Course report: Dave Barker
Course: Ben Nevis in Winter
A winter ascent of Ben Nevis 1344m was a challenging undertaking for Samer and Ali (aka Bahraini Boys on the Ben). This is not to be compared to a summer ascent This Course is designed to give the guys necessary winter skills training to allow a safe ascent of the UK’s highest mountain in winter conditions!
Due to some very wet weather early on we decided to turn our day around and do our evening session to start, followed by heading out to make the best of the forecast drier part of the day.
We spent some time at the hotel, sorting out and going through kit and establishing that shower proof didn’t mean waterproof and that Scottish winter required waterproof. (All sorted with a quick trip to Fort William to hire waterproof jackets.) We also had a look at weather and avalanche reports and discussed plans and options for the three days.
Eventually we ran out of excuses and headed out to Stob Coire nan Lochan. We headed out in almost dry conditions and stopped when we got to the snow line to introduce and practice movement on snow without crampons.
We progressed on using the axe to aid stability during movement and for self arrest. We then donned crampons and headed a little further up toward the lower coire, using the ground just to the west of the approach path, and returning to our original spot via the approach path. Here we removed our crampons and practiced using the ice axe to stop a slide. Basic skills vastly improved we headed out back to the van and hotel.
Day 2 – ‘Bahraini Boys on the Ben’
An early breakfast, saw us heading off at 7.30 to try and take advantage of the forecast slightly better weather earlier in the day. We set off from the Ben Nevis Inn at 8.30 and headed off up the mountain track toward the summit. A steady hour and a half later saw us at the bottom of the zig, zags adjacent to the half way lochan (although it was cunningly hidden by the low cloud).
After a short refreshment break we continued on up the zig zags in decreasing visability and increasing levels of dampness due to the low cloud. As we approached the older snow line we donned crampons (end of 6th zig,zag) and headed off on a bearing to the start of the plateau crossing.
We continued to use the compass and pacing to confirm our position as we crossed the plateau and headed along the final spur to the summit. Out came the Bahraini flag and the summit photos were taken. Suddenly it was like Piccadilly station up there as we were joined by a multitude of other groups.
After a short refreshment break we returned from whence we had come, using the compass and pacing to ensure safe passage until part way down the zig zags we regained some visibility. We finished our little adventure in steady rain 8 hours after setting off. A great achievement for the boys and possibly the first Bahraini flag to experience snow!
Aching limbs, a sudden lack of enthusiasm for walking in the wind and rain/snow and a need to catch a bus at 2pm required some new plans for the last morning.
After discussing several options we had a leisurely departure and headed off to Glen Nevis for the boys to admire the scenery from the van and take some ‘selfies’ with the Highland Cows. A tour of the souvenir shops in Fort William ended the adventure and it was off to the bus station for the long journey home.