June 19th - 22nd:

It was Rob & Mike who first enthusiastically suggested a meet at the CIC hut, and it was Syd who therefore booked the 12 places. A shame then that only eight of us took up the challenge, one of whom was a re-emerging Pete W, one guest, and two members from the London section. We rendezvoused at the Fort William Morrison’s car park on the Thursday afternoon, where the London Chef took control as he had compiled a moderate menu, taking into consideration the portering up, but had had the foresight to stop off at his now regular Kingussie butcher shop to purchase the obligatory venison. Chris was given the task of choosing the two boxed wines, but in his haste and lack of Club knowledge, one of the boxes turned out to be Ribena-esque! However, the malt made up for it. After the purchases, everybody re-assembled at the North Face car park at Torlundy, a few miles outside Fort Will. Here, the portering was divided up, the heavy packs loaded and the two hour plod commenced up what turned out to be an excellent, dry 3 mile track all the way up to the hut, on a beautiful, warm and clear, late afternoon – and no midges to boot!

The Charles Inglis Clark hut was built in 1928 and financed by the climbing Clark family after their son was killed in action at Mesopotamia in 1918. It is situated at a height of 680 metres, about 3 miles up the Allt a Mhuilinn, directly below the imposing north face cliffs of Ben Nevis and is the nearest we have to a proper Alpine hut. Between 2008 and 2012 it had a £250,000 refurbishment and extension after the roof blew off in the winter gales. Truth to say, it was comfortable and warm with gas cooking and heating (delivered by helicopter); electricity (wind energy) and in an incredible iconic position. Ok, it had two internal compost toilets (which ponged); its resident mice (which appeared brazenly running by your feet outside) and water and washing from a continuously flowing outside stand pipe, the source of which (going by how cold it was) must have been from the large snow fields in the gullies above. By the weekend, it had got definitely busier, and bodies were encountered sleeping on the kitchen table whilst negotiating the nocturnal trip to the compost toilet or outside, whichever you preferred.

We arrived at about 7pm, hot, sweaty and fairly knackered, but what a spot! Martin commenced cooking his rice and fish meal, and afterwards we relaxed, having a good time whilst sipping the Ribena (it was true to say that Mike quite took to it, but that may have been because he wasn’t allowed to buy 4 cans of beer at Morrison’s by “some spotty teenager” he announced, as he was shuffling back for his ID…“it was now a matter of principle!”).

Friday morning was colder and the cloud was down on the crags, but the group divided into three: Rob and Mike climbed Raeburns Route, then North East Buttress; Geoff, Syd and Pete climbed Castle Ridge; Martin, Jon and Chris toiled up the slopes of Carn Mor Dearg, then around by the Arete. Ironically we all met at the summit of the Ben at roughly the same time, where although much colder, we were blessed with a clearing of the cloud and some views. Annoyingly, it wasn’t to last, as an hour so later it started to rain. Rob and Mike chose to down climb Tower Ridge, but fortunately were beyond the Gap when the rain started, but care had to be taken on the greasy rock. Geoff, Syd and Pete traversed round the Arete to Carn Mor Dearg and then straight down the slopes through the mist to the hut, whilst Martin, Jon and Chris negotiated the dangers of the Tourist Track, and then turned the corner to the Allt a Mhuilinn and its isolation and silence. Dinner was pasta and venison haggis, followed by the remainder of the Ribena and some malt - another culinary masterpiece.

Saturday we woke up to a drizzle and low cloud, but were assured by a passing MR member on rescue practice that it was to clear by 11 – which it did. Because of the late start, Rob and Mike had a lie in after yesterday’s wet epics, and later joined the remainder of the party on an ascent of Ledge Route, an easy scramble but in a spectacular position. This was to be ‘Hood’s Climbing Reassessment Day,’ and he responded with enthusiasm insisting on posing above the hut with the rope, and later on the Ridge proper, wearing the borrowed harness and helmet so proudly, that he also insisted on continuing wearing them on the Tourist Track! As it turned out, the route was straightforward, and the rope unnecessary, but it was a fine scramble in a very impressive place, and Jon coped in good style, so much so that his membership was given a short extension.

At the top, Rob and Mike headed to the Ben Nevis summit again, and then continued down to the Col where they descended carefully into the head of the Allt a Mhuilinn. Just above the hut, they came across a pool of shallow water in the river, which was crying out for some water engineering, so they spent an hour damming it in order to create a bathing pool – albeit very cold – which they then used, followed later by Jon and Chris. The last night was to be Martin’s masterpiece – succulent venison and rice. There was so much, we had to give the remainder away. The last of the malt was divided up, and finally the preparations for leaving at 7.30 am the next morning, which we did, fortunately as on the ascent - midge and rain free.

A very successful Scottish weekend with a difference. A shame others didn’t come, but the small group unanimously enjoyed it, but it was nice to get back to a hot shower and proper bed. Many thanks to the contribution from Peter Greenaway for the booze and for Mike J to sub the unused four bed places.

Leaders: Martin C & Geoff P.

By plane & car: Martin C.
By train: Jonathan H & Chris G (guest)
By car: Geoff & Mike P, Syd G, Pete W
By car, already there: Rob P.