Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Ben Nevis Ridges

The weather was looking pretty nice for Ben Nevis on the 26th March, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to attempt something I have been wanting to try for a while; solo all of the major Ben Nevis ridges in a day. As always with this sort of thing I set off from Edinburgh a bit later than I had intended, rocking up at the CIC hut at just before 3am! I managed a couple of hours sleep before waking up at 5am, and finally setting off for my first ridge in dawn light at 5.30am. At this point I should explain the distinct lack of pictures in this post as I had left my camera in Edinburgh!
Castle Ridge was my first objective. This was for a number of reasons. It is a bit out of the way, compared to the other ridges, and it has some avalanche prone approach slopes, so cool conditions were preferable. The ridge itself was a bit slushy and there was lots of bare rock, so I only used one axe, however snow on the ledges made crampons necessary. Once at the top I decided to head down via the Red Burn as there was a white out, and with No.4 Gully being too dangerous, the only other descent option was Coire Leis. When I arrived back at the hut I met some friends from university; Ally Rocke, Alex McMillan, Tom Eadington and Liam Ingram. After a rather long time sitting about and chatting about what might be worth while doing we headed off from the hut together.
North East Buttress was next. I was going to solo it while the others would make two teams of two and climb it as well. The route was fun, and probably my favourite of the day, with varied climbing on short steep walls, snow fields, aretes and corners. On topping out I made my way down Coire Leiss and round into Observatory Gully.
At the top of Tower Ridge (Photo Credit: Andy Southan)
Observatory Ridge was next on the list. This is the hardest of the major ridges, and I was quite happy to be following a coupe of team up it, showing me the way. The climbing felt quite insecure, however this isn't too long lived at the top is a nice easy snow romp. On topping out I met Ally and Alex who had just finished North East Buttress, with Liam and Tom still climbing. I descended Coire Leis again to get ready for my next route.
Tower Ridge was next up. This is the only one of the Nevis ridges I had done before so I felt quite comfortable leaving it till this late on. Tower Ridge is the most classic of the Ben Nevis ridges, however its classic status does spoil it a bit as there are often cues at the notorious tower gap. The ridge went quite smoothly until I got to the gap where at team wouldn't let me pass then as the had been "waiting there for hours". A long wait later they finally let me pass on the upper snow slopes. With 4 out of 5 ridges completed I could taste success, or maybe that was the hot Ribena some kind climbers supplied me with on the top. 
Ledge Route was up next. I decided I would down climb this on my way back to the hut. Ledge route is a nice little outing and an easy end to the day. I got back to the hut just in the light, had a coffee, or two, and headed back down to the car.
Ribena Simon walking off the summit plateau (Photo Credit: Andy Southan)
I am really pleased to get this done on my first attempt, and 4 out of the 5 ridges done onsight! 

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