A Ben post

I got hooked this morning by a Facebook post on incidents on the Ben Nevis Mountain Track, especially over an early Easter with tons of snow and possible bad visibility. Not being able to resist, here it is again:


Enhance the height and location of cairns. Since the debate on poles in ’96 a lot has been improved, even against the wishes of a small minority, who are mostly members of agencies like JMT and MCoS. Ben Nevis is a special case and will always be so. No amount of advertising of dangerous conditions will stop ill-prepared folk trying to climb the highest lump in the UK. The majority of those trying this weekend, will not even have heard or seen the media blast from well-meaning people trying to avoid more deaths. Short of putting the Gendarmes at the foot of the mountain on all sides to STOP ANYONE CLIMBING the peak, there is diddly-squat we can do about it. This debate and deaths have been going on for far too long, so just get the job done properly. Frankly I believe the JMT took on the wrong chunk of mountain and should hand it over to another owner/agency who have safety in mind over conservation philosophy. JMT do a good job, but need to leave their morals behind in the glen on Ben Nevis please. I was a member of the Nevis Partnership for many years and left disheartened when they went against their original idea of joining up the ‘path to nowhere’. It took many years of wrangling between them and the Lochaber MRT and myself and others, to even consider putting the current set of half-buried cairns 50metres apart. Once again many are well-meaning individuals, but unfortunately their mountain morals fall apart in the face of deaths on the UK’s highest peak. I still have a note from a prominent MCoS member saying…”If they cannot navigate they deserve to die and a few deaths are a small price to pay for a pristine mountain”…This person is still a big pal of mine and respected throughout the outdoor and educational world. We had been having a ‘dram’ at the time and I doubt if he truly meant the comment with any real malice or forethought. However, I do believe this attitude does still exist and we all need to stamp it out ASAP. We still have time this weekend to pay local guides and instructors to PATROL the hill in order to try and avoid incidents.

Aphrodite-Diana-Green Gully

Painting by Dave WilsonDavid Wilson

Also at this video. Now with music



Mt Blanc – Torino Hut

Another hut closure on Mt Blanc for this summer. Hopefully the Midi cable car will run an overnight service (?).

Mt Blanc-Gouter Refuge

Anyone thinking of Mt Blanc via the Gouter Refuge this summer should follow this link:

Various online translation packages available.

The safety commission , who was studying Tuesday morning the case of Goƻter in the Mont -Blanc , gave an opinion that the opening of the summer structure. Reportedly, the French Federation of Alpine Clubs and mountain ( FFCAM ) , refuge manager has not been able to prove that it is capable of organizing security in the building. Prefectural provisions include the presence of 10% of guides on site, which means that some of them are mobilized in a relatively short time. FFCAM now has one month to submit a new security plan to the authorities , if it is to open the refuge for the summer season.

More information in our Haute-Savoie editions of Wednesday.

Be Avalanche Aware

Be avalanche aware folks. Lots of snow and strong winds about at the moment. If it calms down towards Easter a lot of slides might be triggered by the unwary. Ice climbing on Ben Nevis is very good at the minute, BUT, approaches and exits from routes are seriuosly effected by avalanche hazard.

Tower Scoop and Smith’s Route

More of the good climbing on Ben Nevis last week. Check out Tower Scoop and Smith’s Route. Yesterday was very good and teams were out in Glen Coe on Twisting and S.C. – N.C. Gullies, reporting good conditions. Today is more unsettled and snow is falling below 600 metres. Avalanche accident on Ben Nevis yesterday so be aware.

Green Gully

Starting to put together some footage of the last two weeks. The weather remains very good and looks like continuing into the first week in April at least. The ice, high on Nevis is in perfect ‘nick’. Check out Green Gully

Left Twin

Had a great day out yesterday introducing Paul Boggis to the East Face of Aonach Mor with his pal and fellow instructor Dave Fisher.Both these guys are heading towards the Mountaineering Instructors award in the future. We abseiled in off of a big strong bollard (multi-directional ??), as the posts are either buried or gone. The cornice are still fairly considerable, so you do need to know where to start. Conditions were very good, although after the recent big thaw the ice was fairly porous. Screws for protection were possible on the right wall and the first pitch is banked out.
We abseiled in because we were not happy with going down Easy Gully and traversing the big slope to the foot of the route with a ‘Considerable’ avalanche forecast. Abseiling straight down the route is only an option if no other parties are on the climb. If the climb is busy, it should be possible to abseil off to the south side. Take two 60 metre ropes and some ‘Tat’, in case you cannot locate the insitu gear.
Hear is a short video of the route yesterday.

Abseiling into Left Twin

Abseiling into Left Twin


Avalanche, the gung-ho human factor

Read this link and be aware of where you climb. Just because others have climbed a route, it does not make it safe.

Try this one as well. Go cautiously. Modern kit helps to go harder and higher and quicker, but experience is a long road to safety. It’s not gained by by a few trips to snowy mountains. Already this winter two climbers tried to ascend Point Five Gully as their first route and had an accident. Fortunately not a serious one

BIG thaw

A BIG thaw is taking place, but not shifting too many routes. Tonight might make a difference, with 91mm of rain forecast for Glen Coe. LOTS of debris below all major gullies today. Cornice collapse is a serious and deadly hazard at the moment. These photos were taken today (6.3.15). The one shot of climbing is a blast from the past from Greg Care on Mega Route X. We have it so easy these days with fancy gear. Check out the curved picks and also the spare axe carried.