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Routes in Ben Nevis

Type: Mixed, Ice, 3000 ft, 6 pitches, Grade IV
FA: JN Collie, GA Solly, J Collier, 30th March 1984
Page Views: 555 total, 10/month
Shared By: Nick Russell on Mar 3, 2013
Admins: Chris Owen, Euan Cameron, Nick Russell

You & This Route


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Description

A long and classic expedition, both in summer and winter, up the obvious and imposing ridge rising practically from the CIC hut to the summit plateau. The ridge is about 1000m long, with 500m of wonderfully exposed climbing, mostly easy and soloed by competent parties, or tackled roped up alpine style. Several short sections however are often pitched out.

Directly above the CIC hut and at the very toe of the ridge is the Douglas boulder: a bit of a misnomer as it stands 200m high and is very much part of the ridge. The usual start is not directly over this; instead parties will walk around the East side of the boulder to a gully separating it from the ridge proper. Climb easily up the gully to the top (the Douglas gap), where a short chimney (the first pitch) exits leftwards onto the ridge.

Continue along the top of the ridge, admiring the views until the ground starts to steepen: this is the little tower, and some teams will rope up here for 2-3 pitches. The normal route moves out to the right, then back left, picking out the easiest line until the ground gets really steep at the base of the great tower.

At first it looks like your progress is blocked by a great vertical wall, possibly climbable by the elite, but certainly not you! However, on closer inspection there is a ledge on the left side, banked out with snow to quite an alarming angle. This is the Eastern traverse, and provides your means of progress. Ropes out, step down and round, out of sight of your partner, until a chimney on the right. Belay on a ledge at the base or part way up this, then another pitch takes you to the top of the great tower.

Here the ridge narrows to a knife-edge and funnels you towards the infamous Tower Gap. Here a fault line crosses perpendicular to the ridge and the resulting erosion has left a cleft, 2-3m deep and 1-2m across. The ridge is so narrow there is no way to avoid it: make the step down, then back up the other side. It's intimidating, but over in a flash.

Pause to belay your partner over the gap then climb directly up the final snow slopes to the summit

Location

From the CIC hut, the usual start is to walk around the East side of the Douglas boulder then up the Eastern gully to Douglas gap

Protection

Ice screws are probably superfluous, but a couple of short ones could possibly be placed on the way up the little tower in fat conditions. Carry a set of nuts and hexes. There is usually an in situ sling protecting the drop down into tower gap. A large hex will protect the step out.

Photos

Nick Russell
Bristol, UK
 
Nick Russell   Bristol, UK  
 
Scottish grade IV,3. Not technically hard, but a long committing route. Not really sure how to grade it in US terms, so apologies for the guesswork above! Any better suggestions accepted Mar 4, 2013