Ledge Route, Ben Nevis. Who's idea was this?!!!
by nathan79 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:45 pm
Date walked: 04/03/2013
Time taken: 8 hours
Distance: 11.6 km
Ascent: 1373m7 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Original intention to hit up Curved Ridge and test out some gear. Some of it just new, some of it new and unfamiliar.
A motley crew of the novices myself, Iain Watson, and Gavin99 in the more experienced company of Mountainstar and Keith Harper.
A disappointing lack of the white stuff on The big Buachaille led to Keith suggesting Ledge Route on Ben Nevis as a snowier alternative. Having been no closer to Ben Nevis than wanders down Glen Nevis I though "great!". Eventually it hit me that the day would no longer be a shorter one on a route I'd done before, but a long walk in, a big scary rock-face and untrodden territory for me.
A sensible night all-round in the Clachaig on Friday (how rare that must be for us lot!) Up bright and early to drop Monty off at the start of the Aonach Eagach and picked Keith up on my way back to the hostel. Troops on board onward and soon parked up by the Glen Nevis SYHA. All geared up and off up at 9am.
Conditions looking promising, hints of blue sky here and there.
Soon linked up with the pony track. Only a handful of other people to be seen so far and even up to the point of us leaving the pony track to head round past the lochan. Some nasty patches of ice to be skipped around, over or (as I did with one) slipped upon.
I was eager to see the imposing figure of the north side. When it's intimidating hulk revealed itself as we got nearer and nearer the CIC hut I could see why it had such a reputation. Mean, moody and monochrome is the description I think fits it best.
Looking up from the CIC hut as we donned helmets and harnesses and unsheathed our ice axes, I soon regretted asking which was our route. Gulp!
After a welcome refreshment break we headed onto the white stuff and soon strapped on the crampons. 18 months ago I'd bought myself some crampons and it was now at last that they came out of their bag. Some double-checking with the voices of experience and, after some necessary adjustment, I finally got to know what it was like to walk with them on. Reassuringly secure, even on rock(the thought of which concerned me most) it felt great to pop my crampon cherry.
Helmet, harness, axe in hand, crampons on, I felt like a proper mountaineer!
Weaving our way through rocky outcrops and icy water features, I found it harder as we got higher. Lungs huffing and puffing, thighs burning it was clear I'd been neglecting my hill fitness(though I'm not convinced I've ever really had any!) and the rest of the day would be one of torturous toiling. Oh how I envied my fitter companions!
Stop-start going up towards no5 gully and our detour right for the start of the Ledge route. Ever mindful to take in the magnificent view of Tower Ridge and take what pictures I could along the way.
A butt-clenching moment at one point when Keith pointed out some avalanche debri.
A challenging mix of soft snow, hard snow, ice and rock and eventually the bottom of the Ledge reached at last. Almost beaten by the walk in! Not good!
I actually found it a bit easier going now we were on the ridge and not ascending a steep snowy slope. Mentally anyway, my legs found it just as hard I think! A welcome break came at the narrowest section of the ridge where we stopped while a couple of climbers using ropes made their way over this.
For March, I guess the weather wasn't too bad. The Ben was never clear but CMD just cleared of cloud at one point. It was about 5oC and not feeling too cold for the most part. A bit of a chilly breeze as we got higher and more exposed but not a day of uncomfortable extremes.
The cloud was around us as we made our way to the top, but I could see three of my companions ahead and most crucially all the top of the ledge route.
Shuffle, stagger, hobble, heave. At last victory! Veni, vidi, vici. Almost 800m up from where we geared up at the CIC hut.
Mountainstar greeted me with a high five and I collapsed on a convenient and welcoming rock.
Handshakes all round.
I ached on the way up, I was aching now, I knew I'd be aching on the way down, and the next few days would be unthinkable agony but all well worth it.
I've waffled on so I won't say much about the descent other than I couldn't wait to get down to below the snowline and get on solid ground again.
Back to the car around 5. A tough challenging day for me, and for Iain, Gavin and myself an introduction to some proper winter mountaineering.
A big thanks to my fellow mountaineers who I hope had as rewarding a day as me (but less pain in the aftermath )
Enough wordy jibber-jabber, here are the pics. A combination of my own and Mountainstar's.
by nathan79 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 3:33 pm
by mountainstar » Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:00 pm
For a crampon novice you did good
I really enjoyed taking you 3 along for a "bit of a different" experiance. (It's usually me in that position with Canny Geordie Keith) The main thing was that you all enjoyed it and wanted more...so roll on Chamonix and the Alps!
by basscadet » Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:11 pm
by old danensian » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:04 pm
by Keith Harper » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:45 pm
by Meatball » Tue Mar 05, 2013 8:23 pm
by Morecambe Monkey » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:47 pm
by SusieThePensioner » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:25 pm
by Bod » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:46 pm
by mgmt! » Tue Mar 05, 2013 11:42 pm
- Posts: 540
- Joined: Oct 18, 2010
by Gavin99 » Wed Mar 06, 2013 10:25 am
by nathan79 » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:31 am
by Scotjamie » Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:03 pm
Knew you were apprehensive when you had only one nightcap before the climb.
Next time ... I'm in!