Thursday, 10 January 2013

Number 2 Gully and a great sunrise on the Ben

Intense colours during an amazing sunrise on Ben Nevis

 Today reminded me of a very important truth - that it is still possible to have a truly great day on a climb that you've done more than once before.

I headed up Ben Nevis today in search of some nevé to climb. I had a great month in December in terms of climbing but all on mixed routes, and although this is what I prefer there is something just so enjoyable about climbing gullies on perfect solid snow. 

The summit at dawn 
Due to various things the last time I went climbing was almost a month ago. So needless to say I've been getting itchy feet and observing the persistent thaw with unease. So although I prefer to climb routes I've never done before whenever I go climbing in winter, a reliable route was the name of the game for me today. And although I've climbed Number 2 Gully twice before, both on beautiful days, this was my eventual choice for this morning.

 The great cleft of Number 2 Gully

I really fancied topping out for the sunrise, and an ascent of the gully in semi-darkness really appealed. It is an extremely atmospheric route, a deep cleft in the mountainside with steep and jagged walls on each side. Approaching its base in the silent dark was awesome, with just the "polystyrene" sound of my crampons biting firm snow and a ptarmigan's call echoing around Tower Ridge.

And although an ascent of Number 2 is always a pleasure in itself, I decided to put my own spin on it to make it more interesting. I decided to try and get from the car to the summit via the gully as quick as I could, and it was exhilarating to be blasting up the North face at my fastest speed through the dark.

The early bird catches the worm...
The long thaw and now re-freeze high up has transformed the slush into bomber solid snow which was a pleasure to climb. I found myself being able to go at a very fast pace as every axe and crampon placement was perfect first time. 

 A photo for everyone saying "there's no snow left in Scotland"....

So 2 hours 53 minutes after leaving the car I was at the summit cairn, and I was about to be treated to an awesome spectacle. The sun started to rise above the broken cloud inversion below me, and the whole world turned gold. I waved at my own "Brocken Spectre" levitating above the void of the North face and pink light spread over the mountain tops of the entire Western Highlands. It really does not get much better.

 Incredible cloud and lighting effects

 My "Brocken Spectre" hovering over the North face.


No comments:

Post a Comment