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Showing posts from March, 2014

Observatory Ridge (V,4), Ben Nevis

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It was 2am by the time I arrived at the North Face car park on Friday night. Another epic drive from London. Firstly traffic hold-ups on the M6 North of Birmingham, then snow on the road North of Crianlarich. Tent pitched and alarm set for 5.30am. It snowed for much of the night.

The coires were holding a lot of fresh snow above the CIC hut so breaking a trail halfway to the summit did not appeal. That said I was aware that the recent warm weather would likely have thawed the lower buttresses so a compromise was needed. We headed for Observatory Gully with a vague plan to climb the first route that looked in condition.

I had anticipated Observatory Buttress to be the right sort of altitude to withstand the recent thaw but this was just a vague hunch. I was more concerned about the presence of large cornices above the routes but visibility was too poor to confirm their whereabouts. The cliffs were buried in fresh snow. Wading halfway up Observatory Gully for a closer look with no clue …

Lochnagar

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Lochnagar maybe wasn’t the best choice of venue given that we had only managed a couple of hours sleep on the roadside of the Old Military Road. Something with a shorter walk-in was probably more appropriate. Leaving London was as grim as ever. We had lost an hour stuck in grid-locked traffic on Fulham Palace Road and we were still obviously a long way from the M25. I won’t need to do this for much longer I keep reminding myself…

The morning’s weather was idealistic with blue skies, little wind and freezing temperatures. Much of Lochnagar’s cliffs were still plastered in deep snow though. The cornices above looked massive despite the thaw the previous Sunday. The avalanche forecast looked underrated for Northern aspects. We saw two massive avalanches trigger down Raeburn's Gully and continue down towards the loch. Maybe the biggest I have witnessed in Scotland.

The West Buttress looked the exception with less snow and minimal cornice. We dithered for too long trying to work out w…