Proposal on Ben Nevis!

No not me.  Today I had a request from Steve to deliver a very important item to the top of Ben Nevis.  With plans schemed so that Jo didn’t find out the plan they set off up the mountain with a head start.  At about a quarter of the way up I overtook them with secret nods between myself and Steve.

Probably the only man on the mountain that was getting more and more nervous as he went up we separately made our way up and into the cloud and then onto the summit.  With the prearranged spot for me to leave the ring surrounded by people, mild panic set in.  Luckily the small cairn next to the main summit cairn cleared in time, I claimed my spot, and waited for Steve and Jo.

When they arrived I emptied my pockets of 2 wine glasses and a small bottle of Rioja and the ring and left them on the top.  With Jo wandering towards the magical spot with the guidance of Steve she perfectly stumbled over the surprise.  Steve popped the question and got the right answer.

I’m sure that there is some metaphor for climbing a mountain and marriage but I will leave it open.  With the engagement at the summit we all knew that it was down hill all the way from here!

We then all walked down the mountain together with Jo in shock and Steve quietly satisfied that the plan had come off.  Congratulations all round.

Oh my God!

Oh my God!

Mammut on Ledge Route

With the weather being near blue sky’s for the last 10 days I met Mike and Donald at 5.30am to ‘get the best light’ for the photo shoot of Rolf and his team for mammut and John from Go Outdoors on Ledge Route.

Rolf is travelling round the top 10 countries in terms of sales figures for Mammut and climbing their highest peaks.  Rolf has also kindly donated ropes and helmets for us to use on the Ben Nevis North Face survey in August.

The aim of the day was to go up Ledge route taking photos along the way, but as we walked in the clouds descended and the rain started, at least we got to try out the Mammut jackets!  Donald then dangled Rolf and Cathy from SNH over an edge to get some good photos and to look at the interesting vegetation that we will hopefully collate in the survey.

With climbing kit on we started up Number 5 gully, still with a lot of snow in it and made our way onto a very atmospheric Ledge Route, which the guys really enjoyed.  In the mist the whole way John worked hard to get the shots that were needed.

From the summit we passed Wragg’s Well and then descended to the top of the abseil posts in Corrie Leis, descending the boulder field.  Here the clouds finally lifted and we got great views of the north face and 2 skier’s descending Observatory Gully, on the longest day (on snow).  A great day out.

See my facebook page for more photos and a video of the skier’s.

Donald with Mr Mammut and Mr Go Outdoors on ledge route

Donald with Mr Mammut and Mr Go Outdoors on Ledge Route

Navigation on Fraoch-Bheinn

Today I was out with Heather who wanted to learn the basics of navigation.  With a fair bit of experience already with maps it was apparent that we could go along a bit quicker through the fundamentals: orienting the map, using a journey to help work out where we had been and what terrain we should travel through.

On the lower slope of Fraoch-Bheinn (heather peak) we introduced using the compass to confirm direction of travel by taking a general bearing before moving on to taking more accurate bearings up the hill.  By lunch time we were on the summit overlooking Loch Sheil, and Glen Finnan with Ben Nevis in the background.  We continued round the horseshoe to Sgurr an Utha with great views to Loch Beoraid and the isles of Rum, Eigg and Skye.

On the way down we covered navigation strategies like hand railing, dog legging and having a catching feature.  Great progression throughout the day by Heather and a great day to be on the western hills.

Heather with Ben Nevis in the background

Heather with Ben Nevis in the background

CMD arete and Ben Nevis

Today was a different way up Ben Nevis for me this year going up Carn Mor Dearg and along the CMD arête with Henry and Veronica.  With the forecast being maybe the best I’ve personally had on the mountain this year of overcast with gusts of 40mph I was looking forward to it.  We set off at a blistering pace up to the summit of Car Mor Dearg reaching the top in just over 2.5 hours and the guys first munro.  The difference in temperature was massive between the bottom of the hill and the summit, so we all layered up and got the gloves and hats out in the stiff breeze surrounded by cloud.

We then made our way down from the summit to the start of the arête where we put on crampons for the snow arête.  Unbeknown to us the snow arête only lasted 50 meters and we were back onto rock for the remainder of the ridge. With a few small glimpses of a view to the CIC hut and the Mamores range we carried on in the cloud and the strengthening wind, scrambling over the rocks.  After about an hour we reached the abseil post cairn were we had a windy lunch.

