As Christmas is fast approaching, people are travelling all over the world to be home with their families. Ally Swinton (a good friend of mine) is one of these people, and last week he flew home from Chamonix in the French Alps to surprise his parents and to be home for the festive period.
As I had not seen him for nearly six months, the first thing I did when I heard he was back in the country for a week, was to call him and make plans to get out in the hills before he headed back to Cham.
|Ally on the first pitch with Sioux Wall above him|
So on Tuesday night we drove across the country to the Ben Nevis NF car park and kipped in my car, ready for some awesome weather and an awesome route the following day. When we awoke, the moon was still flooding the night sky with light and as we walked up onto the mountain we didn’t need to use our head torches, even on the forest section of the approach.
We walked up to No.3 Gully Buttress and as we approached, we could see the that routes were in awesome condition. We did the route “Sioux Wall”, which is another mega classic on the Ben. As it was only Ally’s second route of the season and his hardest Scottish mixed route to date, I offered to lead all the crux pitches, although his main pitch packed a fair punch!
|Me on the 2nd pitch|
We soloed halfway up the first/access pitch then Ally lead the section to below the 2nd pitch. I then went on to lead the very enjoyable wall pitch to the top of the first crack section (below the obvious corner groove) where there is an in-situ belay. We where following the summer route description in the Ben guide book, but a friend of mine who had done the route previously, said that the winter route splits the second pitch into two pitches.
|Ally seconding the 2nd pitch|
So that is what we did, and once I had brought Ally up to the belay, he sorted the rack and set off up the corner pitch. After a good battle with the technical groove and icy cracks he eventually made it to the belay below the steep crack (crux) pitch, and brought me up.
|Ally heading into battle|
I then ran the crux crack pitch and the continuation crack pitch together, the first crack section was a little strenuous to start but it soon eased off, although it remained technical and hard enough to stay interesting. Once I had pulled over the last tricky section I arrived on the large platform of “Number Three Gull Buttress”. I brought Ally up to here and he swiftly ran up the exit pitch of NO.3 buttress in the dark to reach the top!
|Me on the crux pitch|
It was good to get out in winter with Ally and now I’m super psyched to go to the Alps in January to get on some steep ice and Alpine routes with him.