We chose Ledge Route on the Ben as our first objective, hoping we would get some shelter from the prevailing wind. This proved to be right, and as we chatted to the morose group of guys we met outside the CIC hut, the wind was bearable. The rain did not relent though, and I suspect this did not help the mood of the large group, as they trudged off up the unforgiving slope onto the Carn Mor Dearg. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in the pub when they got down!
We made our way over (yes, over, not into or through) No.5 Gully's entrance, where the snow must be 5m deep at least, and on up onto the slimy ramp that gets you onto the Ledge Route proper. Due to the sliminess and loose nature of the slab, I protected Joe's progress up this, and we made our way this way and that until the nice arete, which we roped again as it was so wet. It was then blocky scrambling until the flattening, where we were greeted with a positively Alpine snow arete, rather than the usual boulder strewn ridge. It was an absolute joy, and we topped out over a final steepening that could have been March, not June. The exposure would have been enhanced markedly by this, had we been able to see at all!
The day finished with a walk across to the Zigzags in very poor visibility, and a rapid descent past the lochan and the new path to the North Face car park. One good route in the bag, and hardly anyone else on the mountain, apart from an oriental family on the Tourist Path wrapped in a bin-bag cum poncho, who wanted to know how far they were from the top. The mind boggles....
Our second route the next day was to be Curved Ridge on the Buachaille Etive Mor, again chosen due to its sheltered aspect, and the fact it goes well in the wet. We arrived at the lay-by, where there were precisely NO other cars, or in the pull-in at Lagangarbh. None. Zilch. When was the last time you would be setting off for the Buachaille at 9am on a summer's day with no-one else there!? Speaks volumes about this run of weather eh?
Locating the start of the ridge is famously tricky, and I must say I was shocked by the amount of new erosion on the loose area after the water-slab, and this won't make it any easier for folks. We donned helmets at the slimy traverse, and off we went. As I say, I believe due to the lack of down-climbing involved on Curved Ridge, and the excellent quality of the rock (on the whole), it is an ideal choice in the wet. As long as you take your time, choose your footholds and handholds precisely and carefully, progress is steep but speedy. Always exhilarating, never too technical.
The giant Rannoch Wall was foreboding in the mist, and unsurprisingly, devoid of climbers! We finally arrived at the slabby move near the top third of the ridge, and I decided to protect that. Joe was climbing in Sportiva Nepals to break them in for the Alps, and whilst they are great for most of the route, the slightly smeary moves needed on this section meant they may compromise him. In reality, they allowed a jamming move, and he swanned up it, once the first move was made. After that, it was just more excellent scrambling to the top of the ridge.
Then came the grotty gullies that lead to the summit, initially made trickier by old snow patches. We decided we had had enough excitement for the day, and left Crowberry Tower for next time. It was quickly over the summit, and once exposed to the wind and rain again, we high-tailed it back to the car as quickly as possible. Joe had to catch a flight later that afternoon, so after he had an excellent shower at the Green Welly for only a couple of quid, I left him at Glasgow airport.
It would have been so easy to have cancelled this trip, but with some judicious route choice, we had a great time despite the weather. Yes it added frisson, and certainly meant you had to concentrate on your footwork, but two cracking iconic routes in such conditions are all the sweeter.....but I reeeaalllyy would like a few dry days.....please.....pretty please......