Monday, March 29, 2010

Ship of Fools

After a month or more of reading about everyone else having fun up in Scotland I finally managed to get up there myself. A great day out with young hotshot Greg Boswell, and nice to end the season on a high note rather than watch the season fade away.

We knew we'd need to head high for conditions, and it doesn't get higher than Indicator Wall. I had my eye on Ship of Fools a route established by Iain Small and Simon Richardson in 2007. Greg starting up Pitch 1
I'd been intrigued by this route ever since I read Simon's exciting account of their first ascent in the new Ben Nevis history book "...his monopoints only half penetrate the ice before they hit rock; his tools barely reach their first notch. There are no gear placements in sight. Iain commits to a meticulous dance. Every placement, each step, has to be perfectly executed the first time;a second kick, or another swing, and the delicate skein of ice will shatter....The ice sheet vibrates as he makes his second placement, but it holds his weight as he manoeuvres himself over the roof and levers his right crampon onto a finger-width, sloping notch. Four moves later and he reaches the foot of a narrow ice ribbon. It is solid, ten centimetres thick... I breathe a sigh of relief. I've just witnessed one of the finest leads in Scottish ice history."
With a write up like that I couldn't wait to find out what Ship of Fools had in store.
Me on pitch 2, contrast with the shot below of Iain on the first ascentIt turned out that the route was in different condition than on the first ascent. Whilst whiter the crucial ice patches were often not weight bearing and so I climbed a little to the right of Iain's line. Not as elegant but still highly exciting. The quality of the white stuff made sure that all 3 of the top pitches needed our full attention. All in all a superb route and great to pull over the top and belay on the summit trig point of the Ben. Finally on ice that didn't fall off as soon as it was touched.
Greg Boswell, a name to watch in future seasons (Greg blogs about his adventures here

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