Friday, 23 September 2016

Another Rescue Drama

The big bad ben looking very innocent

My mate Richard and his partner Carmel had decided to the The Long Climb on Ben Nevis the guidebook describes it as.
A route of alpine proportion finishing nr the summit of Ben Nevis is one of the finest mountaineering expeditions in the country. The route is neither totally clean or solid and in anything but perfect dry conditions it is likely to be much more serious than the grade suggests.

Now Ross, another guy in the hut, had done the climb in summer and I had done the winter version when is called the Orion Face Direct so we had a good idea of what was involved and we all had good natter about the proposed route the night prior to the ascent.
Come the next morning the Nevis team set of early before we got up, after a leisurely breakfast we set of for a day in Glen Nevis an area I had never climbed before. Glen Nevis is renowned for its midges but today there was a good breeze which kept them off and we had a superb day.
We had already done a couple of climbs when we met up with a local guide working for the Outward Bound org who gave us a lot of info about linking climbs on different buttress’s, something I will do on my next visit.

Back to Roybridge 6ish and Ross was back soon after he monster Marilyn bagging day out. I guess we were expecting the Nevis Team back around 7ish. So we cooked a meal and settled down in the lounge, at first the conversation was relaxed and easy.
8 o’clock came and it was getting dark, we reviewed the situation, I know Richard, who is a fireman, to be very competent and well capable of climbing the route but he was not familiar with the North Face of Ben Nevis. I knew less about Carmel who did not lead so if anything happened to Richard they would have to retreat.
We were aware that they have got the hut key for the Forestry Commission roads that knocks 2/3 hours off any ascent of Ben Nevis. On the other hand we knew they should have been back long before dark.
9 O’clock came and went, the tension mounted, Ross and I in analysis mode again breaking the day into sections estimating times for each section even adding several hours into the equation this confirms they should have been back a long time ago.
A car headlight comes onto the estate our hopes rise then the car drives past us, gutted.
We decide we would leave it until 10 then contact the rescue.
10 o’clock comes, I go to the kitchen notice board where there is a leaflet about info you need when you call out the rescue, I toy with my mobile phone.

10.05 I am making notes putting off the inevitable when I get a shout from the lounge a car has arrived, is it them or newcomers turning up, the external security light flicks on and we can see its them, they are back, thank god for that.

Its hugs all round as they come in the door, they know will have been worried sick. The route has been mossy, loose and wet taking longer than expected and they got lost coming down the forestry tracks in the car after dark.
But the big error was that they took the tourist route down to the half way lochan taking several hours longer than the direct Alt a’Mhulinn route. Something we had neglected to brief them on.
The tension is released and the beers flow so we are late going to bed.
Everything turned out fine but what would you do in that situation, at what point would you call out the rescue services???????

The North East Buttress of Ben Nevis Photos/Topo image from Climbing Guide 

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