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.
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.