Carpe Diem

‘Seize the day’

Today was the day to head up Ben Nevis and help clear up the summit area of any litter left by the long summer of people getting to the top arraigned by The Outdoor Capital of the UK, as not everyone tidies up after themselves.

My half of the deal was to take 3 guys from the college and Bryon up Ledge route to the summit and then help clear it up.  And what a day for it: with blue sky, little wind and virtually the mountain to ourselves and 3 of the guys first time on the mountain, it could only be a good day.

On the way up we chatted about the geology and botany of the mountain and the classic rock and winter climbs around, with a perfect view of the crags it was the best way to inspire the guys for more adventures.

At the top of Carn Dearg we then made our way around the crag rim to join the last part of the main path near the summit, where we defiantly didn’t have the mountain to ourselves now.  With a good job put it by the other teams up Tower Ridge and the CMD arête we did the best we could of tidying up the summit.  Hopefully that will see it through to the winter and end of the main summer season.

Most of the team at the summit.

Most of the team at the summit.

 

 

Channel 5 news

2 and a half days into 2 and a half minutes of footage.

A couple of very interesting days of work on Ben Nevis with the film crew from Channel 5 news.  They had the unique idea of producing a film package from an iconic Scottish image, which turned out to be Ben Nevis.

Monday was an early start at 6.30am with 10 of us setting off: 5 instructors, a cameraman, reporter, producer and 2 guys with a drone camera and a very big, square, black box to be carried up to get the aerial shots.

The plan was to film on the way up, interview us about our views of the referendum, film a piece on the summit, edit back in the car park then go live back on the mountain at 5pm!  Luckily this changed through the day.

With a very cold summit a short piece was filmed after leaving Bob and Rhys with the drone (and box) at half way lochan trying to find a less windy spot to take off.  On the descent the plan then changed to a more feasible plan of film on Monday, go live on Tuesday at 5pm and 6.30pm.

We then spent the remainder of the afternoon by half way lochan with the drone flying very close to our heads, being interviewed and walking backwards and forwards.

With our opinions expressed, angles shot, big black box pack up (with a very small stand and camera) we made our way down.

Myself, Anna and Ali made the final cut and were included with a speaking part with the interviews and Scott and Tristan made good walking extras and kit carriers.

Tuesday was then the unglamorous task of myself, Scott and Ali walking back up with Adam and Peter (cameraman and reporter) to go live from the summit at 5pm and 6.30pm.  Good news for us was the weather was warmer at the summit and Channel 4 (who had the same idea) ended up reporting from Banavie quarry with Ben Nevis in the background.

The film in total

The reason we walked back up on Tuesday

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Final day of the survey….this year

Even though this is the end of the week and the last day of the surveying we are actually only 1/3 of the way through the project, with the other 2 weeks in the next 2 years.

Myself, Scot and Ian made our way up our usual commute to work via Ledge Route, picked up a 100m section of rope and made our way to Number 2 gully.  It quickly became apparent that the best anchor for the lower was the cairn on the Pony Track, so we got Andy to stand guard.

My job was to make sure that there were no loose blocks that could knock onto Ian when he went down after me to survey the area.  The blocks and rubble that I ended up knocking down were partly by design and mostly me just being there.  After about half an hour of watching big rocks fly down the gully the biggest challenge of the day was trying to climb back out the muddy gully without knocking more blocks onto me and the abseil rope.

It was then Ian’s turn and it was worth the effort.  A new area found of Highland Saxifrage and Tufted Saxifrage never before known.  What could lurk in the top of the other gullies will have to wait for next year.

With lots of places still to look at we have only just scrapped the surface.  With new discoveries of Alpine Saxifrage, new to the mountain and more than doubling the known numbers of areas holding other rare species on the mountain like the Tufted Saxifrage, Drooping Saxifrage and Wavy Meadow grass.  Not to mention a new, still evolving geological theory of how Ben Nevis was formed, there is still lots to be done.

More photos on my facebook page.

This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and The Highland Council.  It is also sponsored by Mammut.

Ian, a happy, muddy extreme botanist

Ian, a happy, muddy extreme botanist

Stripping in Comb Gully

Today my job entailed another commute up Ledge route to the top of the Comb to abseil down Comb Gully and take out the belays holding the rope on the right line.  The abseil started down a vertical, slippery face of rock and then into Comb gully itself, which at this time of year is a rocky waterfall.

