Ben Nevis

Year

2016

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Late April 2014, the north face of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis, is loaded with snow and the gullies soften as the days grow longer. The CIC hut made for an ideal base to explore the slopes around Ben Nevis and Carn Mor Dearg.

CIC Hut

The Charles Inglis Clark mountain hut www.smc.org.uk/huts/cic is situated right beneath the cliffs and gullies of the north face. At 650 m ASL, it's also winter bound for 6 months of the year.

Messing around on the snow by the CIC

It's a long walk up from the road, especially carrying food and gear for a long weekend's skiing. We didn't have much energy left but nevertheless, made our way to summit of Carn Mor Dearg in the mist and picked our way back down before retiring for supper.

Snow bridge

The bravehearts decided it would be fun to jump the snow bridge across the burn (the Allt a Mhuillin) outside the CIC. Not for me though, the thought of making a mistake, plunging under the snow and drowning in the churning icy water below was too much !

Cheers !

Tea, wine, whatever. Tomorrow night we'll be properly goosed.

Heading up towards No. 5.

The sun shines as we make our way up towards number 5 gully for the climb to the summit of Nevis.

Number 5

All smiles as we approach the bowl at the top of number 5.

Topped out

Enjoying the view and a deserved rest.

Number 4

This is the first gully we'll ski down. Wide, but steep, and with a fearsome vertical cornice to tackle.

Securing the descent.

The cornice was simply too big to drop especially for me, the weaker skier ! Fortunately, being in the company of pals who are variously MRT members, mountain guides and all very much more experienced climbers than I am, a carefully made bollard helped secure our entry over the cornice onto the steep scarp below.

Number 4 entrance (photo credit: Paul Easto)

Some muppet from Moffat ;-) The chalky snow was grippy enough but the exposure in the gullys on skis is much more intimidating than when climbing up them with axe and crampons. Jamie's entry tracks are above me - he's not such a pussy as I am !

High up in number 4.

The scale and imposing nature of the gulllies here can only be grasped first hand.

Coire na Ciste

After descending number 4 we made our way up number 3. The entry was tamer without a vertical section, but the scarp was longer and steeper, and the gully itself is narrower too.

Number 3

Not so much room to move up top, but soon opens up into the lush bowl of the coire below.

Sunshine in the coire

Somewhere below is the snow-covered lochan which supplies the CIC with its clear, fresh water.

Coire na Ciste

Despite a little runnel and avalanche debris, the spring snow in the bowl was near perfect, at a pitch around 30 degrees.

CIC silhouette

By night, the CIC is sublime, just the sound of wind and the faint voices of mates within, recounting the day's adventures.

After dinner

The gas-fired stove warms us through, and dries out our gear too.

On the haul up to Carn Mor Dearg

The second climb of CMD in the weekend, this time not just without the mist, but in bright sunshine.

Looking towards Aonach Mor

On the summit of Carn Mor Dearg, checking out the skiable lines on Aonach Mor.

Traversing CMD

We skied several lines off the east face of CMD, and each of them was lush.

Ben Nevis and the north face

I love this view of the Ben. To the left of the summit is the upper Coire Leis, to the right is Observatory Gully which we skied a year earlier, and the backdrop is the Ring of Steall.

CMD bowl (photo credit: Craig Cameron)

Entries abound and some muppet from Moffat ;-) chose one line near the 'shark's fin' on the CMD ridge.

Under Carn Mor Dearg

On the way down towards the Allt Daim burn which separates CMD and Aonach Mor. The snow got stickier as it got less steep so we turned around and climbed again.

Carn Mor Dearg descent

The cloud rolled in late in the day but it didn't spoil the snow.

Coire Leis from the CIC

A complete skiable line led down from the head of the coire, all the way back to the hut.