route, particularly for novices, the only thing to consider is avalanche risk in the gully if there's been a big snow fall
Post edited at 17:10
Tricadam on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to Doug:

I've only done Curved Ridge once - in mid December - under a foot of entirely unconsolidated powder, which made for interesting climbing-by-feel. We thought of roping up at one point, but with that depth of powder, digging out gear was too much of a faff so we kept soloing. Great day, but would indeed be a comparative walk in the park under neve. In terms of early season, a thin-ish dusting would leave all the gear and placements visible, making it potentially doable for the OP, I reckon.
mcawle - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to Cheese Monkey:

Haha. Yeah. Carry pointy things anyway and call it training...
mcawle - on 02 Nov 2017
In reply to Steve Woollard:

That's good to know about the bypass, thanks. Yes am mindful of the avalanche risk after snow dump. Cheers!

Please Register as a New User in order to reply to this topic.