/ Ben Nevis - Centurion history
Can anyone tell me any history behind centurion?
I have some notes telling me the line was first attempted by a Tony Garman, and John Eccles, but I can't find anything more specific, and if they completed it, and if they didn't then who did.
Whillans and Downes in 1956. Or is that somehow not the question?
Aye shit sorry, whillans; I knew that as well. School boy error.
Yeah I'm wanting to know more specifically about earlier attempts on it. I guess no one shouts too much about the lines they didn't finish.
Brian Kellett tried it.
> Kellett's refusal to be intimidated by excessively steep or overhanging rock is illustrated by his attempts to climb the fierce central mass of Carn Dearg Buttress. One such attempt on the 6th June, 1944 is described here by Robin Plackett: "Brian took us along to Carn Dearg Buttress to see whether any further progress could be made on a climb which he had already prospected.
> The first part was a very steep wall at right angles to the main face, about 50 feet high. This finished on a sloping ledge with a large boulder, secure enough for the next stretch. Brian now wanted his jacket so my wife Carol who was in the party, went back for it to the hut. The climb offered a gangway and a crack with few holds. We disliked the start of the gangway but explored the crack above the ledge (finding a line loop) and found a higher traverse impossible. Carol returned to find us in retreat. I was lowered and Brian abseiled for the first time under Carol's tuition. We returned to the hut for sun and supper."
> The line they tried is undoubtably the first pitch of Centurion, climbed twelve years later by Whillans and Downes. It is interesting to note the evidence of the old sling, suggesting that someone else had been up this pitch before Kellett. He later returned to Centurion Corner and effected a breakthrough rightwards across some slabs in an attempt to reach the prominent chimney feature. His effort failed, but the line was eventually forced in 1954 by Brown and Whillans, who used a direct start and named the climb — ‘Sassenach’. Kellett had designs on this line as early as the summer of 1943 and mentioned his intention to Bell who doubted its feasibility. After his unsuccessful foray he heeded Bell's advice and left the proposed route to another generation. It was Kellett who named Point Five, Minus One, Minus Two and Minus Three Gullies — he contemplated Point Five Gully as a summer climb, but never got round to it.
> Brian Kellett tried it.
That's the name I was trying to remember! Was just about to go check the guidebook and post that he'd tried it.
I’m intrigued to read that “Brian abseiled for the first time under Carol’s tuition”. What a way to learn! They certainly did things differently then!
An old friend of mine, Bob Millward, claimed the first winter ascent sometime back in the 70s or maybe late 60s. However, if I remember correctly, his ascent wasn't accepted (by the SMC?) as he'd taken two days, abseiling off leaving ropes in place and returning the next day having spent the night in town.
Some early members of my club, the Lomond MC talk about a really early attempt by the two I mentioned. That must have been late 40s at some point.
If it was late '40s, it would be after Kellett. Kellett's is the first described in Crocket and Richardson's 'Ben Nevis' (which also mentions a 1953 attempt by Marshall), but someone had been there before...
The winter of '76 if my memory serve me well Jon. The controversial bit was Bob inserting chocks and hooking onto them to aid progress. No torquing in those days. Funnily I climbed again with Bob last year at Idwal after he had returned from Canada. and judging by his ancient gear he hadn't climbed since '76!
Ah, Christopher Robin. Yes, I think you're right about the aid. There used to be a photo of him on here on Brian Cropper's gallery but it all seems to have disappeared now...
> Brian Kellett tried it.
Well, he did and he didn't. While the sling was discovered* part way up the Centurion corner with further upward progress 'not inviting' (Kellett quoted by Crocket from the CIC Hut logbook), it seems his intention was always to find a route rightwards to Sassenach.
*I keep wondering about this. Does 'finding a line loop' have to mean 'discovered an old sling', or could it mean 'found a suitable spike to sling and did it'? Is there another source beyond Plackett's account (e.g. Kellett's notebooks, CIC Hut logbook) to clarify?
It was also Kellett who named Vanishing Gully.
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