The CIC hut meet saw Aaron, Michael, Florian, Luca and myself travelling and walking up on Friday evening. Only five other climbers stayed in the hut and they were as determined as us to give the winter another chance – and probably the last one for this season 😉 Guided by the recent blogs we chose climbs for the next day and pulled straws – sorry forks!!! – for the two teams.
Early on Saturday we started the approach all together in a little fresh snow and after getting the first good sweat on we parted ways. Aaron and I headed onwards into Gardyloo Gully and Florian, Michael and Luca made their way to Good Friday Climb. We planned to meet at the summit and then to do another climb but as so often in winter things came a bit different.
While everything seemed to go smooth for the three guys on Good Friday, Aaron and I had a rather interesting time in Gardyloo. As Florian pointed out later ‘Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want!!!’ At least for me this was the case on this climb. After a lot of this experience we finally got on track and continued through a tunnel under a massive chock stone. This part of the climb is the fun part really and gets topped off by having to work out how to get out of the funnel at the end. It is not often that you come across 360 degrees of vertical ice for about 3, 4 meter up!!!
Rather relieved we reached the summit plateau a good few hours later than planned and decided to have lunch at the summit and to make our way back to the hut via number 4 gully. By that time the three boys had moved on to Raeburn’s Easy Route. After soloing up the first pitch they decided that the route is not that easy after all and they roped up for the next pitches. They reported that they very much enjoyed Good Friday Climb but they didn’t seem very impressed by the other route. Well done guys for making two climbs in a day!!! All in all the ice conditions were okay on Saturday and the weather was misty but warm with only little wind.
During a relaxed evening in the cosy hut we made our plans for the next day and had an early night. We were delighted to wake up to a frosty and quite clear Sunday morning. The ground was nicely frozen what I successfully tested with a quite unpleasant landing on my bottom when getting water from outside. Michael, Luca and Aaron teamed up and headed off with Gardyloo Gully in mind. When they came past Tower Scoop they couldn’t resist though and Luca led the group up. After an enjoyable time on this climb they traversed over to Gardyloo and decided that it was far too busy with other teams and made their way back to the hut Tower Gully.
Florian and I headed into the corrie towards Comb Gully. After soloing up the first pitch we were delighted to see the start of a fab looking steep ice pitch. And surely this route was very interesting and for me the best I have experienced so far!!! It was nice and steep and had parts of very pretty looking ‘waterfall like ice terrace bits’ – is there any special term for this? – and a narrow rocky bit. I had a fantastic time and thought the ice conditions were good. Florian who was leading reported that the ice wasn’t that great for the screw placements though but never the less was very glad that we decided to opt for this route. The weather was very mild and again with hardly any wind. We also enjoyed the peace and quiet of being the only team on the route – a rarity on Ben Nevis.
On return to the hut we found the other team chilling out with cups of tea after having cleaned up the hut for all of us. Thanks a lot guys!!! We finished our packing and walked down to the cars in a bit of drizzle and waved the hut – and presumably the winter - good bye. Thanks to everybody for a great weekend 🙂 !!!