Having driven up late on Friday night after university we pitched our tent at the side of the road at about 1 am. It was pretty windy and rainy so the tent didn't get put up terribly well, we crammed three of us in and put our heads down for the night.
After a quick Macdonald's breakfast we drove to our start point, readied our bags and set off up towards Ben Nevis. After an uncomfortable nights sleep a bag full of climbing gear, clothing and food felt rather heavy! We did, after about an hour and a half to two hours, get up to the snow line, and the mist!
From the snow line we reached the CIC hut and readied our kit; harnesses, crampons, axes, helmets etc etc. Having driven five hours, slept uncomfortably and sweat litres to get up there we were now ready to climb!
Me (left) and a friend preparing our gear and roping up
The weather wasn't too bad - clouds was lurking but sun occasionally broke through and meant that the visibility wasn't too bad at first. Our aim was Gardyloo gully, one that would end close to the summit and should not provide too much difficulty.
Me at the back of the rope
Progress proved fairly slow as the snow was deep but we did make steady and continuous progress. The gully steepened to more of a climb so we got both axes out and carried on working our way onwards and upwards.
Further up the gully narrowed and we made our way in to Gardyloo gully itself (shown above). The mist closed in and everything seemed very surreal and quiet - a feeling I really enjoyed. We were half way up a mountain, playing in the snow with cool looking axes as opposed to working at university in busy Newcastle = PERFECT!
Looking back down Gardyloo Gully, where's everything gone??
We carried on up the gully; as the mist closed in the temperature dropped a little but the relatively deep snow gave us a good enough workout to keep us warm. Working on up the gully we were suddenly halted by a blockage - the famous tunnel on this route was filled in.
We tried to go around and over the tunnel but the conditions didn't really allow it - the ice was thin and some of the climbing would be too difficult or impossible. Sadly we had to turn back and we descended the gully slowly and cautiously.
Descending the gully; we eventually sat down and slid; much more fun!
As we descended the light was dwindling; we got back to the CIC hut around six - packed all our gear away, ate a huge amount of food, drank our water and got ready to descend the mountain to the car park.
Fading light over the Ben - beautiful
We made it down to the car park by about 8 o'clock. Darkness fell around 6-6.30 and the wind had picked up which made for an interesting descent. We hadn't made it all the way up Gardyloo gully but we had a great day - Fort William provided us with a hearty meal and a few pints of ale before pitching our tent again. The following day's weather didn't allow for any climbing so we headed home after a few hours at the indoor ice centre.