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Next Meet

"Wild Camping"

1st - 3rd March 2013

Next Social

AGM. Portland D136.
map

Thursday 14th March
8.00 pm

If you don't want this for a time, please comment it-Fabian !Next Ice Climb

Manchester Indoor Ice Wall
Friday 1st December at 8:30am

If you don't want this for a time, please comment it-Fabian !Next Climb

Soon to be filled with tales of benightments, rain, bathing in streams, fires and lots of drinking...

So it's 3 weeks since this trip and still no meet report....disappointing! IT WAS WORTH WAITING FOR....AWESOME STORY!! Not sure nomics were designed for tower ridge though...

Well Dean wrote it all up whilst on the trip including a mini meat report however despite sending him the occasional e-mail he has yet to write it up. Maybe he is on holiday?

I managed to break both of my computers and a bad internet connections don't help when trying to submit the meet report, I hope I can upload my pictures tomorrow. Feel free to edit/add in/change details of your climbs if what I wrote down in the evenings doesn't resemble what actually happened. Dean.


On a reasonably sunny Saturday the 3rd of April, a rather small turnout of just seven gave up the first week of their Easter break to travel to Scotland to go walking in the hills. Here is how it went...

Saturday

An amazing start to the trip was made when - behold! - something went wrong out of our control, forcing Tim to pick up a minibus from Leicester. Cue a trip to Brannock's house and onwards to Cotswold where we browsed the fine merchandise at leisure and Ben bought travel soap. Upon eventual departure, each person's luggage having its own seat on the bus, a journey without anything interesting of note (other than Ben remembering that he forgot to bring Gordon along and the appearance of a wonderful rainbow over Loch Lomond, when Ben forced Dean to empty his whole rucksack onto Matt Savage to retrieve his camera and hang out of the window to take pictures) ended at Blackrock Cottage, a tiny cottage of rock - painted white - below Glencoe Ski Centre. The central heating was turned on (the fire was started), the toilet was located (in the coalshed, with faff from Dean and Brannock trying to get the handpump to work - a minor feat of plumbing under a dim light) and water was collected (from the stream behind the cottage, also doubling up as the shower). Many supporting beams on both floors in the cottage were hit with heads, perhaps we are all too tall for our own good.

Sunday

Unlike on the New Year week trip, where a gentle walk was arranged for the first day, despite the long drive the previous day, and as this was the Glencoe trip, everyone spent another hour in the minibus and went to scale Ben Nevis from all angles. All were awoken at the glorious hour of 5am by Brannock and everyone rejoiced at four hours' sleep. From the North Face Car Park Greg and Dean walked up CMD, the arete and onto Ben Nevis itself in a reasonable time of six hours. Having the whole plateau to themselves, they waited to see if some climbers would top out before descending at a quick pace past the massive caterpillar ascending via the tourist path, some in jeans, most wearing crampons and one in a down onesie, demoralising them with estimated distances and times to the summit.

Everyone else went climbing. Matt and Tim turned back as their chosen route, Raeburn's Easy Route (250m, Grade II), avalanched over Tim's feet, and decided to go up what turned out to be Ledge Route (450m, Grade II) (they didn't have a guide book with them so relied on advice from passing climbers), meeting Greg and Dean just below the summit. Ben and Stu did Good Friday (Alternative finish, 150m, Grade III) on Easter Sunday and arrived back at the hut at 10pm.

14 hours? Quite a long day, I hear you say. But...

Sunday (Brannock and Annette's version):

Despite having spent the whole of Saturday in a minibus, everyone decided they wanted to spend another hour in said minibus on Sunday morning, in order to facilitate a day of winter climbing on the Ben. We arrived at the North Face car park to meet up with Annette (on placement in Fort William) at 6.30am (ish), to discover it was raining….

However, during the long trudge up to the CIC hut, the rain rapidly turned to sleet and then heavy snowfall, so we remained optimistic. At the CIC hut we found a large group of climbers with their stoves out, all brewing tea. The collective opinion was that there was far too much fresh snow about for climbing, but we took the opportunity to get to our chosen routes before the any of them finished their brew.

