Thursday, 10 February 2011

My best day so far this winter (posted by James)

Approaching the pinnacles.

East Ridge, Carn Dearg Meadhonach (grade II)

Wow….days like today convince me that Lochaber must genuinely be one of the most beautiful places in the world.

I got on the early climber's gondola this morning at the Nevis Range ski centre with the aim of climbing Western Rib (III) on Aonach Mor's West face. But yesterday's thaw and then fresh snow made things on the West face less than ideal…and as this would have been a serious and committing solo I quickly made the decision to leave it for another day.

So instead I headed towards Carn Dearg Meadhonach's East ridge. Not a difficult climb, but it turned into the best day for me so far this winter.

The route from below

The ridge itself is striking, formed from two gigantic pinnacles. Unfortunately there is a long slog to get to it, but once I did, it was worth the effort. Conditions weren't great…not much old snow, and I did a fair bit of scratching around on rock with only a dusting of fresh snow.

The shadow of the East ridge darkening the snow on Carn Beag Dearg

The fragments of cloud from the morning quite suddenly broke up as I started climbing, and what followed was one of the most beautiful sunny days I've ever had in Scotland.

The ridge steepens and narrows until it suddenly becomes awesomely exposed. The lack of consolidated snow made some of the downclimbing moves on the pinnacles more interesting than they could have been, but all the more fun!

As I was climbing I noticed a large amount of debris from an avalanche on the East side of Carn Mor Dearg…a sobering reminder how unstable things have been recently…

A day like mountaineering in the Alps in more ways than one!

The sun got warmer and warmer, and quite soon I was reminded of days in the Alps, and of late season ascents in April and May last year. It felt like mid spring, not mid February!

The reward of the route - a view to the biggest mountain face in Britain.

Like all great routes, there is a final reward as you top out. Quite suddenly as you move over the last pinnacle, the North face of Ben Nevis is revealed in all it's wonderful glory. The entire magnificent array of cliffs, the biggest mountain face in Britain, is suddenly there in front of you. I've climbed on the North face of the Ben many many times, and even now I am sometimes still awestruck by just how huge it really is.

The narrows

I spent quite a long time just taking in the view when I topped out, listening to climber's shouts echoing around the cliffs of the Ben. I could see two teams on Point Five Gully, and some on Tower Ridge and possibly Castle Ridge. There's a lot of snow on the North face at the moment…fingers crossed I'll still be doing winter routes in May again this year!

A self-portrait on the way down, a view to the vast North face of Ben Nevis

Today was a perfect example of how the best days really do not have to include hard climbs. I set out to do a route that I think would have really challenged me to solo climb, but I don't think I'd have had as good a day as I did on the East ridge. I am a photographer before I am a climber, and today the climbing came second place to the awesome splendour of my surroundings.


1 comment:

  1. Looks awesome, the pic of the shadows from the east ridge has a particularly "graphic" quality.