Late April 2014, the north face of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, is loaded with snow and the gullies soften as the days grow longer. The CIC hut made for an ideal base to explore the slopes around Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg.
Securing the descent.
The cornice was simply too big to ski off. Thankfully, some of my pals are quite handy with ropes and a snow bollard helped secure our entry over the cornice onto the steep scarp below.
The Charles Inglis Clark mountain hut www.smc.org.uk/huts/cic is situated right beneath the cliffs and gullies of the north face. At 650 m ASL, it's also winter bound for 6 months of the year.
Messing around on the snow by the CIC
It's a long walk up from the road, especially carrying food and gear for a long weekend's skiing. We didn't have much energy left but nevertheless, made our way to summit of Carn Mor Dearg in the mist and picked our way back down before retiring for supper.
The bravehearts decided it would be fun to jump the snow bridge across the burn (the Allt a Mhuillin) outside the CIC. Not for me though, the thought of making a mistake, plunging under the snow and drowning in the churning icy water below was too much !
Heading up towards No. 5.
The sun shines as we make our way up towards number 5 gully for the climb to the summit of Nevis.
Enjoying the view across the gullies we came up to ski down while taking a well-deserved rest.
This is the first gully we'll ski down. Wide, but steep, and with a fearsome vertical cornice to tackle.
Number 4 entrance (photo credit: Paul Easto)
Some muppet from Moffat ;-) The chalky snow was grippy enough but the exposure in the gullys on skis is much more intimidating than when climbing up them with axe and crampons. Jamie's entry tracks are above me - he's not such a pussy as I am !
High up in number 4.
The scale and imposing nature of the gulllies here can only be grasped first hand.
Coire na Ciste
After descending number 4 we made our way up number 3. The entry was tamer without a vertical section, but the scarp was longer and steeper, and the gully itself is narrower too.
Sunshine in the coire
Somewhere below is the snow-covered lochan which supplies the CIC with its clear, fresh water.
Coire na Ciste
Despite a little runnel and avalanche debris, the spring snow in the bowl was near perfect, at a pitch around 30 degrees.
By night, the CIC is sublime, just the sound of wind and the faint voices of mates within, recounting the day's adventures.
On the haul up to Carn Mor Dearg
The second climb of CMD in the weekend, this time not just without the mist, but in bright sunshine.
Looking towards Aonach Mor
On the summit of Carn Mor Dearg, checking out the skiable lines on Aonach Mor.
Craig making his way along the ridge of Carn Mor Dearg. Ben Nevis behind and the couloirs we'd skied the day before. We'd climbed and skied the west face of CMD in the mist on the evening we arrived but In the sunshine a couple of days later we skied several lines off the steeper east face of CMD, and each of them was lush.
Ben Nevis and the north face
I love this view of the Ben. To the left of the summit is the upper Coire Leis, to the right is Observatory Gully which we skied a year earlier, and the backdrop is the Ring of Steall.
CMD bowl (photo credit: Craig Cameron)
Entries abound and some muppet from Moffat ;-) chose one line near the 'shark's fin' on the CMD ridge.
Under Carn Mor Dearg
On the way down towards the Allt Daim burn which separates CMD and Aonach Mor. The snow got stickier as it got less steep so we turned around and climbed again.
Coire Leis from the CIC
A complete skiable line led down from the head of the coire, all the way back to the hut.