On we trudged, through knee deep snow, heavily laden with climbing gear, to the bottom of our route - Tower Ridge (IV, 3) - arriving there at 8.30am in time for a second breakfast of chocolate hobnobs. At this point, a chap wearing a thin jumper, shorts, running shoes and an iPod ran up and asked us if this was the way to the summit. We replied that he was unlikely to get much further up the North face so ill-equipped, but we wished him luck nonetheless. A couple of minutes later he ran past us again in the other direction, clearly defeated by the wintery conditions.

Having tooled up we set off on our route at 9am. The guidebook suggested it would take 8-10 hours and we had 11 hours of daylight left - so no problems there, or so we thought.

As we committed to the route, it became apparent that there was in fact a LOT of snow on Tower Ridge. We started off soloing, but after a while got the ropes out and started moving together. Eventually I (Annette) lost my nerve leading through snow that kept giving way under my feet, along ridges with massive exposure, so I suggested that Brannock should do all the leading. We ended up pitching from that point onward, apart from whenever we ran out of rope, which was for at least half of the pitches.

All the while, we could hear avalanches taking place in the Coire na Ciste area, so we realised we would not be able to descend via number 4 gully with any degree of safety. On the plus side, it would be a long time before we would be thinking about descent. The day progressed with some interesting rock sections, some straightforward snowy ridges and still minimal gear placements. 60m pitches with no gear between belays were the norm. At one point I had to avert my eyes from a marginal looking snow belay involving Brannock’s Nomics whilst topping out [It was bomber- Brannock].

Given this was only my second ever graded winter route, the recurring theme of 60m run-outs with a questionable (if any) belay at the top was somewhat disconcerting. Basically, I had to climb as if leading, but with the annoyance of rope occasionally getting in my way when placing an axe.

About half way up the route, an amiable chap called Stu caught up with us, so at least I had someone to chat to while Brannock was leading. He told a highly entertaining story about a time he was benighted on the Aiguille du Midi having encountered a group of skiers having a full moon party, who then skied off down the Vallee Blanche high on various substances, leaving Stu and his climbing partner to bivi in the floor of the toilet in the cable car station.

As we reached the Eastern traverse we realised that nightfall was looming. Brannock led the bold crux pitch at 8pm, which was just late enough for the massive exposure to start becoming less apparent in the increasing gloom. The wind was picking up, spin drift kept getting in our eyes and I was beginning to get worried. Seconding that crux pitch is possibly the most terrifying thing I have ever done. At one point I shouted to Brannock “how good is the anchor?” to which he yelled back “its… er, ok”. Not the most reassuring response when you are about to climb a really awkward move, while practically blinded by spindrift with a massively steep long drop below you. In the dark.

In the last hour of daylight we could hear someone having hysterics over on Orion Direct, shouting to their partner in Flemish- presumably telling them that were both about die, judging by the tone of their voice. This continued intermittently for the rest of the evening, which added somewhat the ambience (of doom).

A few pitches later, having crossed that godawful, Tower Gap (oh my god that was horrific) and having climbed a lot of steep unconsolidated snow, we finally reached the plateau at 12.30am to encounter a blizzard, whiteout with visibility reduced to 10metres and the discovery that we had run out of hobnobs. After floundering around in the snow trying to find a descent route for about half an hour we decided that enough was enough and we had better seek out the summit shelter. We clambered into the shelter to find two other occupants, but we all managed to squeeze onto the wooden platform and settled down for a very cold night. Somewhere in the howling gale outside, we could still hear the Belgians having their epic, but there wasn’t much we could do about it.

At first light (about 5.30am), the four of us set off from the hut, still in whiteout, found the line of cairns and followed them to the path at the top of the mountain track. It took a life time to get down off that godforsaken mountain, across an endless bog with two rather technical river crossings and down the track back to North Face car park, reaching Annette’s car at 9.30am.

