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Ledge Route, Ben Nevis

Date: 19th March 2007
Submitted by: Columba McLaughlin
Ledge Route - Monday 19th March 2007

Alan and Marty had their hearts set on Glover’s Chimney that forms the western side of Tower Gap on Ben Nevis. Myself and Peter, PJ, George and Keith had decided on going up Ledge Route. On the way up, the debris from the massive avalanche down Number 5 Gully on Saturday (17th) was very visible. Today, it was very frozen solid. Visibility was very poor and the whole rim of Coire na Ciste which leads over to Glover’s Chimney was shrouded in thick mist and there was heavy snowfall. We all opted for Ledge Route. Unfortunately, Keith hurt his knee and he had to descend. So the rest carried on.

Marty and Alan went off first on their own rope. Followed by Peter and me on our rope and then George and PJ on their rope. Ledge route is a wonderful route on which to practice mountain craft. The snow on it today was much deeper than the last time Alan and I had climbed it. The first big ledge was brilliant in good ice. Alan managed to set up a belay at the top of the 1st ledge for all of us to use. The 2nd pitch is up a gully. On this occasion it was in deep soft snow, a bit tiring but straightforward climbing. Above this the 2nd ledge was no more than a walk in deep snow.

Thereafter, comes the ridge section. In clear weather this is a wonderful ridge through impressive mountain sceanery. An absolute delight. Today, visibility was limited, there was heavy snow and we knew that the avalanche risk was high. Nonetheless, each of our groups battled on. On toping out onto the rim of Number 5 Gully, it was into whiteout conditions. At one point my ice axe accidentally went through the near hand soft cornice. Also, it was a big slide down on the right hand side. At about 70 feet below the summit ridge (we had already completed Ledge Route), the angle above the gully was too great and the soft powdery snow posed a very high avalanche risk, so Alan and Marty advised all to descend. We all did so and met PJ and George. All descended safely in our own groups. For me, it was a brilliant day overall. Now, we (Marty, Mary, Peter and I) had a plane to catch. While Peter did it faster, it took Marty, Alan and me less than one hour to get from the CIC hut to the car park at the north face of Ben Nevis. Maybe the plod up Aonach Mór the day before helped but I just can’t believe that.

Slán go foill

Columba McLaughlin

Photo of Route