Zero Gully (V,4), Ben Nevis

Alex picked me up from Aviemore train station at 7.30am. The initial plan had been East Coast but currently the buttresses were black and so we cut our losses and headed West to Aonach Mor. It turned out the lift was shut. Despite the lateness of the morning we changed plans to Ben Nevis. There wasn't a huge amount in condition but we knew Zero Gully had been climbed in recent days. As we approached Orion Face it began to snow. Then waves of spindrift avalanche began to blow down the face and funnel into Zero Gully's first pitch. There looked to be little else in condition on this part of the mountain and, given that it was nearly 1pm, switching to something in Observatory Gully seemed doomed.

I pressed on up the initial gully finding occasional good ice on my right side to place screws, whilst pinning myself to the ice with each successive bout of spindrift. The snow underfoot was a little soft and needed a good freeze to firm up. With heavy spindrift regularly pouring directly over the first belay stance I had no intention in stopping with around twenty metres of rope was still to spare. I continued up the bank to the right and climbed until out of rope. Ice was inadequate for screws to belay off. At full rope stretch I was able to reach a small sturdy ice pillar that I wrapped a sling around and then dropped back down a few metres to take the strain out of the rope. Alex joined me and then continued up the next pitch over a short steep step of ice. The difficulties were now over and we were able to quickly dispatch the remainder of the route and descend into Coire Leis. Despite the late start we had managed to tick a classic without an after-dark finish.

Approaching Zero Gully
Me continuing past the first belay


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