Log 28 Mar 2010

BEN NEVIS NO 3 GULLY† SUNDAY 28 MARCH†2010

Three members passed the intelligence test and met at 7:00 BST (alarm was set for 5:00 on old time!).
Dave, Andy and Laurence set off in mixed weather, with forecast of low cloud and 25mph winds.

We set off from Auchintee car park at 9:45 for the walk in to CIC hut.
The approach to the hut is simply awesome, the numerous crags and gullies almost at arm's length; those who choose the tourist route do not really see Ben Nevis.
Weather was reasonable, mixed, with some low cloud, but we still managed views of the mountain and CMD arÍte.
After a brief snack at CIC we left at 1:00 to cross into the gully.

Our first attempt was soon blocked with melting snow leaving an impassable hole, so it was a retreat and select a new route in the gully floor.
There were several other groups going their various ways including some on descent.
Their comments ranged from "hard going in the soft snow" to "ah widnae go up there, snae's crap".
Not to be deterred we slogged up the steepening slope through mainly sugary snow with good foot placement - but it was tough on the wee legs.
Low cloud prevented full visibility, but it was the wind picking up, and throwing spindrift into your face which made the climb trickier.

We stopped below a large boulder to rope up for the last pitch, Dave leading the now very steep, nae it was almost vertical, snow.
The wind seemed to swirl round the gully, bouncing off the snow - I now know what Glasgow tenements feel like when they are sand blasted!
Dave had to stop below the cornice to place a dead man as the exit to the plateau was very soft and it was difficult to obtain a good ice placement.
I was next up, kicking furiously to get a foothold, wielding axes like a wild thing, and eventually managed to pull my self though the cornice.
Last up after a long and very cold wait on the belay was Andy, so he deserved the cup of tea offered to him as we pulled him onto the plateau.

It was almost 4:00pm on Ben Nevis plateau, and we appeared to be the only souls there - no sign of life, no foot prints, with visibility about 50m.
So we navigated across to where the path should be, and after 3 attempts we saw what appeared to be the route down.
We managed a long bum slide through the softening snow, before the clouds offered the views to the zig-zags and our route home.
At the lochan we met crowds of foreign visitors, dressed naturally in customary jeans and trainers (wet), but at least they were going no further.

Back to the car for 6:30, a fine real ale in the Ben Nevis Inn, and safe home for 9:15.

A wonderful and exciting day on our highest mountain, thanks to Dave and Andy for the good company - I just want to go back for more.

Report by Laurence Archer