Rob and Dave were keen for something longer and harder than the SW Ridge of the Douglas Boulder for today, so for two fit chaps, who have a fair bit of alpine climbing under their belt, and all of us wanting to avoid avalanche hazards on westerly aspects, North East Buttress seemed to tick all the right boxes.
I was pleasantly surprised to find no one else heading up that way this morning, giving us pole position on the route. As it turned out, we were the only ones in that race today, which was fine by me. The approach slopes were reasonably scoured, and sported some raised footprints, a good indicator that snow had been eroded by the winds on that slope.
We were soon into proper climbing terrain, and with the snow still mostly unconsolidated, a bit of care was required with axe and crampon placements. Both Rob and Dave quickly got to grips with the need for efficiency at the belays, so we made good progress up the buttress.
The chaps struggled a bit with the notorious Man Trap, a short but slightly over-hanging wall, with very limited axe placements and poor, sloping foot placements, but cruised the 40 Foot Corner, which today had ok snow on the ledges, but absolutely no chance for any gear due to a thin layer of ice.
It’s been a great couple of days with Rob and Dave, who have expanded their comfort zones and tackled possibly the best route of it’s grade on Ben Nevis. What a great way for us all to spend Valentine’s Day!
Hannah and Lena were also hard at work, on Aonach Mor, delivering a day of skills to 8 members of the Wessex Mountaineering Club. They are up for a week, and were after a one day introductory day, so that they can practice their new found skills and be more self-reliant for the rest of their time up here.