Point Five Gully: a climb on every Scottish winter climber's ticklist. It is the most classic of the Ben Nevis gullies, and one of the most popular. It offers good climbing, in atmospheric surroundings, decent protection and a top-out at the summit of Ben Nevis.
The WI grade doesn't really reflect the challenge of the climb: the ice has steep sections, but above all it is long and serious, inescapable and a giant funnel for spindrift and debris. Pitches 2 and 3 are the crux, with the most sustained steep ice climbing.
P1 Easy ice at the bottom of the gully gradually increases in angle as you pass a bulge and enter the narrow confines of the gully proper. Belay soon after the bulge, there is usually some tat on fixed gear if you're prepared to dig for it!
P2 Route finding is not difficult: the only way to progress is up the steep icy chimney above the belay. The confines of the chimney are a mixed blessing: bridging out helps fight the pump when placing screws, but there's no avoiding the spindrift or debris knocked down by parties above. Belay at an easing, in view of the next pitch
P3 "The rogue pitch": a steep icefall, looms above. It is quite a dramatic feature: a curving swathe of ice around a cave on the right, it climbs nicely too. Again, bridging out to the left wall of the gully helps, but it's still steep! Above, the gully begins to open out onto easier-angled snow/ice. Belay on fixed gear on the right or ice screws on the left.
P4 Continue up the neve to a short section of steeper ice. Find somewhere to put some screws for a belay.
P5,6 Often soloed or simul-climbed, a romp up good neve as the gully continues to open out into a wider basin. A few short steps of steeper ice add interest, and screw placements. Exit onto the summit plateau wherever the cornice looks smallest (or where somebody has already bashed through it!)
From the CIC hut, it is the obvious thin gully to the right of Observatory ridge. Approach up the snow slope, belay just as it starts to get steep.
In most conditions ice screws all the way up. There are some fixed pitons in the gully walls around the normal belays, buried under various quantities of snow and ice!
BETA PHOTO: Point Five Gully from below Photo by Alastair Beg...
By Nick Russell
From: Bristol, UK
Mar 6, 2013
Scottish grade V,5 - a much better summary of the route than WI anything!