Thursday, 27 March 2014

Choosing carefully on the Ben

On the steep corner of Rutless, VII,8 Ben Nevis. My camera misted up a bit in the west coast air!

After a huge dump of fresh snow, a lot of folk, including myself, were desperate to get back up the Ben and get some winter routes in. I walked in on a rather wet morning with Helen and Harry to see what we could safely get to. Not much. In the CIC hut, we went round in circles trying to figure out what would be frozen, but not going to avalanche us. In the end, we walked out of the door with no plan, and just went upwards, expecting nothing.

Ice damage

Harry had mentioned a steep wall on the Douglas Boulder. Going beyond this looked dangerous, and it looked a bit more frozen than expected, so we tied in and started going up. After Helen’s tunneling pitch (in snow) and my tunneling pitch (the Gutless chimney), we arrived below the wall. Harry passed me back the lead and I set off, at first trying to go rightwards, before getting pumped trying to get any protection in an ice choked overhanging crack. Eventually, I settled for going left which was a god bit easier, although I was already quite tired from the direct venture.

 Helen moving a lot of snow to make upward progress.

Our late start and chilled out pace meant it was actually getting dark as we were abseiling off the top of the Douglas boulder. With bottomless windslab in the gully below, we continued abseiling down the slopes all the way back to our sacks for safety. We later found out that the route I took had been climbed a few years before by Nick Bullock and Matt Helicker (Rutless VII,8). It’s a good choice for a stormy or dangerous day on the Ben.

Harry and Helen enjoying the belay ledge.

A lot of folk walking out in the morning owing to the tricky conditions for accessing the classic routes.

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