Craig, Bill and I head to Fort William to “camp” on the stormiest night of Christmas for an early assault on the Ben. 5am saw us leave the Bank Street bunk house and head to the North Face car park. With the new path and Bill setting pace (32mins to the top car park) we were walking up the Allt a’ Mhuilinn heading for the hut. The dark, the snow and the familiarity meant we veered right after crossing the burn and by “happy” accident arrived at the foot of number 5 gully. We re-assessed the plan and decided that Ledge Route was the only option (new snow over neve and the in-coming gale-force winds). I have climbed this route a couple of times and always enjoy it as it feels quite alpine...today the wind was coming in gusts and the snow felt unstable in places. The general conditions felt wintery but there is no deep frost to freeze the turf and bond the rocks (I hooked a huge block and had an “interesting” moment as it detached itself and made a new home 20’ below). Before we topped out we made ready map and compass as negotiating the top of No 5 Gully can be tricky. We took the full 70mph wind and hail on the chin and by combined tactics paced 270º for 200m, 180º for 450m then 270º to the red burn, phew, soup, gear off, trudge past the half way lochan and back to the car. Coffee, cake and home for 6pm (24hrs later).
Another simply epic day ...
|No 5 Gully and new snow over old avalanche debris |
|Craig comes up for breath|
|Me before I meet the "block"|
|Craig and Bill|
|Bill, Craig and me out of the wind at last|