Donald and I had a day off today so we went climbing. We hope to be involved with a botanical survey of the North Face cliffs of Ben Nevis in August so we went up The Long Climb on Orion Face to give us an idea of what it will be like. The crags are really dry at the moment too despite the huge snow patch at the base of the face. Take an ice axe and some sturdy boots for the snow and be ready for some exciting moves to get across the gap from the snow to the rock!
The snow covers the first two pitches so you can get onto the wee platform directly. The first crux is getting up to the Great Slab Rib but take the right line and it is all OK. The Great Slab Rib is an amazing pitch in a brilliant position. Crossing the Basin is simple enough and full of flowers and plants. It will be great to work with a botanist there this summer to discover exactly what does grow there and elsewhere on the North Face.
The Second Slab Rib provides the crux of the route and I found it harder than when I did it with Donald in winter! Above there the line is not obvious and the last pitch is still quite wet so we went left to the Forty Foot Corner of NE Buttress. Generally the rock was dry, grippy and clean. A brilliant climb and much better than I remembered it from 16 years ago.
We descended Tower Ridge enjoying the perfectly dry rock some more. Carn Dearg Buttress is very dry too and most of the climbs there look great. There is snow at the bottom of Number Five Gully still and most of the crags have some snow to deal with.