Last night, I watched “The Pinnacle” on my computer. This film retraces the unworldly week of Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith who climbed in Feb. 1960 six first winter ascents on Ben Nevis. This included the great routes Orion Face Direct and Point Five Gully. The film includes a detailed interview of Jimmy Marshall as well as the repeat, 50 years later, by Dave MacLeod and Andy Turner of the six routes that were first climbed over that 1960 week. This is terrific climbing and I also loved it for following so many climbing routes on the Ben! Following Steve Dean’s description, the “pinnacle” alludes to the feat of Marshall and Smith, who re-defined Scottish climbing, all this using old-style ice-axes and step-cutting rather than the soon to come front-pointed crampons and much more manageable shorter and doubled ice-axes… The film is available for free screening on Hot Aches website for a few more days! (I also learned at last the meaning of hot aches and screaming barfies from the movies. Handy for the next winter climb or run!)
Archive for Ben Nevis
Prior to the ICMS meeting last year in Edinburgh, I spent two days in the Highlands, first in Glencoe climbing Bidean nam Bian, then on the Ben itself, with the classic Tower Ridge route. These were fantastic climbs in still wintry Scottish conditions and I enjoyed them tremendously without feeling any proximity with danger at any time (although I backed down from a snow corridor on Bidean nam Bian for missing an extra iceaxe…) On the previous weekends, there were alas two accidents on those same routes, first a group of four taken by an avalanche near Bidean nam Bian and second a lone climber on the Tower Ridge route… While climbing solo always involves some degree of objective danger, especially on exposed ridges like Tower Ridge, the casualties on Bidean nam Bian sounded more like “shit happens“. An unlikely and very rare accident cause by an accumulation of circumstances that were just too hard to predict. And to avoid (except by spending the day at the Clachaig Inn, which has its own risk!)
As I mentioned in a post last February, I almost lost my (Nikon Coolpix L26) camera to the cloaca maxima, in Roma. It however remained (miraculously) within reach inside the manhole there… Well, this kind of miracle does not happen twice (or only in Roma…) and I have now lost the camera for good! When climbing Tower Ridge, after the first belay to go up Douglas gap, I took it out of my pocket to take a few pictures of the beginning of the ridge and of the fantastic view of that side of Ben Nevis. As I was mostly paying attention to Kenny going up the blocks above us (to make sure of my holds there), I did not look as I put my camera back inside my overpants and it slid out of the pocket, swiftly accelerating down the snowy slopes to disappear into Coire na Ciste… There was no way we were going to check whether or not it was retrievable, so I called myself a few well-chosen names and we continued our climb along the ridge without further delay. In fact, I had another camera in my bag, my older and bulkier Konica Minolta Dimage Z20, but it was impossible to get hold of it in most places (as I would have had to unpack) and it anyway ran out of battery (which explains why I have so few pictures of the top of the Ben and of the unbelievable [and rare] views of the Highlands invading the ‘Og in the past days!).
Here is thus the last picture taken from my lost camera, a view of the Aonach Eagach ridge from the bottom of Glencoe (and the start of the trail to the Lost Valley). Apart from this miracle in Roma, I have been rather unlucky with cameras lately, loosing first my favourite one in a New York taxi, then this one on Tower Ridge. Actually, I consoled myself with the fact that the quality of this Nikon Coolpix L26 camera was rather unsatisfactory, behaving poorly in anything but clear weather and having grown a mark (fungus?) on the lens (after falling in the snow during my X’mas ski trip). Mark that is clearly visible on the right of the ptarmigan picture below. Anyway, I will now have to look for a new camera, hopefully supported by ‘Og’s readers (!) via the links to Amazon.com and Amazon.fr there, which earn me a monetary gain [of 4% to 7%] if a purchase [of any product] is made within the 24 hours following the entry on Amazon through this link, thanks to the “Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com/fr“.
On Sunday, I eventually managed to climb Tower Ridge, the classic climbing route on Ben Nevis, after several attempts in the past years that were foiled by either poor weather or a lost bag. It is a magnificent climb (graded Scottish IV,3), very alpine and constantly exposed (since it is indeed a ridge the whole way). Mountain guide Kenny Grant (from Abacus Mountaineering) was leading me and, by using minimal protection, he got us to the top in a fairly good time, since the climb per se took under five hours and the whole trip from the car park about seven and a half hours. We were the first team on the ridge and although a solo climber (Jim, who took the picture below) caught up with us at the Great Tower, he waited behind us till the top.