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The Ben by Observatory ridge

The Ben by Observatory ridge


Postby past my sell by date » Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:35 pm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Nevis

Date walked: 20/04/1995

Time taken: 14 hours

Distance: 16 km

Ascent: 1398m

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NB. Before the digital age, cameras didn't tell you the time - you just had the date of processing the film, and the order in which the pics were taken, so I'm not exactly sure of the date of this trip except for the year, but there was a lot of snow in the gullies and at the top, though the rocks were mainly clear, and it was very dark when we got back to the car at about 10.00pm. :( So mid April is just a guess.

I was fortunate to have friends who had a cottage at Tigh phuirt near Glen Coe which we left just after 7.00am. and set off up the hill an hour or so later in great weather :) In those days you crossed the golf course and climbed a narrow path up through the trees to reach the relatively flat section beside the Allt a Mhuillin.
The views of the North face in these conditions are quite dramatic :D
Image
looking up Coire Leis below the North face. the skyline is the North East buttress
Image
Carn Dearg buttress - surely one of the finest cliffs in Britain :)
Image
The short wide gully in the centre is no. 3
Image
Slightly further L - the Douglas boulder and Tower ridge
Image
A closer view of Carn Dearg buttress: Centurion - a three star HVS - and the only route I've done there - climbs the obvious big groove in the shadow bottom right (crux) then takes several easier pitches in the light before a few more difficult moves through the steep upper wall
Image
Looking up Observatory gully with maybe Tower gully at the top
Image
The leader - about to set off - we carried crampons and axes but didn't climb in the former - I think he even has an ice screw and a snow plate :lol:

Observatory Ridge is graded V.Diff - a notorious grade in Scotland - usually much harder than in England. For example "The Chasm" on The Buchaille has this grade, but the "Classic Rock" account says " expect VS climbing" :lol:
The rock was a bit polished and greasy with odd patches of snow, and in boots with a winter rucksack I found it quite hard but there was little exposure :) A series of HS boulder problems would be my description, but I put the camera away. Hgher up it becomes, less continuous and near the top there was a lot more snow.
Image

Image
Summit of the Ben
Image
looking down the top of Tower Ridge
There can't have been much a view to the South as I didn't take a photo, but we headed off down on the approved compass course , found our way down beside the Red burn and past Lochan Meall an-t-Suidhe, by which time it was getting quite dark. whether we headed straight down (as shown in our route) or followed the track back R towards the CIC hut I forget, but there was no way we were returning down the narrow path through the woods. Instead we followed the (forbidden) gravel road that zig-zags down toward the distillery, which with head torches was quite easy. I didn't think anyone would mind at this time of night :lol: I also forget exactly how we "escaped" on to the road - but it certainly involved climbing over onr more gates or fences
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past my sell by date
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Re: The Ben by Observatory ridge

Postby Sunset tripper » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:48 pm

Great pictures of the Ben :D .
A mental route though. :shock:
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Re: The Ben by Observatory ridge

Postby dav2930 » Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:01 am

Very interesting and very impressive. Superb shots of a wintery-looking north face! I was quite surprised by your comments on OR - especially that there was "little exposure". Not having done that climb I can't argue, but I've always imagined it would be pretty exposed for a VDiff! Also looked like a lot of snow on it; did it count as a winter climb when you did it?

I was also impressed to read that you've climbed Centurion on CDB - serious kudos! That's a climb I've had my eye on for years. The one real chance I had of doing it was on a trip to the area in 2007 with an old climbing mate from Chester, with whom I've done probably most of my harder climbs (HVS and above). We were hoping to camp for a few days near the CIC hut with a view to Centurion and Minus One Direct, but after an enjoyable first day on the Buachaille the rain came in and we abandoned the idea. Hardest climb we did that trip was Storm at Polldubh. I really would love to do Centurion before I become incapable though, so any sneeky tips would be welcome! :)
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Re: The Ben by Observatory ridge

Postby gaffr » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:27 am

It certainly looks wintery enough near the top of the Ridge. :) We have only been by way of the Observatory Ridge under summer conditions. For me it lacked the features that we found on both the Tower Ridge and on NE Buttress under both winter and in summer conditions. From what I recall of Observatory Ridge after the wide area of rock at the start after a right traverse and a pull around a corner you were onto a tapering ridge that was followed to the summit area. Of course all very different under the winter conditions. :)
I went by way of Centurion in the late 1960's and enjoyed the classic route. For today the access to a large range of protection devices I think that route would be more enjoyable and relaxing. :) Three good diverse pitches to begin with then a couple of less demanding ones with a couple of more delicate pitches to finish the sting in the tail.
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Re: The Ben by Observatory ridge

