Ian Clough did a huge amount of climbing on Ben Nevis in the late 1950's and 1960's including the first ascent of Point Five Gully in 1959. He was a very talented climber and in 1960 he climbed Comb Gully Buttress by what is now called Clough's Chimney. This is graded VI,6 and it certainly gave Connor, Brodie and me a good test today! When it was first climbed I imagine there was more solid snow-ice to use in the chimney but even so, to think they climbed it with one ice axe each is very impressive.
The first pitch is commonly a nice steep bit of cascade ice that lands you on the easy angle section at the bottom of the crag. This had a little bit of ice today and was good fun. Cascade ice has been forming in many places where there is a spring above such as Compression Cracks, Boomer's Requiem, The Curtain, the walls to the right of Green Gully including Number Three Gully Buttress and Garadh Gully. There is no ice on Mega Route X, The Shroud or The Cascade since these rely on the snow slopes above to dribble water down the cliffs in the thaws to form the ice in the subsequent freeze.
The main pitch is up the big chimney which was snowed up rock with some frozen turf today. It's nice to know that it climbs at the same grade when it is in this condition but a bit of snow at the back of the groove would help no end! All the rocks left of The Comb were very white today but everything right of The Comb was quite black. Sioux Wall and Darth Vader were not on the cards today so we were very happy to find this piece of Ben Nevis looking very white.
It was cold, a bit breezy and dry so it was a very nice day to be out. We were not alone - Guy and Alan climbed Number Two Gully which was not in its usual condition either, and Chucky and co. climbed Number Three Gully Buttress. It is still November so everything is in typical early season conditions - some thin ice, loose snow on wobbly rocks, some rime and nothing very helpful. Why is it we get the trickiest conditions right at the start of the winter when we are all feeling just a bit rusty?
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.