Carn Dearg Buttress
Saturday 7th July 2018
Weather/Conditions: Great summer weather. Got so used to no rain (for weeks?!) that we didn't take waterproofs. Just after finishing the route and walking out, rain clouds came over Ben Nevis (we could barely remember the last time) and soaked us walking out from the CIC
Distance/Ascent/Time: 13km / 1000m / 10h 32m
But here we were back with a brilliant forecast with slightly bigger plans. I was solid at E2, so why not just bypass HVS and get stuck straight into some E numbers. Neil sold me this route to me as "a bit like taking your first Es" - or something like that anyway. A four-star E2 on Ben Nevis: it had to be good...
We walked in mid-morning, the weather a continuation of the usual hot days and sun. Racking up by Carn Dearg Buttress we were far from the only ones here - the cliff was almost social. Gordon went first; pitch one goes up a groove. I took pitch two, starting up a little tricky groove then traversing left along a slab - a bit like 'spacewalking', with the slab dropping off to 40 metres of air. Gordon’s next pitch broke through the steep terrain above via a ramp and slab out right. This pitch left the overhanging lower section, and established us on the main Carn Dearg slabs.
The guidebook says as much: the lower few pitches of Torro are intricate and clever. They do indeed find the easiest route through some pretty stunning and steep ground. Half way up the slabs that make the central section of the route is an overlap; getting through this is one of the cruxes of Torro, and provides a focal point for this slabby section. I had a good time on this overlap trying not to get too pumped hanging around. I got up it no problem and belayed just above.
Gordon led through the upper slabs, running out one massive pitch to reach the belay below the Centurion crux. Then I led through this section. I can't think of a better-positioned set of moves, anywhere. Nothing I've climbed anyway; the way the holds go left via a slab, seemingly into space. You reach over the top and are forced out left, essentially on the edge of an overhang, looking out over a big drop to the slabs below. The sequence is perfect and the situation too. Sometimes these things feel like they were designed! It was a staggeringly good pitch. On my aborted Centurion attempt a few years ago, I led the lower crux (P2), and means I've led both its crux pitches without actually having done the route!
Gordon took the Torro sting-in-the-tail. The final five metres is formed by a corner; slick, polished and steep. It is disproportionately hard! Gordon put in a good lead and in that moment he was on top of the buttress. I came up after, getting a wee bit pumped on that final corner.
What an immense route, and a great first route to do on Carn Dearg. Wow. I hope the rest are this good! Gordon and I traversed off, padding along in our rock shoes and down the scree to the bags.
I thought about all the other amazing routes on this buttress. To be here with the conditions and a partner; it all seemed so easy. I wanted to come back for more. Of course, the crux is just getting all these things in place. Countless days throughout the year seeing Ben Nevis rain-lashed is a reminder of how rare it is to get a route up here. With all the great weather of late, I'd totally neglected to pack waterproofs. So it was a surprise and shock to walk out with the Glen Loy wiped out by big rain showers. I felt oddly vulnerable as we predictably got smashed by heavy rain. But there's satisfaction in walking out in the rain with a mountain route in the bag - and what a route.
(0.00) 9.38am NF Car park
(2.22) 12.00pm Started route
(8.27) 6.05pm Finished route
(10.32) 8.10pm NF Car park