Monday, 17 January 2011

Pottering on the Ben

Carn Dearg Buttress. Castle ridge takes the crest of the furthest right buttress in this picture

Sometimes climbing plans work out, sometimes they don’t. In this case my plans to try something hard didn’t really work out, the main reason being, for various reasons,  I didn’t really have a climbing partner. I wanted some good pictures of Carn Dearg Buttress in winter, and so decided to wander up anyway, take some pictures and see what happened. It is quite nice sometimes not to have a fixed plan, and to be free to move around and see where the mood takes me.

A few photographs later, I found the mood taking me over toward Castle Ridge. Castle Ridge was the only main Nevis ridge that I have not done, and being described as the easiest of these I thought it would make a pleasant solo, especially as these was nobody around that part of the mountain.

A lonely tree high on the Ben

Being on my own, able to move at my own pace, and just with my own thoughts for company felt free and satisfying. As I ambled up the lower part of the ridge I found a small and isolated tree in a hollow between the rocks. I paused to contemplate its lonely fate; to struggle and ultimately fail to grow to maturity, and eventually be killed off by the wind, cold, and lack of nutrients. I hadn’t known that there were any trees up amongst the great cliffs of the Ben, and it felt fitting to find one when on my own.

I ambled on, enjoying the views and continuous upward movement, up to the crux barrier wall. The route takes a short but quite steep and exposed groove. I made a move or two up this, but in such an exposed position, without the security of the rope, everything felt a bit insecure. I did not even know for sure that I was in the right place, especially as Godfery Peroux tells a story in his guide about going the wrong way at this point. I was not really in the mood for fear, so stepped back down, and bypassed the wall via a traverse the left.
A jam bagel and cup of tea at the top. Brillant!

At the top of the ridge I paused for a bagel and cup of tea, and stared out across the frozen Lochaber landscape. It had been a successful day, and it was still only about 1pm. I considered heading on upwards towards the summit, but decided instead to head down.

After a quick snooze back at the house, I headed down to my local wall for a wee bouldering session.  The warmth, the non-serious situation, and the feeling of unencumbered movement on the wall felt like nice way to finish the day.

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