Ben Nevis. The jewel in the crown of British mountaineering and Winter climbing. Just look at that north face!
We made an alpine start at around 05:30 from the north face car park and arrived at the CIC hut at roughly 07:30. Head torches on in the forest and walking in to perfectly clear skies in the emerging dawn with the moon still up.
Me a tiny dot some distance ahead of Chris en route to the CIC hut.
After gearing up in the shelter of the hut we approached the Douglas boulder on a fine neve slope and headed up east gully to the Douglas gap.
Picture above shows me leading the pitch out of the Douglas gap. A short mixed pitch, probably the most technically difficult bit of climbing on the whole route.
After climbing out of the Douglas gap me moved together over fine knife edge ridges and broad crests on untouched snow. Fantastic views of the Coire below and the Ben’s numerous amphitheatres.
Traversing rightwards at the little tower and climbing up on to it, in 2 full rope length pitches saw us gain the ridge again. Still moving quite quickly and the weather beginning to close in around us as we ascended higher. The wind was still nothing to worry about but it had started to snow a bit.
On top of the little tower and some brilliant terrain which we moved together over. Sometimes requiring the odd running on steeper ground but I tried to keep the pace up and insisted me push on and only stop to pitch if absolutely necessary.
We eventually arrived at the Great tower still making impressive time, I think it was around 12ish from memory.
Still snowing, now more heavily but in an amazing situation. The pictures do not do it justice!
An first the eastern traverse looked pretty intimidating severely banked out. But i tackled it head on and knowing it wasn’t a technically difficult pitch, just one with exposure I began hacking a path into the side of the mountain. It was exhausting!
After almost 2 hours with only really one short break I managed to establish a path with my arms knackered from the digging and hacking at the firm snow ice.
Sandwiches on my belay after the eastern traverse sorted me out and Chris led through to the top of the Great tower. One more obstacle to go until the top out!
I made a belay just before tower gap and Chris dropped in. I was expecting him to make a belay and bring me down for me to lead through and climb out of tower gap but to my surprise he continued and ended up running the rope out and climbing out of the gap and building a belay higher up the ridge.
It was a wonderful pitch of climbing. The atmosphere of the knife edge leading up to the Tower gap. The fresh snow forcing me to go ‘Al cheval’ at one point and then an awkward move down into the gap. There is just nothing below your feet with 1000 metre drops falling away literally at both sides of your feet. Boot wide would be the expression. Fantastic!
Interesting climbing out of the gap were I made the belay and took in coils to move together for the final summit push.
In a short distance we were on the summit in a white out with only around 35 mph winds. We had a short celebration and I sorted the navigation while Chris put the rope away. Eventually we dipped below the clouds and made it to the halfway Lochan at around 17:30. Path was followed in deteriorating light and atmospheric skies back to the north face car park. Just over a 14 hour day on the hill in total.
Watch the video HERE!