Thursday 28 June 2018

Mr Fahrenheit

Iain Small starting out on the bold lower half of Mr Fahrenheit E7 6b on the Comb, Ben Nevis. The prow on the right is my own route Anubis (E8) from 2005.

This summer is ridiculous. Anyone who reads my blog a lot will know I hate climbing in the heat, and so you wouldn’t need to be Sherlock to deduce that my recent location has been among the shady recesses above 1000m on Ben Nevis. There was a brief interlude of far cooler temps and so I was on my projects on Binnien Shuas. Unfortunately Iain’s car broke down on the way to meet me so the easier one did not get led on the cool day. Instead I shunted on the harder one and have now done the moves and some short links. Its going to be a hard one. It could be as hard as 8c, and out of range of the gear on the last couple of moves of the crux section. It will have to wait until I have more sessions on it in good conditions. 
Iain going around the corner on Don't Die of Ignorance

Back to this heatwave. When Iain got his car fixed we walked up the Ben. At least the inside of the CIC hut was coolish. We decided on checking out a brilliant looking finger crack I’d seen on The Comb while abseiling down ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ years ago to retrieve some gear after my FFA in winter (a long story). To access the pitch to clean it, we reclimbed the crux pitch of Don’t Die which was weird to see it in summer conditions. Particularly odd to go back to the belay with no t-shirt on, where I’d previously spent 4 hours in a hypothermic state getting frost-nip in my fingers.

I spent the rest of the afternoon/evening cleaning the 55m pitch on the wall below. It looked absolutely amazing on immaculate rock. Ben Nevis at its best. It was however a pitch of contrast, the lower slab was something straight out of Cloggy, albeit on better rock. 6a climbing on edges but with one real runner in 20m. The upper half was well protected but sustained and physical.

We stayed in the hut and I got sunburned just drinking a cup of tea outside in the morning. Time to get into the shade of the cliffs. After spending some time with my feet in the snow (lovely!) I tied in and climbed the slab quickly to get it out of the way. My feet were hot and sore already and I couldn’t get settled for the hard half of the pitch above. So I just had to carry on, unsettled. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the scrap with the wall cracks since the climbing was just so good and abseiled off to give Iain his turn.

Ian told me he had listened to my comment about sweat running out of my helmet at the top and so paced himself a bit on the rests. Whether that made a difference or not I don’t know, but he looked like he enjoyed the pitch as well.

Iain getting racked up for the lead.

Iain at the top of the slab section, where you reach some welcome runners.

We called the climb Mr Fahrenheit. The first route on the buttress, Don’t Die of Ignorance, was first aid climbed by Andy Cave and Simon Yates in 1987 (and freed in winter by myself in 2008). That name was the slogan for the widely seen scary public health ads for the feared AIDS crisis in the late eighties. I remember clearly seeing those ads as an 8-year old even though I had no idea what they were on about. Anyway it made me think of Freddy Mercury and so we thought of something from Queen’s songs that related to the unprecedented heat right now.

Every time I climb on Ben Nevis in summer, I think ‘I should do this more, the rock is so good’. And of course, you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere cooler in the UK. As we trotted about the Coire en route to this line, we eyed up the endless potential for other new routes that still exists on Ben Nevis.

Reaching the end of the wall cracks section.

Aerial shot of the Comb. Mr Fahrenheit takes the obvious brown streak.

Aside from various gloves, goggles and very new and very old Nevis bits of gear lying about the screes, we found lots of other odd things folks carry up the Ben.

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