Ben Nevis in winter
Today i was back on Ben Nevis. The aim was to reach the summit via the mountain track. In short we made it to about 800m where corner 2 is on the zig zags.
There were several factors that were in our favour to make a good attempt: well kitted out, fit group, good footwork in the snow and making good progress over the ground.
Aspects that were not in our favour were, a slightly later start than planned, a ‘moderate’ avalanche forecast for the area crossing the Red burn gully, stronger winds at the summit and heavy going snow higher up the mountain.
From the start i knew that from crossloading the Red burn gully was not going to be safe to cross and seeing it from below on the path confirmed this. So our best attempt to get near the summit was to avoid it totally. This we this by following a steep grassy ridge line on the other side of the burn, which decreased the avalanche risk but increased the nature of others. This all had to be weighed up.
We made good progress up the grassy rake and back onto the path of the 1st zigzag. From there we put crampons on and started up the zigzags. The snow at this altitude was heavy going windslab and made for slow progress. With strong winds and time pushing on we made the decision at around corner 2 to call it a good day and to have time to look at the fundamentals of winter walking on the way down.
A good experience for the team and the mountain will be there another day in more favourable snow conditions.