Articles - Weekend Climber: Scotland
Photo: Tom Prentice
by Bernard Newman & Kate Burke
Weekend Climber: Scotland
Ben Nevis & Glen Nevis
Every winter, climbers from all over the world make the annual pilgrimage to the Big Bad Ben to experience probably the finest technical winter climbing in the world. But in summer the same crags provide equally stunning rock climbing especially on the vast boiler-plate granite walls of Carn Dearg.
The crag is steeped in climbing history, particularly from the bravest days of modern climbing, the fifties and early sixties, before the advent of high tech protection. The great names acted out their legendary dramas and duels here: Haston, Smith, Brown, Whillans, MacInnes, Marshall, Clough and the legacy of outstanding routes is vast.
The base for this large-scale weekend raid is Glen Nevis, where you can camp, and for the big day drive round to The North Face sponsored car park at NN146 764. Two hours’ slog up the Allt a’ Mhuilinn should get you to Carn Dearg and half as much again to Tower Ridge and the Minus Face. The routes are long, almost Alpine, certainly in the degree of commitment so get an early start. For Carn Dearg you can scramble back down Ledge Route (Easy) to your sacks, but for Tower Ridge and Minus One Direct, you’re best taking your sacks. These routes need time to dry and good long fine days to climb them, so June – September is the window.
If you do any of the routes on the list, you’ll be knackered but very pleased with yourself, so the ‘Sunday’ climbing needs to be convenient. Glen Nevis has a bewildering surfeit of crags and they’re all good, so we’ve picked some of the best routes on the most handy crags for that quick fix. . . but remember, Glen Nevis is a Midge World Heritage Site, so if it’s warm and still don’t even bother getting out of the car – hit the Ice Factor or Ratho instead!
Ben Nevis SMC
Saturday (but just the one!)
Carn Dearg: Centurion (HVS 5a) 190m, Bullroar (HVS 5a) 285m
Tower Ridge: Tower Ridge (Diff.) 600m
Ben Nevis Minus Face: Minus One Direct (E1 5b) 295m
Sunday - Glen Nevis
Cavalry Crack Buttress: Old Wall (VS 4b), Storm (HVS 5a), Long Crack (HVS 5a).
Pandora’s Buttress: Phantom Slab (VS 4c), Flying Dutchman (Sev.).
Secretaries’ Buttress: Secretaries’ Direct (Sev.), Secretaries’ Super Direct (HVS 5a).
Caption: Keith Milne enjoying the airy second crux of Centurian on Carn Dearg of Ben Nevis. First climbed by Don Whillans and Bob Downes in August 1956. Photo: Tom Prentice