News from Ben Nevis of some impressive early season ascents, including at least one hard new route in very challenging conditions. Steve Ashworth takes up the story:
Ben Nevis put up a pretty good fight through the weekend. Climbing conditions were best high up on steep lines. Easier-angled ground was covered in damp snow which made progress slow at times and the wind was creating quite dodgy avalanche conditions though.
Steve Ashworth on pitch 1 of Apache
A highly motivated team from the Lakes headed north on Friday night. Heavy overnight snowfall and persistant snow throughout the day on Saturday, combined with a gusty winds, provided challenging climbing condtions. After a taste of winter in the Lakes last week it was good to be in the teeth of some full on winter gnarl but even so, 2 out of 4 teams climbing on Saturday bailed due to hardcore spindrift.
One team made short work of Cornucopia whilst Steve Ashworth, climbing with Paddy Cave, did a new line on the impressive-looking wall to the right of Sioux Wall. The barrell-shaped wall is split by a straight crack line which had caught Steves' attention on a previous trip. In the wild condtions, Paddy pulled of a great lead on the gently overhanging crux pitch. The new route has been namedApache and is thought to be VIII 9 with a harder and slightly more sustained crux pitch than neighbouring Sioux Wall, VIII 8. The addition of yet another great line to this wall further underlines the quality of the mixed climbing on offer around this part of the Ben
On Sunday a cold morning with crispy snow outside the CiC hut tempted teams out in search of Neve. Steve and Mike Wilson did what was possibly the first winter ascent of Militant Chimneys on the Douglas Boulder (they are waiting to find out if it has been done before) which gave a long route with a mountaineering feel about it. After arriving back in the dark, with 9 pitches of climbing up to grade VI 6 behind them, they have suggested that the Douglas Boulder be renamed Mount Douglas! Paddy Cave and Chris Stirling returned to number three gully where they climbed Cornucopia.
Paddy Cave finding a knee-bar on Cornucopia
Monday brought another cold morning and, in search of shorter day, Paddy and Chris headed for The Slab Climb, a route rapidly achieving modern classic status and a very reliable early season choice. Whilst Steve and Mike went to Pinnacle Arete. The snow conditions getting across to the Trident Buttress were a bit spooky but everyone arrived in one piece. Pinnacle Arete gave a very enjoyable mountaineering route with great positions only spoilt by Steve snapping his tool and having to finish the route with what was left of it. The weather changed late yesterday afternoon, with strong winds and wet snow high up and rain at the hut, Paddy and Chris experienced more full on Ben Nevis weather before finishing their route, requiring a bit of head torch action to get back to the hut.
Whilst descending number 4 gully, Steve triggered a big area of slab and is claiming a long jump world record after he jumped clear of the slab that had fractured behind him.