Digging snow holes just above the CIC Hut
For the second day of our course with Limerick University we opted to head up towards the CIC Hut below the north face of Ben Nevis. The weather forecast was particularly bad with the predicted strong winds and falling snow creating the potential for white out conditions. There was also a very significant avalanche risk on north through east facing slopes above 800m to deal with. However the weather turned out to be a lot better than anyone dared hope for and we spent a very pleasant day exploring the area around the base of the Douglas Boulder. Again we saw no evidence of any avalanche activity but teams in Glen Nevis reported a big slide on the approach to the Ring of Steele.
The rise and fall in temperature overnight had created a non weight bearing crust on the snow which made getting around hard work but this icy crust had also formed over the slabs above the CIC hut giving a great improvised surface on which to practice crampon technique. The second part of the day was spent looking at emergency snow shelters and snow holes in the large drifts that had formed in the stream bed.
There's a lot of snow being moved around at the moment meaning route choice is critical in the higher corries. Most tracks were getting filled in within the hour so there's also plenty of trail breaking to be done. Ice was starting to form on the Ben and many of the mixed routes looked like they were coming into condition although much of the buried turf will still be unfrozen. Elsewhere in Lochaber James Thacker managed to climb Ordinary Route (IV 5) in Stob Coire Nan Lochan after a roundabout approach to avoid the buried windslab.
North East Buttress area
The Douglas Boulder with a group from Abacus building belays at the base.
Carn Dearg, Ben Nevis
Emerging from a snow hole for the walk back down - into the wind!