The image above shows Andy abseiling off Cornucopia (please feel free to subtract style points) with The Secret in the background and the deep crack of Darth Vader in the foreground, albeit tilted due to the wide angle lens used. Saturday started misty and an inversion was forecast. We were thus worried whether the mixed climbs on the Ben would be in condition. But the inversion never came and high in Coire na Ciste several climbs including Cornucopia were well rimed and in acceptable winter condition. We soloed the easy bit and the plan was for Andy to lead crux pitch 1 and for me to lead pitch 2. Here is Andy starting the climb.
The Cornucopia corner is steep. It is initially climbed on the right where the hooks are mostly decent and the gear placements are good. A little strenuous but not desperate. Here is Andy starting the harder climbing.
But at 15 m it changes: all very steep, almost nothing for feet on the left wall, not much on the right wall and the crack is too deep to get a hook. Andy got stuck in, went through 63% of the positions outlined in the advanced Kamasutra guide and despite his determination he eventually fell off. I lowered Andy and he offered the lead. I made good progress to the crux but then struggled like Andy before me. After throwing one Hex down the Ben and a lot of faffing I managed to climb up and to swing one of the remaining Hexes higher into the crack and to seat it well. Still some way to go to the ledge but at least no whippers. I had a few tries and came off but finally I decided to pull out all the stops: Up to the poor hook/sidepull on the right, another not really convincing hook in the crack and I got my foot onto one of the chickenheads (as Simon describes them in his account of the FA). I kicked the right foot into the crack which was more compressed at this point and held, got the left foot onto another chicken head and the axes into decent snow ice on the mini ledge. A few nervous seconds and I was on the ledge, pumped. The climb was stronger than we were but at least we managed to work the cux. Andy offered the lead but I was spent and so Andy led pitch two, demonstrating the skills gained whilst doing grade VII mileage. Here is Andy moving from a flake back into the main crack...
... and here he is shaking out. The second pitch is around tech 7.
I was pleased to follow the second pitch feeling in control once again. Well after such a crux even harder climbing feels almost easy especially when seconding!
Reference: Crocket Ken, Richardson, Simon: Ben Nevis. Britain's Highest Mountain. 2nd edition. Cordee, Leicester 2009