Friday, 29 February 2008

The Iron Was Hot

In a brief respite from the utterly vile weather that's been passing through Lochaber, Sam, Helena and Becky made the pre-dawn pilgrimage to Torlundy on Wednesday. I met them at the north face car-park and before long we were sweating up to the CIC.

Following all the rain we've been having at sea-level I expected that the Ben would be buried in powder and that climbing would be slow and tedious. In truth, however, the stiff westerly winds had scoured most of the approach slopes and buttresses, so Sam and I romped across to the start of Observatory Ridge on stiff neve. I'd fancied climbing this route for quite a while, and the conditions on the day made it a good choice. Good ice was starting to form and was linked by banks of neve, which gave some great, if fairly bold climbing. We climbed the ridge in 5 pitches and then moved together for the last 150-200m.
Sam just above the tricky step on pitch 3
Sam Loveday observed in his natural habitat; a chimney.

I've heard a few tales of Observatory Ridge being pretty hard in some conditions, but we found it in very friendly nick. There were some thinly-iced slabs and one tricky step into a groove (made a bit harder for Sam after I took much of the ice out of it on the lead), but without these it would have been a bit too straight farward.

Lovers leads off on pitch 4

Helena and Becky had a good day on Comb Gully, and after a brew in the Crucible of Psyche the intrepid Edinburgh team headed back South.

So, just more proof that a close eye on the weather and a flexible approach can yield good results in this rather stormy winter. Now it's back to misery, misery, misery as 70mph gusts bring incessant, heavy, unrelenting, never-ending rain, rain, rain from the West. Mind you, I think the crags will be icing up a treat, so lets just wait for a settled spell and then pounce.

The End.

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