Postby past my sell by date » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:48 pm

Sunset tripper wrote:Great pictures of the Ben :D .
A mental route though. :shock:

In all the time I climbed with him The Leader never failed to get up anything he set out on. I had total confidence :D
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Re: The Ben by Observatory ridge

Postby past my sell by date » Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:05 pm

dav2930 wrote:Very interesting and very impressive. Superb shots of a wintery-looking north face! I was quite surprised by your comments on OR - especially that there was "little exposure". Not having done that climb I can't argue, but I've always imagined it would be pretty exposed for a VDiff! Also looked like a lot of snow on it; did it count as a winter climb when you did it?

I was also impressed to read that you've climbed Centurion on CDB - serious kudos! That's a climb I've had my eye on for years. The one real chance I had of doing it was on a trip to the area in 2007 with an old climbing mate from Chester, with whom I've done probably most of my harder climbs (HVS and above). We were hoping to camp for a few days near the CIC hut with a view to Centurion and Minus One Direct, but after an enjoyable first day on the Buachaille the rain came in and we abandoned the idea. Hardest climb we did that trip was Storm at Polldubh. I really would love to do Centurion before I become incapable though, so any sneeky tips would be welcome! :)

Hi Dave
It was a long time ago and although I don't remember the rocks being very snowy, the earlier pic of the Douglas boulder suggests there was "quite a lot of it about". :lol: As I said to sunset tripper where The Leader led I followed :)
One glorious weekend in July (1997?) we did Minus one direct on the Saturday, bivouaced above the CIC hut and did Centurion on the Sunday. Minus one- assuming you do Serendipity and the Arrete finish - is much more sustained - can't really remember a move below 4c - but stunnng climbing. The groove on Centurion is not as fierce as pictures suggest - sustained 5a bridging but all in balance with several resting places. The top is not technically difficult but you have to make the right moves - a sort of left - right - left. I just watched The Leader and did what he did :)
I wrote the weekend up in the FRCC journal. if you want to send me your E-mail by private message i'll send it to you
Gaffr. With modern ropes and gear the groove is all done in one pitch now
past my sell by date
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Posts: 653
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Re: The Ben by Observatory ridge

Postby dav2930 » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:51 pm

past my sell by date wrote:
dav2930 wrote:Very interesting and very impressive. Superb shots of a wintery-looking north face! I was quite surprised by your comments on OR - especially that there was "little exposure". Not having done that climb I can't argue, but I've always imagined it would be pretty exposed for a VDiff! Also looked like a lot of snow on it; did it count as a winter climb when you did it?

I was also impressed to read that you've climbed Centurion on CDB - serious kudos! That's a climb I've had my eye on for years. The one real chance I had of doing it was on a trip to the area in 2007 with an old climbing mate from Chester, with whom I've done probably most of my harder climbs (HVS and above). We were hoping to camp for a few days near the CIC hut with a view to Centurion and Minus One Direct, but after an enjoyable first day on the Buachaille the rain came in and we abandoned the idea. Hardest climb we did that trip was Storm at Polldubh. I really would love to do Centurion before I become incapable though, so any sneeky tips would be welcome! :)

Hi Dave
It was a long time ago and although I don't remember the rocks being very snowy, the earlier pic of the Douglas boulder suggests there was "quite a lot of it about". :lol: As I said to sunset tripper where The Leader led I followed :)
One glorious weekend in July (1997?) we did Minus one direct on the Saturday, bivouaced above the CIC hut and did Centurion on the Sunday. Minus one- assuming you do Serendipity and the Arrete finish - is much more sustained - can't really remember a move below 4c - but stunnng climbing. The groove on Centurion is not as fierce as pictures suggest - sustained 5a bridging but all in balance with several resting places. The top is not technically difficult but you have to make the right moves - a sort of left - right - left. I just watched The Leader and did what he did :)
I wrote the weekend up in the FRCC journal. if you want to send me your E-mail by private message i'll send it to you
Gaffr. With modern ropes and gear the groove is all done in one pitch now

Many thanks, some really useful and encouraging info there; I'm itching to get bridging up that groove! That weekend you had sounds the stuff of dreams - quite amazing that you did Minus One Direct as well as Centurion; surely you couldn't hope for a better weekend of climbing than that! I'd be very interested to read your account in the FRCC journal - will message you in due course. :thumbup:
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