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Ben Nevis and the Brass Monkey - an icy blast from the past

Ben Nevis and the Brass Monkey - an icy blast from the past


Postby 2manyYorkies » Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:15 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis

Date walked: 13/01/1979

Time taken: 10 hours

Distance: 11.3 km

Ascent: 1446m

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This is the sorry tale of an old git and a slide scanner. The photos were taken on an old Kodak Instamatic 126 film camera, bought for me as a present for passing my 11 plus... Ok, they're not going to win any prizes but have some class nostalgia value (for me anyway), and as I'm going for the record for the longest Munro round in history (started in 1976..) I thought it was important to have some evidence from back in the day.
I climbed Ben Nevis on January 13th 1979 with the St Andrews University Mountaineering Club, I've worked out that it must have been that day from the weather reports, which state that "At Carnwath (Strathclyde) the minimum of -24.6 degrees centigrade on the night of the 12th/13th was the lowest temperature recorded in the United Kingdom in any month since 1955 ...", and that, dear reader, was the night we bloody well camped in Glen Nevis next to the Youth Hostel, in crappy 1970's polyester sleeping bags etc.

Not a sodding wink was had by anyone.
For all the wrong reasons.

After a few hours we gave up and got up, snapped limbs into shape and trudged up the deep fresh snow to Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe (only going to type that once). The plan was to go round to the north face and go up one of the easier gully's. The depth of the snow, up to the waist at times, put paid to that plan, so we carried on along under the face, and then hacked our way Coire Leis on to the top end of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, and then up to the summit. In retrospect we were incredibly lucky not to have triggered an avalanche given the conditions, but were too set on getting to the top not to give it a go, and got away with it.
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On the slope round to the face

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Decision making in the early light

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Towards Loch Lochy

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First sight of the north face

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The ice covered face from Coire Leis

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Passing climbers high in Coire Leis

We reached the summit sometime between 2pm and 3pm as far as I remember. The day was stunning, such clear views all round, and surprisingly warm in the full blast of the sun. Looking to the west though we could see the rolling cloud of a warm front moving in. Given the lateness of the hour we got going sharpish, glissaded straight down the middle of the zig-zags on the pony track (all was well under a couple of feet of snow) and were back at camp in the early dark.
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From the summit

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On the summit - finally - me on the front-right

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On the Observatory

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Leaving the summit - warm front with snow on way..

As if that was not enough, we then walked into Fort William for fish n chips and beers. We got soaked in fresh snow, hogged the fire in the bar, much to locals disgust, and then did it all again to get back to the tents. By morning they were buried in fresh snow, the YH warden took pity and opened up the hostel to us where we spent the day and night as the blizzard raged. In the morning I decided to make a break and successfully hitched back to St Andrews, getting there for 2pm, thanks mainly to a slightly crazed North Sea oil rigger who had been ice climbing in the area and drove me from Glencoe to Dundee at an average of 80 mph, or so it felt.
If any of you have bothered to read this drivel, thanks for allowing me my nostalgic wallowing. Should anyone think they recognise themselves or others on the photos - check again in the morning when you're sober.....

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2manyYorkies
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Re: Ben Nevis and the Brass Monkey - an icy blast from the p

Postby dogplodder » Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:13 pm

Always like a bit of nostalgia and there's nothing more nostalgic than the hair styles and stuff we wore to climb hills in the 1970s! :lol:
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Re: Ben Nevis and the Brass Monkey - an icy blast from the p

Postby rockhopper » Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:35 pm

:lol: :lol: Enjoyed that - had me chuckling away. Think I still have some of my kit from the early days in the loft but only as far as back as the mid '80s - too modern for you in the 70's :wink: - cheers :)
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Re: Ben Nevis and the Brass Monkey - an icy blast from the p

Postby CharlesT » Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:58 pm

I enjoyed that too - reminded me that I was young and daft once (no longer young, still daft) and used to do stuff like that too. Remember camping over New Year 62/63 in the Lake District in one of the coldest and longest freezes on record in an old army 8 man bell tent (there were two of us!) and the eggs freezing solid inside the tent. :lol: Never been so cold before or since. Happy days. :D

Still have my Simond Special D ice axe from then - probably worth a bit as an antique now.
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Re: Ben Nevis and the Brass Monkey - an icy blast from the p

Postby CharlesT » Thu Aug 21, 2014 9:35 am

Forgot to say I absolutely loved the first summit photo - the intrepid young mountaineers conquer the Ben - did you pose it or did it just come out that way?
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Re: Ben Nevis and the Brass Monkey - an icy blast from the p

Postby 2manyYorkies » Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:58 am

We were students - bound to have been a degree of posing! We were bl**dy knackered by then tho.
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Re: Ben Nevis and the Brass Monkey - an icy blast from the p

Postby Scoobica » Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:53 pm

Looking forward to the progression thought the years.

The style, fashion, technology changes, assuming your have upgraded your camera and clothes since then of course. :lol:
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