Sunday, 21 October 2012

21st October 2012 - Castle Ridge on Ben Nevis

Looking out over Fort William

Approaching the North Face

Me with Castle Ridge in the distance

The Castle and Castle Ridge

Preparing to set off

RAF Rescue Helicopter at Douglas Boulder

The first slimey pitch

Me with CMD, NE Buttress etc. in the background

Anna with some stunning scenery behind her

Basking in the sunlight on the ridge summit

The sun dying behind the clouds

Stunning sunset colours over Ardgour

Anna crossing the river at the end of the day

The moon rises behind Ben Nevis
Following yesterdays excellent ascent of Stob Bans North Ridge, we were determined to continue our mountain based weekend. Making the most of todays stunning weather, we opted to give Castle Ridge a shot. Anna and I have been itching to give this, one of Ben Nevis's famous North Face ridges, a shot for quite some time but the weather just never seemed to do it justice. Today was a different story and we walked up from Torlundy in basking sunshine, sweating like it was midsummer. That all changed, of course, as soon as we were enveloped in shade as we made the final approach to the foot of the ridge proper.

The first third of the ridge consists of easy, broken ground. Whilst covering this terrain we saw the RAF helicopter out around the Douglas Boulder on a call out. I took this opportunity to practice some short roping techniques and look forward to improving these skills over time.

We were soon met by increasingly slimey, slippery rock and at the first real steepening I opted to pitch the climb as the rock was unreliably wet. I found this first pitch to be the only 'scary' part of the climb as it was a bit unexpected, and standing on a hugely moving boulder did not calm my fears! However, we both made it up to more broken ground comfortably enough, and were able to make our way up to the 'crux' without any issues. The crux itself was lovely, clean rock with great hand holds and footholds, and a reasonably new looking cam which is jammed in solid beside the in-situ peg. Easily my favourite part of the whole ridge, it had been the only bit I was slightly apprehensive about. I brought Anna up and then pitched the next section directly up the nose of the ridge ahead. After this we got rid of the rope and scrambled the final sections to find ourselves basked in sunlight at the top of the route. To descend we opted for the scree slope which is no where near as hard as people make it out to be. We then cut straight across to the North Face Path without going up to the CIC Hut, and descended down to the car in darkness. I managed to smash my knee off a protruding boulder in the darkness, and after dancing around cursing for a few minutes, managed to man up and continue the walk down to the car. A great day overall, I would certainly recommend this route to anyone, and hope to attempt it this winter :)

Cheers :)

Saturday, 20 October 2012

20th October 2012 - A Local Gems

Looking down Glen Nevis

Anna slogging up the North Ridge

Approaching the interesting stuff

Anna looking back over the initial steps

The mist clinging to the western crags

The Lord of the Rings cast over on the Devils Ridge

Dropping back down into the Glen
So last week I was flattened by the dreaded Man-Flu. Normally I am able just to pretend I'm alright and get on with things, but this one hit hard and left me whimpering like a git. So after a few unwanted duvet days I zipped up my man jacket and headed out with Anna to tackle the North Ridge of Stob Ban. I did this Grade I winter route last winter and found it contained a few interesting steps but had some terrific views to boot. In summer conditions it is much less malign, but adds some fun scrambling to an otherwise standard slog. I was worried on the way up that my chest (which was feeling pretty rough) wouldn't give me the air I needed to move as quickly as I would like, but I was wrong and we made good progress. After a half hour shower as we neared the interesting bits the weather cleared somewhat to reveal some of my favourite views from the summit this wonderful mountain.

We were joined on the summit by a very friendly gentleman who was travelling in the opposite direction who had a lifetime of experience on the hills but was revisiting Stob Ban after 20 years - heres hoping it was as pleasant an experience as the first time round! We made quick progress down the East Ridge and dropped swiftly into the Glen where we lingered in the tranquility and solitude of the mountains - relishing the contrast from the nearby hillwalking mecca of the Ben. We did plan on a cheeky few drinks with some friends afterwards but got back quite late, and with the weather looking like a cracker the next day, we opted for an easy evening and early night!

Cheers :)

Monday, 15 October 2012

14th October 2012 - A few trips on the Ben

Today I had a super early start working for Alan Kimber leading a group up Ben Nevis. The group were originally aiming to set off between 5 and 6 yesterday evening, but travelling from London via mini bus takes far longer than you might think...

In the end the idea of starting as soon as they arrived (some time after 1am this morning) was binned in favour of a 6.30am start, and so I found myself at the Glen Nevis Youth Hostel just before half 6. I managed to gather most of the group before Al turned up to dish out some kit and a general safety brief, but it was still almost half 7 until they were all ready to depart. We took a long slow trip up Heart Attack hill, with the group very unevenly matched for pace: some were very quick and prepared, whilst others were less fit and took longer to cover the ground. The conversation was very interesting as it was a Muslim group and it was great to talk to them about their backgrounds and beliefs. They were very pleased to have someone open minded asking questions, and we all got along very well.

Sadly, however, one member of the group was seriously struggling, and a few zigs and zags above heart attack junction I decided that enough was enough - we had already spent much of our allocated time allowance getting to where we were and I was not going to risk someone in the group getting injured or worse. So we turned back and slowly made our way back down to their transport. Again, the conversation was varied and very interesting, and the group seemed to enjoy the day regardless of how far they got. They have a long journey back to London ahead of them, but they will hopefully return to conquer the Ben when they are in better shape and better prepared. They were raising money for orphans in Eastern Europe, so hopefully they get a good amount.

After getting home and having a relaxing afternoon, Anna and I enjoyed a take away (well earned) and were just settling down for the evening when their was a Mountain Rescue call out. An elderly gentleman required assistance getting down from the Ben Track with an injured foot. We got up in good time and stretchered him off safely. Heres hoping for a speedy recovery and a return to the hills soon!

I am shadowing/doing some induction work at Outward Bound tomorrow. The forecast looks decent but for now I am in serious need of my bed!