Days like Lachlan, Alasdair and I had last week on Tower Ridge are few and far between. So today it was much more like a normal day on Ben Nevis, but a good normal day even so. We stepped up a notch to take on NE Buttress, the vast and dominating classic ridge of the North Face. It looks down on the walk up the Allt a'Mhuilinn and disappears into the mist; steep, dark and moody.
If the mist is really far down it is very hard to find the start of the traverse across the bottom of the Little Brenva Face to the First Platform. No problem finding it today but it was, as usual, wet and slippery. There are some very delicate steps on this traverse and the drop below is huge straight away so you need to be switched on right from the start. Arriving at the First Platform is a jaw dropping moment; the drops away from you in a single step as you catch the view back down the Allt a'Mhuilinn. This is where the ridge starts but the climbing weaves a devious route left of the crest for quite a way.
The Man Trap is such a good name for an inocuous looking piece of rock high on the ridge. Just the scraped rock from too many scrabbling feet with crampons in winter give a clue to the difficulty of this one move. It would make a nice boulder problem but it is several huindred metres up in the air.
We made the top in the mist and missed the summit by heading down towards the CMD Arete. As we went down into Coire Leis the clouds cleared a little again and we could see it was quite a nice day out of the mist. NE Buttress is much more slippery than Tower Ridge simply due to far fewer people climbing it and cleaning the lichen off the rocks. So get up there and have a go, it can only get grippier.
This was one of the best days I've spent on Ben Nevis. Occasionally we get days of sunshine and I have enjoyed plenty of them in the past. It takes a bit of cloud along with ther sunshine to really show off all the complex ridges, gullies and buttresses of the north face though and today we had just the right combination of sunshine, dry rock, light breeze and cloud. It really doesn't get much better.
Lachlan, Alasdair climbed Tower Ridge Ben Nevis in the winter and didn't see a thing. This was a real shame for the guys but they were not put off. Instead they tried again and it payed off today. We climbed Tower Ridge again and the contrast with our winter climb couldn't have been much greater. We got an early start and watched the cloud burn away as we walked up in the shaddow of Carn Mor Dearg. As soon as we got onto the dry rock of the ridge the sunshien warmed our backs and the mist swirled gently around the coire beklow our feet, coming and going in huge gentle waves.
Although the cloud was rising during the day we stayed above it all the way to the top and didn't see anyone else on the North Face. There were plenty of people on the summit watching our progress and enjoying the sunshien as well. We went over to Number Four Gully to check out the saxifrages growing there (all doing quite well by the look of them) before descending Ledge Route for a different way down and to escape the busy Pony Track. Well done Lachlan and Alasdair, I'm glad you got to see it today. Good luck on the Matterhorn!
It was mostly hot and sunny in France for the last two weeks when I was on holiday at Fontainbleau, Britanny and Normandy. It looks like I've brought a bit of it home too. We had non stop sunshine in Scotland today with views from one side of the country to the other (or so it seemed anyway). I was straight back to work and it was a complete pleasure.
Sandy is off to Mt. Kenya in a few weeks time and he wanted some training in readiness for the climb to Batian, the highest peak on Mt. Kenya. This includes grade Severe rock climbing at 5200m and an over night bivi near the summit. So they did some training in Alpine moving together ropework on Curved Ridge on Saturday and some pitched climbing skills yesterday at Poldubh in Glen Nevis. Today, Sandy needed to finish off his Summer Mountain Leader Award with a day covering contour interpretation. Thankfully we did not need any poor visibility for this!
We went just past Glen Finnan to a small hill called Meall Bhuidhe. The flowers are brilliant, the views from Rum to Ben Nevis were spectacular and Sandy's navigation was spot on. He is now a Summer Mountain Leader and will be an excellent person to spend time with in the hills. What a great way to go back to work!
Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.