Looking up at Hadrian's Wall and Point 5 Gully
Well what a great day out we had on Thursday. Checked the forecast on Tuesday, texted a few folk and the next afternoon 4 of us were northwards bound. Arrived at The North Face car park, set up the tent, slept and woke at 5 to be on the trail for 6.
Now it's obviously been a while since I was last on The Ben because I'd never used the new direct path to the dam and the much improved path across the Allt a'Mhuillin. We got to the CIC hut in an unbelievable 1 hour 20 mins (as opposed to the 1hr 40 to 1hr 50 it used to take). We were maybe the 3rd or 4th team in and mooched over to Observatory Gully to find that it was empty. Stu and I had both done Point 5 already (which looked great and from the styrofoam snow we were walking on was probably in better than perfect condition).
Stu leading the first pitch
Had a look around the corner at Indicator Wall but everything there had been stripped by the extensive thaw so we dropped back down to Hadrian's Wall. On first sight it looked like it may be a bit thin on the middle slab of the first pitch and the corner pitch looked blank but, as is often the case with winter, it's only when you are there that you realise what it's actually like.
Basically the ice was in great condition (most screws up to the hilt) and the neve and snow ice was perfect. 3 pitches of graded climbing, a couple of pitches of easy going neve and then a further 2 pitches of graded stuff to finish on - both of which were absolutely awesome.
Reached the summit by about 1.30 and sat around for a while enjoying the spectacular views from Skye and Rhum all the way across to The Cairngorms. Looking south most of the peaks were shrouded in clouds or just sticking out above them, and looking east, west and northwards there wasn't a cloud in sight - The Ben was almost the dividing line between cloud and clear.
Mooched over to No4 gully and were back down at the car park by 5 and home for 10.30. A fantastic and unforgettable 30 hours. A real opportunistic grab.
Well done us!