Sorry but been a little slack up dating the blog but this should keep your interest:
After twenty eight years since doing my first ever winter climb and twenty seven years since climbing my first route on Ben Nevis, this last weekend has gone a long way fulfilling a little gap that had been waiting to be filled by staying in the CIC hut below the north face of Ben Nevis.
The weekend nearly didn't happen for me as the stormy weather late last week had created high avalanche conditions and speaking to one or two locals the chances of getting anything done were slim. Although the forecast seemed good for the weekend it didn't seem good enough to make the long 6 hour journey up to the Highlands.
I'm so pleased to report I did make the effort and I was rewarded with excellent weather condition the entire weekend, those being calm and sunny. Careful route choices also meant we were out of harm’s way and could just crack on and enjoy the North Face ambiance. Twenty seven years ago I was given the book entitled ‘Cold Climbs’ as a gift...one of the routes in that book and I've always wanted to try isThe Curtain IV 5 and it has always been on the 'tick list' but conditions on previous trips/visits to the North Face of Ben Nevis have meant it wasn't to be...Saturday saw Chris Smith and me climb this in good style, with three steep pitches of good climbable ice and a quick descent via Ledge Route.
The following day saw us on the long slog up past the curtain on our way to do another route I had identified while climbing Tower Ridge (my first route) twenty seven years prior, that of Glovers Chimney III 4. I still remember getting to 'Tower Gap' as darkness was falling and the wind was staring to get stronger. I looked down into the top pitch of Glovers (the chimney) thinking one day I'll come back and do that route. However, it just wasn't meant to be, after passing The Curtain the slopes werein my opinion at risk of avalanching and we turned back after swimming in thigh deep snow for thirty minutes kicking off small blocks of wind slab (not a good sign)...Upon our return to The Curtain the guys we had passed on our way up had just been flushed out of the base of the Curtain by a small avalanche...confirming my theory.
Following a brief chat we headed to our plan B which was South West Ridge IV 4. This route give three very entertaining mixed pitches at the top end of the grade (today) as there was very little ice only powder snow. A quick rap back down and the easy walk back to the hut saw us with a cup of tea in our hands by 1400 hours. The other team consisting of members of the Durham Mountain Sports Club (DMS) did Tower Scoop and were back down shortly after us after a scary descent down Tower Gulley.
Walking away from the hut back down the Alt a' Mhuilinn track I contemplated just how close I'd come to not having the experiences and memories that this great weekend had created. Stay safe everyone but get out there and enjoy too.
Many thanks to the members of the DMS Club I shared the whole weekend with (Fiona, Steve and Paddy). Special thanks to Chris Smith for climbing with me, his wit while in adverse conditions and not forgetting his Monopoly playing skills.