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Sting in the tail

Date: 17 03 07
Submitted by: Martin Mc Guigan

Long week end in Fort William.  An early start got Mary Peter Columba and myself to the ice factor climbing centre Kinlochleven for the usual warm up in the big fridge.

Then off to settle into our apartment at the Snowgoose centre in Corpach and get our gear all sorted out. It was raining.

Saturday morning still raining and we’re  off up the good old Allt a’ Mhuilinn (it’s just as hard to spell as it is to walk up). The usual cheery cup of tea at the CIC hut and gear up with the windmill sounding as if it was about to take off.

Columba Peter and myself headed off into the mist for No 2 gully and met up with Keith PJ and George. We decided that it would take all of us on two ropes to tackle this long tongue of slippery white.

We did a walking Rutschblock test to evaluate the avalanche hazard and decided it  was about category 2.

The going was nice and the side of the gully supplied some good protection but  this all changed when the cornice was reached. The slope rose to a vertical wall off  slightly damp Tate & Lyle ending in a modest cornice  with a giant cornice of ice ten foot high above it. I never seen anything like it before, a double whammy, one of soft snow and one above of ice with a berg shroud between them. Where the hell do they get these things have they not read the text books. I choose to get over the first one on the left simply because it looked the easiest option and rolled into this balcony about three feet wide but just high enough to kneel in. Well this thing hanging above me now made the big fridge in Kinlochleven look very tame.The only way out was way over at the other end of this balcony which ment crawling on hands and knees over the soft snow cornice.Brilliant!

On my way over I looked down to see all my lovely friends chatting and waving in the lovely quiet peaceful gully. OK you get the picture. I reached the end where the ice cornice was lower and was able to through my arm up over the lip and get a grip with my ice axe, happy days.  I pulled myself up and almost lost my head. The wind was like an express train running late spuing water everywhere. Still there’s nothing like the relief  of getting over that edge.

I set up a belay using my two ice axes and eventually peters head popped up. It took at least half an hour to get everyone up which meant we where all completely soaked. We went down the tourist route and stopped at the Ben Nevis pub which we did not expect to be open. Was that a good idea??  The place was full and they where serving pints of lovely local ale plates of chips and up in the corner a fantastic log fire burning bright. The rest is a blur.


Photo of Route