Atmospheric on the walk in

Atmospheric on the walk in

Ben Nevis has seen one of the best years for ice climbing conditions, many routes are so fat I think we could be climbing ice until mid April at this rate. Mid level routes have been in amazing condition for a really sustained period, climbs such as Harrisons and Boomers continue to hang in there whilst the higher routes have recently gone through the necessary freeze / thaw cycles encouraging a flurry of activity high up on the mountain. Aside from climbing Smiths Route a couple of weeks ago I haven’t done much ice up high on the Ben, so when Rich messaged to say he was keen for an adventure we chose Psychedelic Wall (VI, 5) as our primary objective. Rich made very short work of the first pitch climbing thinly iced slabs with an acceptable amount of good ice screws along the way. The second pitch was awesome, I was hot on the heels of another team infront of us so stopped to allow the second to get up the icy wall ahead. With just a few screws in 40m of climbing I took my time up the crux enjoying the mental balance of continuing to move with little in the way of good protection. Rich flew up to the belay before leading through up the steep ice fall, taken direct with great gear and first time placements all the way.

Setting off on the second pitch of Psychedelic Wall....

Setting off on the second pitch of Psychedelic Wall….

......And stalling to allow some space between teams

……And stalling to allow some space between teams

Rich approaching the belay

Rich approaching the belay

Great climbing!

Great climbing!

Rich leaving the belay to tackle the last pitch

Rich leaving the belay to tackle the last pitch

It was then a quick jaunt down Tower Gully and back across to get on Caledonia (V,5). This route lies about 30m right of Psychedelic Wall and slightly higher up the mountain. For such a short distance apart the two routes were a different proposition. It wasn’t that Caledonia was hard but it was certainly bold, the ice rotten and hollow. The top pitch that Rich led felt scary and certainly posed the most challenging pitch of the day – a stern lead!

Caledonia!

Caledonia!

P1030022

An impressive lead from Rich through some pretty spooky climbing

An impressive lead from Rich through some pretty spooky climbing

We walked in to the CIC with Al and Tom who were heading into the Ciste for some accessible climbing. Unfortunately whilst half way up our route we heard the chopper and as it turned out they had been involved in an avalanche out of Italian Right Hand. Tom has a serious leg injury and Al walked away unscathed. Just goes to show with a ‘Moderate’ avalanche forecast there is still a reasonable chance snow will be moving around. Keep an eye on Al’s blog for an update.

Lots of snow moving about - spindrift avalanche over the Shroud/Harrison's

Lots of snow moving about – spindrift avalanche over the Shroud/Harrison’s

One Response to “Psychedelic Wall & Caledonia”

  1. Colin Wells

    Hey Steve, thanks for posting the pic of the spindrift avalanche coming down Shroud/Harrison’s. I’m pretty certain we’re in it! (me and a pal). Had just finished the last steep pitch of Harrison’s and set up a fairly crap belay (two bottomed-out stubbies in 3-inch ice and clipped into axes in snow) when I got walloped by a monster that came from nowhere and chucked me off my perch. Luckily the belay held and Mike also contrived to stay attached to the ice below (he was mid-pitch). Very chastening – we’d seen the Paraffin Budgie taking poor old Al Halewood’s pal off earlier and mused that that might be the last winch up off the Ben by the RAF. But it was damn nearly us in the end!
    Cheers,
    Col

    Reply

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