Monday

Needless to say, some were feeling a bit tired on Monday. The weather closed in as predicted, only Greg and Dean went out. They climbed the two Munros behind the cottage, Meall a' Bhuiridh and Creise, in rain, more rain and ~70pmh gusts. Empty ski slopes once again provided good bum sliding opportunities, even if the gradient and undulations of the slope caused Dean to become airbourne and land facing backwards. Brannock successfully returned from Tower Ridge quite some time after leaving the hut the previous day, revealing that his crampon wasn't fitted properly/had dislodged itself halfway up the climb and was clipped not to the fitting on his boot but the sole. Eep. He also tried to start a fashion revolution with the scrub trousers Annette lended him, proclaiming their comfort and inside-out reversibility but it didn't catch on. Everyone else headed off in the early afternoon to the King's House Pub across the road for a light drink and a game of darts, which Ben prelashed with a can of beer on the road. All spent the evening playing cards apart from Ben who had a power trip when the group chose rules which he was not accustomed to play by and read a book.

Tuesday

The weather wasn't very favourable (it rained lots and was quite windy) so again only two went out on the hill, Greg and Matt. As they were going to Ballaclulish to walk up Sgorr Dearg and Sgorr Dhonuill, the minibus continued to Fort Bill to go shopping in Nevissport and Ellis Brighams. We had an involved discussion about the new Dragon cams in Brighams with one of the staff before not buying anything. Brannock made mahoosive meaty balls for dinner and Stu put his ice axes to good use opening beer bottles with his Raptors.

Wednesday

To make up for the two previous idle days, everyone went out. At 5:30am again. Greg and Dean were dropped off at the end of Glen Coe to do the Aonach Eagach ridge traverse. The route down they took had to be retraced as it was pretty dodgy, so the descent took almost as long as the 4km ridge itself. The minibus continued to the North Face car park: Matt ran the CMD ridge in Inov-8s and flexible crampons, summitting the Ben in 3h 20mins and descending in another hour. Brannock and Tim's climb (Green Gully, Grade IV) wasn't worth climbing as the ice was "like butter" so they backed off to a pub in Fort William. Ben and Stu did Tower Scoop (two pitches, Grade III), abseiling down at the end of the short ice climb. Stu was delighted to have beaten his previous tally of no Munros on the New Year trip, with one Munro so far.

Thursday

The good weather returned and after a late start Brannock and Greg went the short distance to the imposing figure of Rannoch Moor, Buachaille Etive Mor, and climbed Curved Ridge on Stob Dearg, before moving over to (possibly) Crowberry Ridge, essentially a trad rock climb by this time as most of the snow on the face had melted. Matt and Tim crossed Aonach Eagach (in a much faster time than Greg dragged Dean across). Ben and Stu set out to go climbing but were unable to get a hitch, so they returned to the hut at 11:30am and made a plan to go on a pub crawl of Glen Coe, visiting the cottage's drinking establishment (canned Guinness), the Clachaig Inn and the King's Head Pub. They managed to hitch to the Clachaig this time, wearing full Winter clothing and taking their gear. After the MPS inception of the bean meal [rather good but needed more meat - Dean] Matt opened his beer cans with a precise blow from an axe (Tim Emmett's Nomics put to good use). The loud bang and the jet of beer sent a metre high in the air and over the table caused rapture all around, until Brannock choked on his drink and threw up lots. (Subsequent attempts at opening cans caught on camera with ice axes had none of the excitement of this first attempt.)

Friday

The final day saw everyone out. Matt and Greg climbed Bidean nam Biam and Stob Coire Sgreamhach and glissaded quickly down Broad Gully (a Grade I). Dean did Buachaille Etive Beag by himself in 3 1/2 hours, causing others to question why he is so slow the rest of the time and a mock suggestion he hadn't done them at all. Ben, Tim, Brannock and Stu did Curved Ridge on Meall Dearg (a double bag by Brannock); Tim and Ben continued down the ridge to Stob na Broige, allowing the President to avoid the Bog Roll, and they had a swim in the River Coupall. The prizes were handed out at the King's Head Pub, which Ben was forced to hand over against his will...

See also: Dean's photos, the week's Munro Tally and the Pineapple Prizes

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Page last modified on December 17, 2014, at 12:23 AM