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.

Emita on Fraoch Bheinn

Emita on Fraoch Bheinn


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.

Corie na Tulaich, Glen Coe

Today was the final day of the 5 day Intro to Winter Mountaineering course for Jagged Globe.  This is the day where everything learned and seen is put into practice.  As soon as we parked up we could see our objective at the top of the corrie with a large cornice and steep slope.

We made quick progress into the base of the corrie where there is some large historical avalanche debris which we avoided making our way up.  Soon we were putting crampons and harness on and getting the rope out.  From a rock belay Nicola led up the snow slope and then built a great bucket seat and brought up Emma body belaying.  Emma then took over the lead and headed towards the steeper section of the slope near the top.  When Nicola was with us I then went up the steep slope to the left of the large cornice and onto the plateaux and brought the girls up, a great way to put all the learning in to practice by getting up a grade 1 slope.

After a bit of lunch it was then just the small matter of getting down the slope!  A few steep steps over the edge and they were ‘happily’ making their way down.

A really good day where everyone progressed in their learning, understanding and confidence.

More photos can be seen on the facebook page.

Blown out of Corie Leis

Today was day 4 for the Intro to Mountaineering course for Jagged Globe with the goal of summiting Ben Nevis via the Abseil posts in Corie Leis.  After making swift progress to above the CIC hut the wind was very gusty and was throwing us around quite a bit.  What was in our favour were the great views all around the north face and the CMD arête.  After a particularly strong gust which blew a few people off their feet we turned around at about 9oom to a more sheltered location.

With lunch inside us the group wanted to get some extra knowledge using the rope to practice for future trips abroad.  So we short roped up and moved around the base of North Buttress, practicing the different methods needed for ascending, descending and traversing with the rope on and moving as a party of 3.

Below the base of the Douglas Boulder my mini team went through a few scrambling pitches of mixed ground before recapping bucket seats in ascent and the buried axe and stomper belays.  Meanwhile just above us Max’s team made their way up a good length of grade 2 ice on a mini adventure.

More photos can be seen on my facebook page.

Stob Corie nan Lochan

Today I was out with the Introduction to Winter Mountaineering course for Jagged Globe along side the guidance of Max.

With a great forecast and with the guys already having 2 days of practicing the basics under their belt we started with the goal of getting to the top of SNCL.  After making steady progress into the corrie we broke out left onto the ridge where we got the ropes out and made our way over the rocky ridge.

With great views from the summit all around we then made our way round the top of the crags with some very heavy, slumping cornices and back into the corrie with the lochans below the peak.

A great day out and I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Ben Nevis

Today I was working for Dave A and his clients of 7 priests from London for their ascent of Ben Nevis.  We made steady progress up to the Red Burn with a bit of drizzle and high temperatures.  There was fresh snow from half way and we had to break trail over the steep slope out of the Red Burn, which is still a stopping point for some, but very soft.  Once on the ziz zags we made steady progress up to turn 4 before the path disappeared and we made our way via map and compass in the low cloud.  In 5.5 hours we were at the top in a small break in the drizzle with the temperatures still being very warm.

After a quick sermon at the top we made our way down directly next to the Red Burn and got back to half way in an hour and then just another 1.5 hours back to the car.

Out of the few other people on the hill I think we were the only ones to summit today from the Pony Track side and a team of 2 summited after doing the CMD arête.