Sunday, 1 June 2014

Summer highs

Last Friday, myself, Kev and Andy headed on to the Ben with a plan to climb Tower Ridge. The guys had agreed to be my 'clients' for the day and as we approached the hut, it sure looked like an interesting day! The cold North wind was really biting and as we layered up, it certainly felt a million miles away from some of the warm sunny days we'd been having recently. I roped the guys up and we headed into the Douglas Gully East. This was pretty horrible, loose and wet and not particularly easy to safeguard the chaps on. Nevertheless, we made it up the chimney and onto the ridge just as the snow started... As the the cloud lifted we saw fresh snow and even some rime on the upper part of the climb. With an ice axe each, but no crampons, we made the decision to head down. After having an epic long day on Tower Ridge in winter before, none of us felt we had anything to prove by fighting up the route in sub optimal. We descended the grassy ramp higher into Observatory gully which will be my first choice of accessing the ridge in the future. We even found a few bits of kit that had been dropped last winter!

On Saturday, the sun was out again, and I was guiding a group of 3 peakers for Maximum Adventure. A great performance and nice conditions saw us on the summit in around 3hrs 15min and back down in under 6 hours total, a promising start for the team!

On Sunday, I was guiding Mark and his son Matt on the Ben for Hunter Mountaineeing. Both of the guys live in California but were adapting well to the Scottish climate! A wet forecast didn't really amount to much and we stayed fairly dry for the day, which was a bonus. Well done guys!

I seem to get more than my fair share of good weather when guiding on the CMD arete, and Tuesday was no exception! I was out with Sam, who had chosen to ascend Ben Nevis via a more interesting and challenging route. She was treated to conditions that were pretty much as good as it gets, with great views of the North Face of Ben Nevis, the Mamores and beyond to Glencoe. Sam took the arete in her stride and steadily cruised here way along it until the final push to the top of the Ben. It's on days like that I have the best job in the world!

It's always a pleasure to meet up with returning clients and on Thursday, Razia, Anuja and 9 year old Aakesh were back in the Fort with the summit of Ben Nevis in their sight! Last April when the guys were up here, we headed up Meall an-t Suidhe as warm up to the Ben. After a good few months of training, they were ready to give the Ben a shot. A good steady pace for the day saw us all reaching the summit in good spirits with plenty in the tank to tackle the long descent. A massive well done to young Aakesh who has been the youngest person I've guided up the Ben so far.

Aakesh making sure he was the highest person in the UK!
With a great forecast on Friday, Andy had mentioned the possibility of getting on one of the big mountain routes on the Ben. The Bullroar was high on both of our lists and so we headed up to Carn Dearg buttress to get a look... There were some wet streaks along the crux slab pitch but we hoped the sun would dry these out. Unfortunately, the first pitch was really wet and Andy moved over into the corner and the E1 5b alternative start. A great effort from Andy saw him battle his way up the strenuous corner and onto the first belay. I led the next two pitches which saw some thought provoking moves on sensationally exposed ground. The first wet streak was dry but the second one meant we had to make a rather large step over to avoid it. Route finding was quite hard but we eventually found ourselves on familiar ground half way up pitch 3 of Centurion. A couple more pitches and we reached the ab point above The Bat. We backed up some dodgy looking tat on the anchors with our own and made the 2 long abseils back to terra firma! An absolutely classic route and one of my favourite days climbing for sure!
Photo by Mike Pescod

With rare day off on a Saturday, Glenda, John and I headed to Glen Loy. I went for a run up Beinn Bhan which was massively enjoyable, especially with the stunning views over a mirror like Loch Arkaig. Nice to be moving relatively fast and light in the hills, and outrunning the midges too!