You have to love winter climbing. In bed early on a Friday night, up at 5am in the morning before wandering through the dark wondering what drives you to ‘want’ to do this?!
Today Kev, Joe and I head for Ben Nevis with a pretty open mind as to what we were going to do. The snow was waist deep in areas so No.1 choice of the Ciste was out. The West side of the Douglas Boulder looked like it had been scoured by the wind so that was put to one side too. A few other teams were on-route to Observatory area so we followed suit with the intention of climbing The Great Chimney. It is however, hard to pass what looked to be unclimbed ground on the way to the route so we started up with an eye for a new line. In the end it wasn’t going to happen today. Kev lost a bit of psych trying to get established on the line and with that decided his day was over and head on down to the van.
Joe and I were keen to salvage the day so made short work of East Ridge (IV,5) on the Douglas Boulder. The large steps on the second pitch had no build up so I climbed the steep cracked wall and corner which felt pretty ‘sporting’ for the grade.
The abseil off the boulder is usually pretty straight forward but with heavy drifts in East gully we opted for a marginally better West gully only to trigger a reasonable size avalanche, luckily we had decided to abseil down the gully in preparation for such an event.
Others had reported on poor conditions on the West side of Douglas Boulder but we found excellent conditions in and around Observatory Gully; white, rimed up rocks, good cracks and plenty of ice building. I love Scottish winter, I have a thirst for the suffering, spindrift and numb fingers. There is no better feeling than heading home after a bit of a battle on the Ben, roll on the next outing……