UPDATE July 2015: Ken and Hannah are now running Scottish walking, mountaineering and climbing courses for West Coast Mountain Guides.
Or should that be Ledge Route with Curtain Rail start? Either way, Justin and I climbed Curtain Rail (IV,4*) and Ledge Route (II****) on Ben Nevis today. Justin had a fair bit of alpine and uk mountaineering experience under his belt, so the aim of the day was to build on his experiences, largely by climbing great winter routes.
With a better avalanche forecast for Ben Nevis, we made our way up a very wintery Allt a’Mhuilin, to an even more wintery Coire na Ciste. It was clear that travel higher up the mountain was going to be very hard going, so we made a bee-line for Carn Dearg Buttress, to see a team just finishing Curtain Rail, a mixed snowy ramp that runs parallel to The Curtain. With Curtain Rail now free, and to make the most of the day, we climbed the two pitches (quite quickly, as there was a team hot on our heels), and then continued up onto Ledge Route. We came across all manner of snow formations, from sastrugi and raised foot prints to mini-cornice, windslab and some very scoured patches, which provided great opportunities to examine the snow pack in places, and look at a variety of tests to assess the stability of the snowpack. We also looked at a couple of snow belays such as a standard stomper and the west coast stomper belays.
In order to avoid the windslab in the Red Burn, we chose to descend to the side, which provided a quick descent back down to Halfway Lochain. Many teams on the Douglas Boulder, Curtain Rail and Mike & co. climbed Neptune Gully. The Curtain isn’t quite complete at the moment.
A great 5 star start to the rest of Justin’s West Coast Mountain Guides‘ winter climbing course. We’ll need to keep this momentum up, which I’m sure won’t be a problem given the fantastic conditions!