I've just spent five good days in the CIC hut, on Ben Nevis, with three other mates and our week can be summed up by saying- great weather, great company, but lean conditions.
Monday saw the four of us walking in with all our supplies for the week and after dumping them at the hut we made a quick ascent of North Gully and back down Number 4 to stretch the legs even more and to check out conditions on the upper buttress's. There were some ice steps on the first pitch of North Gully, but nothing worthy of a screw.
The following day we heading up towards Number 2 Gully and Cat and Andy climbed Number 2 Gully Buttress, which currently has some well iced up cracks making getting gear and building belays hard work. They followed that up by climbing Number 3 Gully Buttress which they reported was in much better condition and as such it has seen multiple ascents this week. In the meantime Mandy and I headed for the classic Raeburns Easy Route, which had a fair bit of ice on the first pitch but no great screws to protect it. The fun first pitch gave way to a mixture of swimming and wading up the rest of the pitches to the top.
On Wednesday we decide to have a social day and make a team ascent of Green Gully. Which proved to be climbable but not as fun as it usually is due to the lack of any decent ice gear at the moment.
After getting a forecast the night before Thursday looked like it was going to be a traditionally Scottish affair, whiteout and windy, so we had a bit of a lie in and woke to almost alpine conditions. Gutted that we were to late to get on any routes unless we wanted to queue we heading up Ledge Route and were treated to stunning views and even some sun. We made the most of the weather and headed on up to the summit but by the time we got there the clag was back in and so we quickly descended via Coire Leis back don to the hut.
Friday we awoke to fair bit of fresh snow and we opted for a quick ascent of the SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder so that we could still walk out afterwards and get back down to the valley in good time. However as we reached the slabs below West Gully we noticed some deep pockets of windslab that were releasing very very easily so we wisely decided to give it a miss and headed back to the hut for a brew and then on down to the valley.
All in all conditions up there this week were ok and stuff is climbable but gear finding hard work and belays hard won unless your on routes that have already seen alot of traffic. Due to this then most routes will feel harder for the grade at the moment. What it really needs is a bit of a freeze thaw cycle or two and then we should get some good ice and consolidated snow.