On Friday night I met up with Paul Prentice and Lindsay Yule at the Ben Nevis north face car park, we headed up to the CIC hut that night for an early start on Saturday. We arrived at the hut at around 12 midnight and after a quick cuppa and a look at the guide book we got into our bags and dosed off.
After a quick bite to eat on Saturday morning we commenced our journey up to No.3 gully buttress through some deep but fairly stable snow. As we grew closer to No.3 we could see that the buttresses where in perfect mixed condition and all the lines looked ready for the ticking.
|Paul and Lindsay kitting up|
|Paul on the first pitch of Babylon|
We ditched our bags and kitted up at the bottom of “Winter Chimney”, then Paul started up the first pitch of “Babylon” which was our intended route for the day. After a quick lead Paul had reached the first belay and was ready to bring Lindsay and myself up the pitch. After we had seconded, Lindsey then went on to lead the next two shorter pitches which involved the crux cracks of a route called “Gargoyle Wall” and a very tenuous traverse pitch which finished on a very small ledge below the last pitch of “Babylon”. Once the three of us where secure and cramped up on the small stance, we swapped the ropes and kit and I set off up the last (crux) pitch. It had a tricky start, which involved pulling over a small roof directly above the belay ledge then into a short off-width chimney which leads to a larger easier chimney and to the top.
|Lindsay on the Gargoyle cracks pitch|
|Lindsay on the tenuous traverse|
I quickly got safe, then Lindsay and Paul had fun seconding the tricky/awkward pitch and the beaming smiles that emerged from the top chimney showed that everyone had had a good day.
|Me pulling through the crux overlap on Babylon|
Throughout the day we had been watching two other climbers opposite on the mega classic hanging chimney line of “Darth Vader”. It looked like an amazing line and watching the other two climbers have so much fun on it made me mega psyched to get on it.
We grabbed our bags and descended down the mountain back to the car. After organising kit we parted ways and got stuck into our separate journeys.
I headed to some good friends of mine, Ken and Buffy Lacey who stay on the Isle of Seil just down the road from my old house where I lived before I moved east to Fife. This was good as it was not that far from the Ben and I was planning on climbing with Ken on the Sunday anyway.
|The obvious chimney of Darth Vader|
After four hours sleep Ken and I were up at 2:30am and on our way back up to the Ben. I must have dosed off in the car, as when I woke we were in Fort William and soon to be approaching the north face car park. We leisurely walked up to the hut and followed the tracks I had made the previous day up to No.3 area. The buttresses looked even better than the previous day and the weather was about as good as it gets in winter in Scotland, there was not a cloud to be seen and the sun was brightening up the sky.
|Ken leading the first pitch of Darth Vader|
|Me on the second pitch of Darth Vader|
All the way up from the hut we could see the prominent chimney line of “Darth Vader” sticking out from Creag Coire na Ciste. This is the route