Just for the final push up to the summit of Ben Nevis which we reach at 2pm, just over 5 hours after we set off.  Now just for the final descent down the Red Burn snow patch which speeded our progress even more, back at the car in a total of 7 hours.  A great day out.

Henry and Veronica on the CMD arête.

Henry and Veronica on the CMD arête.

Navigation and Ben Nevis

For the last 2 days I have been with Emita teaching the basics of navigation.  Yesterday we covered aspects like orientating the map, taking a bearing, hand railing, taking a bearing from the ground and marking it on the map and vise versa.  We based ourselves round the slopes of Fraoch Bheinn which overlooks Glen Finnan and is a great hill to practice navigation.  With a track to start then onto smaller paths and finally the undulating hill-side, with great views out west and to Loch Shiel.  The weather managed to hold off until almost at the car which was a bonus.

Today the aim was to see how far we got towards the summit of Ben Nevis.  After a steady pace we made half way at the Red Burn in just under 3 hours.  With the decision made that we probably were not going to make the summit in a sensible time, we made our way round half way lochan to head up our next goal of Meall an t-Suidhe which overlooks the main path up Ben Nevis and has commanding views across Loch Eil and the Mamores at a height of 712m.  And is a good alternative to test how you would fair being roughly half the height of Ben Nevis.

On the way down we got the map and compass out to re-cap on the skills learnt yesterday taking bearings and going through the ‘journey’ on the map that we had taken to confirm where we were.  A great couple of days with good weather!

For more photos of the conditions on the Ben Track see my Facebook page.



With late plans made the decision was to get a few early season rock routes done.  It is that time of year in the Highlands when you could ice climb, ski, rock climb, winter and summer walking and sea kayak.

With an early start we made the drive out and the 45 minute walk in to the ring crags at Ardnamurchan.  Myself, Craig, Craig and Allen headed to Meall an Fhir-Eoin to start.  I led up the classic of Vulcan VS 4c on good clean, grippy gabbro. A great way to start the day and the season.  After Allen led Ringmaster VS 5a which is also a classic, with a few boulder type moves along the way.  After a bit of lunch with the sun shining we moved to The Hooded wall crag where I climbed Stromboli HVS 5b, with good gear and 2 harder moves to get over the steeper section it was quickly over, but a great little route.

Next was Dome Buttress, a small crag but this 4 very good routes on it.  Allen went up Greta Gabbro VS 4c first and then I went up the steeper Claude VS 5a, which was probably the hardest pitch of the day with a blank step over and a fingery crack.  To finish Allen led Lava Lout E1 5b, with the tricky move moving across the over lap, made trickier by the strong wind.

Meanwhile Craig and Craig were on Creag Meall An Fhir Eoin having a good time on Oswold in the strong wind.  A great day and a great way to start the rock season.

For more photos, see my Facebook page.

Allen on Lava Lout

Allen on Lava Lout

Blizzard conditions on Ben Nevis

The forecast for today on Ben Nevis was heavy rain and 60 mph winds on the summit with temperatures at -1 degree, again.  I wonder what time of year it will be when I can see more than 2 meters on the summit?  Alison and Jerome have been all over the world climbing high peaks but were right in their thinking that winter conditions on Ben Nevis requires solid navigational experience to move around safely.

We quickly made our way to the Red Burn at half way where there is now only a small snow slope over the summer path.  Above that we were in the cloud and managed to get half way along zig zag 4 before hitting the snow line.  Crampons were needed from then on with an icy crust that had formed from the rain and cold wind.  A lot of people were making their way up but wisely turned around lower down the mountain as the majority were not properly kited out, mostly with ponchos.

From 1000m it was a case of following the map and compass bearing 102 degrees to the plateaux, with at times only a few meters of visibility.  We were soon at the 3 cairns above Gardaloo gully (the only markers showing at the moment) and reached the summit in 4 hours.

With a quick turn around we followed the course of the Red Burn almost back to the crossing point in 1 hour and then back to the Ben Nevis Inn in another hour.  A great time up and down and maybe only one of a very small handful of groups summiting.

It is worth noting that about half way down the Red Burn there is a massive section of snow that is slowly slumping away from the mountain with multiple cracks about 1 meter wide and 5 meters deep, it would be prudent to not descend or ascend in the Red Burn.

Alison and Jerome at the summit.

Alison and Jerome at the summit.