Rites of Passage. Despite memory being a fickle thing, some climbs live long in our memories. They are moments so powerful that they remain recognisable in our minds forever. They are the rites of passage that make us into the climbers that we are, and into the climbers that we’ll become. It may be our first climb, disorienting and fumbling or breaking into a new grade; it may be pushing our limit or taking that first big leader fall; or it may be ticking all the classics at our favourite crag or aspiring to the next challenge. It could be going through a list of renowned objectives: El Captain’s The Nose, Everest, the top of the world, the Matterhorn with its distinct Toblerone image, a beating heart while cutting loose on Flying Buttress at Stanage, the crashing waves below A Dream of White Horses at Gogarth, the perfect corner of the Cromlech, Cenotaph Corner with its side kick Right Wall, or the heel on Brad Pit at the Plantation. The variety is endless and the diversity of climbers boundless: young old, male female, crusher bumbly, bolt clipper trad fiend, weekend warrior dirtbag lifestyler, bigwaller pebble puller, big mountain sufferer indoor training junkie.
One example is Point Five Gully on Ben Nevis, the most famous ice gully in Scotland, possibly the world. It was first climbed in 1959 by a group led by Ian Clough, and took 40 hours over a six day period. With modern equipment it now takes a few hours and is accessible too many, however it still retains its aura as a classic rite of passage, a moment in a winter climber's journey that will not be forgotten. On a good day the sky will be blue, the neve squeaky, the ice axe and ice screw placements solid and the banter between friends will be high. On a great day you’ll hug the mountain sides to avoid the avalanches approaching its snout, the spin drift will roar down, the hot aches will burn, the summit slopes will be precarious and the cornice will hang over you. Go with belief and camaraderie and you’ll never forget it.
Point Five was as reliable as ever this year, despite it not being a classic winter year as deep thaws didn’t allow a firm snow base to form. However it did come into condition towards the end of March. A customer and friend made this climb on a weekend trip - a route he’s always wanted to do - and these are the pictures to celebrate the adventure and the classic climb that it is. I climbed it in 2007 and remember it as though it were yesterday. What next as the summer season opens………..????