A triptych is a piece of art, often a painting or carving, made up of three panels placed side by side. The Minus Gullies on Ben Nevis form a beautiful, natural triptych and it's very satisfying to climb all three. A few years ago Tommy and I climbed Minus three Gully. On Monday we climbed Minus Two Gully and today we climbed Minus One Gully.
Yesterday we tried to get on to Minus One Gully but another team just got there first, so instead of waiting we went to climb Right Hand Route. This is a line I have been looking at for many years and wanted to climb. Robin Clothier climbed it last week, the first ascent it has had since the 90's. It follows the enormous right facing corner in Minus Two Buttress before stepping right into a long, sustained groove with many bulges. Above, there are two lovely pitches in a narrow groove and wee chimney at the tp that gets you to NE Buttress. Fantastic climbing, thin, steep and serious. Brilliant fun and nice to climb a Carrington/Rouse route.
Today, Tommy and I got up earlier and were lucky to get to Minus One Gully first. I climbed this once before, over 20 years ago, and it sticks in my memory very clearly. Since the route was climbed several times last week, we have had fresh snow blowing up the gully and this has covered the back wall below the first big overhang with soft snow.
Unfortunately this covered up the few patches of good ice on the crux left wall of the overhang! It took a bit of clearing and searching to find adequate placements to commit, and even then it was a bit thinner than what I remember from 20 years ago. Stepping left and escaping the chimney to a steep slab of fat ice is quite a moment.
The ice is fat and lovely to climb all the way to the top from there. Two long, amazing pitches past The Garden get you to the top snow patch and an escape left onto the crest of Minus One Buttress. Airy moves along this land you on NE Buttress and the now very familiar abseil descent to Slingsby's Chimney. Deep satisfaction and a warm inner glow is what we take away from the Minus Triptych.
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.