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Monday, 22 March 2010

Orion Direct to end it all

It is time to say good bye to a good friend, the winter of 2009/2010. A conference in Copenhagen next weekend, Easter in Spain, plenty of work: the chance of doing another climb is remote. This winter Dave MacLeod and Ines Papert have set new benchmarks for males and females, the average level has increased substantially aided by the best winter in more than a decade. As has been said elsewhere, the Scottish winter scene is alive and kicking due to unleashing, better training & adventure addiction even if some UKC Beckmessers and Stevie Haston (promotion by controversy Ltd) think otherwise. Never have I personally regretted the end of a winter more!

Orion Direct was one of the few climbs on my tick list that I didn't manage to climb this season and during the week I e-mailed Robbie whether he was available. He was but due to the mixed forecast we dithered between doing some sport climbing and going to the Ben. After a few e-mail suggestions from helpful insiders we went for it. I got up at 1.30 h, picked up Robbie at 2 h and with renewed motorisation (the old, trusty Highland Express Golf was exchanged with an Audi 'midlife crisis' A3) we reached the Ben at 4.15 h. No speeding officer, honest! The thermometer was below zero most of the time, suggesting that we made the right choice.

The walk in was equally speedy and we switched off the head torches when leaving the forrest so that the guards in the CIC hut would not see the opposition coming. We reached the bottom of the climb at 6.30 h-ish. Here is a photo of Orion Direct from 2007 with two climbers on the upper snowfield below the exit chimneys.

Robbie led the first pitch...

... and I led the next two pitches and we then moved 'Alpine style' through the basin to reach a good belay below the crux. Here I am on the second pitch ...

... and here at the start of the third pitch. All good ice, well frozen after a cold night.

The crux was a traverse right but not having read the guidebook I went up the arete, saw steps further right and then traversed to the likely line. Ben Nevis thin face climbing and a little add on to a climb than needs no add on. Here is Robbie at the top of the arete ready to traverse after having taken a tied off ice screw out.

Grade III climbing on good snow ice with the odd ice screw towards the exit chimneys. It snowed a bit but nothing too bad. Unfortunately no views on a climb that would offer some of the best views in the UK. Plenty of atmosphere though.

Robbie on belay duty (typical Orion belay: ice axes, ice screws that touch rock and optimism)...
... and traversing over to the belay below the exit chimney. Two nuts that had to be loaded in one direction to be safe.

The right line was on the left with trickier, thinner options in the middle and to the right. The exit chimney contained good ice, some rock gear and was just enjoyable, atmospheric climbing.
Robbie then led the final pitch to top out at 13 h. A shot at the summit shelter...
... some tricky navigation on the plateau, back at the car at 15 h, in the Clachlaig Inn at 16 h-ish for some great food to end it all.


Mark McGowan said...

good account.. looks great.

Peter Duggan said...

UKC Beckmessers... I like that! :-)

Interesting account and some great new photo angles (ones I haven't seen, anyway) to keep me dreaming of what's become my new 'most wanted' after getting Point Five last weekend.


Ryan & Henning said...

Hi Mark and Pete, thanks for your comments. I never thought I would be sentimental after a winter in Scotland with little daylight and cold but this year I am. Pete, well done on point five. Orion is easier climbing but more serious and much longer. Pick the right conditions, the right partner and then go for it! Henning

ally swinton said...

hey great blog. Noticed that you had a 'dead man' with you, did you happen to use it?


Ryan & Henning said...

Ally, I carried the deadman just in case we ended up in lose snow/neve where we could only use ice axes and a deadman as a belay. However, it was all snow ice and combinging axes with short screws gave good enough belays (not that we had tested them).

Anonymous said...

Good effort Henning! Looks like you had a great season. Roy.