But it’s not all fun and games as half way down the gully unsurprisingly a basketball size rock came down and hit me on the shoulder, which just so happens to be near my head.  Luckily no damage done so down I went with just the snow patch to tunnel under at the base.

Yesterday turned out to be ‘big find Wednesday’ as on top of us finding the new area of Highland Saxifrage, Ian found a new area of Alpine Saxifrage.  Only the second area to be found on Ben Nevis, both by the survey team, with a 3rd area know to be on Aonach Beag, we have trebled the population area.

More photos on my facebook page.

This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and The Highland Council.  It is also sponsored by Mammut.

Ab'ing in to Comb gully

Ab’ing in to Comb gully

Break through in Number 5 gully.

Day 3 of the survey and I was with Al and Jim from the Botanical Society of Britian and ireland. Our plan for the day was to move up Ledge route (which felt like a stroll without 200m of rope on my back) and then make our way down Number 5 gully from the top and survey the green stuff in the top 200 meters.

And we found a whole new area of Highland Saxifrage of over 300 plants, much bigger than the previous known location at the top of Number 4 gully that consists of about 30 plants.  It likes to grow on damp, mossy ground with constant water above 1000m in altitude.  In amongst the Highland Saxifrage we also found Alpine Speedwell and Arctic Mouse-ear, both key species in the survey looking very healthy and abundant.

After quickly ascending out of the loose gully we made our way round to the top of Number 4 gully and descended down to the contact line between the 2 rock types that enhances the mineral content in the soil and produces a richer area for plants to grow.  We performed a detailed count of the Drooping Saxifrage and Tufted Saxifrage which only grows in the area that we have found so far on Ben Nevis and came up with about 50 plants for each species.  So tread lightly on the snow next time you are descending in early winter!

It was then just a small case of descending the scree of Number 4 gully, an equally pleasant experience to the descent last week!

Also on the mountain today was Dougie Vipond from ‘The One Show’ on BBC 1, going down part of the abseil that was set up yesterday on the Comb.  The section will be aired on the first Friday in October.

More photos on my facebook page.

This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and The Highland Council.  It is also sponsored by Mammut.

Highland Saxifrage

Highland Saxifrage

Day 2 Comb abseil

Today was a very different day to the others.  All rope work and very little botany and geology.  The aim of the day was to set up 2 abseils on the Comb ready for the geologists and botanists to go down tomorrow.

This started with moving the 1000m of rope from the base of Ledge route and walking up to the top of the Comb, an achievement in itself.  With a hand line in place along the top ridge of the Comb, Donald then set about putting the abseil lines down, which entailed about 7 re-belays along the way.

I then descended after him with an extra 100m of rope just in case we needed it.  Near the bottom of the abseil just above the vertical face were the climb ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ traverses over the roof, we needed the extra rope.  The climb was put up by Dave Macleod in 2008 and graded XI, 11 and is a very impressive feat.  With both of us safely on the scree at the base after about 300m of abseiling it was time for a little detour up No.4 gully to get the bags and look at some of the botany, especially the Alpine saxifrage, first seen on Ben Nevis by our team last week!.  A great day out.

There was also a reporter from BBC Scotland radio ‘Out of doors show’.  So if you are up between 7-8am on Saturday then listen to what we have been up to.

More photos on my facebook page.

This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and The Highland Council.  It is also sponsored by Mammut.

In to nowhere!

In to nowhere!

 

1st day of the Ben Nevis survey

Once upon a time there were 2 botanists, 8 mountaineers and a forecast with the end of hurricane Bertha who all went out to look for rare plants on the north face of Ben Nevis….

And we came back with results.  The best of the day was another area of Wavey meadow grass (now the 3rd known on the north face), new areas of Alpine mouse- ear and Alpine speedwell and lots of Russet sedge and Sibbaldia.

Myself, Mike and Ian made our way around the base of Carn Dearg buttress and towards South Castle gully looking at the mostly wet, grassy ledges where we found a very good patch of Alpine speedwell and 2 plants of Alpine mouse-ear.  I think through the day I got wetter by the waterfalls coming off the crags and the wind blowing the water back up the crags than from the rain.  But it was a very successful day by the team.

More photos on my facebook page.

This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund and The Highland Council.  It is also sponsored by Mammut.

Ian and Mike in South Castle gully

Ian and Mike in South Castle gully