The C.I.C. hut was this month’s destination. It is owned by the Mountaineering Club of Scotland and is situated at 680m under the North face cliffs of Ben Nevis. It sleeps 24, has propane for cooking on a number of hobs and a cooker. Gas stoves also provide heating for the hut and drying room which was the most efficient we’ve ever come across, it was to be put to the test this weekend. Composting toilets also added a certain degree of comfort, especially if you were able to hold your breath for the duration and remember to close the door on exit. This hut is “right up there” as one of our club’s favourites and will be booked again for future visits.
George and Susan set of early on Friday and were able to walk in pleasant weather up Stob Na Broige. on Buchaille Etive Mor to tick it off for their 3rd round. Conditions were to decline from this point on as the forecast had indicated.
Raymond and Jim were next to arrive at the North Face car park and set off through the forest to the hut reaching it in daylight. James and the two Ians parked up just before dark but after waiting for Alan who hadn’t been up this route before, had to use their head torches from the word go. not too pleasant with full packs, rain, wind and darkness but soon arrived and were given hot tea that the others had prepared. Wet attire was put up to dry and the usual Friday night discussions over a few drinks about who was going to do what the next morning took place, our intended route up Tower Ridge having being abandoned much earlier after consulting the weather forecast, rope and gear being left in cars, Some discussions went on longer than others but by about 4am, ish, all had settled down.
Next morning James, Jim and Raymond were up early, ready to tackle Carn Mor Dearg direct from the hut to the summit then down and up to Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor returning the same way. George and Susan soon joined this trio for breakfast but were unsure of their plans for this horrendous day. Several attempts to rouse the others failed, two grunts and a snort was the only audible communication.
So James and Jim, the two super fit sextenarians set off on their route. Raymond now deciding to hold back and see what the others were contemplating but stating he would catch up if deciding on the original plan. Sure enough just as J and J were approaching the summit Raymond loomed out of the clag to join them on the rest of the trek, that was until Aonach Mor, where the youthful Tri athlete announced that he couldn’t face the descent and then assent back up CMD then the steep drop back to the hut. He opted for an off route down hill and contouring stroll to pick up the path back to the hut. Goodbyes were said and the grizzled old duo pressed on using all they had plus a good deal of extra determination to get back to the hut, where they found Raymond, who had pipped them to the post by a mere 20 minutes.
George and Susan had also decided to summit Carn Mor Dearg but ascending by the head of Coire Leis, a steep route that terminates at the “abseil post” perhaps an indication of just how steep. Surprisingly this pair of multi completeists had not been up this way before. However like all others on these hills this day there was little reward in the way of views. They continued along the arete to the summit in driving rain, from which the only protection George had was an old jacket that James had brought for him after receiving an earlier phone call to say he had forgotten to pack his own. They then dropped back to the hut, lit the stove and got the kettle on the boil in preparation of others returning.
Eventually, once the two Ians and Alan had got out of their beds and realising that Tower Ridge definitely wasn’t on the cards they hatched a plan to climb The Ben also by going up Coire Leis. As they set off they met two climbers outside the hut looking for directions to the start of Tower Ridge. Unperturbed by the warnings and advice about slippy wet rock and near zero visibility they headed off for an attempt.
This was Alans’ first climb for a while because of a knee problem and it wasn’t made any easier for him by also forgetting his waterproof jacket. The trio eventually made the summit of Britain’s highest mountain and took refuge in the shelter. A couple with a 4 year old child were already inside, and it was noted that one of Ian P’s kin had left graffiti in the shelter. You can take a Pollock out of Kilsyth…..
Once rations were consumed they proceeded to pose at the summit. No need for selfies here though. The climbers they had encountered earlier had abandoned their climb after one fell 30ft. Arrested by their rope he lived to tell the tale. They had then followed the same route up as our boys and were only too pleased to take their group photo. Our three chose to descend by the Half Way Lochan on a well laid path back to the hut just before being benighted, one torch left on charge others lying on bunks.
Eventually once all were changed and fed, the serious stuff started and with no guitars for entertainment, Ian P’s music app device with DJ Jim the Swim at the buttons soon had us all up going through old disco dance routines. An enjoyable night ensued with many discussions, one around eco toilets, It transpired that Alan unable to locate the light switch was using handfuls of wood shavings in place of loo roll, hand sanitizer was available though. Reassuring all those who accepted one of his biscuits. Once all the malt was gone everyone retired for a full and restful nights sleep.
Sunday saw us wakening up to a better day and after getting the hut shipshape all headed back down the track and home.