Petestack Blog

10 July 2009

Ben Nevis ridge day

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 11:51 pm

Finding myself on my own and wanting to make use of a glorious summer Friday with poorer weather forecast for the weekend, today’s original objective was to solo Castle Ridge (Mod), after which a descent by Ledge Route (Easy) should follow naturally. But somehow (thinking ‘why stop there when it won’t take that long and there’s plenty more to do on the Ben?’) my wishlist for a perfectly-formed day soon grew to take in the ascent of Tower Ridge (Diff) and traverse of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. So that’s what I did…

While I’d never descended Ledge Route or done the CMD Arete ‘backwards’, Castle Ridge was the only part of this itinerary I’d never done at all (excepting last winter’s floundering attempt in deep powder). But it’s straightforward enough in dry summer conditions so long as you keep the head for the steep, exposed crux (see photo with my rock shoes, for which I’d changed my Inov8 Roclites at the first steep, polished groove below), and I was soon up at the Carn Dearg cairn changing back into trainers for the descent of Ledge Route. Which all went very easily apart from crossing the water-streaked slab low down where the Roclites weren’t so reassuring (to which I might add that I’ve somewhat gone off them for scrambling since some mostly successful trials in the Cuillin last year because the studs can ‘spin’ on smaller holds).

2009-07-10castleridge1 2009-07-10castleridge2

2009-07-10castleridge3 2009-07-10ledgeroute

Noting some climbing activity on Carn Dearg Buttress (probably Centurion and The Bat) as I traversed across to Tower Ridge, I was sorry not to have brought my other camera with the big zoom as The Bat (?) leader appeared in silhouette right at the steepest visible rock. But I was soon engrossed in a ‘hard’ ascent of my own, finding the nearer West Gully (loose, mossy chossfest with some steep moves) not at all nice as an approach to the Douglas Gap and Tower Ridge proper (so no surprise that the guidebook directs summer climbers to the same point via the East Gully round the far side of the ridge!). That said, I was soon high above, spying climbers on Minus One Direct, passing a team of three on the Little Tower and catching another pair just before Tower Gap. Where I was happy to take five, change back into the rock shoes and use the hold-up to think through this most sensational crux before the leader reported a stuck rope and my offer to help free it fortuitously brought me the chance to climb through. So perhaps I’ve pictured myself soloing the gap for years and wondering how I’d feel unroped in this technically straightfoward but most exposed of positions, but why worry? No snow, no ice, no wind and dry rock is about as good as it gets here, many folk I know have done it and, while there’s no way it’s ever going to be risk free, I was down, up the other side and virtually home dry (bar staying to get some shots of the second descending) in a jiffy!

2009-07-10towergap1 2009-07-10towergap2

And so on to the busy summit and beyond, stopping frequently for photos, enjoying an incredibly leisurely pace given the ambitious itinerary, hearing the calls of the now unseen climbers still on Carn Dearg Buttress as I cut back towards the Allt a’ Mhuilinn from Carn Beag Dearg in search of yet more good shots, and finally jogging down the path to get back to the van just seven-and-a-half hours after leaving it. A perfectly-formed mountain day indeed!

2009-07-10summit 2009-07-10arete

2009-07-10carnmordearg 2009-07-10benretrospect

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