Two axe and kiwi in the Alps

Monday, February 25, 2008

A cold wind doth blow (II) , a bit harder this time ....

A cold wind doth blow (II) , a bit harder this time ....

After a hearty night in the CIC hut , watching Dave make his way through four courses , including cheese board and some decent claret , the chaps were ready for another day out in the hills. 'Mmmmmm .... looks a little tricky out there today.' says Lord Charles as they saddled up to head up into the Coire. . 'Lets head up into the Coire and see what's it like and make a decision when we get there ............ the others left early and have not been back - bet they have found plenty to do!' enthused President Jackson. 'If not we have loads of Haribo and 6 litres of wine , we can make do in the hut.'

A bit of slog up into the corrie , opened up the blisters again. 'What shall we do ?' Says Lord Charles . Two axe and Kiwi declined the offer of another day in the delightful Scottish weather and went back into the hut. Lets head up to Number 4 area and see what else is going on.' Lord Charles trogged on to the small buttress by the entrance to No. 4 gully. Marvelling at the tons of spindrift pouring of the crag !

'This is not looking too clever' says Dave, as he stopped by the buttress. 'Look, there are the others from last night near number three buttress, that looks a bit desperate - they must be heading back. ' They all cheerfully waved to the others on the opposite side of the coire. 'Lets sack it off and head back. this is bit dangerous'. Bit of a food stop, and then back down towards the hut. We finally met up with Jeremy and others, 'Did you not see us waving ?' - yes - we could just about see you behind the clag and drift - very pleasant of you dear chap!'. ' No, we were trying to warn you , that a bloody great big avalanche, swept the other side of the buttress you were stood next too.!'

'Jesus, think its cards, haribo and wine for the rest of the stay!' - Its not getting better - getting worse tomorow and then may clear up. 'I'm gagging for a curry , lets bail and head into the flesh pots of Fort William. And so ends the sorry tale of the winter CMC trip to the Ben, no cloudless blue skies as before - ' I think Chamonix next year ' - but nobody heard Lord Charles through the howling wind, beating a retreat from the Ben.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A cold wind doth blow ..................................

Ben Nevis , North Gully (II) and Number 3 gully (II)

We poured over guide books, with their tantalising ice clad offerings under heavenly blue skies that looked like the alpine dream sold in the climbing brochures. There is a case I think that the guidebook writer could technically be done under the trades description act. However, we had always been blessed over the preceding four seasons when it came to Scotland's winter weather and we knew that time was running out for the full on sottish winter experience was due.
Undeterred , plans were in place. The CIC hut was booked, the chaps in the finest condition. Lord Charles had enormous amounts of equipment, mostly titanium and Dave had prepared expedition sundries in the style of the 1922 Everest expedition. Lord Charles shouldered his 22.453kg rucksack in the north face car park at 6.32 precisely with Two axe and Kiwi - after pulling an all nighter from Birmingham, high on a couple of reb bull. The advance party set off to hopefully get a couple of routes done before Jackson and Dave hangovers had cleared in Tyndrum. The signs were ominous as they plodded slowly to the hut and the rain came pelting down and a rather annoying wind started to get up. Arriving at the hut the team found a number heading down, 'what's it like up there?' said Lord Charles, half expecting in the overly optimistic way to hear that 'absolutely everything, everywhere is absolutely in fantastic nick'. 'Its Pish, soft, no fun and bloody dangerous' said the climber 'We're heading down'. Sat surveying the Coire from the Hut - 'Hmm ' said two axe, 'I think that Tower ridge is out then'. 'Lets go high and do something like north gully then'.

And so the decision was made ......................... once more into the breach.

The snow was rather soft and a few inches had been put down in the last few hours, but sheltered in the coire. 'There it is ' Lord charles pointed out north gully. 'That other group should have done the first pitch by the time we get there..' - oh how wrong they were ! 'They won't be long , i'm sure' as they waited a little longer. 'Look at my belay jacket- its rather snug' said two axe.

The weather continued to deteriorate some more, and a fair amount of spin drift started to hammer down the route .........
'They are faffing about, think the best thing is to bail and go do number 3, and pop back when they've done.

Ploughing through deep snow the short trip round the buttress to the start of number three gully.

The open slope at the bottom is hard neve , with small amount of spin drift coming down from the plateau.

It was cracking climbing on an easy slope that got steeper and steeper. 'This is a bit much for grade II don't you think' as Two axe forged ahead up the top of the head wall. 'I'll head up and get some summit shots' said LC.

'Jesus.......... its howling up here . Two axe and Kiwi came over the top of the route into the full force of a Scottish winter .

'Best get this sorted and head down number 4 its starting to turn a bit nasty.' The three intreped climbers made an undignified dash and abseil down the gully and headed back to the hut.