February 27th, 2015
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Today I (Hannah) had the pleasure of heading out to climb on the Ben with Steve Holmes. We’d been debating for a few days about what to climb particularly as the first half of the week had a high avalanche risk. We settled on Minus Three Gully IV,5*** which compared to some other climbs had a safer approach due to it’s north westerly aspect and starting height.
Pitch one up to the cave was good fun on the lead but ice was a bit cruddy and gear wasn’t great. Steve made great work of the potentially rather thin and today, awkward to protect icicle crux which hangs over the cave.
On pitch 3 I found the crux section for this pitch was either thin or certainly for me not there and not really possible to protect well so we diverted onto Platform Rib IV,4** which is a short hop and a jump to the left of Minus Three Gully. It was in great nick, good axes and good rock gear too and a fun final 2 pitches of climbing.
To descend safely in the current conditions we opted to ab down Slingsby’s Chimney which from the top of Platform Rib took 3 abseils.
Many others were out today too, Italian Right Hand and Vanishing Gully were reported to be in good nick, the Douglas Boulder saw a lot of action, and there was the standard queue for The Curtain.
It was great to be back on the sharp end again and my shiny new Scarpa phantom guides were awesome. Thanks for a fab day Steve!
Today I (Hannah) was working with Kirkhope mountaineering and a strong team of 9 who arrived from Holland yesterday afternoon with a particular aim in mind – to summit Ben Nevis via a challenging route as part of a fund raising weekend for ‘Kika’ a dutch cancer research charity.
We all walked up from the north face car park, Scott heading off to do Ledge Route with 2 and me off up and around the CMD arete with 7. It turned out one of my 7 was the second ever Dutch man to summit Everest!.. Now it was his turn to summit the Ben!
Thankfully someone had set off earlier than us and we were able to follow their footprints saving a lot of energy! We were in the cloud for much of the morning but amazingly as we approached the arete itself, the cloud lifted and the arete looked stunning. We steadily and for some, cautiously made our way along – some of the guys admitted that they weren’t too keen on heights, not good news! Needless to say, all put in a sterling effort and we found our selves on Ben Nevis summit for about 3:15pm.
Scott, after taking a cautious approach avoiding No. 5 gully as much as possible had been the first to reach Ledge Route and found him self wading and indeed swimming up parts of the route and reached the summit 15 minutes before us.
After a summit team photo we followed the very established trench down towards the Red burn. With tired legs we made it back to the cars in just under 10 hours which given the amount of snow felt pretty respectful. Well done team Kika!
For the past 3 days I (Hannah) have been in the Cairngorms working for Peak Mounatineering with a group of adventurous folk from London who were keen to learn some winter skills and also experience snow holing! On Friday after a casual start we went to Coire na Ciste where there were some pretty good examples of snow holes for the guys to have a look at. There was also an amazing snow slide and it would have been rude not to have a go on / in it! We then went on to cover, using the boot and axe efficiently, self belay, ice axe arrest, avalanche awareness and much more.
The following day with large bags and a sense of adventure we walked to Ciste Meredith next to Cairn Gorm and began digging! The team dug until about 7 at night by which point all were pretty tired and enjoyed their meals in their snow holes, I think the whiskey was also very much enjoyed by all!
The following morning’s weather was some what wilder than anticipated, and with low viz and compass in hand, some of the team reached Cairn Gorm summit before we all set off down to the Ciste car park via various navigation points which got us using pacing and bearings in earnest. As we descended, the winds strength just kept increasing to the point that standing up was pretty tough, and trying to open my car door against the wind was almost impossible!
The guys had a great weekend and certainly experienced a real good mixture of Scottish weather!
Just a quick catch up from winter climbing over the past couple of day. Firstly, two new routes that I’ve climbed recently have been confirmed as first ascents. The first was Highway Robbery III on the north face of Aonach Beag, with Scott & Hannah. We actually mistook it for Stand & Deliver in the cloud, and having quickly realised our error, finished the line anyway before nipping back round to climb our intended route. It won’t ever be a classic, but nice to do anyway. Details here: http://www.scottishwinter.com/?p=5137
The second new route was climbed whilst out guiding Nick just over a week ago. We were close to finishing Deep Cut Chimney on Stob Coire nam Beith, when we stumbled across a brilliant and sustained pitch of grade IV ice high on the mountain, leading out of NW Gully. It was far too inviting to resist, and gave a fantastic pitch of about 40m, which we’ve called Cartouche. Details here: http://www.scottishwinter.com/?p=5152
Then yesterday, I was out with Karen, working for Mountain Motion. This was her 4th and final day of winter mountaineering, and so we made an ascent of the long and complex Summit Gully on Stob Coire nam Beith. If the term atmospheric means ‘in the cloud with poor visibility’, then this route was bathed in the stuff. Route finding wasn’t always immediately obvious, but the scenery it went through, which we could see was quite dramatic. The route is quite long at 400m, so Karen’s legs were quite pleased when we finally reached the summit! A great route, and it must be one of the longest grade IIs in the area.
Finally onto today. A last minute booking with The Highland Mountain Company saw me guiding David on Neptune Gully on Ben Nevis. This morning, the mountain was in as good a condition for winter climbing as I’ve ever seen, and so of course 90% of the UK’s winter climbers were there today. A little secret, which I’ve shared in the past… Neptune Gully receives no stars, so I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be busy. It is in fact one of the best grade IIIs on the mountain, it’s long, follows a strong line, contains a number of interesting icy pitches, takes in some impressive ground, and has a brilliant picnic spot 3/4s of the way up, overlooking No.5 Gully & Ledge Route. What’s not to like about that? David certainly couldn’t find anything to not like about it. We started early, and made good progress, finishing the route just gone 1pm. For David, it wasn’t a bad introduction to the north face of Ben Nevis, and we only saw one other team on the route, for about 10 mins at the bottom. Multiple teams on most routes today!
Does a day of winter climbing really get any better? I suggested to Ali last night that we should have a look at the very rarely formed and therefore even more rarely climbed ‘The Chute’, thinking that if it was ever going to be in, then now was the time. It was in, and having never seen anyone climb it before, or knowing anyone that has, we turned into Coire na Ciste to see a French team starting up the first pitch! The audacity of it! We continued up into Coire na Ciste, whilst chatting about Mega Route X, and found ourselves gravitating towards the base of it, and before either of realised, we were standing at the foot of one of one of the most spectacular pitches of ice in Scotland, geared up and ready to go!
I led the first pitch, a steep and sustained pitch of brilliant ice, which eased just as the arms began to feel the pump. Ali then took over, and then cruised up to the in-situ belay at the top. Having descended, and chatted briefly to Kev and Joe, who were belaying Dave nearby, we stomped over to The Chute, and started up that.
Pitch one was quite sustained, quite thin to begin with, and not overly easy to protect in places, and both Ali and I felt that it was definitely harder than it’s grade of V,4 suggested. It was however, great fun, with plenty of interest throughout. Ali then led pitch two, and me the final pitch, both of which were a bit easier than the initial pitch, but enjoyable none the less. We followed the line in Godefroy Perroux’s guidebook, which trends rightwards up an icefall on the 3rd pitch, rather than the line of the SMC Guidebooks, which finishes a bit sooner. We descended Broad Gully, which made life nice and simple. So, it turned out to be a great route, and one well worth hunting out when in condition!
Most photos are Ali’s, as he’s a better photographer than me!