Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Calm Before the Storm.......

 Above: The comb and No3 Gully in Coire na Ciste on Ben Nevis

I had a meeting in Oban on Tuesday so Wally and I snuck off to the mainland on Sunday night and headed up to Fort William.  A favourable weather forecast meant that the lure of Ben Nevis was hard to resist.  I haven't climbed on there yet this winter and it always takes a bit of psyching up as the place is just so incredibly huge.

Above:both ends of Tower Ridge- not possible to put in to one shot!

We walked in planning to do No2 Gully Buttress but on the way up were diverted by a line up Central Gully on Trident Buttress, which has an optional finish on the ridge of the buttress.  We had recently read about this on UKC courtesy of Mike Pescod so thought we would give it a go. Another party had had the same idea and were on the first pitch when we arrived.

Below: Central Gully with Trident Buttress finish on the left skyline. 

We took up a stance at the bottom but the sun on the ice and rocks above plus the activity of this party (of 3) meant that we were subjected to a hail of blocks of ice, stones and spindrift.  After a coule of sizeable blows it became too much and we legged it further up in to Coire na Ciste- the huge coire between Tower Ridge and Number 5 Gully. Traversing under The Comb we soon arrived at the start of No 2 gully Buttress (III).  Took a belay at the bottom of the gully in a rock cave under an amazing ice sculpture.

Below: Amazing umbrella of ice at the bottom of No2 Gully with No2 Gully Buttress flanking the left hand side of the gully.

Unfortunately I took no photos on the route (I forgot- concentrating....) but it was great fun. I've not led III before so was happy to let Wally take the sharp end and even more happy when it emerged that there was no gear to be found.  The ice was very poor (full of pockets and air), and the rock was buried.  He got 8 runners on 5 pitches (and 4 of these were on one pitch). Nails.
We got to the top after a fantastic day that was everything that a day on the Ben should be: challenging, tough, fun and long!
Woke up the next day to blizzards and gales- we were lucky to get the day out that we did.  Ended up stuck on the mainland for an extra night as no ferries were running and the roads were pretty dodgy in all the snow.  Kipped at Hazels (thanks for great hospitality as always H) near Lochgilpead and finally made it home this afternoon. Phew. By the sounds of things we were lucky as others traveling in the wild weather have had some epic journeys.

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