Tuesday, 14 February 2012

FA's, Jokes and New Horizons..

Constant, full weekends have finally taken their toll on me. This weekend  had some long walks, warm weather and was very tiring.....but what a weekend it was!

Beinn an Dothaidh

Saturday I headed to Beinn an Dothaidh above Bridge of Orchy with Euan and Ruaridh as I'd heard it was a "reliable venue". In my defence, the turbo thaw was destroying anything in condition so my point could still be valid. With optimistic minds we stomped up, sans map (like good ML's), into the mist to find something around grade III in condition.

One of many 'skiing' episodes

"Yea, there it is......"

Bulldog zip-line

Ultimately we found wet snow, unfrozen turf and generally unpleasant climbing conditions. Determined to make the most of the day out, we set about playing around like kids. First we made an entirely unnecessary abseil, complete with razor blade flying rock, only to re-ascend pretty much back the way we came onto the terrace. We then traversed around to the far west end of the corrie and climbed the easiest line up to the west top before a couple of hero shots and an action packed descent down the north ridge.

First Ascent: "Slush Puppy" I*
  * This is probably not an actual first ascent

The highlight of the descent (for me anyway) was our second new route of the day *chortle*. A stunning line straight up the impressive north ridge, this 3m ice route was sustained and pumpy. So much so that the weight of two axes, crampons, ropes and gear was too much for Euan and Roo, so they made a brave 'light and fast' assault on this formidable route. The first of the party made a desperate leap for the last hook and topped out successfully, reporting quality ice and bomber placements. Unfortunately, tragedy nearly hit when the second of the party needed to resort to a highly technical 'figure-four' manoeuvre in order to complete the last sequence. His placement ripped and he was sent plummeting to the base of the route, stopped only from falling to the bottom of the ridge by a well placed boulder. Mountain rescue was apparently on more pressing business, so he manned up and descended under his own steam.

First Ascent: "Rocket Lolly" WI1+

"I'll just try this figure-four..."

No.3 Gully Buttress, III***

On Sunday I met up with Jez whom i'd climbed with last year and Ruth, Phoebe and Sophie who had driven up with him from Surrey. The plan: big day on Ben Nevis....I was excited, the time had finally come.

We set off in darkness and immediately came up against the steep path through the forest which had me sweating buckets even in just a baselayer. 2 hours saw us to the CIC hut and I began to catch glimpses of the North Face through the mist. I'd had the idea that it would be smaller than I imagined and that the pictures over-emphasised the face....oh, how wrong I was!

Jez was to take the two girls towards Ledge route and I was going to climb with Ruth. We had a little think and discussion and ultimately settled on making the effort to get to No.3 Gully Buttress. Coire na Ciste was almost like a friendly village as we went up through the mist, leap-frogging other parties and meeting people on descent, we exchanged 'mountain pleasantries' and occasionally said "that's No.3 gully there, right?"

The approach
Ruth up the first pitch
The route eventually appeared in front of us and I was surprised how easily we found it, even if it did take 2 hours from the hut. It was at this point I was regretting the previous day on the hill and realised my hill fitness isn't up to scratch. Ruth led the first pitch up the snow ramp traversing first left, then back right. I did the next pitch up to the snow bay, stopping a little bit too early. This was due to a number of things: 1) sweat dripping down my face was making me blind; 2) wasn't sure how much rope left and 3) I was chuffing knackered. This was the point where I lost my sense of humour, cursing sugar snow and generally being a bit grumpy.

Getting used to Ben Nevis exposure
Ruth did a short pitch to get us just below the crux then kindly reminded me to man up, stop whinging and have something to eat. After much grumbling I set off for the crux pitch, not completely happy but determined to get off the route. At first a bit of 'holy crap, holy crap, holy crap' whilst pulling over the first rocky section then seeing the incredibly exposed traverse, but then a wave of happiness spread over me. Getting off the crappy snow ramps and onto to proper mixed terrain really changed my mood.

Ruth on the short traverse before the crux

Shortly after stopping for a breather (yes, I am that unfit) I made a belay and was joined by a chap from Manchester doing Thompson's Route. Ruth arrived at the belay and had such cold hands she stormed up the last pitch (that I thought was pretty dicey) and into the sunshine. The top out couldn't have been more amazing. I think only the pictures can really tell the story, but I think it rates as one of my best hill days ever! 

Jez and the girls had been super quick on Ledge route and had beaten us to the summit and were on the way down. After my bimbling around taking photos and trying not to fall through any cornices we caught up with them at the abseil posts on CMD arete before descending to Coire Leis and the long trudge back for a time of 12 hours car to car.

Another awesome day with awesome people. Just goes to show that a bit of warm weather will necessarily ruin your day.


'The French Guys' no doubt their 3rd route of the day

Obligatory summit shot

No need for abseil here...

 Please check out more photos below (opens in new window)

Beinn an Dothaidh

Ben Nevis
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1 comment:

  1. That French guy on the Ben is Phillipe - a guy I climb with in Glasgow. You'll be pleased to hear that he's still there living out of his car since last thurs!