Friday, 5 April 2013

First Days of Summer

The clocks have now changed to British summer time which means that winter is rapidly reaching its end. Fortunately however the Ben is still holding onto plenty of good ice!
I saw a blog post of someone who climbed Orion Face Direct on Wednesday and it looked really good. I checked the weather and luckily for me it was looking good for Friday. Off I set on Thursday night bound for Ben Nevis. I had chosen to go alone on this one. I didn't want a long day, and you sort of have to if you pitch things, and I just wanted to move nice and freely through the mountains at my own pace.
Tower Ridge from Coire na Ciest
Green Gully
I arrived at the CIC hut at 1.30 am, set up my bivi gear and tried to get some sleep. This didn't work very well so after a very restless night I finally got up at 4 am and set off to climb something. I opted for Tower Ridge (IV 3) as there should be a decent track to follow (it was still very dark) and there really shouldn't be anyone else on it to get in my way.
The snow on the ridge was amazing and there was good ice were it was needed. I climbed quite slowly as it was dark and I was still feeling a bit tired. I found tower gap quite challenging and I can understand why it catches a lot of people out. The last part was quite easy and I topped out at 5.55 am. My plan was to now down climb Tower Gully and then climb back up Smiths Route (V 5) however there was a large cornice on Tower Gully and I didn't feel like tunneling it. I also found out later on that Smiths Route had a big cornice at the top, so I'm glad I didn't try it.
I ended up going down Number 4 Gully. My main reason of coming to the Ben today was to try Orion Face Direct (V 5) so I made my way to this to hopefully avoid the crowds before it got too late. I was first on the route, despite being quite closely followed by another party. Orion was in stonking nic' with, for the most part, first time placements. The cruxy traverse was a bit thin but nothing that lanking through couldn't solve. For the more adventurous climber the tracks going up the face may have deterred from the experience but I was quite glad of them, being on-sight and soloing.
Orion Face. You can just make me out on the first pitch. (Photo Credit: Roxcool)
I climbed quite slowly on this again and ended up topping out at just after 9 am. I made my way back down to the CIC hut to pick up my gear and head back to the car. I made it back to the car just before 12, which isn't bad seeing as I climbed 1200m of new ground and notched up 8 stars on my way.
During the day I tried to spot things that looked "in", so here is a list.
Point Five Gully, Zero Gully, Hadrian's Wall Direct and Green Gully all look fat and in very good condition.
The Minus Face routes may well go if you are delicate and ballsy enough.
Number 2 Gully Buttress looked ok too.
There was unfortunately a large patch of snow missing on the traverse above The Curtain on Ledge Route.
There are more than this, just go and look for yourself. Of course the two routes I did are "in" too.
Ice conditions are amazing. Go out and enjoy them! It may be your last chance this season.
Coire na Ciste

1 comment:

  1. Harry it was amazing watching you climb ahead of us (we were in the party chasing you up the hill) the speed and smoothness you demonstrated was inspiring! I'm even more impressed now having just realised that you climbed Tower Ridge first. Keep up the good work :-).