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Centurion, Ben Nevis

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 ralphio 12 May 2022

We have a few days planned in Scotland next week. Centurion has been on my bucket list for years so we'll probably go and have a look. Despite doing a lot of low grade winter climbing I've never actually 'rock climbed' in Scotland and so have absolutely no idea about conditions. I've got the Gary Latter guidebook but there's not really much mention of conditions.

Is mid May still a bit early in the season for climbing rock on the North Face? Specifically the area around Centurion will it still be suffering a lot from snow melt this time of year? 

Is it normally possible to avoid snow on the descent down number 5 at this time of year?

Thanks

 henwardian 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

> Is mid May still a bit early in the season for climbing rock on the North Face?

Yes. It's basically the highest and coldest rock face in the British Isles, I've climbed a few routes there but only ever in July/August. Maybe someone who lives around Ft Bill will be on presently to tell you what they can see with their binoculars but my money would be on May being just far to early in the year for enough snow to have melted and it to have dried out.

I can highly recommend the route though. Just take care on the N face of Ben Nevis because a lot of frost shattering does occur so loose blocks are a definite thing to watch out for.

12
 Rick Graham 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

FWIW , I have climbed Minus One Direct and the Bat on May bank holiday trips.

Probably hard to avoid snow lingering in the gullies but everybody seems to get down somehow, just plan a descent from the approach.

Centurion should be OK after a couple of dry days, or just walk up anyway , lots of easier classics as alternatives .

 kevin stephens 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

It’s a long time since I climbed Centurion but my recollection is that it’s one of the top 3 routes I’ve done at any grade, it stands proud of the face so not impacted by run off, and that the snow in number 5 gulley is a help rather than hindrance on the descent; you may get a damp bum from glissaiding but preferably to interminable scree

Post edited at 10:26
 petegunn 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

In the log books there are over 20 ascents in May 2018 so if its been dry worth a look.

In reply to ralphio:

No conditions beta, I'm afraid, as we climbed Centurion in a heatwave last August. However, here's a brief TR for psyche and a bit of beta. 

https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2021/07/21/centurion-the-ben/

Fab route - enjoy! Cheers, Dom 

In reply to ralphio:

There used to be a webcam that showed the N face of the Ben (at an angle from the north). If that's still working then it gives you an idea of how much snow is still around (when there's no clag in the way).

Also, Carn Dearg Buttress is quite a bit lower than the top of the Ben (from Tower Ridge it's surprising how much you're looking down at it) so will be degrees warmer and less likely to see snow. In early June one year I was in a snow shower on TR but the parties (several) on CDB were untroubled by it (not even sure they received any precipitation).

In reply to ralphio:

In case it affects your plans:

From Forestry & Land Scotland.

Latest forest information

Engineering works mean the North Face access road and car park (Allt a' Mhuillin) will be closed to vehicles on weekdays until 20 May 2022. Vehicle access to the car park will be possible at weekends only, but expect delays and significantly reduced capacity. On-foot access is available during the week though we ask visitors to consider nearby alternative forests first. If visiting, please follow all instructions from staff on site. Alternative parking can be found in Fort William or at Nevis Range (pay parking available). We apologise for any inconvenience.

Additional engineering works will commence at MacKenzies Road, Torlundy, and through to the Nevis Range exit from 2 May – July 2022. Expect delays and possible short notice closures on the forest road as work progresses.

 Mike-W-99 12 May 2022
In reply to Michael Hood:

Assume you are thinking of the cic webcam? Doesn’t point at Carn Dearg but gives a general indication of conditions.

https://www.smc.org.uk/cicwebcam/cic_weather.php

In reply to ralphio:

It depends entirely on the weather. It has certainly been done in April and May. Carn Dearg is a quite a lot lower than the summit and gets more sun. Locals will know better than me, but if it were 20 degrees in Fort William and had been dry for a week then I would definitely walk in myself.

 jiminy483 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

We climbed it quite early in the year. The lower crux was wet and greasy and we both  ended up aiding a few moves. Other than it was in good condition and lovely weather until the last pitch when it rained.

 David Lanceley 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

Did Centurion and the Bat on consecutive days over the late May bank holiday in 1975.  Crag was in perfect condition with perhaps a little seepage here and there.  Great snow-sliding down the descent gully.  Two other parties on the crag, Harry Lambert & Dave Parker and the late Ken Wilson & Bob Burns.

Climbing was brilliant but the walks up from Glen Nevis in big boots a bit of a trial....

OP ralphio 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

Thanks for all that useful info. I think we'll probably end up wandering up and having a look if it's been dry beforehand. 

If it is sopping wet I expect we'll have a climb up Castle or Tower ridge. As an aside, does anyone know if the exit slopes of these are snow free yet?

Thanks again.

 GrahamD 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

I have climbed Centurion in good conditions in May but hadn't forseen the need to descend a snow slope in rock shoes !

 Rick Graham 12 May 2022
In reply to David Lanceley:

> Did Centurion and the Bat on consecutive days over the late May bank holiday in 1975.  Crag was in perfect condition with perhaps a little seepage here and there.  Great snow-sliding down the descent gully.  Two other parties on the crag, Harry Lambert & Dave Parker and the late Ken Wilson & Bob Burns.

> Climbing was brilliant but the walks up from Glen Nevis in big boots a bit of a trial....

What struck me about walking to CDB in summer was how easy it was compared to the bog fest in winter. Nowadays its even easier with the new paths .

 Pina 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

Carn Dearg catches the sun and can be in summer condition whilst other crags are still in winter nick. 

The question as to whether it will be in for any given day in May will depend on the winter that's preceded it realit.

In reply to Mike-W-99:

> Assume you are thinking of the cic webcam? Doesn’t point at Carn Dearg but gives a general indication of conditions.

Nope, didn't know about that one and a websearch shows many more so I'm not sure which one it was - but there also seem to be several on the Anoch's skiing area which shows the ground conditions at (I think) just over 2000'.

Might have been this one https://visitfortwilliam.co.uk/webcam_images but I'd need a clear day to be able to tell 😁

 LJKing 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

I did Centurion at the end of May last year. It was dry apart from a few damp bits on pitch two which I think are always like that. What a fantastic route! We descended number 5 gully which was full of snow and interesting in rock boots! 

 morpcat 12 May 2022
In reply to ralphio:

Obligatory link to Pescod's video of Orion (V) and Centurion (HVS) on the same day: youtube.com/watch?v=RbAV4PUV_Es&

CIC webcam Twitter has history of pics so you can find a clear day and get a good look. Doesn't show Carn Dearg though: https://mobile.twitter.com/cicwebcam

Post edited at 19:02
In reply to ralphio:

It has been pretty wet in the western highlands this week - so will need a few days to dry I would think.

On descent cross No 5 Gully high up - as opposed to following the lower Ledge Route line.  This is a lot easier - you cross the gully rather than climbing down it then double back to arrive at the foot of the gully and Carn Dearg Buttress. So from the top of Centurion you head up left initially before descending rather heading down left straight away. (left as facing in).  (Did it early June last year).


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