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Sunday 28th November: Storm Arwen had left the area and the forecast was good, a mate and I decided to do Ledge Route, with the plan to come back down via CMD. We left the North Face carpark about 0720, made our way to the CIC hut, and got up Ledge Route with no issues. Really decent conditions - just lots of soft snow, with no icy sections, and a relatively easy ascent. We had lunch in the summit shelter, and then descended the shoulder to the CMD. We saw a group quite a long way ahead of us - after about 20 mins we realised they were coming towards us, but very slowly! We reached them about 300 m short of the summit of CMD itself - it was now 1430. They were actually spread out over about 50 m, so we had a chat with the guy at the front and pointed out sunset was in less than 1.5 hrs, and they were moving pretty slowly. At their current rate they'd probably still be on the ridge as it was getting dark. We convinced him (and he convinced his friends when they caught up) that they should turn around. The group was 3 guys in their 20s. Given their obvious lack of experience, my mate and I thought we should stay with them for the walk down. One of the group seemed particularly uncomfortable on the ridge (because of the conditions, exposure, and snow) - it actually took more than 30 mins for all 3 of them to get back to the summit of CMD. Given sunset was now fairly soon, and the distance still to cover, I decided to take a pretty direct route down to the main track leading up to the CIC hut, rather than trudge through the snow over to Carn Beag Dearg. However, the 3 guys were so uncomfortable and unused to moving in those kind of conditions, the descent was incredibly slow - even with me creating path / steps for them all to follow. It took until about 2030 to get them down to the main path. Once on that, they were a bit happier that they were on solid ground(!) and moved a bit faster. We got back to the carpark at just about 2300 From the time we spent with them, we found out: - they'd hired boots and crampons from a shop in Fort William - they hadn't left the North Face carpark till about 10 - for 2 of them, this was their first *ever* Scottish mountain (and they thought CMD in full winter conditions would be a good intro! They definitely realised they'd underestimated the conditions once they were on the ridge, and when they were on the descent with us) - the other guy said he had about 20 days of experience, but had done virtually nothing in winter. - they had one headtorch between the 3 of them - no flask - carrying a rope but I don't think they really knew how to use it - very small rucksacks - very little extra clothing / no spare gloves
My partner and I are both comfortable multi pitch trad climbing at VS, and have climbed long alpine routes at AD+, however most of our climbing is either in the Lake District or the Alps. Apart from this incident we had an excellent day out climbing Observatory Ridge and descending the CMD arête. Around half way up Observatory Ridge, while moving together after pitching the first four pitches, two very large blocks gave way beneath my feet. The blocks narrowly missed my second climber and fell down into Zero Gully with a lot of loud crashing and rock dust, alarming climbers on the North East Buttress. Thankfully there were no climbers in Zero Gully or at the base of the route at the time. I managed to shout out a warning to those below as the rocks fell. The climbers on North East Buttress called over to make sure we were not injured. The blocks fell as I was stepping up and I already had a hand on the very good holds above, so I did not fall. We had two pieces of gear on the 20m of rope between us so hopefully had I fallen I would have been held.
The Ring of Steal
I was walking with my daughter and had climbed 3 of the 5 Monroes when we noticed an unforecast storm brewing over Ben Nevis, across the valley. We were obliged to continue walking which unfortunately included 2 more ascents and descents. By this time rain was reasonably heavy but we had waterproofs and walking sticks. Suddenly we were simultaneously struck by lightening, standing approximately 5 metres apart. We were not at the highest point so continuing was needed but hazardous. No further incident occurred. However we learnt the next day of a fatality on a neighbouring Munroe around the same time as our strike [www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lightning-strike-death-scotland-highlands-woman-hiking-glencoe-a8950726.html]
Ben Nevis via CMD
As keen winter mountain walkers/climbers, my friend and I were making our way across a snowy, ice covered CMD arete when all of a sudden part of the way across the arete, some ice gave away under my footing. I slipped down onto my side and onto my back then immediately started to slide down the arete towards the CIC hut. I got myself into a self arrest position fairly quickly, however, due to my speed and how steep the arete is, my axe just cut through the snow and ice. I thought I wasn't going to stop even though my arest fast and perfect text book. I then started to hit a few exposed rock bouncing off with force until eventually my axe snagged on to some of this exposed rock bringing me to a jolting stop. I'd gone down 25m 83ft before coming to an abrupt stop. I felt bruising where I'd hit my left hip on some rock but otherwise felt ok. After getting my breath I started to climb back up to the ridge where I had left my friend. From there we continued to the summit of Ben Nevis but my left leg and hip started to feel sore and was really slowing me down. Once we were at Ben Nevis summit, I took some pain-relief and anti-inflammatories before setting off on our descent. Once I got to my accommodation I had a proper look at my injured hip to find a huge hematoma on my left hip/thigh and thought I must be the luckiest girl alive to just have that. Until... A couple of weeks later my shoulder and neck started to give me so much pain. Even now, a year later I still get lots of pain in my neck and shoulder as well as some numbness in some of my fingers. I may now be possibly be looking at needing surgery and now wished I'd got myself checked out immediately and properly.
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