/ Routes on the Ben
Make sure you do Raeburn's with a competent second - it's got a long traverse on snow without much/any protection. Fairly easy but serious. The bit at the left of Cascade can give a good pitch of grade II/III ice before it banks out (may have done so already), but I'd say that there were better easy routes on the mountain.
Castle Ridge is as technical as Tower Ridge, probably III,4. Tends to be quite rocky in nature.
Watch for cornicing at the top of the routes, I found Raeburns Easy Route to be anything but easy when I got within 3m of the top.
I found Castle Ridge a lot harder than Tower Ridge when under powder (rather than the much rarer neve). For the former the moves up to gain the 'crux' chimney can be bold, delicate and super exposed (the chimney is safe and OK). For the later the crux can be being patient with slow parties ahead and incompetant muppets soloing past.
I agree the Ben suffers from paucity of reliable easier routes, Raeburns, Number 3 Gully and Ledge Route are better than most but all need care at times. CMD arete would count but it's a big day. By the time you are climbing III there are more oprions as in a few places you can climb up at this grade and before the top come down a I and so avoid cornices and avalanche prone slopes.
Raeburns Easy can be very difficult to find when the cloud is below the summit (ie most of the time) and you don't know the Ben well.
I'd also second the thing about Castle Ridge being tough under powder - I did it recently and found the bit to get into the chimney pretty desperate (mantle onto a powdery featureless slab) and the top of the route was quite time consuming.
If the gullies are okay avalanche-wise, I thought North Gully (II) was excellent, and Number 2 Gully (II) very good, though a notch harder as we had trouble finding any rock gear at all.
> The bit at the left of Cascade can give a good pitch of grade II/III ice before it banks out (may have done so already), but I'd say that there were better easy routes on the mountain.
> Yes, it's pretty banked out. Team of three on short rope despatched it without pitching on Saturday. Cornice OK but may be different by now ...
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