Zero And Point Five Ben Nevis

When I first started climbing Zero and Point Five gullies were still regarded as serious and committing climbs and still had relatively few ascents. However, by the early 1980's they were being climbed regularly.

I climbed Point Five with Marian and Pippa from Sheffield. I was staying at the Inchree bunkhouse with my friend Andy and we had walked up to the CIC hut when Andy discovered that he had forgotten his crampons. Luckily for me we bumped into Marrian and Pippa who were off to climb Point Five and asked if I wanted to join them.

I agreed, but was a bit worried as I wasn't sure if I was up to the route. Marian wasn't feeling too well, but Pippa persuaded her to keep going. The first pitch was almost banked out and Pippa and I climbed un-roped to the peg at the top. Pippa then threw down a rope and brought Marian up.

Pippa disappeared up the steep second pitch and lead out a full 50 metres of rope. Marian and I followed climbing together. Although it was very steep, the ice was good and my worries diminished as I progressed upwards. Marian was busy being sick at the belay when I arrived, but Pippa insisted that she should carry on!

I lead the second pitch and got all the way to the bottom of the overhanging corner pitch before I ran out of rope. It wasn't as steep as the first pitch, apart from the initial section. We hadn't got any ice screws and I don't remember finding any placements for nuts on my way up, so I was pleased to arrive at the pegs below the crux pitch.

Pippa lead up the overhanging corner and belayed just above, normally regarded as the crux. I didn't find it too hard as I was able to bridge wide and take most of the strain off my arms. However, I was glad that I hadn't had to lead it!

I lead the pitch above, which was about Grade III and after that we moved together. The weather on the summit was perfect, with no wind and hardly a cloud in the sky.

Pippa had parked her car at the end of the forestry road and by the time we got back the gate had been locked. However, we managed to find our way back through the old quarry tracks. before we started we had to change a wheel on the car as it had a flat tyre.

The next day Pippa and Marian went up to do Castle Ridge on the Ben, while Andy and I stayed at Inchree.

I climbed Zero with Mike Lea from Sheffield. I had driven up with Andy Cave and a crowd of other people from Sheffield. Mike was a very good rock climber, but hadn't done much winter climbing.

Knowing that the climb didn't have much in the way of belays or runners, we were climbing using a 100 metre 5mm rope doubled. I remember starting up the initial groove feeling quite apprehensive. At the top of the groove was an in situ peg. I think that most people probably belay here, but it was only about 70 ft from the start, so I decided to keep going.

The next section was a traverse right. This was probably the hardest part of the route, as there wasn't much ice on it. However, I had the peg above my head, so I shuffled across without too much trouble. After the traverse I moved up again and reached a very rounded bollard, where other people had obviously belayed. However, it looked very insecure and I could see a peg belay just below the crux ice bulge some distance above me.

About 10 feet short of the belay the rope went tight and I couldn't get any more slack. I shouted down to Mike, but he couldn't hear me properly. Unbeknown to me he had started climbing as I had reached the end of my 50 metres, which was somewhere around the very insecure looking bollard belay. Mike had now reached the peg at the top of the first groove. I kept the rope very tight in case he slipped as I was only belayed to my axes, thus he couldn't un-clip from the peg. We were now effectively soloing as, I hadn't got any runners other than the peg. Luckily there were two people at the peg belay just above me and I managed to throw them a couple of long slings, which they clipped into the peg for me. I could then let out a couple of feet of slack so Mike could un-clip from the peg and continue climbing.

Mike arrived at the belay in due course and lead over the bulge. This was short and not too hard. Above the bulge me moved together for the last thousand feet, following the two climbers who had clipped my sling through the pegs. It was a perfect day with no clouds in the sky and the slope above the bulge was perfect neve. Taking great care not to make a mistake we eventually emerged onto the summit.