The CIC Hut and The Ben
Wednesday 8th 2014
After spending the night in Fort William we got up early to start the long walk into the CIC hut that’s nestled below the north face of Ben Nevis. This is a great starting point for climbing on the north face and I can highly recommend it if you can get a space. After arriving we deposited our food for a couple of nights and sleeping gear, repacked our bags and headed up onto the mountain to see what was in condition. As there was a lot of snow high up, we opted for a bit of shelter lower down on the Douglas Boulder. We decided to climb the South-West Ridge as it didn’t finish too high and would keep us out of the worst of the strong winds. This is a fantastic route that wanders up a nice ridge overlooking the Douglas Gap, the climbing is always interesting and varied putting you into some exciting situations. As we climbed higher the weather continued to get worse but we persevered reaching the summit in a very brief spell of clear, resulting in us being able to now see at least 100 metres ahead! We quickly arrange an abseil that would drop us into the Douglas Gap West Gully. Once at the end of the ropes we quickly descended and headed back to the CIC hut for our 3 course feast – sort of! (Cuppa soup, super noodles and then pasta and sauce) Unfortunately we both didn’t think about dessert.
Little Brenva Face
Thursday 9th 2014
Today the weather was due to be much better so we decided to take on one of the bigger routes on the Little Brenva Face. As the base of these climbs is around 1000 metres we were hoping that the ice would be in good condition – we weren’t disappointed! I had arranged to meet up with Max and Dave, some fellow instructors, and we opted for Route Major. This is an excellent mountaineering route with difficult route finding through a network of steep buttresses and dead end ledges. We climbed a couple of easy pitches to find ourselves barred by a huge over hanging and bare rock buttress. So we made a diagonal traverse to the left to find the easier ground, then back right above this barrier climbing higher and higher until we hit another obstacle. This time we headed left up a steep icy runnel. Having overcome some difficult and technical steps, it was getting late, time to dig the head torches out and get a move on. Thankfully the last two pitches were very straight forward snow pitches allowing us to move quickly. Max and Dave were just ahead and had already sorted themselves out with a plan to get us all safely off the summit. I’m not always keen to let someone navigate me off such a dangerous mountain but as Max is running for Britain’s orienteering team this year I was more than happy to let him carry on. Safely down we headed back to the CIC hut to dry kit and eat lots! This is such a great route I would highly recommend it, but route finding is very difficult and complex, you should aim to get there early.
The Last Day
Friday 10th 2014
The weather turned really bad today, so we headed up towards the Italian climb in Coire Na Ciste. Unfortunately there was so much snow and wind barreling down the buttress it made climbing too dangerous. We decided to head back down to the hut, have a cup of tea, pack the rest of our kit and make our way back to the car. We headed into Fort William to eat, again, then started the long drive south to sunnier climes. This has been a great trip, made possible by some very kind people, special thanks to Simon, Lou, Ian, Laura, Jake, Mandy, Robin and Becky. A great early season trip!